How to distinguish the upcycled from the wood-cased Noris

In a recent blog post I talked about the new upcycled Noris in the UK. The upcycled version is extruded using a composite wood/plastic material instead of wood. The lead is also extruded and quite different to traditional pencil leads. Glenn, who is a Bleistift blog reader, told me that down South, in London where he lives, the change to the upcycled version of the Noris started last Summer. I guess there’s a higher Noris turnover over there. Around here there are still supermarkets that have not even started stocking the upcycled Noris and only sell the older wood-cased version.

We then also talked about how to recognise if the pencil is upcycled or not. There can be some confusion as I have seen upcycled Noris in the old packaging and Glenn told me that he has seen upcycled Noris pencils that don’t have “Upcycled Wood” written on the barrel.

Here’s a little video that spells out how to recognise which version you are seeing (based on wood grain and lacquer near the cap).

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Other extruded Staedtler pencils

After a posting about Staedtler’s upcycled wood pencil, the pencil formerly known as Wopex, I want to show another extruded pencil sold under the Staedtler brand. This one isn’t quite as easy to get hold of as the upcycled wood ones.

This is a Chinese-made set of pastel colour pencils.
While I am not aware of Staedtler having its own factories in China, the company does ask other manufacturers to produce goods to their specifications. The Noris 511 120 sharpener is one such example, as is the pastel pencil set shown here.

If you look at the packaging you see icons that indicate that you shouldn’t sharpen this pencil in a rotary sharpener, presumable because of the hardness of the material that encases the lead.

When looking at the ‘wood replacement’ you can actually see what seem to be tiny air bubbles in the material, presumably to make the material softer. This look reminds me very much of the BIC evolution pencil. The air bubbles might help to make the pencil easier to sharpen, by making the material less dense compared to many other recycled material pencils, like the ones made from CD cases (see Battle of the eco pencils or Lancashire Science Festival pencil).

factory sharpened they come like this

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An upcycled Tradition

Now that the Noris is ‘upcycled’, i.e. Wopex based, the question is whether Staedtler’s other pencils will also be made from ‘upcycled wood’. In the last blog post’s comments Kevin wondered if the Tradition will get the ‘upcycled wood’ treatment, too.

Well, I now have an answer to this question: The Tradition is currently also made from upcycled wood.

In the UK it is common for kids who visit a children’s birthday party to get a goody bag to take home. They usually contain sweets, but you won’t be surprised to learn that the ones we put together contain stationery. Not for the first time we bought Staedtler stationery sets for the goodie bags. This year the goody bags include a set of 12 Noris colour pencils, a Mars plastic eraser and a Staedtler Tradition. I ordered them recently and now that the sets have arrived it turns out that the included Tradition is made from ‘upcycled wood’. You can see the set here [1]and guess what, the day after I ordered these sets for the party goody bags the price came down because they are now on offer.

I am not sure if all Staedtler Traditions are made from upcycled wood, but my guess would be that they don’t produce a wood-cased version on top of the upcycled version as that seems too messy.

With the very common [2]at least in Europe very common Noris and Tradition both being made from upcycled wood I wonder which pencils will be made from ‘normal’ wood now. Does it make sense to have cheaper pencils made from real wood while the Noris and Tradition are not made from real wood? We’ll have to wait and see if the affordable Minerva, the colourful 172 and the ‘natural looking’ 123 60 will still be made from real wood. They are probably produced in much smaller numbers so they might not get the switch to upcycled wood.

When we look at more expensive pencils there is Staedtler’s big boy: the Lumograph. I would be surprised if the Lumograph will be made from upcycled wood in the near future as that would go in hand in hand with switching over to a very different lead. I don’t think the typical Lumograph users would be happy with an extruded lead.

There’s also the question of how all the wood from Staedtler’s new Gmelina plantation will be used. You can read more about it in this press release. How will the wood be used if many of the big sellers are now made from upcycled wood? I hope the Lumograph will be made from cedar, but I wonder if most of Staedtler’s real wood pencils will use their own Gmelia wood soon.


1 and guess what, the day after I ordered these sets for the party goody bags the price came down because they are now on offer
2 at least in Europe very common

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The new, upcycled Noris

A few weeks ago Gunther told a few pencil friends, including me, that Staedtler’s Noris is now made from upcycled wood. Upcycled Wood is the material formerly known as Wopex. These pencils are extruded and use a wood-plastic composite instead of wood.

Wood-plastic composites were invented in the 1960s in Italy, but they are not commonly used for pencils. I assume that no other manufacturer spent as much effort as Staedtler to make wood-plastic composites suitable for pencils.

The new upcycled Noris in a British supermarket

Well, today I saw the new upcycled Noris for the first time in the UK. Packaging was not consistent, at least not in the supermarket where I saw them:

Packaging variations included:

  • upcycled pencils in packaging that indicates it contains upcycled pencils and
  • wood-cased pencils in packaging that doesn’t mentioned upcycled wood
  • there were also upcycled pencils in the old packaging that didn’t make it explicit that the pencils inside were made with upcycled wood.

I wonder if the new upcycled Noris pencils will change the way schools here in the UK buy pencils. They provide pencils to primary school pupils for free, to be used in the classroom, and most of them buy Noris pencils. Will they be fine with the changes? ..or will they not like the differences? ..or maybe the schools won’t notice the difference? I really wonder…

My first impressions are that, like previous Wopex pencils, the difference between different grades, e.g. 2B vs 2H, is not quite as pronounced in the upcycled Noris as it is in a traditional wood-cased Noris. In the video I link to here I used Leuchtturm paper where the difference between grades is very small. On other paper, like Tomoe River for example here is a huge difference between the different grades.

If you sharpen an upcycled Noris to a very fine point then that point is not as break resistant as the point of a traditional Noris. It is however more break resistant than the point found on earlier Wopex pencils.

On the plus side the upcycled Noris, when sharpened right, has a very nice, waxy-smooth feel to it when writing – the opposite of scratchy.

From left to right: wood-case Noris, Wopex, upcycled Noris

Find out more about the upcycles Noris in this video:

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