Staedtler tradition 110

When it comes to the recognition value of their pencils there is one company that – in my opinion – does by far the best job: Staedtler. Compared to other companies in this industry Staedtler is quite unusual as the company belongs to the Staedtler foundation whose main purpose is the promotion of scientific research… but I digress. Let’s get back to the pencils: As much as I like to use pencils from other companies, the Faber-Castell 9000 for example, for me the archetype of a pencil is the Staedtler Noris, available in two versions: as the 120 (without eraser) and as the 122 (with eraser).

The Noris is a pencil that is very common in Europe, but I would not say that it dominates the market. Noris as a brand name for pencils has been registered in 1901 and the name Noris itself is closely related to Staedtler: the nymph Noris is the personification of Nuremberg, the city where Staedtler has its headquarters. The Noris pencil is definitely quite popular in Germany. In UK it is also quite popular: in supermarkets you can usually find at least two types of pencils, often more, but a no name pencil and the Staedtler Noris seem to be the common denominator.

Somehow the look of the Noris is easy to remember, but this is not a feature unique to the Noris: Staedtler also did a great job in that respect with some of their other pencils: the tradition and the Mars Lumograph. These three models are instantly recognisable and unless you count the yellow Koh-I-Noor [1]which was not the first yellow pencil, but seemed to have sparked the popularity of yellow pencils in America they seem to be the most copied pencils in the world.

Stephen Wiltshire, using a Staedtler tradition, on BBC’s Top Gear (Image © BBC)

The look of some of the most popular pencils in India, the Reynolds 432, the Nataraj 621 and the Doms Ajanta, seem to be based on the Staedtler tradition, as is the look of the Chunghwa 6151, reviewed at pencil talk as well as countless other copies. You can also come across the tradition in the media. In a recent episode of Top Gear for example, Stephen Wiltshire was using a Staedtler tradition for his drawings.

Icon in Okular (Image © Okular)

The Staedtler Noris was the antetype for the Chunghwa 6181, reviewed at oh! super tooth, but even though the Noris has probably been less often copied than the tradition and the Mars Lumograph, it can be seen on TV more often, usually used by somebody who is probably not even aware what make or model it is.

In one episode of Black Books the main character is using a Noris to control who is allowed to talk. I just saw the Noris again last week in a BBC documentary unrelated to pencils, and I see an icon that looks like the Noris on a daily basis in Okular, the document viewer in KDE 4.

Slightly younger than the Noris, with Mars being registered as a pencil brand in 1900, but with the Lumograph being released about 30 years later, the Mars Lumograph would probably have to top the list when it comes to how often the look of a pencil has been copied by no name pencils. I have seen no name pencils with the look of the Mars Lumograph, but without any writing on it countless times. Sometimes you can also see copies of this pencil with the name of the manufacturer on it, e.g. the Chunghwa Drawing pencil, reviewed at Blyantsiden (Google translation) or the Medicise Drawing pencil 9002. Of course the Mars Lumograph also got its fair share of TV presence. Just to name one example, there is a Derrick episode from the Seventies where a secretary is using a pencil, unmistakably a Mars Lumograph.

Top to bottom: Great Britain, Australia, Germany

The distinct look of the Staetdler pencils makes recognising them so easy. This must surely be an important factor that influences the decision of customers when they are in front of a shelf of pencils and need to decide which pencil to buy.

Unfortunately Staedtler stopped producing pencils in Australia and Great Britain, but some shops still have stock left that was produced in these two countries. You might know where this is going… After this really long-winded introduction I will now compare Staedtler pencils from different countries, to be more precise: I will be comparing the Staedtler tradition 110 from Australia, Germany and Great Britain. For this comparison I used recently produced pencils from the three different factories. It would be wrong to assume that there is no variation in the production, so please do not take this comparison too seriously.

Top to bottom: Great Britain, Australia, Germany

When comparing the different HB versions [2]Even though I have most grades of the British (actually Welsh to be precise) and of the Australian tradition I only have the HB version of the German tradition. you can see that the Australian version has the thinnest layer of paint. I have to say that I actually like it, because you can see the texture of the wood through the paint. On a negative note I also have to add that the Australian pencils (all grades) have the paint applied less consistently. All pencils came pre-sharpened, but the pencil from the German factory has been pre-sharpened using a different method than the other pencils. The pencil from Great Britain is definitely softer than the other two. It also smudges a bit more. When I tried to erase all three using the Mars plastic eraser pen (528 50) there was no real difference between the different pencils.

Different tradtitions on Brunnen Kompagnon Anno 1877 paper

Comparing the Australian 4B and the British 4B I also thought that the British pencil was a tick softer, but this was definitely not as noticeable as it was for the HB pencils. Using the Mars plastic eraser pen the Australian 4B was maybe a bit easier to erase than the British 4B, but again there was not a big difference.

Different tradtitions on Brunnen Kompagnon Anno 1877 paper

Conclusion: The tradition is a really good pencil. I am not sure why, but the German Staedtler web site lists the tradition in the artist category, not in the category for pencils used for writing. Nevertheless the tradition is very suitable for writing. Stock of Australian and British tradition pencils will be exhausted soon, so get some while you can …not that the performance of the German tradition is worse, but if you just spent a few minutes reading this post you must be pencil-crazy enough to want the Australian and British version as well.

Click to see full size

Click to see full size



I would like to thank David from Dave’s Mechanical Pencils for the selection of Australian pencils, including the Staedtler tradition, he sent me.

The photo of Stephen Wiltshire using a Staedtler Tradition has been taken from Top Gear Episode 5 of Series 14. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

The pencil icon has been taken from Okular, the document viewer in KDE 4.


1 which was not the first yellow pencil, but seemed to have sparked the popularity of yellow pencils in America
2 Even though I have most grades of the British (actually Welsh to be precise) and of the Australian tradition I only have the HB version of the German tradition.

24 thoughts on “Staedtler tradition 110”

  1. Thank you for such a comprehensive and engaging review. Comparing these pencils was a great idea, and the execution was excellent.

    The Mars Lumograph 100 was also made in both Great Britain and Australia some years ago, but finding these today is very challenging. Also, Staedtler has stated that their Malaysian facility manufactured both the EB and EE grades with a German graphite core for some years. I don’t know how they were labelled.

    As to the copying of the pencil’s appearance – I would say that even Staedtler have done this to themselves! The Norica 132 (made in Thailand) is in Canadian stores, and at first glance appears somewhat similar to the Lumograph (blue, Staedtler logo).

    The Noris pencil also seems to be made in Malaysia today, but only the box states this. The line overall seems to be expanding, with mechanical pencils and sharpeners, for example, bearing the Noris name and colour scheme.

    Thanks again for a great article!

  2. Stephen, thank you for your comment and the additional information you provide.

    I never managed to find a Made in Great Britain Mars Lumograph here in the UK. They must have stopped quite a while before I moved to England. I do sometimes find the older version of the Lumograph with the grade printed in white instead of silver on the black end, but these pencils were all made in Germany, too.

    I saw the article about the Norica 132 on your site. Especially in the close-up picture in your article, where you cannot see the eraser, they do look a bit like the Mars Lumograph.

    Do the Malaysian Noris pencils not have a “Made in …” printed on them?

    About the mechanical pencils: I like the look of the 771, which has the Noris colours, but I am not very excited about the Noris / tradition 763

  3. Great article! It’s always surprising and worthwhile to take a closer look at items we see on a daily basis and would otherwise ignore. Tracing a line through all of those companies isn’t something I’ve read before. Thanks!

  4. memm, I don’t have a “Made in Great Britain” Lumograph either, but one occasionally sees them on online auction sites. It was probably some years ago that it was withdrawn.

    The Malaysian Noris pencil I have seen does not have “Made in …” imprinted. (I only have a 2B sample.) The pencil is simply stamped “STAEDTLER Noris 2B”.

    I also enjoyed learning about the Noris name.

  5. Thank you for that excellent article – fantastic!

    It looks like the Noris design has achieved iconic status. – By the way, I have learned that in some coutries the combination of yellow and black is connected with cheap products while red and black has a “high-quality” appeal. – As far as I know Jelutong is used for the German Noris and Tradition pencils.

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  7. Sean, Stephen and Gunther, thank you very much for your kind comments and for the link to this article.

    Jelutong seems to be very common for the more affordable pencils. I did not know that it is used for the Noris and tradition, but I think Stabilo and Faber-Castell are using it as well (I am not sure though for which pencils).

  8. I am not surprised to read that the Australian pencils are harder than their British counterparts. It was doubtless a deliberate decision – no fair dinkum Aussie Digger could possibly live with the thought that he wasn’t harder than a Pommie 🙂
    [No offence intended]

  9. Here in Plymouth finding decent pencils is not so easy.
    No one sells 9000. W H Smith keeps Grip 2001 but not very reliably. Only one art shop sells Lumograph. One discount stationers sells Tradition in packs of 10 while W H Smith sells Tradition in singles and Noris in packs with erasers or sharpeners.
    A couple of shops keep Derwent Graphic.
    In any make finding a particular grade is a matter of random chance.
    Buying online is OK but unless you buy a batch the postage makes for expensive pencils.
    So does this mean that Tradition and Noris pencils will be even harder to find? Not many websites seem to have them. For me a 4B Tradition is THE pencil for crosswords, sudoku etc.

  10. Michael, I am surprised to hear that it is difficult to find decent pencils in Plymoth, because Plymoth is so much bigger than Preston (where I live). It is however understandable as there so few small independent shops, everything is run by big chains and they seem to stock more or less the same items. I only found one W H Smith store with a decent choice (in Manchester). The big one in Preston is fine when it comes to artist pencils or mechanical pencils, but there are not many good “normal” pencils to choose from.
    Here in and around Preston corner shops and post offices sell Staedtler pencils (also Stabilo and No Name), but now that they are not being made in Wales any more new stock is from the factory in Franconia (so they should not be harder to find). The factories in Wales, Australia and Malaysia closed down, manufacturing moved to other existing factories (Indonedia, Thailand). I said this before: think the problem is that people tend to buy the cheapest pencils and do not care about quality, i.e. whether the pencils are scratchy, so the big manufacturers do not have much choice and need to have fewer factories with more output to keep the price down to be able to compete with the cheap scratchy No Name pencils 🙁

    4B seems a bit soft (read smudgy) for crosswords, but I will try it next time I solve a puzzle! 🙂

  11. That’s exactly the problem, Memm. Even the art shop is part of a chain that used to be called the copyshop. I went to the Range today – they used to keep all the Derwent Graphics but they’re running down the stock. (The Range is a discount warehouse started by a Plymouth market trader and is now worth over £10M. His first shop was called CDS. Most people thought it meant Chris Dawson Superstore. His joke was that it stood for C**p Does Sell)

    4B is a bit smudgy but it doesn’t have to last and my old eyes need a dark pencil on greyish yellow newsprint.

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  13. i use your color and pencils that were good and i like the. GOOD JOB

  14. Matthias, thank you for this very informative post. Noris is readily available in Korea (many say that their experience with the Noris was what got them interested in pencils), but nonexistent in Canada. I had an aversion to it before because it kept reminding me of the German national soccer team – BTW same thing with the Ticonderoga (Brazil)…

    I was very disappointed with the Tradition myself, but maybe it was just a bad batch? Norica is pretty good 🙂

  15. Do you not like soccer, or is it just the German team? ;^)
    The Tradition you can buy in the UK these days is more or less identical to the Noris, but is offered without an eraser but is available in many more grades than the Noris.
    Recently I’ve seen the Minerva more often here in the UK, but the Norica is a rare sight.
    so what’s the most common Staedtler pencil in Canada? The Lumograph?

  16. Yes, the Lumograph in finer stationers, and Norica and sometimes the Wopex at Staples. I love the colour of the Norica, similar to but still different from its more expensive sibling :). And I didn’t know the Minerva was still alive!

    And I hasten to add that my aversion is to soccer in general, not the German team in particular 😉

  17. I think the Minerva made a comeback in the last few years. A few years ago you couldn’t really find it in the UK, but now I’ve seen it in several shops.
    I don’t follow football either. Not even if there’s a world cup going on…

  18. On Saturday I have been to a small store in my hometown which offers many Staedtler items and was surprised to see the Minerva. I have never seen it in German stores before!

  19. The Reynolds 432 and DOMS Ajanta were never popular in India. The only pencils that were popular (apart from Nataraj 621) are Apsara Platinum, and maybe Camlin Flora.

  20. Thank you for your comments.

    Gunther, in 2014 when you wrote your comments the Minerva seemed more common, now it seems to have been replaced by no name pencils in many shops. What a shame. It’s great value for money.

    P. Wangdu, thank you for this information. Some of my Indian students told me. If you say these pencils were not popular I wonder whether these popular were only poplar in the area where my students were from.

  21. I also use these pencils and am always happy with my drawings! I like the Mars Lumograph 100… They made of natural wood – cedar, and they don’t contain scratсhy inclusions.

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