HISTORY OF YARD-O-LED

HISTORY OF YARD-O-LED

Yard-O-Led's story is a wending one, bringing together in close association English and German families, and their wholly British commercial enterprises. In 1934, Yard-0-Led pencil company was founded by a Mr. Brenner, when he took out a patent on a pencil mechanism which gave each unit the ability to hold twelve 3" leads (or one yard), hence the name Yard-0-Led—known fondly to fanciers as YOL. Before the First World War Mr. Brenner, originally from the Pforzhein area in Germany, settled in England, where he introduced a broad range of elegant jewellery in rolled gold and silver. Also crafted in, and graced by, those materials were the YOL writing instruments. Over the ensuing years Brenner established and grew deep and lasting relationships amongst craftsmen and merchants of fine jewellery, and other fashionable gifts, and garnered a profound respect in the trade.

Meanwhile, begun in the first quarter of the 19th century, another business flourished on City Road in London. In 1822, the first ever propelling pencil was invented and patented by Sampson Mordan. Made in both solid silver and gold, it was branded the Mordan Everpoint. Another artisan, a life-long employee and associate of Mordan's, Frank Tufnell, was to play a role, far beyond his own imagination, and even his own lifetime, in the developement of the manufacture of fine chirographic instruments. In 1934 Frank Tufnell, Junior chanced to meet Mr. Brenner; nonetheless, it was not until after the Second World War that the true import of their meeting was revealed.

In 1941, during the height of the London Blitz, both the facilities of Sampson Mordan, and the premises of Yard-O-Led were completely and utterly destroyed, along with all books and records. Following that commercial and personal catastrophe, Frank Tufnell, Junior, and the indomitable Brenner met together with purpose, and decided to rebuild the Yard-O-Led Company, establishing the new factory on Augusta Street, in Birmingham, heart of the Jewellery trade. As fortune would have it, Sampson Mordan Company never re-commenced trading, but the name was acquired by the only other quality pencil manufacturer in the UK, Edward Baker, also of Birmingham. Concurrent with that developement Frank Tufnell, Junior found himself in a position to purchase a majority shareholding in YOL; the decision was made, and he also bought the Edward Baker Company, thereby also gaining rights to the Sampson Mordan patents, and keeping the business link with his father.

After taking over Edward Baker, Tufnell moved the Yard-0-Led factory from Augusta Street. Over the years the facilities were moved at least once again, settling on the location where it stands today, in Spencer Street, only a few 100 meters from the original Augusta Street premises. After a period of training with a manufacturing Jeweller, and maintaining the family business line, Tim Tufnell, son of Frank the younger, joined Yard-0-Led in the 1970's. Continuity has therefore been maintained in this family business and its long connections with the writing instrument trade, with the Tufnell heritage stretching back into the early 1800s.

Influenced by original designs of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Yard-O-Led range of writing instruments includes fountain pens, ballpens and rollerball pens in addition to the unique propelling pencil. The entire line of YOL pieces reflects a devotion to Great Britain's rich heritage of constitutional monarchy, the very names of many of the collections evoking specific elements of England's noble history:

Viceroy, Viceroy Grand, and Viceroy Pocket
Edwardian
Sceptre
Diplomat
Regent

Others, such as Deco and the Topaz Limited Edition, recall the jeweller's origin of the company. Each pen or pencil, except the Retro and Pocket Retro collections, is hand crafted from hallmarked sterling silver, individually numbered and comes complete with a lifetime guarantee. YOL nibs, made in Germany by JoWo Berliner Schreibfeder GmbH, founded in since 1852, possess that combination of flexibility and “spring-like” tautness which allows an ever-so-slight variance in pressure, coupled with changes in the slant in which the pen is held, giving the scrivener the ability to alter stroke width. Yard-0-Led pieces are now sold all over the world, with many of the hand crafted pens/pencils that the team produce at the factory, still based on designs first created in the nineteenth century.

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