Yard-O-Led goes the extra mile!


Shipping a lovely fountain pen hand-crafted with care by a few skilled English artisans back to the factory became an expensive lesson!

How could that happen?

As much as I hate to admit it, I should have looked into the process of shipping something overseas from the US. You can perhaps benefit from my ignorance, and it won’t cost you a dime!

Follow this story here!

Background: This lovely Yard-O-Led pen is a 2001 Viceroy Standard lined fountain pen with a #5 medium nib. Absolutely gorgeous pen! I purchased it used and it just didn’t write as well as it should. It was a hard-starter and railroaded, which means it sometimes made a parallel double line of ink when pressure was applied during writing. I decided to send it back to Yard-O-Led in England to have the pen inspected and a broad nib installed.

If you are unfamiliar with YOL pens, they are crafted with astonishing care by a small operation in Birmingham, England. Made of solid and hallmarked sterling silver, the looks, balance, and obvious craftsmanship of these pens are second to none. I have many wonderful fountain pens, some of which exceed the Yard-O-Leds in price, but nothing comes close to how nice these pens look and feel in the hand.

The nibs are solid gold, plated with nickel, so the nib color matches the rest of the pen. Nice!

Yard-O-Led fountain pens can use either a international ink cartridge or the provided ink converter. The cap is not threaded, but closed with a satisfying click when slipped on. I like that a lot!

First update! The shipping from the US to Birmingham, England, was PRICEY! Even using the cheapest rate offered by UPS, my chosen carrier, the shipping was $135.

I insured the pen for $1,300, and that was probably a mistake. Even though the pen was just being sent to Yard-O-Led for repair, my package was hung up in UK Customs. I had to create an invoice for the package. Then, I was charged by UK Customs $400. YIKES!

Of course, all this took a week of back and forth.

I must say the folks at Yard-O-Led were as helpful as they could be. Once the pen was finally in their hands, I was emailed an extremely detailed list of what was wrong with the nib and feeding mechanism, exactly what needed repair or replacement, and, because of my out-of-pocket costs, YOL very kindly waived my repair fee and the return shipping.

They did not have to do that.

Neither the high shipping cost nor the UK Customs fee was going into their pocket.

The Yard-O-Led staff I emailed with could not have been more helpful and kind. And, though I hate to admit it, I was cranky at this whole situation. So the YOL staff maintained a totally professional attitude while dealing with an upset client who clearly didn’t understand how to ship something overseas in a cost-effective way.

Should I have guessed what would happen with my shipment to YOL? Probably, but I have not shipped to the UK before, and was unfamiliar with the process.

The YOL staff said my repairs, including a week of testing the pen, should be completed and the pen shipped to me the week of Labor Day!

Please check in a few days and I’ll give a review of the pen and how it writes with its new broad nib.

The return of my Yard-O-Led pen!

Wow! My pen came back a couple of weeks ago. Many things prevented me from writing this, and I apologize for that. I could not be happier. First, some photos:

The new nib—broad, this time—rocks! Of course it’s smooth, but it seems to use any ink with no problems and I just love the line width. The line it produces might be a tad thinner than some other broad nibs I have from other makers, but it’s just perfect for me. Starts perfectly, no railroading, and perfect in terms of wetness. Yes!

I’ve used several inks so far, and have settled—for now, at least—on Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris, which I’d describe as a dark blue-green/black. I love it. I got mine from Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens in a sample assortment, and immediately bought a bottle. Great ink and perfect for this pen.

Perhaps I have far too many luxury pens, but this one takes the cake and the others are, sadly, being ignored. This Yard-O-Led is my daily writer now and I can’t imagine that changing. Here’s why:

I told you how well it writes. Beyond that, there is a serene elegance that no other pen I have can approach. Look at the photos of either end of the pen. Classic design and proportions. I find myself just gazing at this thing. It soothes me. Just so perfect!

Another quality of my Yard-O-Led is the oddly satisfying click it makes when you replace the cap. I much prefer a non-threaded cap for some reason, and have few: a wonderful 1990s ST Dupont Fidelio, a 1960s Montblanc 14 (broad italic nib!), my Parker 51s and 75s, but none have this distinct quality when being closed. I guess my Parker 75s come closest to this feel and sound, and perhaps it’s because they, too, are sterling silver. This pen posts perfectly, by the way.

Finally, a huge thanks to Alex Roden, Yard-O-Led’s workshop manager, and Sandra Floyd for the unmatched service they provided for me. Their pride in their product and their commitment to quality are a benefit to Yard-O-Led, and to us—the happy Yard-O-Led owners!

The Quest: A journal that likes fountain pens!


It’s that time of year again, when I search for an office journal that is fountain-pen friendly!

Journal with Fountain Pen

As the photo below shows, bleed-through is an annoying problem, as I use both sides of the paper and I also write with medium, wet-writing nibs (usually Sheaffer or Parkers). So please wish me luck on this important quest. My current office journal is nice, but the bleed-through drives me nuts (please; no remarks about what a short little drive that is).


The notebook I’m currently using is a Gallery Leather Desk Planner 9-1/2″ x 7-1/4″ journal. It has detailed color maps of the world, important toll-free number and website info, and is printed on a pretty cream-colored smooth paper. The leather cover is thin and bendable, which I like, and the pages are gilt-edged, which adds a classy touch. But the bleed-through is a deal-breaker for me. Since I’ll be paying for my journal myself–no freebies at this blog–I won’t be reporting on a wide sample, but you’ll learn how my search progresses. Isn’t this exciting?!?!??!


After exhaustive research—and I’m not kidding you—I opted for the Black n’ Red Executive Notebook, which is an 11-3/4″ x 8-1/2″ linen-lined hardcover journal with 192 gray-lined pages, 33 lines per page. These have sewn bindings and the pages show—at least with a Mont Blanc fine nib and my favorite Levenger amethyst ink—absolutely no bleed through in the little test I did on a back page. I won’t be using these—I got a couple from Amazon at about $15 a pop—until the new year rolls around, but I have high hopes! These also have color geographic and Metro maps, which are neat if not vital to the mission. They look understated, stylish, and businesslike, and there’s a little red ribbon for keeping track of what day you’re on. I’ll keep updating this blog entry as time goes on so keep an eye out for updates!

Fountain Pens Are Good For You!



Sheaffer Student Pen Value Pack; Note The Translucent Blue Barrel.

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I was a fountain pen user. I can remember the very first ballpoint pens I ever saw, when I was in the first grade (1958 or so) living in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The drug store nearest our school was giving away cheap plastic ballpoint pens from a box that was big enough to hold thousands. Like my classmates, I scurried in, grabbed a handful, and ran to school. I remember snagging six pens that day, and not one of them worked.

Giveaway Ballpoints

Giveaway Ballpoints; My Grandmother Loved Using These!!!

Later, when I saw the Bic ballpoint pens, I was much more favorably impressed. Those pens were cheap, non-refillable throwaways, but they worked perfectly and were good value. I seem to recall that they cost 19¢. If you took the blue plug out of the back end and sucked on the tube barrel, you’d get a mouthful of blue ink; I learned that the hard way.

The Original Bic Pen

The Original Bic Pen

I much preferred my fountain pens, as I was a constant doodler, and fountain pens were better– for me– to draw with. The fountain pens I used back then, and all through high school, were the cheap Sheaffer fountain pens you could get for a buck or so. They used ink cartridges and worked fine. I liked the medium-point nibs on mine.

Sheaffer Student Pen

My favorite Sheaffers had the translucent candy-colored barrels, shown here:

Sheaffer Trans Pen


A few ballpoints crossed my path. I tried a Parker ballpoint, shown here. I still have it.

Parker Ballpoint

I liked it fine for a ballpoint but went back to my cheap fountain pens. Like every kid in America, I received a Cross ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil set for my high-school graduation. Hated ’em. The pen wrote in a scratchy fashion and the pencil was crap.

Cross Pen Set

Cross Pens Made Me Cross!

For art, I used dip pens with Speedball and Hunt nibs using Higgins India Ink from a bottle, or Rapidographs or Leroy technical, which used cartridges and had nibs in a variety of point sizes. Those pens using India Ink had to be cleaned the second you were done with them or the dried ink was extremely difficult to clean off. I still have a fishing tackle box from college days filled with these dip pens and nibs.

It's Easy To Do This With A Speedball Pen; yeah, right!

It’s Easy To Do This With A Speedball Pen; yeah, right!

When all is said and done, I still prefer fountain pens. My current favorite is a Parker silver-crosshatched Sonnet with a medium nib, which looks a lot like my old Parker 75, but there are several brands in my mahogany pen box and part of the fun of fountain pens is using different pens and inks depending on the mood you’re in on a given day!

Here’s what my Parker looks like:

Parker Cisele Sonnet Fountain Pen

Parker Cisele Sonnet Fountain Pen

Parker calls this silver crosshatch style “cisele,” which is a French term for having a chiselled appearance. Kenneth Parker, president of Parker Pens back in the early 1960s, had a cigarette case with this silver grid pattern, liked it, and decided it would be perfect for the Parker 75 they introduced in 1963. It is a snazzy-looking finish!

Sheaffer Cartridge Pen Ad, 1957

Sheaffer Cartridge Pen Ad, 1957

The Parker 75 Pen


In 1964, to celebrate their 75th anniversary, the Parker Pen Company introduced the Parker 75. Mine belonged to my dad and is, I believe, from 1967. At the time, they sold for $25 which in today’s money would be about $200, I guess. On eBay, the sterling-silver ones, like mine, go for anywhere from $100 to $250, depending on what it’s made of, nib size and collectable status.

Mine is the sterling-silver model with the grid pattern, which looks very elegant and slim compared to many of today’s black and bulky fountain pens. I had my dad’s fine nib replaced with a Parker France broad nib, which is more like what we’d call a medium-thickness nib today.

Some of these pens were made in gold and other finishes, and some were made from 1715-era silver coins from a sunken Spanish ship found off the Florida Keys in the late 1960s.

When my brother (thanks, Jeffrey!) gave me this pen a couple of years ago, I had it checked out and the interior-grip cap mechanism replaced by our friends at Fahrney’s, which is a wonderful Washington, DC pen store. Their store is across from the National Press building on F Street, NW, and their repair facility is in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Good folks. Send for their catalog!

These 75s take both the old-fashioned fill-from-a-bottle ink holders and modern-day ink cartridge refills. Tomorrow, I start a new print production assignment at one of my favorite places, so I’ll celebrate by using this pen, filled with the Parker emerald-green ink, which they call Quink for some reason.

Fountain Pens And A Bit Of Doggerel . . .


I like to use the old-fashioned fountain pens. Always have. Here’s the nib of one of my favorites; a Parker Duofold Centennial:

In my mechanical drafting, cartographic and drawing days, I had to use either a ruling pen (the less said about those abominations the better) or the old Koh-i-Noor Rapidographs with India ink. Those were a nightmare if you allowed the India ink to dry and had to clean the pen. And you would and did! In high school, a girl I wanted to date turned me down because my fingernails always looked dirty; I told her it was the darned India ink that kept my fingertips ink stained and was the very Devil to clean. So it goes . . .

A normal fountain pen with normal ink is a lot easier to manage, though I’ve still had a couple of accidents when I’d forget to cap the pen before sticking it back into my pocket. Then you walk around the office with a big blob of ink on your shirt. Luckily, dry cleaners are used to removing those stains!

Now, there was a stretch beginning in the late 1970s where I was filling out FedEx counterfoil labels all the time, and, for that purpose, a fountain pen isn’t the right tool. Reluctantly, I switched to a MontBlanc rollerball pen, but once FedEx labels could be generated online and printed on a laser printer, I went back to fountain pens.

What attracts me to fountain pens are the feel of the pen on paper, the infinite variety of inks available for them and the lovely designs available. The history of the things is overwhelming and it’s fun to look into that.

My collection isn’t extensive; I have a couple of each by the major manufacturers. I prefer a wider nib or pen-point than most folks do and that’s easily achieved with fountain pens.

Here’s the doggerel I promised. It’s from a pen-nib manufacturer in Scotland or England many years ago and at one time, signs with this verse were evidently all over the place in the UK:

Here’s what a box of those nibs looked like.

I still have a few boxes of that type of nib from my high school and college days. The ones I have are made by Speedball or Hunt, but they look just like the ones in that sign.