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Retro 51 Double Eight


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12 replies to this topic

#1 Apollo

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Posted 17 July 2005 - 18:12

Hi everyone, this is my first attempt at a pen review at FPN and I'd like the opportunity of sharing my impressions of the Retro 1951 Double Eight fountain pen which I've been using for the past week and a half. The Double Eight by Retro 1951 is a very attractive 8 faceted fountain pen constructed of cellulose acetate and is available in blue, brown and a limited edition green color. I opted for the green version of this pen as I found it to be the most attractive of the 3 offered, plus the green ones are supposedly limited to 1,951 pieces. My sample is numbered 0327/1951.

I had previously owned a Retro 51 Tornado rollerball, but I never took an interest in one of their fountian pens until I came across Stylophiles (March 2005) review of the Double Eight. As I drooled over the pics of the pen and read it's favorable review, I decided to order one with a fine nib from the good folks at Pen City. A couple of days later, the pen arrived packaged in a fancy gift box complete with the pen, converter, warranty info and a tube containing 3 spare international ink cartridges. I was pleased to find that the nib was gold-toned and marked "Schmidt Iridium Point" as opposed to the silver-toned sample reviewed at Stylophiles.

Upon removing the pen from it's box, I proceeded to load the converter with Waterman Florida Blue and found that it wrote very nicely with no skipping or scratchiness. After the initial test run, I capped the pen, clipped it to my shirt pocket and went off to have dinner with my wife. While at the restaurant (less than an hour after receiving the pen) I pulled the pen from my pocket and attempted to unscrew the cap, I was shocked to see the pen come apart in two pieces. Luckily, the converter was still in place and there was no inky mess to deal with but I was dismayed to see that the threads where the cap screws on had completely come off the barrel. It seems that the thread piece was simply glued to the barrel with some sort of cheap adhesive as there was some flaky acrylic-like residue around the base of the thread piece.

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Apparently, whatever adhesive used at the factory to keep the thread piece attached to the barrel didn't last very long. Was I upset? You bet! I did think about returning the pen, but I wanted to see if there was a way to repair it myself rather than sending it back and wait for a replacement. Because the pen is made of cellulose acetate, I was wary of using any kind of cement or glue that might contain acetone or any other chemical that would melt through the material. I ended up purchasing a tube of all purpose Goop at a local hobby shop which is supposedly guaranteed to bond anything, so I applied a tiny bit of the stuff with a toothpick on the base of the thread piece. There's a cutout in the barrel where the thread piece simply pops in, so after allowing the Goop to cure for about a minute or two, I aligned the piece and slid it into the barrel's cutout and let it set overnight.

The following day, I tested the pen by screwing the cap on and off several times and after a week and a half of daily use, I'm glad to report that there have been no issues or problems with the pen. As far as nib quality goes, I'd say it's pretty good. No scratchy writing and no skipping. It's not as smooth as my Lamy Safari or Cross Century II, but it's a nice reliable writer and comfortable to write with for extended periods. Here are a few crude pics of the pen from my camera.

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Now we get to the part where I voice my criticism about what I consider to be a design flaw and weakest part: the threads. Why someone would manufacture the threads used to screw the pen's cap as a separate piece from the barrel is beyond me. Aside from the Double Eight, I own 2 other pens which the caps are screwed on: a Waterman Charleston and an Esterbrook CA101, both have threads that are formed from the resin/plastic and are not bonded together. Considering the cheap adhesive used at the factory, anyone who overtightens or pulls at the cap runs the risk of having the thread piece pop or even break off the pen. This is a serious design flaw, in my opinion and Retro 51 should consider redesigning the pen. I initially sent them an email explaining the problem and they promptly responded with instructions to send it in for a replacement. After I fixed it, I sent them another email suggesting that they consider redesigning the pen to correct the flaw and after a week and a half, I still have not received a response (and I don't think I'll ever get one).

Overall, it's a great writer and a beautiful looking pen, but after my experience with what I consider to be a flawed design, and their apparent lack of sensitivity to consumer suggestions, I am reluctant to buy any other Retro 51 pen.

Edited by Apollo, 17 July 2005 - 20:19.

Posted Image Bendita mi tierra guanche.

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#2 TheNobleSavage

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 22:02

Sorry to hear about the problem you have had with your Retro 51. Occasionally that happens and it seems to happen more to me than anyone else!!! I forgot who I was telling but out of all the new pens I bought 75% had to go back to the factory or the store for either repair work or an exchange due to faulty materials or workmanship. Is that bad luck or what???
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#3 Roger

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 00:20

Hi Apollo,

Over on the Pentrace Board, Richard Binder, nibster extraordinaire, has acquired one of that same LE model you have. He's quite taken with it, and has gone to the trouble of installing a quality gold nib in it. I think it was a nib from a Montblanc if memory is working, today. :P

You could drop him an email and ask if he's noticed how that thing is made. It sounds as if they made the threaded part in flat strips, then cut the strips and epoxied them to the barrel after it was finished. It may be a cheaper way, as opposed to cutting the threads into the finished barrel 'in the round'.

Problem is that you have likely voided any warranty by doing what you did to it. That's fine, if you're comfortable with that, but, if it were me with a new pen, that puppy would have gone right back. Granted, the replacement might have the same problem, in which case, you go for a return of your money or use it to fund another pen. Good luck!
Roger
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#4 Apollo

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Posted 19 July 2005 - 01:03

It sounds as if they made the threaded part in flat strips, then cut the strips and epoxied them to the barrel after it was finished. It may be a cheaper way, as opposed to cutting the threads into the finished barrel 'in the round'.

That was my impression as well. Frankly, I would have preferred having them cut the threads into the finished barrel as opposed to epoxying a separate piece. It may add a little more to the cost, but I'd rather pay a bit more for a pen that will not fall apart than one that is prone potential warranty issues. Incidentally, I received a response today from Retro 51 in which they stated that my observation and suggestion was forwarded to their design team. I don't know if my experience with the Double Eight was an isolated incident, but I do hope that they consider redesigning the pen to avoid potential problems with the threads. I'll email Richard and see what he has to say about the construction of the pen.
Posted Image Bendita mi tierra guanche.

#5 Maja

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 21:32

Thanks for the review, Apollo. Sorry to hear about your problem with your pen.
The Double Eight is a very attractive pen; I saw one in a local pen store a few weeks ago and was impressed. It is, however, quite large...a bit too big for my hands, in fact, so I passed on it. The colours are gorgeous, though... :wub:
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#6 Apollo

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Posted 31 July 2005 - 03:32

The colors (or colours for those who speak the Queen's English) are indeed gorgeous. I've continued to carry and use the pen throughout my weekly pen rotation and after cycling through 2 different inks, I'm happy to report no problems with the threads thus far. That Goop is pretty good stuff. The Double Eight is a bit on the large side, but not uncomfortable to use, at least for me.
;)
Posted Image Bendita mi tierra guanche.

#7 Apollo

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 22:47

**Update**

Well, I guess it had to happen. Yet another problem to report on my Retro 51 Double Eight. After cleaning it out and putting it aside for a few days, I decided to fill it up and use it at work. I filled it with Parker Quink I began writing with it and within a minute I noticed that the nib and feed were getting saturated with ink. Wiping the excess ink revealed that a little black plastic ring that fits between the feed and the section had cracked. The whole nib can be unscrewed from the section and as soon as I did that, the ring fell apart in 3 pieces. Well, it was fun while it lasted. All I can say is that this is the last Retro 51 pen I ever buy. :angry:
Posted Image Bendita mi tierra guanche.

#8 Maja

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 04:54

**Update**

Well, I guess it had to happen. Yet another problem to report on my Retro 51 Double Eight. After cleaning it out and putting it aside for a few days, I decided to fill it up and use it at work. I filled it with Parker Quink I began writing with it and within a minute I noticed that the nib and feed were getting saturated with ink. Wiping the excess ink revealed that a little black plastic ring that fits between the feed and the section had cracked. The whole nib can be unscrewed from the section and as soon as I did that, the ring fell apart in 3 pieces. Well, it was fun while it lasted. All I can say is that this is the last Retro 51 pen I ever buy.  :angry:

Yikes! :o
This is rather troubling...It kind of sounds like the problem that the Levenger "True Writer" had, if I recall correctly.
So sorry to hear of this, Apollo :( It's a very pretty pen, though...
I think you should send another letter/e-mail to the manufacturer, if only to let them know there is another problem/design flaw with your pen. I hope you can get yours repaired so it can be made useable again (so it doesn't leak ink, that is)...
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#9 Tomcat1944

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 06:56

Thank you very much for your review. I was looking at making a purchase of the Double-eight for my new fountain

Needless to say your review has made my mind. Thanks for the information friend and good luck with your next purchase.

#10 Apollo

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Posted 04 November 2005 - 21:53

Thank you very much for your review. I was looking at making a purchase of the Double-eight for my new fountain

Needless to say your review has made my mind. Thanks for the information friend and good luck with your next purchase.

Hi there Tomcat.

Yeah, that Retro 51 Double Eight of mine was pretty bad. I ended up tossing the thing in the garbage. I do have a Curacao Tornado Resinator by Retro 51 which hasn't given me any problems yet, but I must admit that I rarely use it. My issues with the Double Eight may have been an isolated incident, but it was enough to convince me to stay away from the brand.
Posted Image Bendita mi tierra guanche.

#11 kjervin

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 01:10

Apollo,
You must've gotten a bad one. I have the same model pen (ser # in the 240's) and it has given me no troubles at all. I also have 3 Scriptmasters, a Resonator and 3 tornados and haven't had any problem with any of them. Every manufacturer has bad ones that get out of the factory. I'm not sure how fair it is to impune an entire brand without giving them a chance to make the pen right. What did Richard say about the model, or did you ever get up with him? I understand your flustration, but as I read the story, you had a problem, tried to fix it yourself, contacted the manufacturer, decided not to send it back to them, had further problems with the pen, and threw it away. Doesn't sound like Retro had a chance to do anything about your problem. I understand your frustration. I would be upset as well if I had gotten a pen, especially one as lovely as the double 8, and it literally fell apart. I even accept the idea that the pen possibly should not have left the factory, but many pen companies would do their best to make a bad pen right, and every company has bad pens. It seems to me a little unfair to jump on Retro 1951 on the basis of one of your two pens had issues. I seem to remember someone else on this board has a blue double 8, and they didn't seem to have problems with theirs. So it seems to be one of the three I know of and no other reports of problems. That would lead me to believe it is a bad pen and not a bad model (which is cause to be hopeful). I would send it back to Retro, even if you did try to fix it. I would almost bet they would help you out. I hope things work out for you, but I do think you owe them a chance before you lash out at them. It sounds like they behaved honorably towards you and you should return the favor.

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#12 aircraft_electrician

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 18:46

Apollo,

I'm sorry to hear you had problems with your Double Eight. I love mine, though it too had a problem. My wife bought mine as an anniversary gift last August, and it never wrote properly. It always seemed to skip on left to right and upwards strokes. After trying several different brands of ink, a quick phone call to Jennie in Retro's customer service office had a new nib/feed unit in the mail to me and the pen has worked perfectly since.

As I said, now that it writes properly I love it. Retro 1951 stood behind their pen and fixed the problem I had with it, and it appears a well made pen for the price. It's not a 300 dollar Waterman or Cross, but it's still a very nice pen for the price.

Tom
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#13 Okami

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 13:32

I was sorry to hear about your problem with the Retro 51 pen.

You really should have contacted the company. I had a Retro pencil that I had problems with, I emailed them and received no response, so I trashed the pencil. The day after I trashed it they contacted me and told me to send it back and they would fix it. I told them they were a day too late.

A few minutes later I received another email telling me that they were shipping me a brand new pencil from their new line. I received it just a few days later. Let me tell you, that kind of response really impressed me and I have been a Retro fan ever since. I own a couple of their Tornado rollerballs and my favorite fountain pen is the Cioppino.


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