REVIEW – Retro51 Tornado Pen

Life’s too short to carry an Ugly Pen.

-Retro 1951

Good writing tools are hard to come by, especially for the traveler. Many people swear by the Fisher Space Pen for it’s ability to write on almost anything, and in any direction, even upside down, thanks to a pressurized ink cartridge. I have two, so even I love that pen. Some people choose to write in a journal, and so go with a fountain pen because of it’s smooth writing and good looks. The traditional ball point pen is ubiquitous and reliable, but kind of boring. And rollerballs leave great lines but tend to dry a bit slowly, depending on the paper. It can really be a challenge to find the a great pen for your travel kit, one that melds great writing with a stylish look. Enter the Tornado from Retro 1951.

The Retro 51 Tornado is a pen that combines style, comfort, and smoothness into one fine package.

photo courtesy

STYLE – All of Retro 1951’s pens are styled in a slick 1950’s aesthetic. Reminiscent of appliances your parents and grandparents had in their kitchen, the stainless steel pen sports a skinny point that screws into a tapered cylinder body. Wider at the top of the pen, the a partially split pocket clip connects to the body by a ferrule that sports the words “Tornado by Retro 1951.” A knurled twist top end cap serves as the mechanism by which the ink cartridge is pushed from the body.

The Classic Laquer series comes in a variety of colors, ranging from stainless, black, and blue, to orange, kiwi, and peacock. The company also offers other collections, including crossword and sudoku pens, and a pen whose cylinder is made from bamboo.

Aside from the Tornado, Retro 1951 offers a wide assortment of pens, all with this similar styling, but with different cylinder designs. They offer a mini version, the Tornado Elite; a fountain pen; and even pencils.

WEIGHT – The Tornado is by no means a lightweight pen, by which I mean it will never compete with a Bic ballpoint. But the Tornado is a good competitor when compared to more heavyweight pens like those from Visconti (not only in weight, but in price as well, which I’ll get into later). The balance of the pen is a bit awkward at first, with most of the bulk of the pen residing at the top near the twist top end cap. The pen’s mechanism rides there, causing it to be a bit top heavy, but after a lot of writing with the pen, you come to appreciate the extra help in moving the pen across paper.

Retro1951 Tornado pen with Moleskine Pocket Notebook

The Retro 1951 Tornado

INK – My only complaint about this rollerball pen is its standard ink cartridge. Many writers love rollerball for its portability and lack of leakage compared to a fountain pen, and it’s writability as compared to a ball point. I’m still unconvinced about rollerball’s writing ability, especially when I use it in my Moleskine notebook, which has fairly high quality paper in it. The ink tends to bleed into the paper, creating spiderwebs along the fibers. Standard gel ink cartridges (like the ones for Pilot’s G2 line) were were slow to dry and didn’t fit in the Tornado’s body. Fortunately, after speaking with a sales clerk at Paradise Pen, we came up with the idea of using a Visconti gel cartridge, which fit perfectly in the pen and writes wonderfully on the Moleskine paper.

OVERALL the pen is something that not everyone will love, but those who do will find it difficult to let go. The most surprising factor of the Retro 1951 Tornado is its price. Retailing for about $22 in most good pen stores, the Retro 51 Tornado is both stylish and affordable. Paired with a pocket Moleskine notebook, you feel transported to another, more nostalgic time, heading out on some travel adventure to the far reaches of the planet. Now that’s a pen you’ll want in your pocket.

Chris Cavallari

About Chris Cavallari

Chris is a longtime digital content producer based in Maine. Since 1999, he has been an early adopter and active participant in blogging, podcasting, and social media, and has been guiding small and mid-sized businesses in leveraging video, social media, and digital publishing to the fullest. With an avid love of travel and the outdoors, Chris started in 2009 to give him a platform to showcase his outdoors and travel adventures, and to help educate others in doing the same.