Franconia


Visiting Kaweco in Nuremberg 4

End of last year I had the opportunity to get a tour of Kaweco’s premises in Nuremberg, lead by none other than Sebastian Gutberlet himself. He is the son of Michael Gutberlet – the man who brought Kaweco back in the 1990s.

Sebastian Gutberlet

Kaweco did offer a tour of their premises at the time the Insights X trade fair was on, but back then I didn’t have the time to take this offer up.

The museum contains many pens from Kaweco’s past

 

..as well as more modern items from Kaweco’s recent history

 

The offices and the factory are actually just next to Nuremberg’s convention centre. They will soon house a shop and a museum, too.

Old Kaweco pens in the museum

 

Old machines in the museum

As you might know, Kaweco used to be based in Heidelberg (where Lamy is), but since Michael Gutberlet brought it back to life in the 1990s it is based in Nuremberg (where Staedtler and many other stationery manufacturers are).

..and old materials that were used to make pens

 

Sebastian demonstrating how the old machines worked

The factory visit was actually supposed to take place a few days earlier, but illness meant that our family’s trip to Germany was delayed. Luckily we were able to rebook the ferry. Kaweco was happy to accommodate, but as the tour now took place on 23rd December, with December 24th being kind of the most important Christmas day around here, there were no workers in the factory assembling pens and I couldn’t see (or film) the machines in action.

No workers that day, so I didn’t see the machines being used by professionals

Parts for assembling pens

That was a shame, I would have loved to see how fast workers are assembling Kaweco pens. At least I’ve seen this type of machine in action before ..when Kaweco let visitors assemble their own pens at Insights X.

Sebastian Gutberlet wasn’t the only Sebastian in the room….

In case you wonder: the plastic parts for the pens aren’t made at this location. They are designed by Kaweco but outsourced as you’d need a lot of expenditure for machines etc if you’d want to make all the parts yourself. The parts are however all coming back to Nuremberg to be assembled here. Depending on how big the batch or order is the pens can also be engraved here.

More vintage pens from the museum

 

Except housing the machines these premises also include the warehouse, which was busy because annual stocktaking was just taking place.

Hmm, the shelves must be full of stationery goodies

 

Even more goodies. Can I stay overnight?

Even more goodies. Can I stay overnight?

Since we were in Nuremberg anyway and it was just before Christmas we used to opportunity to visit Nuremberg’s Christmas market, probably the most famous one in Germany. By the way, Sebastian’s Ewok hat in the following picture from Nuremberg’s Christmas market that day was handmade by Shangching from East…West…Everywhere.

At Nuremberg's Christmas market

At Nuremberg’s Christmas market

We had a great day visiting Kaweco and Nuremberg. I hope I will have a chance to go back there once the museum and shop are officially open.


Tree Top Path & Linden Pencils 2

I was still writing blog posts about my trip to Germany when Insights X and other things happened, so I never finished the blog posts about my time in Germany. Here’s my conclusion with a short post about pencils made from linden (lime) wood:

I had a great time – and it’s all Gunther’s ‘fault’: I never heard of tree top paths until I read about them on his blog. Well, recently a tree top path opened near my old home town and remembering Gunther’s blog post I couldn’t resist and visited.

A panorama shot from my phone. Excuse the panorama stitching mistakes.

A panorama shot from my phone. Excuse the panorama stitching mistakes.

Unlike the tree top path Gunther visited, this one, the Baumwipfelpfad Steigerwald, opens up towards the top, so it looks a bit like a tornado. When I was there the weather was great (nearly 30°C (>85°F)) and everyone liked it. After the walk (which took quite a while) I had a look in the little souvenir shop and was more than excited to see the linden wood (lime wood) pencils from the Bavarian State Forestry that Gunther mentioned in a blog post.

WoodAverage Dried WeightJanka Hardness
Incense Cedar385 kg/m32090 N
Jelutong450 kg/m31740 N
Basswood415 kg/m31824 N
European Lime535 kg/m33100 N

As you can see in this table with information the Wood Database European linden wood is quite a bit harder than other wood used for making pencils (Brasswood is American linden wood), so I am not surprised that this isn’t a common wood for pencils. At least not anymore. As described in Gunther’s blog post it was common in the 17th century. The average dried weight of European linden wood is a bit higher than other wood as is the Janka Hardness1. I assume you could treat the wood to change the hardness, but my assumption is that trying to influence the hardness too much wouldn’t be economical.

These pencils were made by Staedtler. As far as I know they use Bavarian graphite, but the clay is from another German state. With the wood being from Lower Franconia this is a nearly 100% Bavarian pencil.

Bavarian Linden Pencils

Here’s a video from the Bavarian State Forestry (in German) showing how these are made – from cutting the tree to the finished pencil. Interesting fact: in the video a Staedtler employee explains that they can get 2,000 – 10,000 pencils out of one tree.

Well, they made 100,000 pencils like this. Now there are a few less left as I couldn’t resist and bought a handful in the tree top path’s souvenir shop.


You can read more about the company where the wood is cut into slats in another blog post from Gunther.

 

  1. The amount of pounds-force (lbf) or newtons (N) required to imbed a .444″ (11.28 mm) diameter steel ball into the wood to half the ball’s diameter – see http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/janka-hardness/ []

2x Staedtler 8

Just a quick note – actually: two.

 

First: It looks as if Staedtler will release a new sharpener next year. What makes it really interesting is the article number: 501 180. The article number of their current rotary (i.e. hand crank) sharpener starts with 501. …and number 180 is associated with another, very nice product from Staedtler. Franken Bleistift

 

Second: I came across this article: The coloured pencil’s 180th birthday – a Franconian invention used around the world.1
Unfortunately the original article is in German, but here’s a link to the Bing translation and to the Google translation. The article talks about Johann Sebastian Staedtler’s coloured pencil breakthrough in 1834.

 

 

 

  1. With such a title I couldn’t resist displaying my Franconian pencil logo again. []

350 years pencil making craft 1

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

To celebrate 350 years of Bleiweißsteftmacherhandwerk1 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.

 

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

Staedtler Welt 12

End of July I visited Staedtler Welt, Staedtler’s shop in the centre of Nuremberg.

Mechnical pencils

The weather on the day was great, around 35°C (~95°F), and I even passed Staedtler’s headquarters when I drove into Nuremberg. This was because my wife, I and two friends went to Herzogenaurach first, the city where Adidas and Puma are from, and when you drive from there to the centre of Nuremberg on the Bundesstraße (B road / national highway) you pass Staedtler’s headquarters, a nice surprise and something I didn’t know or expect.

Nuremberg Souvenirs

Staedtler Welt opened in November 2010 and offers a great selection of Staedtler products – obviously the best I have seen so far in a shop, but I was slightly disappointed because there were many current Staedtler products I am aware of that I couldn’t find in this shop. To be honest I was expecting to see more products, but nevertheless, the products available include some items you don’t usually see in shops, like the Mars rasor and even products that are not made any more, like the Mars stenofix.

 

The Mars stenofix was still being sold

 

Most of the space in the shop is used to display stationery, but there is also an area in the back of the shop dedicated to FIMO and related products, like FIMO accessories. In this part of the shop you can even find ovens and an area that is probably being used for FIMO workshops.

The employees were extremely friendly. One of the employees is originally from the UK and started to talk to our British friends who went there with me and my wife. The prices in the shop were similar to what you would pay on the high street or in a typical department store.

The FIMO area is on the left. You can also see an oven.

 

Wopex and the trend line colours are also on display in the shop. These trend line colours, many are different shades of brown, were first released about a year ago. I thought that they were originally colours exclusive to the Wopex range, but I couldn’t find any evidence for this. In any case, you can now find non-Wopex products in trend line colours, too. When they were first released the trend line products were only available in the Staedtler Welt shop, but during my trip to Germany this July I saw trend line products in department stores, too.

 

Most items were reasonably priced. This leather(?) mouse pad was nice, but expensive.

 


I would like to thank Vernon Antcliff for letting me know his camera when we were in Staedtler Welt.