Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Yard-O-Led Perfecta Victorian Mechanical Pencil Review

Yard-O-Led Perfecta Victorian Mechanical Pencil Review

I bought my first new Yard-O-Led back in 2005, a Deco 34, and ever since then I have had a hankering for something more, for another particular masterpiece in sterling silver.

As you may know, earlier this year PenHeaven sent me a couple of pencils to review, and seeing they are a YOL dealer I thought, “Hey, let’s see if we can do a deal.” Turns out we could, and so…
yard-o-led perfecta victorian pencil
Thanks Pen Heaven - the guiltiest pleasures are always the best.

yard-o-led display box
Yard-O-Led display box. It just keeps going and going.
Currently the Yard-O-Led Perfecta is only made in the Victorian decorative pattern, but other finishes have been available in the past. Victorian is reminiscent of the floral patterns popular back in the Victorian era of the 1800’s. I am a fan of history and nostalgia, so this pattern and the overall style of the pencil with its flared end cap is right up my alley.
Yard-O-Led Perfecta Victorian Pencil
Handmade sterling silver body, traditional YOL twist action mechanism and lead storage, 1.18mm ceramic leads, and brand history all combine to produce a unique writing instrument and experience. Using a Yard-O-Led pencil is, and should be, different to using a ‘modern design’ pencil, be that an economical or luxury brand one. This is a functional pencil but it is an awful long way away from utilitarian.
yard-o-led perfecta victorian pencil pattern
Perfecta Victorian pattern


yard-o-led perfecta pencil tip
Perfecta Victorian pencil tip
In the hand then, the Perfecta is neutrally balanced and surprisingly light, lighter than I expected. In reality the Perfecta weighs in at about 26 grams so it’s not really a lightweight. It is though a relatively slim pencil. Obviously it is a general writing pencil, suited for letters, notes and so on, as opposed to technical or art work. The long tapering nose encourages you to grip further up the barrel, higher than my personal natural position. If you are person who grips your writing instrument right down close to the tip then this is probably not a pencil for you.
yard-o-led pencil hallmarks

There is a blank panel where you can have your name or other details engraved. Already marked into your YOL though is a full set of British hallmarks. My Perfectas hallmarks show, Maker = Yard-O-Led, Material = sterling silver (92.5% pure silver), Certified by Birmingham assay office in 2017. I love hallmarks! Speaking of sterling silver, it does of course tarnish. YOL include a silver polishing cloth with your pencil and you will need to give it a bit of a polish every now and then to restore and keep that lovely silver shining bright and glorious. Chrome, nickel, palladium, rhodium and various other hard coat metals look nice and shiny too, but for my money, there’s no comparison with polished sterling silver. It has a warmth and colour all of its own.

The pocket clip is proudly marked Yard-O-Led and individually numbered. Mine is number 2637. The clip is riveted and soldered on. Just a word of warning, anyone who has seen more than a few silver pocket clips will have seen a number of them “sprung out”. Silver is nowhere near as strong and springy as steel and clearly some people over-stretch their pocket clip and it becomes permanently bent upwards a little, no longer contacting the pencil body. I would suggest you just primarily regard the pocket clip as a beautiful decorative attachment and excellent anti-roll device. Do not attach it to anything thicker than a thin fabric pocket or a couple of sheets of paper.

All Yard-O-Leads are 1.18mm screw action mechanical pencils. There are no other options. You turn the top cap round and round to advance the lead. Spare leads are secured inside, and your pencil holds a total of twelve 3 inch leads thus making one yard of lead. That’s 91.4cm of lead for those of you with metric minds. When I say secured, I mean secured. Unlike most pencils YOLs do not have a magazine chamber in which leads are loosely stored. Rather the leads are all individually secured in position by a system of tiny saddle clips. I would love to post a picture of the storage, but I simply don’t have the photographic setup to successfully shoot a view looking down inside the body.
yard-o-led pencil mechanism

Changing the lead on a Yard-O-Led is a complicated affair compared to modern mechanical pencils, but that’s all part of the charm. I say complicated, and it is compared to putting a few sticks of lead into the top of your modern push top ratchet mechanism pencil, but once you’ve done it a couple of times it’s not really that big of a deal. YOL provide good instructions on the procedure. Also, the long leads, their diameter and ceramic composition mean they do not wear down particularly fast and you don’t have to change leads all that often, so don’t let lead changing put you off in any way at all. Unfortunately though, 1.18mm leads are not all that common and you are basically limited to just HB and B grade. If anyone from YOL should ever read this post then I would really urge them to offer a much softer option, e.g. add a 4B to your range.


Like all Yard-O-Leds, the Perfecta is handmade, and so no two are exactly the same, and the quality of workmanship may vary. If you look closely at the engraved ring around the top cap you will see that the ring is not quite closed, that the ‘end’ of the circle does not quite meet the ‘start’, that whislt going around the cap the engraving has got ever so slightly out of alignment. Now you may well consider that a fault, and I certainly umm’ed and ahh’ed about it when I first noticed it. I did think about contacting YOL and asking for a replacement cap, but I haven’t. It’s a handmade item, and for me personally, that little flaw is part of this pencils story, something that makes it unique, a reminder of the human touch in today’s mass produced machine dominated world.

In closing then, the way I see things, writing with any Yard-O-Led, and the Perfecta Victorian in particular, is an invitation to take a moment to contemplate, to take an extra breath, to just take things a little bit more relaxed and slower. The price tag is big, but put a YOL on your wish list.

•    Best Points – Seriously? Just look at it! Owning an heirloom piece.
•    Not So Good Points – Tarnish, lack of lead grades.
•    Price Range – Stratospheric.
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – No, but don’t let that make you think this isn’t a fantastic pencil and one that you should seriously consider owning.

Dimensions – Length 130mm, diameter 8mm across the main body. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.

Disclaimer – This Yard-O-Led Perfecta Victorian pencil was purchased at a discount from Pen Heaven. A review was part of the deal.

PS – Most Yard-O-Led models are also available in ballpoint, and some in rollerball and fountain pen.
PPS – For those of you who are interested in some history, please click through to George Clements excellent article on the development of the Perfecta.

Now I can finally take the photo...
"From Mascot to Perfecta"

Friday, November 09, 2018

2, 3, 4, 5...Onwards to Glory.

I've been struggling a bit this year, Marie Kondo constantly whispering in my ear, telling me to get rid of all sorts of stuff, including from the MP collection. The collection peaked at 741 pencils early this year, and is now down in the mid 500's, despite adding in about 50 this year. Also that reduction doesn't include the ephemera and wooden pencils that are also now gone. Anyway, getting rid of that 200 or so mechanical pencils was the easy stuff - duplicates, things I didn't really like, etc but now its getting harder, and I still haven't really got any firm idea on what I should or shouldn't keep other than, "Does it float my boat?...  or "spark joy" in KonMari speak.

So, having got rid of the easy and obvious stuff I recently decided it was time to start Round 2 and have another look through the collection and start making some harder calls. The Pentel section was first up. I expected to get rid of a bunch of pencils, but instead I had a epiphany Penteliphany.

0.2mm, 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm... and another 0.5mm :)

Some awesome sets - Excaliburs, SG's, PS's.... CIL's, Bats... I am renewed and reinvigorated :)




Friday, November 02, 2018

Rotring Display

One Dozen Red Roses Rings

This week on the desk display, twelve of my Rotrings.


The first stand.
Top to Bottom
  • 800
  • Rapid Pro
  • 600 - version without "Rotring 600" printed on the body.
  • 500
  • TS Slide 0.3mm - not made in Japan or Germany, but rather West Germany :) A reminder that innovative sleeves and mechanisms to enhance the usability of 0.3mm lead have been around for over 30 years.  
  • 300 - 2mm leadholder
and on the other stand.
Top to bottom
  • 900 - a "side knock" body bend mechanism.
  • Newton Trio multi pen/pencil.
  • Trio multi pencil - 0.35/0.5/0.7mm.
  • Side Knock - like the 900, a "side knock" body bend mechanism, but unlike the 900 it is a Rotring without a rot ring.
  • Initial
  • Core Tecnor - psychedelic rubber madness.
Some more views.







And the other rack