Seen in the wild

Double fine pencils

The Castell 9000 in action (Image © 2 Player Productions)

Even if you are not interested in video and computer games you might have heard about Double Fine Adventure, a game that raised more than $3 million on Kickstarter this February – an amount of money unheard of in crowd funding until the Pebble watch came along.

Scott Campbell using a Castell 9000 (Image © 2 Player Productions)

One of the artists working on the artwork for the new game is Scott Campbell.

Scott Campbell using a Castell 9000 again (Image © 2 Player Productions)

In the Double Fine Adventure documentary by 2 Player Productions he can be seen using a Faber-Castell Castell 9000 for his sketches.

Scott Campbell still using a Castell 9000 (Image © 2 Player Productions)

 


The images in this blog post have been taken from Episode 4: “Walking Around in Our Drawings” of the Double Fine Adventure documentary by 2 Player Productions. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

350 years pencil making craft

Right hand side: Dr. Konstantin Czeschka (Image © Bayerischer Rundfunk)

To celebrate 350 years of Bleiweißsteftmacherhandwerk [1]the craft of making pencils – Bleiweißsteft is what the Bleistift (German for pencil) was called during the 17th century the Franconian and Bavarian regional news reported live from Staedtler’s factory on 25 September 2012. The reports were only a few minutes long.

Leads (Image © Bayerischer Rundfunk)

Dr. Konstantin Czeschka, Chief Technology & Production Officer, and Axel Marx, Managing Director, talked about the history of the pencil and included these interesting details:

 

  • The graphite used for pencil leads is ground to particles whose size is in the range of a micrometer, one millionth of a metre.
  • In 1900 there where 23 companies manufacturing pencils in Nuremberg. They employed 10,000 employees.
  • One machine, shown on TV, can produce 1000 leads per minute.
  • The pencil leads are heated to 1000°C
  • The leads seem to be made in Nuremberg, but the pencils seem to be assembled in their factory in Neumarkt.
    I thought Staedtler’s mechanical pencils are made there, but didn’t expect their pencils to be made there, too. I mentioned Neumarkt in a previous blog post when I wrote about the ONLINE All Wood Marone. ONLINE is based in Neumarkt, too, as is e+m Holzprodukte.
  • Producing a pencil is a fairly automated process. You only need about 1-2 seconds of human labour time. 100 years ago about one minute was needed, 200 years ago it was about an hour.
  • The price of graphite is expected to rise. One of the reasons is that it is needed for manufacturing batteries for electric cars.
The Noris being painted (Image © Bayerischer Rundfunk)

You can find reviews of products from e+m Holzprodukte at Lexikaliker and Lung Sketching Scrolls.

The images in this blog post have been taken from Frankenschau and Abendschau. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

 

References

References
1 the craft of making pencils – Bleiweißsteft is what the Bleistift (German for pencil) was called during the 17th century

Staedtler Noris 120

Top to bottom: Malaysia, Great Britain, Germany

In a previous blog post I compared three Staedtler tradition 110 pencils, made in three different factories – the one in Wales, the one in Australia and the one in Germany. Today I want to look at three different Staedtler Noris 120 pencils – made in Malaysia, Wales and Germany. I bought a dozen of the Malaysian Noris in March 2010 for £2.24 (~ $3.40; €2.78) from a Malaysian seller on eBay.

Noris presharpened, top to bottom: Malaysia, Great Britain, Germany

The only pencil from this comparison that is still in production is the Nuremberg-made Noris. The factory in Malaysia closed down two years ago and the factory in Wales closed down four years ago. You can still find Welsh-made pencils in the UK, but there are very few shops left that still have stock. I am not sure about the situation in Malaysia, but I assume most of the Malaysian Noris are also sold by now. In a previous blog post I mentioned that 2B is the most common pencil grade in Malaysia. It is so popular in Malaysia that the Malaysian Noris is only available in 2B, therefore I’ll compare it with the Welsh and German Noris in 2B.

Different caps – Top to bottom: Malaysian 2B, Welsh 2B, Welsh B, German 2B

The colour of the Noris cap normally indicates the pencil grade. The HB Noris has a red cap. Strangely enough the cap colour is not consistent. The older Welsh and Malaysian 2B Noris have black caps, while the newer German Noris, bought in April 2012 at Müller in Volkach, Germany for €0.59 (~ $0.73; £0.47), has an orange cap, similar, but a slightly lighter in colour than the orange cap of a Welsh Noris B.

Noris sharpener (511 004) and two wedge sharpeners (510 10 and 510 50)

Which eraser could be most suitable to sharpen a Noris? None other than the Staedtler Noris sharpener, of course. Bought at Currys / PC World in Preston, when they tried to get rid of their stationery in December 2011 this sharpener was part of a ‘study set’ that came with 2 Noris HB, one Staedtler Mars plastic eraser and the Staedtler Noris sharpener for £1.17 (~ $1.79; €1.45). The blister pack says “Made in Germany”, but the wedge sharpener in the Noris sharpener is made in China, or at least the the metal body of the sharpener inside is. I wonder why Staedtler put a metal sharpener in there. Most people probably wouldn’t notice and Staedtler sells plastic sharpeners with the same form factor that could have been used in the Noris sharpener to keep the price down…

The W wedge sharpener in the Noris sharpener

The bottom of the metal sharpener 510 10 in the Noris sharpener features a ‘W’, which indicates that this sharpener is one of Staedtler’s newer sharpeners, optimised for use with the Wopex. It has a sharpening angle of 23°. The thickness of the shavings produced by the Wopex-optimised sharpener is the same as the one by the older model, usually just under 0.3 mm. I assume the difference is in the way the blade has been sharpened.

The older 510 10 wedge sharpener

I used a notepad from Brunnen [1]bought in August 2011 at McPaper in Schweinfurt, Germany for €1.19 (~ $1.46; £0.96) to compare the different leads in terms of smoothness, reflectiveness, darkness, erasability, graphite transfer to another page and how long they keep the point. As far as I can tell the three different Noris perform very similar. The graphite from the Malaysian Noris might transfer a bit easier to another page, e.g. in a diary, but it’s only every so slightly worse than the other two Noris pencils.

No bar code on the Malaysian Noris

In terms of exterior appearance the Welsh and German Noris are nearly on par, with the paint on the Noris from Nuremberg being slightly more even. The paint of the Malaysian Noris is however much worse, but still better than the no name or own brand pencils you usually get in super markets. The Welsh Noris has a diameter of 7mm, which is slightly more than the 6.9mm the Malaysian and German pencils have.

For me the Noris is THE typical pencil. Previous blog posts showed the Noris being featured on TV. Today I want to add two more screen shots. One from Episodes, where Sean Lincoln (played by Stephen Mangan [2]…who recently, as Dirk Gently, used a Faber-Castell Grip 2001 ) is using a Stadtler Noris in the USA, even though it isn’t officially on sale in the USA. The character must have brought it from the UK, the desk is full of Noris pencils ..or, in the real world, this scene might have been filmed in the UK.

Episodes (Image © Hat Trick)

The other screen shot is from episode 705 “Liebeswirren” of German/Austrian/Swiss crime TV series Tatort. One of the actors in this episode from Munich was Christoph Waltz of Inglourious Basterds fame.

Tatort (Image © Bayerischer Rundfunk)

Exchange rates: June 2012.

I believe that the use of the following images falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service:

  • The screen shot of Stephen Mangan and the Staedtler Noris, taken from episode three of the second season of the TV series Episodes
  • The screen shot of Udo Wachtveitl and the Staedtler Nori, taken from the Tatort #705  Liebeswirren

References

References
1 bought in August 2011 at McPaper in Schweinfurt, Germany for €1.19 (~ $1.46; £0.96)
2 …who recently, as Dirk Gently, used a Faber-Castell Grip 2001

Why are fountain pen sales rising?

 

Nick Hewer (Image © BBC)

Today an interesting article appeared on the BBC News web site: “Why are fountain pen sales rising?“. You might remember that Nick Hewer from the Apprentice is using Lamy fountain pens (see my blog post from last summer where you can see him using a Lamy Joy). He is being mentioned, too, and there are also links to other fountain pen related articles.


Nick Hewer (Image © BBC)

The photos of Nick Hewer using a Lamy Safari have been taken from series 8 episode 2 and 6 of The Apprentice UK. I believe that the use of these images falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

Two Guys From Andromeda

Screenshot taken from The Two Guys From Andromeda SpaceVenture Prototype (Image © Q42)

Two Guys From Andromeda

One of my favourite type of computer games were always adventure games. Even though I knew about the adventure games from Sierra On-Line, I played the games from Lucasfilm Games much earlier, as I didn’t have a 16-bit machine at the time [1]There were of course also other companies making great adventure games, e.g. ICOM, Infogrames, Software 2000, …. When finally did have a 16-bit machine (an Amiga) I played all their games I could get my hands on, including the remakes – and I then did the same again when I switched to a PC (which was quite late, in 1996).

The Two Guys From Andromeda, the creators of the Space Quest series, recently started a Kickstarter project and the first prototype they released shows the Staedtler Mars technico (see picture) next to a sheet of paper within which the protoype is running. Nice to know that they, or someone from Q42, is using this lead holder.

Print Ad of the Week

Speaking of Staedtler, an advertising magazine made one of Staedtler’s ads their “Print Ad of the Week” this week. Here’s a link where you can see the photos as part of a critical article (in German). The criticism is that Leo Burnett, Hong Kong, who is behind this ad copied the idea from Dalton M. Ghetti. There has also been a reply to the criticism (in English) where you can see both,  Ghetti’s and Burnett’s, pencils.

 


 

You can find a review of the Staedtler Mars technico at Lung Sketching Scrolls and some nice, vintage technico photos at Lexikaliker.

The screenshot of the Staedtler Mars technico has been taken from the The Two Guys From Andromeda SpaceVenture Prototype. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

References

References
1 There were of course also other companies making great adventure games, e.g. ICOM, Infogrames, Software 2000, …