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.
I am back from this year’s overseas adventure! After a little digging around, Spain turned out to be a great place to pick up some pencils. Somehow I managed to get all of these out of the EU and into the USA without some customs agent thinking that I must be some sort of pencil mule running a black market office supply scheme…
It was actually really interesting, because I had an idea of specific pencil makes or models that I expected to find. For the most part, I didn’t. However, I did find a bunch that I didn’t even know existed.
As you can see, the Staedtler Norris is well-represented. I did keep my eyes peeled for that specific pencil, and found it. In a way, it seems to be the Ticonderoga of Spain (and perhaps the rest of Europe) in that it is pretty ubiquitous and most shops seem to have a little display of them at the checkout stand. I did not find some brands I was thinking I would, such as Viarco, Caran d’Ache, etc. However, I did find pencils from many well-known European makers such as Lyra, including specific models I’d never heard of. I also found a few that are specific to Spain. Many are Chinese exports targeted for the Spanish market, but some — like the Alpino Junior which (spoiler alert) I am growing pretty find of — are made in Spain. There are also some that I still haven’t figured out what they are or where they come from.
So, needless to say, there’s lots of fresh fodder for reviews and it should be fun to work my way through them.
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.
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!
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…