Retro 51 Einstein Pencil

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The Retro 51 Einstein pencil is probably the coolest looking mechanical pencil I own. Just look at it! The flat black color serves as a chalkboard-like background for the various equations associated with some of Einstein’s great intellectual achievements. The antique look of the clip and twist mechanism fits the early 20th century vibe of the science and pencil design nicely as well. It’s a Retro 51, so you know the build quality is solid. I’ve mentioned my preference for analog/twist graphite mechanisms and legitimate erasers before, so that features work well for me too. There is a lot to like about this pencil. There are; however, a few quirks to Retro 51 pencils that you need to know about before purchasing one for yourself.

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First and foremost is the size of the graphite. At 1.15 mm, Retro 51 pencils like the Einstein occupy an unusual size in the mechanical pencil pantheon. It can feel a bit too wide for most writing occasions but too narrow to be an artistic tool like a 2 or 5 mm graphite clutch. I’m no artist so I could be wrong about that second part, but I do write with pencils and mechanical pencils frequently and the 1.15 mm graphite takes some getting used to. That said, it does get a fair amount of use from me, especially when I teach. The wider graphite makes me write a bit larger and neater which are helpful characteristics when helping individual students. The 1.15 mm HB graphite that comes with the pencil tends to write on the lighter to typical degree of HB darkness for me.

The writing experience is comfortable due to the pencil’s moderate width and weight, but I would not describe it as precise. I think most folks are looking for thinner, consistent lines when they write with a mechanical pencil and you’re just not going to get that with the Retro 51. Additionally, a bit of graphite dust can accrue on the pencil’s tip adding to the less than precise feel of the pencil. But, all of that is about expectations, isn’t it? So long as you don’t expect a drafting pencil experience, the Retro 51’s old-school style and broad graphite lines likely offers a nice change of pace compared to other mechanical pencils you own.

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In short, if you want a comfortable ride and have a need to write with medium to broad lines of graphite, then the Einstein Retro 51 is a usable tool that also looks very cool. If you prefer precise, thin lines when using a mechanical pencil then you should certainly look elsewhere.

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(My own money was spent on the stuff in this post so it is probably a fairly honest assessment of said stuff.)

Retro 51 Tornado Stealth

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Can you be any sort of pen aficionado without having at least one Retro 51 Tornado in your collection? Probably, but given that Retro 51’s are a gateway pen for many pen wackos it seems unlikely. When you factor in their solid build quality, decent price, multitude of colors and styles and the variety of refill possibilities, failing to give the Retro 51 Tornado a close look would be a serious oversight for anyone wanting to be a pen person. Okay, maybe you don’t want to be known as a pen person; it’s definitely one of the nerdier monikers to have. That said, regardless of your level of pen nerdiness, you should check out the Tornado.

I’ve had a few Tornadoes over the years yet between moving, losing and giving, I somehow only have the Tornado Stealth currently in my possession. There’s a blue Tornado Classic Lacquer somewhere, but I think the wife keeps it at work. Anyway, lucky for me, if there’s one Tornado to have it’s probably this black beauty. As you can see from the pictures, my Stealth has some noticeable wear and tear which is perfectly fine by me. A worn pen is a loved and used pen and my Stealth is definitely both.

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The first thing you notice when picking up a Tornado is the weight. It’s not a heavy pen but, at 31 grams, it certainly has some heft to it. The build quality is top notch. The knurled knob that deploys the refill turns smoothly and has just the right amount of resistance. The connection between the pen tip and the body, where you insert the refill, is nearly seamless. The only criticism I would offer relates to the clip tension; I’d prefer a tighter clip. It does the job but it may not keep the pen perfectly still when clipped to thinner dress shirt pockets. Of course the Tornado is a short pen (13 cm = 5.1 inches) so those with big beefy paws may find the pen is too short. Personally, I love the size and the weight.

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How does it write? Well, that’s largely up to your refill preference. The Tornado comes with a capless 0.7 mm rollerball. Straight up, it’s a great rollerball. Schmidt also makes a slightly thinner 0.6 mm rollerball (P8126). You might think such a small difference wouldn’t be noticeably but you’d be wrong. It’s not night and day different, but the 0.6 mm is just a bit tighter of a line and is the refill I prefer. You can also load the Tornado with any Parker style refill you want which really opens up the options for this well-built and versatile pen.

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Rating
The Retro 51 Tornado is such a work horse. So, if the rollerball refills or any Parker-style refill work for you it’s an absolute “Carry It” pen. I’ve dropped, scrapped, tossed, etc. this pen in so many different ways and yet it keeps on working, no questions asked. Other rollerballs are fancier. Other rollerballs are cheaper. The Retro 51 Tornado splits the difference nearly perfectly.

Analogy
The Retro 51 Tornado is like your favorite belt. Most of the time you just need your belt to do its job. You don’t want to fuss with it and you don’t want to think about it. The Tornado does its job each and every time but then, like a good belt, it offers a bit of adaptability when you want/need it. Need to use a ballpoint instead of a rollerball? Not a problem. Ate a bit too much at lunch and need a little breathing room? Not a problem. Trust your belt and trust your Retro 51 Tornado.

The Tornado is a popular pen. As you might expect, others have lots to say. (Most reviews are discussing other versions of the Tornado.)
The Well-Appointed Desk
The Pen Addict
The Clicky Post
The Pencil Case Blog
Gourmet Pens

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Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln

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We fountain pen users can be a picky bunch and spending a fair amount of money on a variety of pens only exasperates that pickiness.  Now, I’m going to have a few picky things to say about Retro 51’s Tornado Lincoln fountain pen, but don’t let these little issues dissuade you.  If you can find a Lincoln for $50 or less, buy one.  It’s a unique looking pen and it writes very, very well for a moderately priced pen.  Pair it up with a uniquely colored ink like Diamine Ancient Copper and you’ve got yourself a fun and classy combination.

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Let me get my three points of pickiness, in descending order of annoyance, out of the way.  (1)  The metal body, which looks fantastic, gives way to a somewhat inexpensive-feeling plastic grip section.  The section is a touch slippery, although not discouragingly so, and doesn’t seem to hold its own with the stunning body and cap.  (2)  When posted, the pen is a tad too long for my taste and the balance is a bit top heavy.  Also, you have to push the cap on firmly to get an adequate post.  (3)  The converter doesn’t fit into the grip section as firmly as it should.  As you can see from the picture below, there is a step down from the main compartment of the converter to the portion that sits inside the grip section resulting in a bit of wiggle.  It does stay put, but you’ll want to be cognizant of the wiggle when separating the grip and body sections to avoid any ink accidents.  One the positive side, the available volume is somewhat larger than your average converter.

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Persnicketiness out of the way, let’s get to the many good points of this fine pen.  The color.  My goodness the color.  Maybe it’s kitschy to make a pen look like a penny and name it Lincoln, but it works for me.  Importantly, the finish is not purely copper as there is a brush effect that blends the copper color with wisps of black giving the Lincoln a rich appearance.  The iconic Retro 51 knurling at the top of the cap provides a nice contrast against the smooth, brushed look of the rest of the pen.  I expect the finish will oxidize with time.  That’s fine with me; it will just make the pen more mine.

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Now, it’s obvious why I decided to put Diamine Ancient Copper in the Lincoln.  However, it seems like I stumbled into a fantastic match as the nib has performed like a dream from the first stroke.  There hasn’t been a hint of skipping and the ride produced from this steel fine nib is generally smooth with a bit of feedback.  As you can see, I’m reviewing the pen using Rhodia which gives the smoothest feel you can expect; there definitely was more feedback on Field Notes.  Check it out.  Field Notes Drink Local and the Lincoln work well together don’t you think?  The nib was able to generate a bit of shading with this beautiful ink revealing colors ranging from a light copper to a deeper brown.

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Rating
It’s a unique looking pen and writing with copper/brown colors may not be the most practical for every day use, but screw it, the Retro 51 and Ancient Copper combo rocks and should be within close reach at all times.  It’s a “Carry It” pen.  The slightly awkward length when posted might make it cumbersome to use for quick note taking, but the positives easily overcome this mild inconvenience.  Again, if you can find this pen with the nib size you want for under $50, it’s a no-brainer purchase.

Analogy
The Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln is like a US penny.  Okay, that’s too easy.  How about this?  The Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln is like a good pair of casual brown leather shoes.  Both the Lincoln and a good pair of brown shoes look good from day one and neither really needs any break-in time.  Also, both should develop a character of their own over time.

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What have others thought about this solid pen?
FP Quest
Pencil Case Blog
The Pen Habit

Once again…a gratuitous collage of pen and ink.

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