Germany


Stationery Shopping in Germany 3

After several blog posts and videos about stationery shopping in Shanghai today’s post is about stationery shopping in Germany.

The video shows one of Müller’s branches’ stationery selection. Originally a pharmacy, Müller are now a chain selling all sorts of items.

The video is in 4K, so you’ll see more details if you open it in YouTube instead of watching it embedded in this blog post.

✏︎ ✏︎ ✏︎ ✏︎ ✏︎

On a different note: a former colleague1 sent me a link to this article from The New York Times Magazine today:

Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories

The pictures are droolworthily excellent. Have a look.

  1. Thanks, Mark. []

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.


The search for the pencil cedar

You might remember my 2011 blog post about the Schwanberg and the pencil cedar. If you visit the castle grounds, mentioned in that blog post, you’ll have a chance to look for the pencil cedar as part of an organised tour this Sunday.

 


Two more blog posts that mention the pencil cedar:

Schön gespitzte Bleistifte from Lexikaliker

and Juniperus virginiana

 

The newspaper article has been taken from the Kitzingen Section of the Main-Post newspaper from 14th February 2013. I believe that the use of the fax of the article in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


Schwanberg and the Pencil Cedar 6

The 'town' of Castell

In the 12th century my home town, Volkach, became part of the county of Castell, which belonged to – you might have guessed – the Counts of Castell1. Quite a bit later, in 1896, Alexander Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen married Ottilie Freiin von Faber and the name of the pencil manufacturer Faber changed to Faber-Castell.

Except this link to Faber-Castell there isn’t really much of a “pencil link” in the surrounding area of Volkach. All the exiting pencil stuff is happening about 100 km further South where you’d find the big pencil manufacturers like Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Schwan-Stabilo and Lyra.

 

Some branches the forest's caretaker removed. He also cut other trees nearby to give the Pencil Cedars more space.

 

I wrote there isn’t much of a “pencil link” here – well, the area around my home town can boast with one other link to the world of pencils, even though it is rather unknown. Trees from North America were planted in Germany to test the suitability of the wood for use in pencil production …and some of them were planted on Schwanberg2, an elevation not far from the town of Castell, by the Counts of Castell – to test the suitability of the wood for use in pencil production. The trees brought over from North America were the Pencil Cedar (juniperus virginiana) and the Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus). You can still find some of the Pencil Cedars near Castell. 100 years ago there were also many well established Pencil Cedars North East of Faber-Castell’s home town, Stein, planted by Faber, which probably didn’t survive3. These trees are not really used any more for pencil production, but if you have an old pencil that is more than 70 years old, the wood might be from a Pencil Cedar.

The Schwanberg, seen from Volkach



More about the Pencil Cedars at Lexikaliker’s blog post “Der Graphit” (German) (Link to the Google Translation)

  1. At that time it actually wasn’t a town yet, but documents show that by 1258 it was a town (‘in civitate nostra Volka’). []
  2. The Schwanberg isn’t really a hill, but an elevation (474m / 1555 feet) – about 200m above the surrounding area. According to legend Saint Hadeloga (sometimes called Adeloga or Hadla) built an abbey (nunnery) on Schwanberg. She was the daughter of Karl Martell (Charles the Hammer). He repudiated her when she vowed virginity (so she is not mentioned very often in history) but they reconciled many years later. She is actually an aunt of Charlemagne, King of the Franks, and she is the patron saint for fever. []
  3. This tree was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century. Faber is supposed to have planted, between several thousand and several tens of thousands of these trees in the 19th century, depending on which source you check. I assume many must have survived outside Schwanberg, but it is unknown how many are left and where they are. One of Lexikaliker’s blog posts indicates that the trees planted by Faber near Nuremberg did not survive. Other Pencil Cedars planted in Germany did not survive either. []

STMT X Germany 5

I just found out that RAD AND HUNGRY’s new stationery kit features Germany. I am not a big fan of rollerball pens, but the Stabilo pointVisco is one of the few rollerball pens I really like – in the last few years I bought many of them, from Cult Pens and from local super markets (Sainsbury’s and Tesco, I think), in all sorts of colours, my favourite colours for this pen1: green and brown. I am not familiar with the manufacturer of the paper clips in this set, but Brunnen, the manufacturer of the notebook is probably the market leader in Germany and offers good quality notebooks for a good price.

  1. normally not exactly my favourite colours []