The Noris and the SATs

Bleistift reader Robert from Grantham sent me this screenshot from a BBC Radio 5 Live Programme about SATs. Thank you, Robert.

SATs are tests used UK primary schools. With the Noris being the most commonly used pencil in primary schools here, it’s no wonder that the Noris is featured in the photo used for this show.

The Noris is certainly a common occurrence in photos and videos whenever the media report about schools. I wonder if the introduction of the upcycled Noris will change this.

If you want to see more Noris in the wild check out the Noris in the wild page.

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Triple outdated

Seen in our scout hut – when sharpening the pencils there with the Rolls Royce of pencil sharpeners: old Noris school pencils, with several attributes that the new Noris school pencils don’t have any more:

  • the label, including the fonts used, has changed quite a bit
  • the factory in Pontyclun, where these pencils were made, does not exist any more
  • the new version is made with upcycled wood

It was nice to come across these in the wild. If you like to see more Noris pencils in the wild have a look the the Noris in the wild page.

PS: It was a surprise to also find the UK’s official ballot pencil, used in election, in the scout hut’s collection of pencils. It’s not the first time I came across unexpected pencils in a scout hut.

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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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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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