In my continuing series where I review pens nobody at all cares about, here we have the Herlitz Tornado fountain pen. I’m about 90% sure I am the only one who’s ever reviewed this pen. I can’t find any online.
This pen costs $9 in Germany (like €6,59), and I have seen it in a train station in Saarbrücken. At this time, I didn’t buy any because I had had bad experiences with fountain pens, and so didn’t desire any.
However, as the years have gone by, I’ve grown to enjoy fountain pens, and Peyton Street Pens had a few of these bad lads in stock on their website, so I picked one up, and it’s great. Truly a great pen.
This isn’t an ugly pen, but it’s not particularly good looking either. It looks pretty similar to similar (albeit pricier) school pens like the Parker Frontier with the translucent casing…of which I have zero because I think those Frontiers are ugly.
As we can see here, other than that translucent blue barrel on my copy, this pen is dull to the point of being worth noting. Remember how I talked about how lame dull nibs were in the Pilot Metropolitan review? It can go the other way when the nib and pen are so unfathomably dull it looks purposeful. Here, take a look at the nib on this pen.
This unabashed admittance of cheapness in the pen is something I like. This is a utilitarian pen designed to be inoffensive and it’s not parading itself as something better than it is. It’s just a stupid pen that comes in stupid paper packaging, and this is the stupid nib.
Interestingly, though, the nib does have a small quirk I don’t necessarily like, but adds a little something. Take a look.
And the clip is running the same kind of game.
Ostensibly unadorned with the Herlitz name/logo on it right?
WRONG. Actually, no, you’re right. But it has a weird shape to it as well.
That is like, the opposite of the wedge shape. It’s really weird. Nothing is shaped like that.
So we’ve covered the clip, the general design, the nib…uhhh…oh right. That ugly grip section. Please refer back to where, in the caption, I told you to ignore it.
The grip section is a medium, I’ll say 40%, grey, and it’s not very good looking. This would be excusable if it offered a more pleasant pen holding experience, but it doesn’t. It also moves around on there a bit too much. Spinning about and whatnot. Some may call this a feature, but I call it lame. Wait. I’m referring to build quality and design. That means I’m in the wrong section.
Build Quality and Design: 5/10. The build quality is what I would call adequate. The cap clicks on, the clip clips, the nib nibs, and the barrel barrels. The grip don’t grip though.
To go back to that grip, it does spin around about on the section, which means you may orient it in whichever way you want. This, again, may be considered a feature if you are, for example, feeble-minded. But, for those of us living in the real world, this is just an annoyance.
“But Funkmon,” I hear you say, “What about us doofuses who write inverted, and are therefore so useless that we cannot even use a Lamy Safari?” To you I say FEH! Look, I appreciate your desire to be weird. Different strokes for different folks, even when those strokes are dry, thin and scratchy because you’re holding your pen wrong. Herlitz does not appreciate you, though. They have done something for which I think they should be applauded. They have effectively removed those who write inverted from their userbase.
Remember Sam Eagle? I defy you to write comfortably with a pen that turns upward. I don’t think it can be done. Which means you cannot write inverted, which means the spinny grip is a piece of bad design or bad build quality. It cannot be a feature.
Another piece of good design/bad build quality or vice versa is this weird metal ring. I like metal rings. They just make you feel good inside. I like knowing they’re there. This one goes where the cap clicks onto the barrel and over the section. I don’t know why it’s there, and it moves around and is loose. It doesn’t appear to serve any purpose.
Other than that, it’s just about what you’d expect for a pen this cost. Plastic everywhere, but it holds together solidly. Well balanced because it can’t possibly be more than a few grams off in any way because it’s so light (except when you post it, but we don’t do that here). It’s got all the cheap pen hallmarks, down to even being an unassuming size. The only thing it’s really got going for it is that groovy metal cap.
Refilling and maintenance: 6/10.
The pen doesn’t come with a converter, but it comes with a few international ink cartridges, some hollow for some reason.
Luckily, both international ink cartridges and international converters are ubiquitous. Also, don’t try to change the nib. Please. It’s so good.
As I mentioned in my 599 review, this Herlitz is possibly the best writing cheap pen I own. It’s very smooth. If we go to the food smoothness scale, I would put it at the level of a hot White Castle burger. It must be hot, and it must be White Castle. When refrigerated, White Castles kinda get gelatinous in the bun and hard in the meat (heh), so it doesn’t work. But nice and hot fresh from White Castle, that’s what this pen is like. If you only have Krystal near you, imagine that, but a liiiiittle bit softer.
The line is a perfect western medium with no line variation, but that’s okay, since I’m paying $9.
It actually sounds a bit rougher on the sheet of paper. I can’t explain how that works, but it sounds like a guy across the room making voiceless labiodental fricatives at you in time with your pen moving across the paper. You could probably fool him by miming some writing just above the paper, but it doesn’t work. Anyway, trust me, it’s hot White Castle smooth.
So if we take a look at that section again, with the definitely not a feature spinny grip, it isn’t actually that bad. Its triangular grip sections allow you to write like a normal (albeit fundamentally annoyed) person for hours on end. The grip is a bit loose on the section, so it is always squeezed in a little bit before you get any resistance, like you hugged a fat guy. Hugging fat guys ain’t so bad, and neither is this…if you only had to do it once. But, every time you lift your finger, you must hug the fat guy again.
To continue with the fat guy analogy, now pretend he’s the Michelin man wearing a bra. Now you’ve simulated the entirely too large bumps in the grip section. This pen is therefore both exceptionally comfortable to use and mildly infuriating, like a chair that makes your left leg go numb after an hour.
But, to reiterate, the pen is well balanced and a great writer. The pen has never once skipped on me, and it always starts right up again. I have a Parker Arrow, shown above (that picture has finally become convenient), with a similar size nib. This is smoother and more reliable, and it costs 5 times less. I have a Sheaffer 100 which also costs around $50. This nib is smoother and more reliable. Uhhhhhhhhhh…I guess my Latitude also technically runs about that price. This nib is smoother and more reliable. But just. It’s also better than all of the Parkers with the Vector nib. Duh.
Value: 10/10. Not only does this pen come with ink, but it comes with an eradicator. That’s nice.
You will notice that the packaging is upside down here. There’s a reason for that: I couldn’t be bothered to flip it on my computer.
Anyway, that eradicator it comes with works on the same stuff as the Pelikan Super Pirats I have, and it also has the nifty permanent side. I love it when a pen comes with one of these things, mostly so when people give me smug advice like “I’d do that in pencil,” I can tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine and erase the insult I wrote them on my sheet of paper.
This ability to passive aggressively insult others adds a lot of value, in addition to the fact that this pen writes really well. For $9.
I don’t really like Chinese pens, despite me owning about a billion, and I think it’s due to the immense variability in their craftsmanship. They can use expensive materials and junk, but they often don’t have the same level of consistent goodness as their European or American rivals, and I think that’s exemplified here. Outwardly a very cheap pen, but it writes like nobody’s business. This is a sleeper car of school pens.
Here’s some bad writing I spilled some stuff on.