Yard-O-Led Grand – pinstriped value for the money

OK, I really couldn’t get a grip on myself when choosing the photos for this review. The first big review in a while and the first post for 2011. As stated here – in the very beginning of my acquaintance with this pinstriped silver bat – I adore the looks of this pen and that is probably why I neither could stop taking pics of it, nor choose more discriminate from the bunch of pics I have.

Size & construction I’m still amazed by its size – it is huge – therefore its nickname – and measures 13.7 cm uncapped, 15 posted and (theoretically) 17 cm posted. Since it is impossible to post (it doesn’t stay put on the barrel) it is slightly ironic that the commercial photos of it (here and here for instance) pictures it posted.

The   barrel weighs 43 g and the cap weighs 19 additional grammes – making it a total of 62 g! In all in hallmarked sterling silver.  That is equivalent to 2xPelikan M800 (leaves you 6 g), almost 5 Pelikan M200 or 2 Montblanc 149 if you add 3 g, 2 Montblanc 146 or Aurora Talentum (leaves 2-3 g). Thus: a rather solid piece of silver.

Above: compared with an Aurora Talentum and a Lamy Safari.

But, what is even more amazing than stating that it is huge is that it lays so very well in the hand. It is so well balanced that I have a hard time believing that it really is so heavy as the scale (and other sources) shows. In this respect it is the most well balanced pen I have ever written with – unposted. I had a standard sized Victorian (review of it see here) and even if I am not a sucker for big pens as such I prefer the size of this well balanced pen to the standard sized Viceroy. Big? Yes. Heavy? Yes. Clumsy? No. Bulky? No. One drawback compared to the standard size is that the cap is impossible to post – the cap doesn’t get a grip on the barrel and slides off. I often prefer to write with the pen posted, but in this case I don’t mind writing with it unposted. It is a minor drawback, but not a huge one since the pen is so very well balanced without. The section is very nicely curved with a “stopper” at the end, which suits my fingers very well. Not clumsy (as many modern “resin” pens) – just nicely rounded and finger-friendly. It is not particularly slippery, but I usually don’t have problems with metal sections in this aspect.

Design The design is timeless. I actually didn’t know about this pinstriped/lined version until I stumbled over this pen at Ebay. As I understand it it is not in production anymore (even if I’ve seen dealers who still carries them) which is a pity since it is a very beautiful design. I prefer it over the barley and plain (even if I wouldn’t be disappointed to be gifted one) and  think it is at par with the Victorian – even though it is very different from it. If the Victorian is ornamented and romantic, the pinstriped is a more strict, but not overly formal, classic. The pinstripes accentuates the shape with the slightly tapered barrel, which I like very much, and the graceful clip prevents it from falling into the classic-and-boring-trap. Clean and simple without being dull. Nothing redundant. No tacky bling. Just as with other Yard-O-Led models the special and beautifully curved clip adds grace and personality. I adore these clips. Refined, but still not too polished and sleek.

Quality, Craftsmanship & Warranty The craftmanship and attention to details is very important with this kind of simple and refined design – just like a page haircut. And, just like the Victorian, it really shines here. As you can see below it is a substantial rod of silver that has been used for the barrel and section. The cap has thinner walls – otherwise it had been ridiculously heavy and probably a bit clumsy – but doesn’t feel thin or flimsy in any way. It locks with a simple snap on and there is not so much to say about that. It sits snugly and doesn’t easily uncap itself. While the Victorian shows the craftsmanship in a bold and overwhelming way (will buy myself a Victorian Grand some day) this is a low key craftsmanship. Like a real well cut page. Everything seems simple and effortless. What ought to be said here is that Yard-O-Led still equips their pens with a true life time warranty. My Yard-O-Led Retro had a clip that fell off and it was repaired within the warranty – swift and without hassle. It came back as new. No need to send in “papers” – an obviously original YOL is sufficient. Compared to most other pen manufacturers today (who charge more for pens, that are often made of less noble material) that is extraordinary. If I remember right I think it was a total turnaround time of around three weeks to/from Birmingham where they are made and repaired. This smooth and pleasant experience made me into a loyal customer – they seem to be running a quite nice and company. One peculiar detail is that the Birmingham Assay office (see hallmarks below) has an anchor as a symbol, but is located at least 70 km from the coast.

Nib, Flow & Filling The filling system is the quite undramatic cartridge/converter type. I don’t mind – seeing the pros with having that in a metal pen. It takes international standard cartridges and converters and it is easy to flush and clean. I’ve used both cartridges and converter in it and neither have given rise to flow problems  – it has been luscious and even regardless of ink container and ink. Surely some inks are wetter and others drier, but it has been happy with all the inks I’ve fed it.

This nib was originally a medium nib, but the former owner had it customized into an italic by John Mottishaw. I suspect that the tip was rebuilt in order to get this fat italic, but I do not know for sure.  I was both happy and “sad” about that when I bought it off ebay. On one hand – a customized italic is often a very nice thing, but, the Yard-O-Led nibs are, on the other hand, as far as I’ve tried them very, very nice to write with. But, this – approximately – 1.1-1.2 mm italic is such a pleasant writer. The line variation is very good, but it is still smooth and glides over the paper without digging into it. It is a very writer friendly nib that I – combined with the exceptionally well balanced barrel – really enjoy spending a lot of time with.

Summary This is not a cheap pen. The list price for its similar siblings is around $600 and that is a hefty sum of money to shell out for a pen. But, if one compares it to other pens with a similar or higher list price – Montblanc 149 has a list price around $750 and Montblanc 146 a list price around $625 – I do believe that the Yard-O-Led Viceroy Grand offers a much better bang for the buck than these two. I know some will say that this isn’t a piston filler. That is true. But I had piston problems with both my modern 146 and my old 146. It might be OK when a vintage pen developes some problems, but not when a rather “new” does that – especially with the price tag that Montblancs come with. The pens I had might be exceptions, but to this comes that while YOL offers a life time warranty for their pens – regardless of if you have the original “papers”, Montblanc only warrants their pens for a limited time. Compared with the more expensive. contemporary, 149 I see this as a more priceworthy product. It is made of sterling silver, in UK (not outsourced) and one can see that it is made with craftsmanship, while the 149 is made of “precious resin”. Perfectly OK – and Meisterstück is a classic icon – but it is fascinating that one can get a solid sterling silver pen, crafted in the UK,  with a 18 k gold nib for less than a pen made in Germany (similar production costs apply) made of plastic. So, even if it is a huge amount of money to spend on one single pen this is a pen that I suspect will hold and hold and hold. And if it gets problems it can be repaired under warranty (OK – not if you have mistreated it) by the efficient gals and blokes in Birmingham. I’d be thrilled if they were to offer more than three standard nib sizes, but I can live without as well.

PROS

  • Perfectly balanced pen
  • Good bang for the buck
  • Beautiful design
  • Solid sterling silver
  • Craftmanship & Quality
  • Real life time warranty
  • Sympathetic company

CONS

  • Much money to pay for a pen (even if it is worth its price)
  • Limited choices of nib sizes
  • The pinstriped Viceroy is out of production
  • Cap can’t be posted.

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About dandelion

perpetually moving
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9 Responses to Yard-O-Led Grand – pinstriped value for the money

  1. Isn’t that lined case design the Smythson design of Yard-O-Led pens that was sold through their (Smythson’s on Bond Street) store? I think it may be, which adds to its uniqueness.

  2. Roger Kirby says:

    Came back to review this while my Astoria is in for nib correction. You’re quite right about the company and the effortless ability to send a pen in for service. YoLs make such a case for themselves on so many levels, it’s hard indeed to justify a pen of ‘lesser’ materials.

    Hasn’t stopped purchases of these other pens though!

    • dandelion says:

      Very glad to hear that you’ve experienced the same top-notch customer service. I do buy and have modern pens in other materials, but it’s amazing that they are both in solid silver and still made in the UK without being insanely expensive. Thanks f getting back sharing your experience.

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  5. ArchiMark says:

    Great review and pics as always….

    All your posts about YOL pens have started to tempt me to get one….so, very effective posts!

    The pinstriped Grand is quite the handsome pen.

    Enjoy!

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