Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Yard-o-Led propelling pencil

A little bit of history  Back in the early Twentieth Century, there were all sorts of experimental designs for mechanical pencils.  Eversharp, as the name suggests, started with a perennially-pointed design (or so the adverts would have you believe), and the Japanese spin-off even became an electronics company in the end – that’s how Sharp got its name.  After a few mergers (including the assimilation of Edward Baker, one of whose pencils Matthias reviewed), and a few factories either being re-purposed for war production or flattened by someone else’s materiel, there was just the one brand left – the masters of the propelling pencil, Yard-o-Led.

A vintage Universal

How it looks  The Yard-o-Led pencil has a variety of finishes, all of them looking carefully hand-engineered, and very shiny.  Sometimes, as in the example below, that has been achieved with interesting alloys (in this case ‘platinine’, probably an copper/nickel/zinc mix), but these days only Sterling silver makes the grade.

Mascot-9
A vintage Mascot – we’re not sure if the box is original.

How it feels  Obviously that depends upon the size and shape to some extent – the new Diplomat below has a square barrel! But generally, these are lighter than they look, and nicely balanced, so really rather pleasant to write or draw with.

Diplomat 4
This is where the leads are stored.

How it fills  With twelve three-inch graphite sections, which if placed end-to-end would constitute a Yard of Lead (geddit?).  One is in the chamber and ready to fire, while eleven spares lie in wait spaced around the sides of the barrel.  It’s a clever system and you’re highly unlikely to run out of lead while out on a job with one of these.  The only downside to the now rather unusual gauge (1.18mm) of lead is that it’s now rather hard to find refills in any hardness other than HB or B – which is a pity, as with a softer lead these would make excellent sketching tools.Mascot-6

How it writes…  Tolerably well, although the lead may be a bit thick to write with if you’re used to the now more familiar 0.5mm standard width.Diplomat 3

What is the propelling pencil good for?  It’s good for drawing and doodling, and looking like a vintage hipster while you’re doing it.  Because of the limited range of lead types available in 1.18mm, it’s perhaps not brilliant as a sketching tool, but it definitely wins points for being cool.Mascot-8

VFM  Today’s Yard-o-Led pencil is a silver item made by the same specialist jewellers who make the excellent pens which we reviewed last week, and they are similarly priced at the ‘luxury’ end of the price scale.  They are real works of art, and worth saving up for as an heirloom if you like the thought of passing on something both very beautiful and somewhat practical.  If you just want one to doodle with and don’t mind a few dings, there’s about a century’s worth of second-hand stock out there on the auction sites and the like, and they can sell for a lot less.  A bit of research is certainly worthwhile.Diplomat 2

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  There’s not much direct competition these days!  Your main choice here is between new and ‘pre-loved’ propelling pencils.YoL leaflet outside

Our overall recommendation  If your cherished descendants can’t be trusted with a fountain pen but might just get some mileage from a pencil, this is as good as it gets.  The mechanism is very robust, so if you just fancy one to play with then a second-hand (or possibly third-hand) one will probably also still be working when the time comes to kick the shiny, hallmarked, delicately hand-tooled bucket.YoL leaflet inside

Where to get hold of one  The Writing Desk (coming up soon!) were YoL’s first online retailers, although the Yard-o-Led website now sell directly too, and you could also do a lot worse than check out Pure Pens or The Pen Shop.  Alternatively, if you happen to be strolling through St.James’s and fancy popping into Fortnum’s, their pen desk offers ample hands-on testing opportunities, albeit at prices which make the posh scones look relatively affordable.Diplomat 1

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  The Imperial Yard team for hosting our inquisitive visits and lending us the Diplomat to review!

 

 

Yard-O-Led Viceory Grand Victorian Fountain Pen

nib and cap 2

A little bit of history  Yard-O-Led have been making writing instruments, primarily of the mechanical pencil persuasion, since 1822. Although fountain pens are a relatively recent development, all that experience and craftsmanship counts for a lot. We wrote a profile of Yard-O-Led quite recently.

The pen, and the box it comes in

How it looks  Oh my goodness this is a fine looking pen. All of the almost 200 years of knowledge has gone into the designing and the crafting of this pen. The cap and barrel are made from hallmarked sterling silver and the pattern is painstakingly applied by hand. The effect is one of the utmost quality that celebrates the heritage of the company. This is a pen that looks as if it has been around for a hundred years and feels as if it will be around for a hundred more.

Yard-O-Led-Grand-Viceroy-Victorian-hallmark

How it feels  This is not a light pen; it’s made from solid silver after all. However the balance is such that it doesn’t feel too heavy in the hand. Silver is quite a warm metal, too. There’s more than comfort though – when you hold this pen, the size (it’s big) and the weight combine to the overall feeling of quality. The section is metal, of course, which doesn’t suit everyone, but its contour aids grip and reduces the likelihood of slipperiness.

Yard-O-Led-Grand-Viceroy-Victorian-cap

How it fills  It’s a standard international cartridge/converter affair. The supplied converter isn’t anything special but is perfectly functional.

nib and cap

Crucially, how it writes…  The rhodium-plated 18k nib is firm and very smooth. Between us we’ve been able to try all three of the available options (fine, medium and broad) and have enjoyed them all.

Yard-O-Led screenshot

Pen! What is it good for?   This is not a pen for throwing in your pocket when you’re off to the beach. It is a pen to keep and cherish and use and pass on to your favourite child to keep and cherish and use and pass on again. It’s a pen to appreciate and admire.

VFM  This is a very expensive pen. It’s impossible to say definitively whether it offers value for money or not. The important question is: is this pen worth it to you? We all feel the same: we would buy this pen in a moment, if we had the money.hallmarks2

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Yard-O-Led make two smaller (the pocket and the standard) pens too, if you love this design but would prefer something less…grand… (and a little more affordable, relatively speaking).  There are also one or two other purveyors of silver fountain pens starting to come onto the market which we hope to explore in coming months.

mirror 2

Our overall recommendation  This is a gorgeous pen. It’s a work of art  which is also wonderful to write with. If you are in the market for a pen to last for generations, this is a pen you should seriously consider.

Where to get hold of one  From some of your favourite online stockists or direct from Yard-O-Led themselves.

whole pen

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to Yard-O-Led for giving us the opportunity to try out this pen. None of us wanted to send it back, so we’re glad they trusted us!

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