Spitting Superlatives: Review of the Retro 51 Tornado Marlin Pen

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”  is a great quote from Albert Einstein. So in that vein there’s something of a novel departure today on the blog so mark the date… You’re looking at my first ever non-fountain pen review (at least I think so anyway). Thankfully I already know this brand and range and am happy to depart from my well-worn patina of my routine on this occasion. Incidentally this range of pen has been around since the late 1990’s and shows no signs of age or tiredness. It is of course the Retro 51 Tornado. This pen comes in a number of finishes. I particularly like the acrylics alongside my LE ‘Flying Tiger’. I should say that PenShed, Retro 51’s UK distributor, supplied this pen at no cost to myself but that has no effect on my perspective on this review.

Presentation: One of the things I love about Retro 51 pens is the way they decided to present and package them. Always classy, they now come in equally appealing and sturdy cylindrical cardboard containers that are great to look and keep. Rip off the protective cellophane sleeve and the container comes apart revealing the top two-thirds of the pen encased in another polythene wrapper firmly held in an embrace of supporting foam.

Description: The Marlin Rollerball is a really great looking pen. It is one of the current acrylic range of Tornados, appearing alongside the Medley and the Calico. The blue swirled acrylic and the chrome furniture just works so well together. The acrylic chosen for this pen is smooth and luxuriant. The barrel has a slight translucency and a real depth of colour. The blue acrylic shades from a deep navy through a piercing royal blue to a pale cerulean tone. The whole effect is both elegant and inspiring. It is further augmented by the polished chrome furniture, giving a truly sophisticated look.

The top of the finial is finished with a black inner and as with all of the Tornado range except the Snapper series, the Marlin has a nice metal twist top that serves to expose and retract the writing tip of the pen. The characteristic knurled outer surface of that is as distinctive as it is reassuring. Underneath this, on the band, is engraved ‘Tornado by Retro 1951’.

The distinctive metal clip on these pens is firm and functional. I can never imagine one of these pens slipping from the jacket pocket. Do be careful to retract your rollerball before clipping it into a pocket though, otherwise the liquid ink will stain, as I’ve found to my cost in the past.

Dimensions: The Marlin is 126mm (5“) long and weighs in at 30g. The barrel is 13mm wide at its widest point tapering down toward the front to 9mm where it meets the polished metal cone.

On Test: This model was supplied with the standard Retro 51 REF5P refill. I usually go for the Schmidt P8127 or the finer P8126 but this one has been just as good. The first thing you notice with this model is the way it handles. The balance and heft seem to be just right. The balance point of this pen means it rests in the hand perfectly without ever feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

I’ve used the Marlin every day since I got it and as with my other Tornado rollerballs it simply works perfectly. The twist top is smooth and secure, the refill is precise with little or no bleed from the 0.7mm tip. I prefer to use these pens with rollerball refills but, dare I say it, they can take appropriate ballpoint refills too. The rollerball is efficient and precise and requires little effort. It’s not quite fountain pen smooth to be sure but it’s really not far away.

Summary: I’ll be honest I don’t stray from fountain pens often. But you can guarantee when I do it will usually be with one of these Retro 51 Tornado’s in hand. I have to say that this one is a real beauty. The combination of materials and colours borders n the superlative. The Marlin retails for £30 over here in the UK and you can purchase one from PenShed by following this link.

Foolishly Yours

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