Monthly Archives: August 2015

Deutschland 83 5

After The Game: Another TV series about cold war spies. Sean told me about this one. It’s called Deutschland 83 and its current IMDB rating is 8.5.

As the name suggests it takes place in 1983. Here’s a Castell 9000 in B you can see in episode 4, used by Professor Tischbier (Alexander Beyer) from the East German Secret Service.

A Castell 9000 in B (Image © UF Fiction)

A Castell 9000 in B (Image © UF Fiction)

Faber-Castell pencils from 1983 – sounds familiar, you might remember this previous blog post about the Castell 9000 pencils for their 222nd anniversary – that anniversary was in 1983.

Here’s a comparison of the modern Castell 9000, as seen in Deutschland 83 – with the water-based varnish side facing the camera, and the actual Castell 9000 from 1983. The green got even darker, the thick line on the end of the pencils changed from gold to silver/grey and the text printed on the pencils has changed.

Castell 9000, 1983 and now

Castell 9000, now (top) and 1983 (bottom)

The screenshot in this blog post has been taken from Episode Four of Deutschland 83. I believe that the use of the screenshot shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

Rustico Field Leather Notebook 1


Last week I got the Rustico Field Notebook I ‘ordered’ from Massdrop in July.

When I saw the notebook I couldn’t resist – the Rustico notebooks, which are made in Utah, are just beautiful. I decided to get the buckskin version. I assume it will darken after a while – a few years ago I bought a briefcase from Wolf Leder, which got much darker / more yellow over the years.


I paid $28.80 (~£18.50; €25.30), which included two packs with three Field Notes each. I think I should have only gotten one pack of three Field Notes …and am trying to sort this out for nine days now. Despite having had several emails sent backwards and forwards I still don’t know if I should send the additional Field Notes back and where to. You can see that communication with Massdrop isn’t great, but the prices are fantastic – especially if you are from outside the USA. I didn’t have to pay customs / fees on any of my orders so far.

This wasn’t the first item I got from Massdrop1 – and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The only disadvantage is that you usually have to wait quite a while before you get your items – in this case it took four weeks.


Update: Massdrop has told me that I should have only received one pack of three Field Notes and that I should send the other one back.

Price: July 2015

Exchange rates: August 2015

I’d like to thank Michael (from – currently offline) for the California Field Notes shown in these pictures. He sent them three years ago and I still haven’t used them up – but I certainly enjoy using them regularly.

The Massdrop link contains a friend invitation code.

  1. The Pebble watch shown in on of the previous blog posts was from them, too, and was just a bit more than half the UK price. []

Different kinds of Noris

A Chinese Noris

The Noris got another good spot on the BBC’s programme. Again on the Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School programme. This time in the final episode, where it was used to write Chinese characters.

Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School (Image © BBC)

Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School (Image © BBC)

A Work Noris

Then something else happened: after more than ten years I got the first Noris from my employer! We usually get Lyreco pencils in the stationery cupboard at work, but last week and this week I did another task in another part of my employer’s organisation1 – and there was a box of Noris pencils in the stationery basket. Maybe the good stuff (the Noris pencils) is usually reserved for management and special occasions? We did get all the good stuff on the day: they did provide tea, coffee, biscuits, even Snickers etc2, so if they give us expensive food, why not expensive pencils, too? I wish we had Noris pencils all year round at work…


A School Noris

…and finally – more Back to School offers. This time in Sainsbury’s. Five Noris pencils for £1.12. Not as good as the Staples offer I mentioned recently, but at Sainsbury’s you don’t have to take five HBs, you can also take the ‘graded’ pack.

The screenshots in this blog post has been taken from Episode Three of Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School, a documentary on the BBC. I believe that the use of the screenshot shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. In case you are familiar with the UK Higher Education sector: I was doing clearing. []
  2. and there must have been a serious Snickers thief. Every day at least three shoe box sized baskets of Snickers, Mars and KitKat disappeared. I guess everyone would have had to eat at least five bars to make so much food disappear. []

Graphene, entrepreneurs and bad weather 2

Today: three different and unrelated topics in one blog post:


First: a link that has to do with graphene (this is not the first graphene related blog post). The last episode of In Business, the Radio 4 programme that previously looked at Staedtler and Faber-Castell, had a closer look at graphene and what it means for Manchester.

As far as I know Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov used lumps of graphite, but I think I heard that in the beginning they used a pencil to ‘isolate’ graphene. I might have heard that on the Andre Geim Desert Island Discs episode, but it might have been somewhere else.

I like to imagine that it was a Noris or Tradition, just because they are so ubiquitous in the UK, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another pencil. Imagine having worked in Staedtler’s Welsh factory in Pontyclun on the day the pencil that made this all happen rolled off the conveyor belt1.


I received an email telling me about a new notebook for entrepreneurs. I don’t think I understood the entrepreneur angle, but according to the photos this is a very elegant looking notebook. It’s another crowdfunded stationery project.

Bad Weather

To make good use of the great weather yesterday we went to have a walk. Influenced by Sean’s blog post about the Graf von Faber-Castell pencil extender I got mine out and decided to use it again. I bought it more than five years ago. It was very cheap for a GvFC item, probably because it has lots of scratches. Here’s a picture I took during the walk.


Within a few minutes the temperature suddenly dropped by more than 5°C. Luckily we (just) made it back to the car before the rain started.

Anyone has any idea how I can remove the scratches from the pencil extender, preferably without removing the silver plating?

  1. I guess it would be a bit like having assembled the NeXT computer that became the first web machine. []

Book Block

Another blog post about a Kickstarter.

This time it’s a Kickstarter to launch a customisable notebook. They have been contacting several stationery blogs, so I am sure you will read more about them soon.

To customise your notebook you basically create a file containing what should be printed on the cover (front, side and back) and Book Block will then print this on the cover of the notebook for you.

The whole idea sounds very tempting to me, especially since for what it is the price for one of the notebooks seems very reasonable – or should I say almost ridiculously modest.

Remember Monsieur Notebooks, from a previous blog post? It looks as if the notebooks will be done in cooperation with them. Back in 2011 when I reviewed the Monsieur Notebook they were made in India, but according to the Book Block Kickstarter  page they are now manufacturing in the UK and you can chose from five different types of paper provided by Monsieur Notebooks. The covers used for the notebooks are from Europe, too, they are sourced from the Netherlands.

Some sample Book Block notebooks (Image © Book Block)

Some sample Book Block notebooks (Image © Book Block)

The whole Kickstarter sounds really exciting. I hope Book Block will get enough funding.

Book Block have offered many blogs, including Bleistift, a free notebook if their Kickstarter is successful. I don’t believe this has influenced me when writing this blog post. I have written about other Kickstarter projects in the past, some were successful, some were unsuccessful, and I have not received any good or money from the other Kickstarter projects I wrote about in the past.