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Yard-O-Led Retro


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19 replies to this topic

#1 doctorcornelius

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Posted 03 December 2006 - 17:25

Yard-O-Led Retro Review

I've always wanted a Yard-O-Led but have, historically, baulked at paying the full price for one. However I recently managed to pick one up for about half the Manufacturer's Recommended Retail Price. The fact that the pen had to travel from Birmingham to California and back in order for me to do so goes against all my environmentalist principles - but I figured that wasn't so bad for a 0.5 oz item, even in its box and packaging. What really riled me was the idea that the pen retails for about the same in GBP as in USD and that, as I write, is near enough double.

But enough moaning...


Styling

The Company blurb describes this pen as 'based on an original 1950s model'. Now, I'm no expert - especially in FPN company - but, to me, this doesn't look, or feel, like a 1950s pen. The 50s were all about aerodynamics and the promise of manned space-flight; this pen, with its squared-off ends, chased black hard rubber, peculiar clip and silver trim, looks to me far more 1910s or 1920s. Putting that aside, this is a great looking little pen. I say 'little' because this review is for the 'standard' YOL Retro - the pen comes in three sizes: 'Pocket', 'Retro' (with no further qualification) and 'Grand'. The Retro, standard size, is certainly not a pen for giant fingers. While the barrel may be a whole centimetre in diameter, at its widest point, the section tapers from just below a centimetre down to 7.5 millimetres at the nib - quite small for those who enjoy a chunkier 'hold' to their pen. If your current rotation pen is a Montblanc 149, for instance, this kid will appear shockingly slender. If that is the case, you could perhaps try the Retro's bigger brother, the 'Grand'.

The chased 'black hard rubber' is, in fact, made from a 'durable black resin compound' - which sounds to me like a fancy term for 'plastic'. Whatever the material, it has a warm, matte feel in the hand, which is indeed quite reminiscent of hard rubber. The barrel tapers at the end, where you would post the cap, to a little silver 'stop' - a nice touch, mirroring the tapering at the 'business' end.

The cap is made of the same material. The hallmarked, solid silver, clip is pure 1900s - the era just before fixed clips became the norm and one had to make do with detachable pocket clips. From a distance, it could be an Edward Todd or a Conway Stewart. The cap is topped with a silver 'Y'. Closing mechanism is of the 'push' variety. Unlike MBs, which go 'ping' as you push home the cap, this pen has a pronounced 'click' to the action. Again this feels very solid - so much so, in fact, that opening the pen initially requires quite a pull - but one gets the impression that this will become easier over time. Closed, the pen looks very pretty and 'nicely old-fashioned'.

Function

This pen fills either by converter or cartridges - presumably of the 'standard' variety (I don't really know what this means, by the way, as I've never bought a 'standard cartridge'). The converter fills easily enough and holds a decent amount of ink.

The section is of 925/1000 parts Sterling Silver and, as I mentioned earlier, tapers from 9mm to 7.5mm. While this may not be to everyone's taste, what it does do is afford the writer a lot of control - hold the pen higher on the section for normal writing, lower for more intricate detail.

The nib is 18k white gold [Edit: please see entries below for more on this]. The feed appears to be plastic. The pen in front of me is fitted with a medium nib which, subjectively, writes just on the broad side of medium. Ink flow is slightly on the 'wet' side and consistent, with no 'skipping'. There is no 'tooth' at all to this nib and a bit more softness than is usual these days - it's certainly not flex, but it's not a nail either. What I have noticed, is that the nib encourages you to write softly, making it effortless and untiring to use. In short, I would say that in ordinary hands this nib would write much as you should expect from an instrument of this price; however, it would also afford some pleasing line variation to the more advanced stylographer.

Packaging

Well, I suppose we must have the stuff... For the first 30 seconds of your ownership of this pen, you will find that it comes in a nice, solid box. Good. Now you can put the box in the attic with the rest of your junk. Your pen will be much more at home in your pen case or, better still, your bag or jacket pocket.

Overall

Impressions are always going to be subjective. Personally, I really like this pen. If it had a flexy nib, I would probably use it in preference to any other that I own. In the absence of true flex, it still writes beautifully and looks and feels terrific. It's one of those pens that sort of inspires and that, for me, is what a pen is all about.

History

I like the idea that this instrument is a descendant of a great Pen Maker. These days Yard-O-Led may be nothing more than a junior province of the Filofax empire; but I understand it was once the child of Sampson Mordan. 'Yard-O-Led' was the name given by Mordan to their brand of propelling pencil which held twelve, three-inch leads. Mordan, in turn, became the Yard-O-Led Company, founded in Birmingham in 1934.

Yard-O-Led Retro - Dimensions

L Capped 14 cm 5 1/2 in
L Posted 16.2 cm 6 3/8 in
L Unposted 12.3 cm 4 7/8 in
Cap Length 5.9 cm 2 3/8 in

Barrel Diameter max 1 cm 3/8 in
Barrel Diameter min 0.8 cm 5/16 in
(the barrel tapers)
Section Diameter max 0.9 cm 7/16 in
Section Diameter min 0.75 cm 1/4 in
(the section tapers)
Cap Diameter 1 cm 3/8 in

Weight 14 gm 0.5 oz

MRRP UK 220 GBP US 295 USD*

* With the dollar at 1.90, as of today, try to figure that one out!

Disclaimer

I am not an employee of Filofax, Yard-O-Led or any company connected to this product, nor do I work for any marketing or publicity company. I have never, to this day, sold a pen (though I may do in the future). I am, however, a great fan of FPN and hope this review, if it does nothing else, will add something to its wonderful knowledge base. There are bound to be mistakes in the article. If you spot one, please email or PM me and I will do further research and, if necessary, edit the piece.

NB - 3 December 2006

Edited: fixed 'cap diameter' dimension.

Attached Images

  • Yard_O_Led_Retro_composite.jpg

Edited by doctorcornelius, 06 December 2006 - 00:22.

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#2 Sciopod

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 10:26

Thanks for this - great review and a nice pen. I have a soft spot for Yard O Led, given that I work in Birmingham (I believe at least some parts are still made here).
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#3 london

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 10:59

Nice review. Thank you.

I have always liked the look of this pen, but as yourself, not the price. Not that I don't think it is worth it, its just not at the top of my things to finance wink.gif

Still, if I head stateside I might consider it.

- Mark

#4 twdpens

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 13:27

Thanks for the review, doctorcornelius.

Out of interest, what did you pay for the pen? USD295 or less?

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#5 born t

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 19:12

Thanks for the great review. I have one of these, too, and quite like it. The nib is definitely plated gold, not white gold.
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#6 Greg

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 11:18

Thanks, doctorcornelius, an entertaining and informative review.

I agree with your comments about the dating of the style, definitely 20s or earlier. This is, to my mind, a particularly good period for pen style and this example is particularly handsome.

I would be a little disappointed if I expected the material to be hard rubber and found it was a resin, but then I have a fetish for BCHR!

At around £150 (~half of 295USD?) this pen represents good value, at least when compared to others from esoteric manufacturers.

A lever or button fill would make it perfect!


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#7 doctorcornelius

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 11:29

Folks

In answer to your posts...

Martin: Yes, I paid less than 295 USD. Needless to say, I would much prefer to have bought the pen in England.

born_t: My nib is marked "18c 750" - presumably 750 parts / 1000 white gold. Having done a quick search on the Web, I found this from the Fountain Pen Hospital:

http://www.fountainp...p?CK=625&MFG=40

which would indicate that the nib is, indeed, gold - not plate. But, I am not an authority on these matters and stand to be corrected.

Thankyou to everyone for your replies.

Regards,

Nick
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#8 twdpens

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 13:26

My understanding is that the nib is gold with either platinum or rhodium plating.

BTW, YOL nibs used to be 2-tone but changed to the current single-colour design just before the turn of the century (it matches the silver nicely). My own Viceroy, which has a year 2000 hallmark, was one of the first of the current format.

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#9 doctorcornelius

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 19:11

Hi Martin

Thanks for that. Excuse my ignorance - and this is NOT a trick question - but why would you plate a gold nib? Is this just to continue the 'silver' theme of the pen? But then, why not use white gold in the first place?

Nick


Edited: typo.

Edited by doctorcornelius, 06 December 2006 - 19:41.

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#10 twdpens

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 19:57

It's purely cosmetic as the underlying gold (18k in the case of YOL) does not need any further corrosion protection. Other pens with completely ("white") plated nibs that come to mind are the Lamy 2000 and silver Conway Stewarts (although they leave a tiny bit of bare gold for the logo on the nib) plus the steel nibs on the Pelikan M215 and M205.

As for white gold, I'm not sure if this has been used for nibs. Maybe someone can cite an example?

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#11 Maja

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 20:00

QUOTE(doctorcornelius @ Dec 3 2006, 09:25 AM)
Packaging

Well, I suppose we must have the stuff... For the first 30 seconds of your ownership of this pen, you will find that it comes in a nice, solid box. Good. Now you can put the box in the attic with the rest of your junk.

laugh.gif laugh.gif

So true!

Thanks for the excellent review, doctorcornelius smile.gif It's a very attractive pen, and I like the (1920s?) styling. I wasn't even aware that YOL made modern pens that weren't all-metal until now!


FPNer "Oxonian" wrote a review of a Sterling Silver Yard-O-Led model here, as a reply to the original poster's question:
http://www.fountainp...showtopic=15351
(it's the 2nd post)
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#12 born t

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 21:41

Yes, what I meant was that the nib was made of yellow gold plated with rodium or something. I'm sure about this because the nib of my pen is scratched enough to reveal the yellow gold underneath. I know, I know, I should have looked after it better. sad.gif
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#13 Sharkle

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 07:19

Lovely pen, if I do say so myself, as I just got the Retro ballpen. It's a beautiful pen, noticeably heftier than the BPs I'm used to, extremely comfortable, and a wonderful writer with Visconti capless gels. Thanks for your review. My brother turned me onto these; he has a Viscount BP and perhaps a Corinthian. Thanks for your excellent review.

#14 bluemax

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 09:10

Hi doctorcornelius

Great review. Great Pen - it's on my wish list.

After having read all the questions, can I also ask if you got the pen from a shop or private dealer? As you may guess, being in the UK too, I get stung on the import duty if I go through a shop, but seem to have been lucky with traders who will mark goods second hand or used and still fully insure them

Lastly, to what degree did the importing of the pen affect the overall price (e.g. shipping etc)?

thanks

Bren

#15 doctorcornelius

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 16:45

Hi Bren

Email sent.

Rgds,

Nick
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#16 cheshirebowman

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 22:23

Hi everyone,

As gold is always 'yellow' (and can vary in shade somewhat, depending on the source) but, depending on what metals are alloyed with it to adjust the carat (karat in US) can be anything from warm reddish yellow through pale yellow to greenish yellow. To create 'White gold' the point (or anything else e.g. ring, pendant, cuff links etc. etc.) is plated with rhodium, which is from the palladium family of metals, which also includes iridium - hope this helps

Incidentally, I own a Viceroy plain standard fountain pen with 'fine' point and it writes with a delightful fine-to-medium wet line. I find that the nib IS flexible and can be 'trained' to give a good, variable line that shows a good deal of expression.

I am totally besotted with the pen, it is (in my humble opinion) head-and-shoulders above any of the other 49 that I own...

Cheers!

#17 dandelion

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 01:17

A good old review that deserves an appreciating bump by the finder. I especially appreciate the thoroughly measured dimensions - that is very usable. ! I've also been quite surprised by the statement that this is inspired by the 50's - by the same reasons as you. My instant reaction when I saw this was great 20's retro. I was very surprised to see how light it is - only 14 grammes with a silver section.

Edited by dandelion, 24 January 2010 - 01:19.

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#18 jorgerp1

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 08:59

Nice review :puddle:

#19 Ed Ronax

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Posted 24 January 2010 - 12:55

Excellent review, nice pen, thanks.
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#20 rsx

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 01:21

Hi everyone,

As gold is always 'yellow' (and can vary in shade somewhat, depending on the source) but, depending on what metals are alloyed with it to adjust the carat (karat in US) can be anything from warm reddish yellow through pale yellow to greenish yellow. To create 'White gold' the point (or anything else e.g. ring, pendant, cuff links etc. etc.) is plated with rhodium, which is from the palladium family of metals, which also includes iridium - hope this helps

Incidentally, I own a Viceroy plain standard fountain pen with 'fine' point and it writes with a delightful fine-to-medium wet line. I find that the nib IS flexible and can be 'trained' to give a good, variable line that shows a good deal of expression.

I am totally besotted with the pen, it is (in my humble opinion) head-and-shoulders above any of the other 49 that I own...

Cheers!



OK, I am resurrecting a very old post here, but can't let this go uncorrected. I did not think that "white gold" just meant yellow gold plated with palladium, although this does happen sometimes. Here is the section from Wikipedia:

"White gold is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal, usually nickel, manganese or palladium. Like yellow gold, the purity of white gold is given in karats.

White gold's properties vary depending on the metals and proportions used. As a result, white gold alloys can be used for many different purposes; while a nickel alloy is hard and strong and therefore good for rings and pins, gold-palladium alloys are soft, pliable and good for white gold gemstone settings, sometimes with other metals like copper, silver, and platinum for weight and durability, although this often requires specialized goldsmiths. The term white gold is used very loosely in the industry to describe karat gold alloys with a whitish hue. Many believe that the color of the rhodium plating, which is seen on many commercial pieces, is actually the color of white gold. The term "white" covers a large spectrum of colors that borders or overlaps pale yellow, tinted brown, and even very pale rose. The jewelry industry often hides these off-white colors by rhodium plating."

If I understand this correctly, I guess that a nib could be made of unplated white gold. I don't know which, if any, are made that way.






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