Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil


Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

Yard-O-Led is a famous writing implement manufacturer. For those who appreciate graphite writing implements, their products have a unique appeal. The company’s original offering, the mechanical pencil, is still made in historic styles and formats by a team of six in Birmingham, England. Unlike many other fine writing implement manufacturers, their pencils are not derivatives of a pen offering – the pencils have a unique mechanism and format which has remained essentially unchanged from 1934 to the present.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

This particular pencil was chosen carefully. Though other traditional formats appealed to me, my experience with a vintage Yard-O-Led pencil indicated that some were a bit hard to hold in my hand. I wanted this pencil for daily use, and not to be banished to a shelf. For me, the Edwardian pencil got it right – round, heavy, with a long tapering that allows for a wide variety of comfortable grips.

The weight is 45 grams! Consider that a modern woodcase pencil is about 4g, and a large modern metal pencil like the Porsche Design P’3120 is 30g – the Edwardian is a substantial heavyweight. Yet the weight is nicely balanced, and the 134mm long pencil is comfortable to hold.

The body is sterling silver, with a barleycorn pattern finish. The nose has a very long taper. There is a clip with serial number and the “Yard-O-Led” name. The flat top cap is marked “Made in England”.

The barleycorn has two interruptions – a space for hallmarks, and a space suitable for engraving.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

The cap twists to extend and retract the 1.18mm lead. An advantage of the twist mechanism is the ability to retract the lead.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

The lead refill mechanism is much smoother and more usable than on the vintage pencil, which should not be a surprise. The instruction booklet is still welcome – it isn’t a typical refill system for 2009.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

I have been using the pencil at work for about one month. While one month is not a long period of time for a pencil that truly was made to last for years, I’ll say that I am absolutely delighted with it. It writes, looks, and feels like something special – which it is.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

The pencil is not inexpensive, yet I have no trouble saying it is definitely worth the price. In fact I regret having purchased so many cheaper mechanical pencils the last few years (especially those aimed purely at drafting purposes) – most are now stashed away unused in drawers, and cost in aggregate much more than this Yard-O-Led.

The guarantee states that Yard-O-Led pencils with serial numbers will always be serviced, and there is ample testimony around that the manufacturer faithfully honours this statement.

It will not be my last Yard-O-Led!

Further reading:

Pentrace article on the history of Yard-O-Led.

Previous post at pencil talk on a vintage Yard-O-Led pencil. That post was privileged to receive a comment from Mr. Colin Keates, the grandson of Yard-O-Led founder Ludwig Brenner.

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?