If you’re a pen geek, and you do a search for “Retro 51 refill hack”, the best and only usable result you’ll find is for a Pilot Hi-Tec-C. While it’s a really good looking result, it simply involves too much work to get there. Cutting the refill down to the right size, then taping a false shoulder onto the refill at the right point to hold the spring because the diameter is too thin, and potentially having to do those steps multiple times? Ugh. Here’s what I did, instead.
Click on a photo for slideshow view and commentary, and remember that switching to a gel ink means writing on glossy paper will always be messier than an oil-based ballpoint.
Here’s my Retro 51 Vintage Metalsmith Lincon, and the donor pens: a Pentel EnerGel and Pilot Precise V5 RT.
Side by side, we can see that the “shoulders” of the inserts are all about the right length from the tip, but the barrels are too long compared to the Schmidt cartridge (Retro branded).
They cut down to size with a simple razor blade pretty well. That’s it.
Writing sample of all three cartridges. The REF5P is a bit broader line than I prefer, but worse, I tend to get a lot of skipping with it. Maddening. Both cartridges take the line down to 0.5 mm, and write nicer.
Here’s the Pilot cartridge fully retracted. Looks just like it should.
And the Pilot cartridge extended. I got the fine, needle-like “nib” I was looking for, and it writes flawlessly.
Here’s the EnerGel insert retracted, on my first attempt. Clearly, I need to shave the cartridge just a little bit more to fully retract the writing tip.
However, here’s the EngerGel extended, and I think it looks GREAT. This is exactly the look I was hoping to achieve, but the tip is just a hair too large in diameter and it gets stuck in the opening.
Here’s my second attempt with the EnerGel. After shaving the barrel a bit further, it retracts fully and nicely.
Unfortunately, now it doesn’t extand as fully and nicely as before. It’s still usable, but I find it much more awkward and hard to see the writing tip as I go.
The Pilot cartridge just doesn’t look as nice as I’d hoped in my Lincoln. I really prefer the aesthetics of the full metal tip the Pentel uses.
However, I like the contrast of the black plastic in my Vintage Metalsmith Jefferson. This is one of my favorite “always” pens, now.
I’ve settled on the Pilot Precise V5 RT. A quick note, if you do this you must make sure your Pilot Precise V5 has an RT suffix. The RT is what means it’s retractable. I say this for anyone who decides to order a bunch of these pens from an online retailer. I hope you find this useful!