January 13, 1952 (Yard-O-Led pencil)

January 13, 1952  (Yard-O-Led pencil)

I’m not sure what was being commemorated fifty-six years ago today, but that’s the date inscribed on this vintage Yard-O-Led pencil.

Engraved pens and pencils typically have names or initials, but this one has a date. I imagine it being a birth, a graduation, an anniversary, or some other milestone of life that was being commemorated. Yet, it’s still odd to me. If you chose a gift like this, and chose to have it engraved, wouldn’t you put the person’s name on the gift?

The pencil is rolled gold in a barley pattern with a hexagonal body. It takes a 1.18mm lead. I bought it mainly to inform myself about Yard-O-Led pencils, as I’ve thought of acquiring one of their new pencils.

While almost exactly the same length as a Lamy Scribble (which I find very comfortable), this pencil is too short for the way I want to grip it. I want to hold the hexagonal part of the body, just as I would a woodcase pencil. But this winds up causing the cap of the pencil to hit my hand in an uncomfortable way.

As to the lead and mechanism – I could not at all figure out how to adjust the lead. I kept looking at the instructions over at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils. My results at times resembled parts of a Marx Brothers comedy. At one point the lead shot out of the pencil across the room. Now let’s be fair and acknowledge that this pencil is over a half century old, with provenance unknown. It may have spent twenty or thirty years in a damp basement or a humid yurt. Removing the slider from the barrel was challenging – it just wouldn’t move beyond a certain point. But it did come out.

January 13, 1952  (Yard-O-Led pencil)

That “slider grip” is the oddest piece. Being new to this pencil, and having noticed that it can shoot parts around a room (due to a capable spring), I was alarmed when the slider “disappeared”. It was there – then it was gone. I feared it was snapped off, or sprung into the yonder. I couldn’t find it. I did notice that the other bits of the mechanism – the piece that holds the lead in particular – were also gone. At this point, I was thinking that I’d broken the pencil. I tried fishing around the slider barrel (which has a narrow opening) with an eyeglass screwdriver. There they were – the parts were submerged, and with some toggling, re-emerged. I carried on, and can say – it all works, and I can now retract and extent the lead, and know how to refill it. As far as I can tell, my original problems were due to the “refill nut” (another unfamiliar pencil part) not being properly in place. It wasn’t my focus, but after it being properly fastened, the pencil started to work – from the point of view of the cap, clockwise motion extended the lead, and a counter-clockwise motion retracted the lead. That’s how it should be!

As Dave wrote, “Complicated or what!”

If I ever buy a new Yard-O-Led pencil, it will be in person so that I can try out the feel.

But – I’m still wondering, what happened fifty-six years ago today?

Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 3 Metal

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

The Fixpencil is the signature product of a world-famous manufacturer. I’ve wanted to own one of these pencils for some while, and acquired a specimen last fall.

The version I have seems to revel in the Caran d’Ache heritage – the most visible marking is the statement “Fixpencil designed in 1929”. The “Swiss Made” logo is also there, and under the clip, one can read “Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 3 Metal”.

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

This particular pencil is a 3.15mm clutch pencil, with a hexagonal shape and matte black finish. The mentioned text is in white/silver. The metal clip is solidly attached, but movable (and removable).

The pencil’s cap is red, and also the push button for opening the clutch. The cap also houses some inset blades, which serve as a sharpener.

The clutch itself is a chrome colour.

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

The pencil (with full lead) weighs 11.4g, about triple a modern woodcase pencil. Yet – it still feels quite light for a metal clutch pencil.

Almost two years ago, I mentioned some other 3.15mm pencils that I like. The Fixpencil is quite different from all four of those pencils in that it resembles a woodcase pencil in dimensions, and takes a full-length 3.15mm lead. It is sleek, not rotund. The length is 135mm (sans lead).

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

The grip and usability are great.

The cap sharpener is a most interesting feature. It works, and produces a fine pointed lead. But it doesn’t succeed in defying the laws of physics, and the graphite dust has to go somewhere – that would usually be one’s hands.

It is a usable and practical pencil of good quality. I had hoped the physical weight might correspond to the psychic weight of the legend of the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil, but that’s the problem with legends.

Recommended without reservation.