Retrotastic Bromance: A Review of the Retro 51 Tornado Marlin Ext Fountain Pen

“There is no greater burden in life than having potential” So said Charlie Brown in one great ‘Peanuts’ cartoon. However sometimes living up to a family reputation is equally burdensome. That particular burden falls on the Retro 51 fountain pen range as they have to live up to the quality of their more established  siblings. So after recently reviewing the Retro 51 Marlin Rollerball I was glad to be able to put this fountain pan version of the Tornado Marlin through its paces and see how it performed… Thanks once again to Ian and Nikki at PenShed for the supply of this pen for review.

Presentation: This pen is really well presented in a smart, multi-coloured cardboard cylinder. Stripping off the cellophane outer cover and diving into the colourful harlequin pattern tube I unearthed what was my first look at a Tornado fountain pen in the flesh.

Description: Like its brother in my last review the Tornado Marlin ext fountain pen is an extremely attractive pen. Obviously the requirements of a fountain pen meant something of a redesign of the classic Tornado, particularly the move from a one-piece pen to a barrel with a cap. The good news is that in terms of the design of the pen this has been appropriately accomplished. For example the classic look of the twist cap has been retained but without the function. Again these pens exist in a variety of styles and are made from differing materials. I will confine my comments solely to this acrylic Marlin model.

The cap and barrel of the Marlin are composed of a striking blue swirl acrylic fitted with chrome furniture. As on the rollerball the acrylic is stunning. It has a depth of colour and ranges from a deep navy to a cerulean blue in tone. The acrylic is slightly translucent with a shimmering pearlescence. The barrel is finished nicely with a chromed base cap and the cap with a chromed finial with a black button styled on the classic Tornado look. The clip is identical in form and function to the classic Tornados. BTW the ‘ext’ in the title simply means that it is an extended version of the Tornado, the barrel being lengthened in order for the pen to facilitate the use of a converter rather than merely fitting international cartridges.

The grip section is perhaps the only slightly disappointing feature in the look of this pen. On this model it is quite short and appears to be made of black plastic. On other, metal versions of the Tornado fountain pen different grips are used. There are what appear to be inner brass screw threads within the section of the pen, which precludes its use as an eyedropper. The pen is a cartridge/converter pen and is supplied with a functional and well-fitting converter.

Dimensions: This pen weighs in at a steady 30g, quite a bit of this being the cap. It is 140mm long when capped, 126mm uncapped and 162mm when posted. The barrel tapers nicely toward the back from 12mm at its widest to 9mm at the base. The grip section is only 18mm long and tapers toward the front.

On Test: Being used to other Tornado rollerballs my first impression was of mild surprise by the lightness of the main body of the pen when uncapped. The weight of a Tornado is something I have gotten used to. Here the cap seems to provide much of the weight of the pen. That’s not a problem just something to note. The cap is removed and replaced easily with about one and a half turns of the screw thread. The screw threads themselves are slightly recessed on the barrel of the pen and not sharp so provide no impediment to comfortable use.

The pen is postable and the cap feels secure when posted. In fact I think it looks rather nice posted, which is strange for me as I mostly use my pens unposted. I ended up using it both ways and found both equally comfortable. In hand the pen is appropriately weighted with no balance issues that I could ascertain. If you prefer it slightly weightier then simply use the pen posted.

I was kindly supplied with both a medium and a fine nib, the latter being my preference. The nib unit simply screws into the grip section and so is very easy to change, something I like. The steel nib was labelled ‘Schmidt Iridium Point’ and was very good. In fact it is one of the better fine steel nibs I have used. I have written extensively with this pen and nib and have to say that they have provided a very pleasing writing experience. So much so that I keep coming back to it The line width produced by the nib is consistent with other European fine nibs.

My only reservation with this pen concerns the grip. It does in my view let the side down slightly. I don’t know what the rationale behind this design decision was, but I would have liked something more in keeping with the rest of the pen, perhaps turned from more of the beautiful acrylic. On the positive side it is comfortable and grippy so it is in no way a deal-breaker, rather it just niggles.

Summary: To be honest apart from a minor reservation viz á viz the section, I really enjoy using this pen. The nib is excellent and I always believe if I have confidence in the nib of a pen then I can live with most other things. Along with this, the beautiful depth of colour and finish of the acrylic make this particular edition of the Tornado fountain pen a really worthwhile consideration. It looks great. If you have experience of the Tornado series, like the styling and want to spread your wings into using a fountain pen then this is a really viable option. This pen retails from PenShed in the UK at £39 and so is reasonably priced You can follow the link to the PenShed here.

Foolishly Yours

© afoolwithapen and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to afoolwithapen and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

9 thoughts on “Retrotastic Bromance: A Review of the Retro 51 Tornado Marlin Ext Fountain Pen

  1. Not one picture of the pen uncapped or posted :-/ By the way, the proper term is “section” not “grip”. Thanks for the review – David

    1. Hi Denise thanks for taking the time to comment. The ink there is the somewhat ‘notorious’ Noodler’s Baystate blue…

      1. Sorry my comment was cut off half way. You’d have to check with Retro51 themselves at

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