Staedtler Inspiration No. 176

3 October 2010 was not only the 20th anniversary of the German reunification, but also the 175th anniversary of Staedtler [1]Even though Staedtler’s history goes back further, 3 October 1835 is the official ‘birthday’ as it is the first day Staedtler can trace their business back to without interruptions. It was also the last date of their “Fascination of Writing” exhibition.

Happy Birthday Staedtler!

You might have already read about this exhibition at Lexikaliker (Google translation of this article), but I just discovered that there is an article about this exhibition in Staedtler’s latest newsletter Inspiration No. 176 (from August 2010).

To celebrate this special year Staedtler released a 175th anniversary pencil set. You can read more about it at pencil talk.


1 Even though Staedtler’s history goes back further, 3 October 1835 is the official ‘birthday’ as it is the first day Staedtler can trace their business back to without interruptions

Staedtler Inspiration No. 176 Read More »

Two articles

David O. just posted two comments with links over at pencil talk’s. They are linking to  great [1]great because they are about the pencil industry, I am not sure what to think about the content articles and it would be a shame to miss them because are hidden in the comments, so I thought I post them here.

One article is from the economist, focussing on Faber-Castell and our favourite nobleman.

The other one is from the Wall Street Journal and is looking at the rivalry between Staedtler and Faber-Castell. To be honest I always thought they get along perfectly fine: selling name rights to each other, having joint press statements, …   but the article portraits a much darker image. I am not sure whether they exaggerated a bit to make the article more catchy.

Thank you David O. for posting the links at pencil talk.


1 great because they are about the pencil industry, I am not sure what to think about the content

Two articles Read More »

Staedtler Wopex 2B and 2H

I have been looking forward to receiving Staedtler’s Wopex in 2B and in 2H since I started using the Wopex HB a few weeks ago. Even though writing with this pencil is somehow strange, it is also quite nice at the same time. If the Wopex is not over-sharpened and if you write on the right kind of surface it will perform really well. Another thing I should mention is that the Wopex does not smudge, something I find quite important (others might not care).

Back to the main topic: I received the Wopex in 2B and in 2H and after trying the new pencils for a few seconds I was quite disappointed. Not because they do not perform well (they are nice writers), but because I really struggle to find a difference between the 2B, the HB and the 2H. They lay down a line of the same intensity, they ‘shade’ paper the same way, erasing them is virtually the same and they all do not smudge either.

Is selling the same pencil under different grades some sort of marketing trick?

Did I get a bad bunch?

…or does the production process mean that the different grades of lead are the same at the ‘start’ of the pencil and the real lead will appear after more sharpening?

I would be very interested to hear whether other Wopex users have the same problem.

Comparison Staedtler Wopex / Mars Lumograph

You can find a review of the Staedtler Wopex HB at pencil talk.

Lexikaliker has a review (in German) of the Staedtler Wopex HB (Google Translation of the article into English) and of the Staedtler Wopex 2B (Google Translation of the article into English).

The Staedtler Wopex was recently mentioned in the Battle of the eco pencils post.

My mother bought the Staedtler Wopex 2B and 2H from Bürobedarf Jäcklein in Volkach and sent them to me. At about €1 each they were rather dear, but you can find them cheaper online.

Staedtler Wopex 2B and 2H Read More »

Battle of the eco pencils

Before I start talking about the eco pencils I want to emphasise that I call them eco pencils because they are marketed in this or in a similar way. Why are they marketed like this? Because they do not use wood, but alternative materials. While I do believe that they could be more ecologically friendly than wooden pencils I have no proof and in the same way that for example biofuel or hybrid cars bring new problems, there might be hidden problem I do not know of when it comes to the production of the eco pencils.

The six eco pencils. Paper left, other materials right.

When it comes to wooden pencils there are also big differences, e.g. between pencils using wood from certified [1]e.g. FSC, PEFC, well-managed forests and pencils with wood from unknown and more dubious sources. It certainly would not be a problem to produce pencils without wood that are actually less environmentally friendly than traditional wooden pencils. In absence of any incriminating evidence I will however give the six eco pencils tested in this article the benefits of the doubt and will refer to them as eco pencils, as intended by their manufacturers.

First I will have a closer look at the extruded pencils.

CD case pencil

Let’s start with the red pencil, made from recycled CD cases. I found this pencil a few weeks ago, somebody must have lost it …or forgotten it …or more likely: did not want to use it any more because it is so horrible (more on this later). When I first found it I was quite excited. The pencil point was broken off, so I could not use it and had to sharpened it in my Deli pencil sharpener 0635, which I soon regretted. You had to use considerably more force compared to sharpening a wooden pencil in the Deli and to be honest, the Deli has not been the same since. The red plastic is much harder than wood and must have somehow blunted the burr cylinder. The Deli 0635 still works, but does not operate as smoothly as in the past. Writing with this pencil is not very nice. The line is not particularly black and the pencil manages to give you a waxy and scratchy feeling the same time. The writing on the pencil reads “Pencil made from recycled CD cases”. I wish it stayed a CD case.

Ticonderoga Renew HB Soft

On to the next pencil. The Ticonderoga Renew, made from recycled tyres. I was quite excited when I received my pack of ten.This excitement started to disappear when I tried to sharpen these pencils. They are even harder to sharpen than the red CD case pencil. Rotating the pencil in any sharpener will make you fear for the sharpener. I fear the pencil will manage to blunt every blade it touches. Once I started using the pencil any last bit of enthusiasm I had left for this pencil was gone completely. It was scratchy and the line is certainly not dark at all. Sometimes it seems to perform better, so I suspect that the lead is of different quality in different parts …or maybe the difference in performance has to do with the writing angle or the degree of sharpening. Sometimes writing with this pencil is nearly acceptable, but only nearly. Overall it is even worse than the CD case pencil. BTW, there is a warning, printed on the box “Not for use with electric sharpeners”.

Staedtler Wopex HB

Last in the category of extruded pencils is the Staedtler Wopex. According to Staedtler the fibre material is made from 70% wood. The pencil is much easier to sharpen then the previous two pencils, but it is still not anywhere near a wooden pencil. As the lead is extruded, not made the traditional way, writing with it is more similar to writing with the previous two pencils than it is to writing with a pencil that has a traditional lead. Luckily there is no scratchiness, instead the lead is quite waxy. The line of the Wopex is also much darker, more like a line from a traditional pencil. Having used the Wopex for a few weeks now I have to say that depending on the paper and writing surface used, writing with the Wopex can be a very pleasant experience. Its lines  are a bit more difficult to erase than those of most traditional pencils and it is about twice as heavy as a traditional pencil, which is quite nice.  Another nice feature is its nice, “grippy” surface.

Top – bottom: CD case, Ticonderoga Renew, Staedtler Wopex, Eco Bridge, O’Bon Newsprint, Tesco

Next I will have a look at the pencils that use rolled paper instead of wood.

Eco Bridge

Recently I had a closer look at the Eco Bridge pencils, so I will not go into too much detail again. It is a nice pencil, but one thing I noticed is that, compared to other paper pencils, the rolled paper is more likely to get ripped away during sharpening, presumably because of no, less or different glue applied to the paper before rolling.

O’Bon Newsprint 2B

Next is the O’Bon Newsprint pencil. Mine seems to be made from paper that might have been part of a financial newspaper from mainland China. The pencil is  made in China, but the newspaper you can see on the packaging of the pencils seems to be from Malaysia, which is where O’Bon seems to have its origins (don’t quote me on this, I am only 99% sure). Malaysia seems to be the new El Dorado for stationery lovers. If you like pens from the higher end of the market you might have come across Pen Gallery, an online shop from Malaysia. Pelikan is kind of Malaysian too. Pelikan, and recently Herlitz, were bought by a Malaysian business man and stationery aficionado who, according to some newspaper articles I read, fulfilled his lifelong dream when he bought this stationery giant. A lot of Faber-Castell products are made in Malaysia, too …so now it turns out  O’Bon is from Malaysia as well. I wonder whether this is more than a coincidence. On the other hand Staedtler closed its factory in Malaysia this year. OK, one last Malaysia pencil fact: The most common pencil grade in Malaysia is 2B. Getting other grades is even quite difficult. Back to the O’Bon pencils: they are actually very good. Even though they are 2B they hardly smudge and the line is nice and dark. Unlike the Eco Bridge pencils the O’Bon pencils can be sharpened and still look good, as the paper does not rip away.

Tesco pencil

Now to the last paper pencil. The Tesco paper pencil is quite similar to the O’Bon as it is also made from real newspaper, while the Eco Bridge seems to use paper specially made for the pencils, which reduces the eco-ness considerably. The Tesco pencil is also slightly slimmer than the other two paper pencils and much cheaper. The surface is smooth like the O’Bon’s surface while the Eco Bridge pencil has a rough paper surface. By far the biggest drawback of the Tesco pencil is that it smells horribly for several days after taking it out of the package. Something that makes me think that the glues being used cannot be too healthy. On the plus side the Tesco pencil is one of the cheapest pencils around, but my local Tesco stopped stocking them so I fear they might be difficult to come by in the future.


Unfortunately most of the pencils are only available in some markets. The Ticonderoga Renew box has a UK address printed on the reverse, but I have never seen this pencil in the UK. Staedtler has a worlwide distribution network, but the Wopex does not seem to be available in all markets.

The Staedtler Wopex is, without a shadow of a doubt, the winner of the extruded pencils tested here. There are of course also other extruded pencils, like the ones from BIC, but they were not included as I have never used them. Last time I used other extruded pencils they were horrible writers, similar to the CD case pencil and the Ticonderoga Renew, so I assume that there are not many nice extruded pencils available. One problem with the Wopex that I should point out is that the last millimetre of the point can break easily if you have over-sharpened it.

The winner of the rolled paper pencils is the O’Bon Newsprint. It can be sharpened without problems, the surface finish is really nice and it does not have the horrible smell the Tesco pencil has in th ebeginning.

One interesting point I should mention is that some of the eco pencils (Wopex & O’Bon) claim that they last longer than normal pencils. I have not looked into this yet and cannot comment on it. If you think you noticed that they last longer please let me know.

Eraser test with Mars plastic pen on Bloc Rhodia No 13

I would like to thank Sean from Pencils and Music for the Ticonderoga Renew pencils. I found a Ticonderoga Renew review at Quality & Style.

I would like to thank Lexikaliker for my first Wopex pencil. You will find reviews of the HB and 2B Wopex on his blog (Google translation). You can find a review of the Wopex (in English) at pencil talk.

I would like to thank Kevin from O’Bon for sending me the Newsprint pencils free of charge. Even though I received them free of charge I tried to be objective and believe that this article was not influence by the fact that I received the O’Bon pencils without having to pay for them. You can find a review of O’Bon pencils at pencil talk.


1 e.g. FSC, PEFC

Battle of the eco pencils Read More »