I found an Esterbrook desk pen in an antique store last year, bought it, and got it home to find that it needed some work to get it back to working, and parts that I didn't have easy access to....so I disposed of it here on FPN. I did warm up to the idea of having a desk set, but didn't want to fuss with vintage pens that needed restoration. Enter the Retro 51 desk set. I looked around online, but didn't jump, mostly because I didn't see enough reviews online to give me a good idea of what to expect from Retro's fountain pens.
I decided to take a risk, and ordered the tortoise desk set a few weeks ago from <internet store that sells them>. It arrived, and I decided to create that review that I wish existed. So, here goes:
The set comes in a black box with a slip-on label.
Looks nice, decent construction, and the contents survived the trip. Inside the box was this:
A tube of three carts was secured under the tray, along with a rollerball refill. The pen had a converter inside of it, for bottled ink.
Here are the goods, unpacked.
Notice that the fountain pen and rollerball have threads to screw into the base unit. The old Esterbrook had a slip-cap, so it didn't need screwing into the base. Also note that the threads are right where I grip the pen. Possible deal breaker for some people, but it didn't/doesn't bother me.
Typical Cart/Converter Nothing new here, you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, but just in case...
I was pleasantly surprised by the fountain pen. I purchased a fine nib along with the pen, and it screwed right in (the nib comes in a single unit with the feed, etc, like an Esterbrook, only bigger), no problems. The nibs look nice, chrome with a gold-colored accent down the middle. I prefer fine nibs, so the medium review will have to wait for a bit. I filled the pen with Aurora black ink and wrote a few lines... I was surprised that the fine was actually fine, and wrote very smoothly, with even flow. I liked it, and will say that it compares with a medium pilot knight, maybe a tad bit finer.
No gaps that I could see, no blemishes, either. Everything is polished up and shiny, just as it should be.
The pens are made from three pieces. The barrel, the section, and either a rollerball refill, or the fountain pen nib. The section is threaded, unlike the Double8, which I read has the threads glued onto the section. Also, the rollerball pen has an "R" on the finial, so you can tell which is which without having to pull them out of the base unit. They're threaded the same, so they can go in either spot.
I don't know if it comes across in the pictures, but the tortoise acrylic/plastic/whatever it is does have a lot of depth to it, especially on the base unit, where you can see the cream colored splotches and brown splotches suspended in the resin, it is a neat effect, and the pens are made of the same material.
$89 from Moleskines.com, plus ~$10 shipping, and $14 for nib units (fine, med, and broad available), and roller-ball refills are available, too.
I've got more, larger pictures available, if there's sufficient interest (any), I'll post them.
I've spent more money on pens that don't write as nicely, and this is the only desk set I could find with a fountain pen in it. As such, I'm happy, and looking forward to using this at work. Would I buy more Retro 51 fountain pen products? Based on this product, yes, I would. Probably from the same place I purchased the desk set, their prices were reasonable, and the transaction went through without a problem.
Similar products/Other available colors:
The only other color I saw available was an electric blue/black pattern. There is also a very Esterbrook single fountain pen desk stand, available in tortoise, and some more rollerball sets, but this is FPN, so I won't discuss the rollerballs anymore).
Edited by Gepzo, 12 April 2008 - 06:08.