Retro 51 Tornado Prism Review
Retro 51’s Tornado Popper rollerball pens are highly collectible EDC (Every Day Carry) darlings renown for their flashy, limited-edition barrel art. The Popper’s fountain pen sibling echoes this familiar flair with the signature clip, knurled end cap, and the retro-modern aesthetic. I’d heard positive reviews in the pen blogosphere, and after a hands-on experience at my first Appleton Pen Club meeting last year, I knew I was going home with one. I opted for the Prism and it’s flashy triangular pattern. It’s been in almost daily use for me ever since.
The Retro 51 Tornado fountain pen is a solid metal pen with a threaded cap, vibrant graphics, and shiny metal trim. The threads are smooth and slide with almost no friction. I find its weight to be satisfying, though the finial ornamentation shifts the balance toward the cap end. It does not post, but I suspect the pen would be far too back-heavy to be comfortable even if it did. Unposted, it’s just comfortable enough for jotting down notes and lists. Inside, it’s fitted with a steel Schmidt iridium nib (mine is a medium) with a tapered plastic grip section. The barrel holds either two international cartridges or a converter, both included with purchase. Also of note is the fun cardboard tube it comes in. Much more fun than a box!
As a daily writer, it has been a great companion with its cheery quilted triangle design. I love the unexpected color pairings and have had a blast seeking out the ideal ink palette (read on to the end to see my perfect pairings!). The steel nib provides slight feedback, but I have never found it to be scratchy or skippy. It’s not overly wet or dry, but “just right,” and coaxes out good shading with the right inks. All in all, I love it and reach for it often. I have no doubts that its durability and workhorse performance will see me through for many pen-loving years to come.
If there is anything I have stumbled over with my Retro 51 Tornado, it’s the section. It’s too short and the taper seems a bit steep. Combine those factors with the smooth plastic material and it’s a recipe for slipperiness. Once in awhile during long stretches of writing I’ve found my fingers have scooted down too far and I need to readjust. The section could use a flare or slight texture of some kind to provide an even better experience. As it is, I rely on this pen for taking meeting notes or making quick lists throughout the workday, and it’s perfect at that!
Another curiosity is that occasionally when I unscrew the cap to write, the section has shimmied loose from the barrel about an eighth of a turn. This is easily remedied, but may prove unforgivably irritating to some.
Overall, these quibbles don’t undermine how much I enjoy this fountain pen. The Retro 51 Tornado is an underrated but definitely not understated fountain pen that’s fun for beginners looking to step up their collection as well as experienced fountain pen aficionados looking for a little something with a sense of playfulness. A medium price point ($36-$44), modern design, and tough construction make it a daily writer that doesn’t have to be coddled, but once it becomes your new favorite you might just coddle it anyway!
One fun side note, Lisa’s mom is an avid quilter, and has one of these pens, although she calls hers the Quilt Pen, not the Prism. Either way, Retro 51 does a great job with both design and function!
The Retro 51 Prism has been recently discontinued, but other fountain pens can be found here.
Moriah’s Perfect Pairings (so far!) for the Retro 51 Tornado Prism
What about you? Do you own or have you tried a Retro 51 fountain pen?
Ink it Up!