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Dirk Gently and the Grip 2001 10

Another screenshot, this time from Episode 1 of the Dirk Gently TV series1. There are several pencils in this episode. One of them is easy to identify and plays an important role: it’s being used for shading paper to reveal a message.

Dirk Gently and the Grip 2001 (Image © ITV Studios / BBC Cymru Wales)

 

The TV series seems to be loosely based on the book, with different episodes picking up different plots from Douglas Adams’ book (at least that’s the impression I have so far, after watching the pilot and episode 1. Future episodes might be different).

 

If you want to know more about Faber-Castell’s Grip 2001 pencils have a look at pencil talk’s review. There’s also another review at Pencil Revolution.

 

Update: 11 March 2012: Today would have been Douglas Adams’ 60th birthday.

 


The photo of the pencil has been taken from episode 1 of the Dirk Gently TV series. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. Episode 1, I thought, was not as good as the pilot from 2010 []

The ubiquitous Staedtler pencils 20

This is not the first time that I mention the fact that Staedtler pencils are quite common in the UK1. Today I want to show you some examples of Staedtler pencils seen on TV. In the UK school is about to start soon, so there’s  even Staedtler advertising on TV these days. The examples shown here are however not part of an advertising campaign and I believe that Staedtler pencils have just been used because they are quite common. I apologise as nearly all picture shown have been taken from TV series. As usual, all pictures not taken by myself come with a note explaining where they are from or who owns the copyright.

 

Real people

Let’s start with real, i.e. non-fictional, people using Staedtler pencils.

Stephen Wiltshire

I’ll skip photos of Stephen Wiltshire using Staedtler pencils. One reason is that you might remember seeing him using a Staedtler pencil from a blog post from March 2010 about the Staedtler Tradition. The other reason is that about a year after the blog post he started making advertising for Staedtler, so any new pictures showing him using Staedtler pencils would arguably be because of his contract with Staedtler, not because of the omnipresence of Staedtler pencils. I have seen him using other pencils in the past, I assume he is only or mainly using Staedtler products now.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay with a Tradition (Image © One Potato Two Potato)

Gordon Ramsay is a celebrity chef in the UK. Since he has been mocked in South Park I assume he must be a celebrity in the USA, too – or at least be known there. Here are photos of him in an episode of his TV series Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, where a restaurant ten miles from where I live was competing. I first wasn’t sure whether this is a real Tradition 110 or one of those copies available in many shops, but during this episode there were some moments when the reflection of the writing on the pencil can be seen quite well. It is not a copy.

Gordon Ramsay with a Tradition (Image © One Potato Two Potato)

 

Fictional characters

The Armstrong and Miller Show (Image © Toff Media / Hat Trick)

You can see Staedtler Tradition and Noris pencils in several school sketches in The Armstrong and Miller Show. Staedtler pencil’s use in The Armstrong and Miller Show is not really surprising. They are common and also to some extent the archetype of a pencil.

Tradition and Noris in The Armstrong and Miller Show (Image © Toff Media / Hat Trick)

 

In advertising

Staedtler’s pencils’ image as typical pencils means that you can see them often when an association with school is needed or in related advertising as in the example seen on the right. The advertising, probably created specifically for the UK and Ireland, was on a phone booth. A Staedtler Noris can be seen, even though the film is from the USA, where the Noris is not officially distributed and not available.

In the next example Harvey Nichols, a posh department store, used Noris look-alikes in their shop window to advertise perfume – I am not sure what the link between the perfume and the pencils is.

Noris look-alikes in Harvey Nichols shop window. (Thank you to Mrs Schmitt for allowing me to use Staedtler’s photo)

Before I finish this blog post, a quick look at fictional characters outside the UK who use Staedtler pencils.

USA

Ted Mosby with a Mars Lumograph (Image © CBS)

In the US-American TV series How I Met Your Mother the main characters, architect Ted Mosby (actor: Josh Radnor), can be seen using a Staedtler Mars Lumograph. Unlike the Noris and the Tradition, the Mars Lumograph is officially being sold in the USA. A fitting pencil: in the past the Mars Lumograph has been advertised a pencil for technical drawings and for engineers.

I apologise for the poor quality of these photos.

Ted Mosby with a Mars Lumograph (Image © CBS)

Iceland

Daníel and a Noris (Image © Saga Film)

Daníel and a Noris (Image © Saga Film)

His second appearance in this blog …both times with a pencil: Daníel Sævarsson (actor: Jörundur Ragnarsson), one of the main characters from the …vaktin series and from the film Bjarnfreðarson, this time with a Noris in episode two of Fangavaktin.


In previous blog posts the Tradition was written with lower case letters because this is how the name is printed on the current version of this pencil. I decided to capitalise Tradition from now on, but I will probably refrain from changing the spelling in previous blog posts.

I would like to thank Mrs Schmitt from Staedtler for giving me permission to use Staedtler’s photo of the Harvey Nichols shop window.

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

  • The two photos of Gordon Ramsay and the Staedtler Tradition, taken from episode three of the TV series Ramsay’s Best Restaurant
  • The two school sketch photos, taken from the second series of the TV series The Armstrong and Miller Show
  • The photo of the UK advertising for the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2
  • The two (poor) photos taken from the TV series How I Met Your Mother
  • The two photos taken from the TV series Fangavaktin

By the way, this is blog post 112. Quite fitting, as 112 is the article number of the rubber-tipped Staedtler Tradition.

  1. The blog post about the Staedtler Tradition and the one about the Chung Hwa drawing pencil both mentioned this, then there also the post about Staedtler UK. []

Faber-Castell 1117 8

It is probably superfluous to write about the Faber-Castell 1117. Not because it is a very common pencil everybody knows about, but because this pencil is not new to the blogosphere. It has previously been reviewed at penciltalk and this isn’t its first appearance at Bleistift either: the 1117 was the supporting actor in the review of the Deli pencil sharpener 0668. So why do I write about it again? The reason is that I thought Faber-Castell stopped producing this entry level pencil – after I was unable to buy this pencil in shops that sold this specific model previously. Before you panic: Calm down, dear. The good news is that Faber-Castell confirmed that they are still making the 1117.

Price

My guess is that the 1117 is the cheapest pencil made in Germany1. Today, you can find the version without ferrule and eraser for as little as € 0.20 (~ 28¢; 17p), if you buy them in Germany  over the Internet. That’s a bit more than half the Internet price of a Staedtler Noris and about ¼ of a good Internet price for the Castell 9000. I bought the last few dozen in the local stationery shop Schreibwaren Jäcklein in my home town of  Volkach when I went there in April. eraser-tipped 1117s for € 0.58 each (~ 82¢; 51p) and the untipped 1117s for € 0.36 each (~ 51¢; 32p). Last November I bought the eraser tipped 1117s in B for € 0.29 each (~ 41¢; 25p), online at Schule-Uni-Shop / CTK, but CTK do not stock the 1117 any more.

Writing qualities

The lead of the 1117 could be better, there is not doubt about that, but in good Faber-Castell tradition it does last a long time before it wears down and needs sharpening. Once the pencil it dull or blunt it is, at least in my experience, less pleasant to write with. This is however quite normal for inexpensive pencils and only very few pencils would excel in this category. The 1117 is however usually quite smooth and there would be very few combinations of paper and pencil point state that would result in a scratchy writing experience. The lead could be darker, but this is again something we shouldn’t be surprised about as Faber-Castell measure and label the softness of the lead quite conservatively. The 1117 shows no problems with smudging when being erased erased. I would describe the eraser from the eraser-tipped version as “normal quality”. It performs a bit worse than the eraser of a Dixon Ticonderoga , is similar to the eraser of a General’s Semi-Hex, but much better than the white eraser of the Palomino Blackwing.2

Overall

This is an extremely cheap, or better: inexpensive,  pencil and value for money is definitely excellent.  Production of the 1117 started in 1991/1992 (20th anniversary soon!). When this pencil was first introduced it was unfinished, but for hygienic reasons later versions got a protective finish. The feel is however very similar to an unfinished pencil. Depending on your perspective this means that the pencil has a great grip or it is slightly too rough and therefore uncomfortable. The version without ferrule and eraser is available in 2B, B, HB and H. I have seen the eraser-tipped version in B and HB, but according to the label on the box the eraser-tipped version is available in five grades. All versions feature SV-bonded anti-break leads.

Næturvaktin, episode 8: Is Ólafur giving Daníel a Faber-Castell 1117? Will there be a pencil in the US remake? (Image © Saga Film)



Prices: November 2010, April 2011 and June 2011

Exchange rates: June 2011

I would like to thank Ms Schaklies from Faber-Castell for the additional information about the 1117.

The photo of Ólafur handing over a pencil to Daníel has been taken from episode 8 of the great, Icelandic comedy Næturvaktin. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

 

  1. Probably even the cheapest pen []
  2. In case you wonder why I picked these two for the comparison: Those pencils were just lying on my keyboard. Thanks to Sean, Kent and Adair for these. []

Staedtler tradition 110 18

When it comes to the recognition value of their pencils there is one company that – in my opinion – does by far the best job: Staedtler. Compared to other companies in this industry Staedtler is quite unusual as the company belongs to the Staedtler foundation whose main purpose is the promotion of scientific research… but I digress. Let’s get back to the pencils: As much as I like to use pencils from other companies, the Faber-Castell 9000 for example, for me the archetype of a pencil is the Staedtler Noris, available in two versions: as the 120 (without eraser) and as the 122 (with eraser).

The Noris is a pencil that is very common in Europe, but I would not say that it dominates the market. Noris as a brand name for pencils has been registered in 1901 and the name Noris itself is closely related to Staedtler: the nymph Noris is the personification of Nuremberg, the city where Staedtler has its headquarters. The Noris pencil is definitely quite popular in Germany. In UK it is also quite popular: in supermarkets you can usually find at least two types of pencils, often more, but a no name pencil and the Staedtler Noris seem to be the common denominator.

Somehow the look of the Noris is easy to remember, but this is not a feature unique to the Noris: Staedtler also did a great job in that respect with some of their other pencils: the tradition and the Mars Lumograph. These three models are instantly recognisable and unless you count the yellow Koh-I-Noor1 they seem to be the most copied pencils in the world.

Stephen Wiltshire, using a Staedtler tradition, on BBC’s Top Gear (Image © BBC)

The look of some of the most popular pencils in India, the Reynolds 432, the Nataraj 621 and the Doms Ajanta, seem to be based on the Staedtler tradition, as is the look of the Chunghwa 6151, reviewed at pencil talk as well as countless other copies. You can also come across the tradition in the media. In a recent episode of Top Gear for example, Stephen Wiltshire was using a Staedtler tradition for his drawings.

Icon in Okular (Image © Okular)

The Staedtler Noris was the antetype for the Chunghwa 6181, reviewed at oh! super tooth, but even though the Noris has probably been less often copied than the tradition and the Mars Lumograph, it can be seen on TV more often, usually used by somebody who is probably not even aware what make or model it is.

In one episode of Black Books the main character is using a Noris to control who is allowed to talk. I just saw the Noris again last week in a BBC documentary unrelated to pencils, and I see an icon that looks like the Noris on a daily basis in Okular, the document viewer in KDE 4.

Slightly younger than the Noris, with Mars being registered as a pencil brand in 1900, but with the Lumograph being released about 30 years later, the Mars Lumograph would probably have to top the list when it comes to how often the look of a pencil has been copied by no name pencils. I have seen no name pencils with the look of the Mars Lumograph, but without any writing on it countless times. Sometimes you can also see copies of this pencil with the name of the manufacturer on it, e.g. the Chunghwa Drawing pencil, reviewed at Blyantsiden (Google translation) or the Medicise Drawing pencil 9002. Of course the Mars Lumograph also got its fair share of TV presence. Just to name one example, there is a Derrick episode from the Seventies where a secretary is using a pencil, unmistakably a Mars Lumograph.

Top to bottom: Great Britain, Australia, Germany

The distinct look of the Staetdler pencils makes recognising them so easy. This must surely be an important factor that influences the decision of customers when they are in front of a shelf of pencils and need to decide which pencil to buy.

Unfortunately Staedtler stopped producing pencils in Australia and Great Britain, but some shops still have stock left that was produced in these two countries. You might know where this is going… After this really long-winded introduction I will now compare Staedtler pencils from different countries, to be more precise: I will be comparing the Staedtler tradition 110 from Australia, Germany and Great Britain. For this comparison I used recently produced pencils from the three different factories. It would be wrong to assume that there is no variation in the production, so please do not take this comparison too seriously.

Top to bottom: Great Britain, Australia, Germany

When comparing the different HB versions2 you can see that the Australian version has the thinnest layer of paint. I have to say that I actually like it, because you can see the texture of the wood through the paint. On a negative note I also have to add that the Australian pencils (all grades) have the paint applied less consistently. All pencils came pre-sharpened, but the pencil from the German factory has been pre-sharpened using a different method than the other pencils. The pencil from Great Britain is definitely softer than the other two. It also smudges a bit more. When I tried to erase all three using the Mars plastic eraser pen (528 50) there was no real difference between the different pencils.

Different tradtitions on Brunnen Kompagnon Anno 1877 paper

Comparing the Australian 4B and the British 4B I also thought that the British pencil was a tick softer, but this was definitely not as noticeable as it was for the HB pencils. Using the Mars plastic eraser pen the Australian 4B was maybe a bit easier to erase than the British 4B, but again there was not a big difference.

Different tradtitions on Brunnen Kompagnon Anno 1877 paper

Conclusion: The tradition is a really good pencil. I am not sure why, but the German Staedtler web site lists the tradition in the artist category, not in the category for pencils used for writing. Nevertheless the tradition is very suitable for writing. Stock of Australian and British tradition pencils will be exhausted soon, so get some while you can …not that the performance of the German tradition is worse, but if you just spent a few minutes reading this post you must be pencil-crazy enough to want the Australian and British version as well.

Click to see full size

Click to see full size

Links:

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank David from Dave’s Mechanical Pencils for the selection of Australian pencils, including the Staedtler tradition, he sent me.

The photo of Stephen Wiltshire using a Staedtler Tradition has been taken from Top Gear Episode 5 of Series 14. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

The pencil icon has been taken from Okular, the document viewer in KDE 4.

  1. which was not the first yellow pencil, but seemed to have sparked the popularity of yellow pencils in America []
  2. Even though I have most grades of the British (actually Welsh to be precise) and of the Australian tradition I only have the HB version of the German tradition. []