I'm afraid I'm coming at this from a rather newcomer's perspective, as I only have one fountain pen to my name, but I'm really in need of help and this seems like a lovely, friendly, knowledgeable community from which to seek it! I'm afraid it's a rather long story, but I don't want to do it the injustice of not starting at the beginning.
I've always only liked writing with fountain pens, and used the same £10 Parker (Jotter) all the way through school. It seemed almost timely when it came to a sticky end just a few days after I finished my final exams. My Grandma took me to get a very lovely new pen to start medical school with. I have unusually small hands, and found that the small diameter barrel of the Jotter was rarely replicated in better pens. It sounds bizarre, I know, but I really don't like how the bulkier ones feel, and I can't control them properly. After much deliberating and traipsing between shops, I fell in love with a Yard-o-led Viceroy Pocket Barley pen. The nib was just unlike anything else I tried out - I think I really like the softness of the white gold. And it even had the lovely small barrel!
It just so happened that I really use it a huge amount. I'm studying in Cambridge, which is stuck in a bygone era, and I hand in 3-4 handwritten essays a week, as well as transcribing numerous lectures and supervisions. And I just loved it so much! It was so beautiful to write with, and such a generous gift. I loved writing with it for work and pleasure, and loved thinking of my Grandma and the continuity of only using one pen. Everyone knows me for always carrying it around in a little blue carry case.
Unfortunately, just shy of a year, the pen started playing up. Eventually, it wouldn't ever write ink for very long, even when I cleaned it out in all the ordinary ways. I took it to the shop I got it from who agreed that something wasn't right, and we sent it back. Yard-o-led returned it some weeks later, and it seemed back to normal. A few months later, it happened again. I sent it back. And then it happened again. This time, I was eager to get in touch with them, but they're very hard to contact. I was frustrated that this unusual and generous expenditure was not working as it should, and I didn't know if I was doing something wrong. Eventually, when I got through (by writing longhand and sending it to the repairs address), it turned out that the main brothers are profoundly deaf, so cannot use a phone. Oops.
Sobered by this, I was receptive. They said that something was, indeed, wrong and they'd replaced the nib and feeder. Yet again, it worked like a dream for the first few months. I only ever use yard-o-led cartridges that I buy off the filofax website, and I use the pen every day. I don’t press hard when I write, and I never let anyone else use it. Over the last few weeks it’s began to play up on occasion. Sometimes it just needed to be left alone for a few minutes, nib down. Sometimes, washing it through with the converter until it ran clear and then putting in a new cartridge did the trick. It’s got increasingly common, and eventually stopped in the middle of some writing. I washed it through 5 times, with increasingly warm water. Each time the same thing happened: it ran inky and I kept going until it’s clear. Then it flows across the page nicely with a very dilute, watery mark, and as soon as the water runs out it stops again. I’ve tried several different cartridges, and left it over night, but all to no avail.
Completely at a loss, and frustrated and disappointed, I e-mailed Yard-o-led yet again. I said that, with a heavy heart, unless they had other suggestions, a refund would perhaps be the best option if they were prepared to offer it. My £10 Parker was infinitely more reliable, albeit so much less a work of craftsmanship and lovely to write with.They were eminently lovely:
"I am the manager of Yard O Led and I am so sorry you are still experiencing problems with your pen. I can asure you we are just as frustrated as you with the quality issues we have been experiencing not just with your pen. I can assure you it is not something you are doing wrong. I have in the past returned nibs to the manufacturer to see if they can solve this kind of problem and unfortunately I have got nowhere."
This seems to suggest that I'm not the only case they've had. Has anyone else come across this problem with Yard-o-led? Anyway, John offered me a replacement nib unit, but later that day the director got in touch and offered me a full refund.
I've spoken to my grandma and she feels that it would be entirely appropriate to get the refund and go out to buy another pen from a different, more reliable brand. But I just wanted to do some research first, which brought me here amongst other places. So here are my questions:
Do you think it is worth refunding and going to another brand? Are other pens likely to be more reliable, or is this normal for a fountain pen? Should I stick it out and try a replacement nib one more time? (As an extra complication, they have none in stock so I'd have to wait some time).
Could you possibly suggest pens that have a small barrel and gold or white gold (soft) nib, for somewhere in the region of £260? It would be useful to see alternatives. I've had real trouble finding anything of this sort somewhere where I could try it out, except some vintage pens. I really do want to be able to go and try out a pen. Which brings me on to:
Any particular recommendations of FP shops in London? (Ideally SW or central). There do seem to be several, but with my elderly Grandma I'd really rather only make one trip, and I don't know where exactly is best. I'm not quite sure enough what I'm looking for.
And with Vintage pens: I've heard so much that you mustn't let others write with your FP. I can't find anywhere clearly explained - how is this overcome with vintage pens? Are they any less pliable to write with, rather than collect?
Sorry about the Essay.