Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Retro 51 Tornado - Natural Bamboo Rollerball Pen

This is a review of the Retro 51 Tornado - Natural Bamboo rollerball pen.
IMG_0026 Resized
From Retro 51:
With your purchase of a Bamboo Tornado™, Retro 1951 will make a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation to rescue 250 square feet of rain forest and the habitat it protects. The barrel of this Tornado is made from bamboo, a renewable resource, that is as beautiful as it is durable. The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit, conservation and education organization of nearly one million members, with a mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees.
IMG_0015 Resized
I’ve seen Retro 51 pens before - the smooth, stylish lacquer bodies. I think they’re gorgeous. Magnificent, shiny colorsm and I’ve always wanted one. (Well. Not just one. I kind of want one of each color on here.) I just haven’t convinced myself to get one (or all muahaha) yet. I’m usually not a big sucker for expensive rollerballs/ballpoints. I usually figure, it’s just regular ink so it’s not really outstanding, unless it’s a really neat color (or scented or something). But I was attracted to this pen mainly because I am a huge sucker. Plain, normal pen? Meh. Put an engraved, adorable little panda face? I’LL TAKE IT! Not that this is a plain, normal pen to begin with. It’s bamboo and it’s really neat. However, in conclusion: I remain a sucker for rollerball/ballpoint pens after all.
IMG_0028 Resized
The pen comes in a cute little box with a pretty picture of ferns and forest on the front. The lower half of the box is like a bamboo type packaging that looks quite realistic. The pen is nestled inside a foam cut out with a green ribbon to tug it out of its nest.

The barrel is made from 100% solid bamboo. The striations on this pen are natural and beautiful. You might be thinking to yourself right now, “Ziza. Bamboo is from nature. I thought you cared about the environment, how could you?!” You’re right. I DO care about the environment! But bamboo is a super fast growing, renewable wood. And pens are my hedonistic treat. It’s not like I’m buying a giant house made of bamboo, right? This is a teeny tiny amount of bamboo!
IMG_0022 Resized
The cap, clip and tip have an antiqued metal finish which I really like. I find it far more appealing than chrome “paint” on pens. It gives the pen a warm - and yes, antique - look to it but not “old”. The clip is great, it can hold snug and snaps back with power. I love the texture of the twist mechanism. It’s like a bunch of tiny little pokey bits. I know. That doesn’t describe much at all, does it?

This baby is solid, tough, and feels like it will be able to withstand a million twists throughout its (hopefully lengthy) lifetime. And if that wasn’t cool enough, it also has “Retro 1951 Tornado” written in cool tornado-like writing. What the heck is tornado-like writing? I shall show you. Also notice the tiny little pokey bits on the twist mechanism!
IMG_0038 Resized

The ink is really nice. It’s very smooth, almost like a gel ink pen, and is solid black. It’s a little on the wet side but dries fairly fast. You may have noticed, wet inks and drying times don’t really bother me. I like smooth writing experiences and I’ll take what is necessary to get it. This pen is refillable of course, with Easy Flow 9000 refills. Rumor has it Parker and Monteverde refills fit in here, too. Scroll down to recommended refills to see for yourself!
IMG_0048 Resized
A review done on Field Notes says there’s a two-years cap off guarantee - leave that pen out for two years and it’ll keep on writing. I think this is fascinating. Although I object to a pen being abandoned for two years. I will not be testing this but it’s a neat quality, don’t ya think?

The pen is a suitable size for me. It’s not particularly large (approximately 5”). Like all Tornado pens, it does taper towards the tip. There is also no grip, which is a good thing as a grip would completely disrupt the smooth look of the bamboo! Either way, the ink is so easy flowing, it doesn’t need grip. I very much am pleased with the weight of the pen as well. I wrote extensively and did not experience abnormal hand fatigue (just the usual from writing extensively!).

And now. For the piece de resistance. TA-DA! A PANDA FACE! I’m so obsessed with this panda face. I was sold the second I saw it. They could have told me it was $100 and my third cat’s whiskers and I would have given it to them. (No cats were harmed in the making of this review.) I don’t know why I’m such a sucker, but I am. And the panda face was so cute I couldn’t help it. I need a good ballpoint to keep with my Filofax anyway, and ones with grip get stuck in the little pen loop that come attached to the Filofax so this was perfect.

Green folks, you might question whether your $40 would be better suited being donated to the Arbor Day Foundation directly instead of through a pen purchase, but cut yourself some slack. You like pens and you want to help the environment. Bamboo is a great renewable resource, and you can help save the rainforest! Don’t feel guilty. If you love pens and want to give yourself a treat, don’t feel bad about this one. You should have happiness, too.

Other reviews of this adorable pen:

Office Supply Geek
Field Notes


Paradise Pen - $40.00
Fahrney’s Pens - $40.00
Goldspot - $38.80 (on sale right now!)


I love this pen. I’ve only had it for two days and I am in love with it. I love that I’m saving some rainforest WHILE enjoying a great looking, great writing, absolutely adorable panda pen. If there was one with a cat face on it, I would totally give my pen-and-cat-loving friends one.

For more information about the Arbor Day Foundation, please click here.


Shangching said...

Man, only if it is a fountain or rollerball! That panda is so adorable....

Okami said...

I have a couple of these rollerballs and a pencil. I love them. Shangching is right though, they really need to do more fountain pens

GourmetPens said...

Agreed! I've gotta go back to the store and try one out and see how they write and feel. They look nice online though.

Anonymous said...

I've had this pen a few years. Replaced the ink with Parker gel refill. Keep it in it's pen sleeve... Mine got a few dings in the soft wood from being in the pocket of my purse with other pens. I have a lot of Retro 51 Tornado pens, and I put Monteverde colored gel ink refills in to match the barrel. Love them!

GourmetPens said...

Awesome, thank you for the heads up. I was keeping mine in my purse too so I'll keep it safer! I can't wait to try out the Parker/Monteverde refills! I love the idea of matching the ink to the barrel... pretty :D

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Creative Commons License
GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at