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.
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.
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.