I’m back! I’ve returned to the Great White North after a week-plus stint on the Gulf Coast to try and thaw out a little bit, as well as a little bit of a grad-school-induced hiatus from blogging. Anyway, a lack of money and time on my part, combined with an apparent lack of interested in the woodclinched graphite writing instrument on the part of the fine folks of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle, resulted in a net gain of negative-one pencils on this trip. The good news is that I still have a huge backlog on hand to review, including some from last fall’s trip to Spain. Today I decided to break into that stash and sharpen up one of my European finds: the Lyra Robinson, in this case with a 2B-graded core.
Lyra, as you may recall, is a German pencil-maker that produces numerous lines of writing implements, including the previously-reviewed Groove Slim. Their graphite pencils are a little bit hard to come by here in the States — I imagine that being a FILA affiliate, their parent company isn’t trying to steal market share from Dixon Ticonderoga. That makes testing out one of their products a rare treat for me, so today I’m going to jump right in to it. Here we go!
This is a review that’s been a long time coming. That’s because the Staedtler Noris pencil is so prolific, all over the world — except in North America, for some reason. In Europe, though, the Noris seems to be equivalent to our Dixon Ticonderoga: the go-to pencil 90% of the time. During my recent travels on the Iberian peninsula, I found it harder than expected to locate pencils in general, with the Noris being the one exception. If a shop carried any pencils at all, odds were good that they were Staedtler Noris pencils available in several grades from a display at the check-out counter.
Part of the reason I waited so long to review this pencil — despite the urging of Matthias at Bleistift to write about this favorite of his — is that I knew I’d find some on my trip, therefore it wasn’t a priority to mail-order something I’d likely be able to procure in person. And procure I did! I made sure to grab a few each of several grades. So today I’m going to start the process of writing one of what will hopefully be several reviews of the Staedtler Noris pencil, starting with the obvious place: the HB grade model.
Recently, I published a review of a Thai pencil made in China (the Masterart Wood 2B). So, it seemed like the natural next review would be a German pencil made in Thailand. Perfect timing, because a package of Staedtler Norica pencils just arrived in the mail!
Staedtler is known among pencil nerds for its venerable Mars Lumograph line of high-end graphite pencils. On the other end of the spectrum are products such as the Rally, marketed toward more of the general-purpose, use-it-and-lose-it crowd. The Norica seems to sit somewhere in between: a pencil geared for the typical everyday writer who wants an upgrade in quality without splurging on a fancy drawing pencil. Let’s see how well it fills that niche.
Pencil sharpeners seem like they’re a dime a dozen. That is, until you begin searching for that coveted ultra long point. The urge to find the ultimate long-point sharpener is kind of like Hepatitis B: some people get it and it just never goes away. A sharpener that reliably generates an elegant, long taper is even more elusive in hand-blade format.
Esteemed German manufacturer KUM has attempted to solve this issue with their Automatic Long Point sharpener. I purchased this sharpener without necessarily intending to review it, and have been using it off and on for several months now, so I reckon I’m highly-qualified to give you the dirt on it. In this case, I’ll be reviewing the Blackwing-branded model, although I’m pretty sure that there is no difference between this and the “white label” model other than the screen-printed Blackwing logo. So keep reading, long-point enthusiasts; because herein lies an in-depth look at one of the most popular long-point hand sharpeners on the market today.
Here it is, mid-July, and apparently it’s already Back to School season. As anxiety-provoking is that is for me — back to school means back to winter, back to carting everyone around to hockey practice, back to hassling the kids to do their homework — one nice thing is that it’s a good time to pick up office supplies. As part of their efforts to capture some of the rush to stock up, stores are discounting — and sometimes even augmenting! — their inventory with the type of gear that students might need.
One product that went on deep discount at my favorite office supply super store is the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. I feel like Staedtler makes some pretty solid products, and I’ve just been waiting for an opportune time to try out their eraser. A four pack hit the sale shelves for something like $2, and it’s been a minute since I’ve performed and written up an eraser review. So, earlier this week I picked up a pack and thought I’d see how good they are at getting rid of my mistakes!
Going all the way to Thailand to find a German pencil to bring back to Alaska may seem a bit counterintuitive, but that’s the story of three Groove Slim pencils from Lyra that came into my possession earlier this year. Given the state of globalization, and the fact that many German (and other!) pencil-makers crank out product lines in Asia, I shouldn’t be too surprised, but still yet, it was quite intriguing to come across these pencils in a chaotic Bangkok stationery shop.
With a triangular shape, notched grip barrel, and playful logo, these pencils place an emphasis on ergonomics, probably for students (it even has a space to write your name so your klepto classmates don’t make off with it). Details on the graphite Groove Slim are hard to come by; Lyra’s colored pencil version seems to be a much more prolific product. Nonetheless, I’ve dug up, tested out, and otherwise obtained as much information as possible and done a thorough write-up on these strange and interesting pencils.
I feel a little bit of shame admitting this, but I routinely scroll through the “wooden pencil” category on Amazon, AliExpress, etc. and save everything that happens to catch my eye. In fact, on Amazon I have a huge wish list that covers the spectrum of price points, core grades, and countries of origin. Every once in a while I flip through the list and treat myself to something new; and one of my latest self-treats is the Steadtler Rally.
The Staedtler Rally comes in a dozen-pack that can be had at a competitive price. Some Googling reveals that these pencils are/were made in different factories in various locations, but the box that arrived in my mail was made in Indonesia. The packaging indicates that Staedtler intends for these pre-sharpened pencils to serve a utility role, with an “A+” homework assignment and a marked-up Scantron form prominently displayed on the graphics (another hint is that they feel compelled to specify both #2 and HB). Of course, that category of pencil covers a wide spectrum. Are they workhorses? Are they hidden gems? Are they complete garbage? Well, read on my friend, and you shall find out…
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t know if the German nobility has an analogous turn of phrase, but if so, it would certainly apply to the Castell 9000 pencil. Since 1905, Faber-Castell has been producing this iconic writing implement in more or less the same form.
Much like other high end pencils in the post-internet age, the Castell 9000 is marketed as an artist’s pencil, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t charmed many a writer over the past 100 years. Today I’d like to have a look at these fine instruments, and see if they can work some magic for us!