tradition


A Franconian Noris

Franconia Day

This weekend is Franconia Day (Tag der Franken) again, so I thought this blog post should feature some Franconia pencils – in the wild.

Juge Robin's pencil

Juge Roban’s pencil (Image © Son et Lumière)

Engrenages

According to Wikipedia “only two European regions continue to be associated with the Franks”1:

  • Franconia – to link this blog post to Franconia: it’s where the pencils in the following pictures were probably made (unless they were old stock)
  • and Île-de-France where the pencils in the following pictures were being filmed.
Juge Roban's pencil

Juge Roban’s pencil (Image © Son et Lumière)

These screenshots have been taken from Engrenages, where they used to use the BIC Matic last season.

While the magistrate is using Staedtler’s Noris the police is using the Tradition:

Staedtler tradition

Staedtler tradition (view in full resolution to see the pencil) (Image © Son et Lumière)

The Game and Clifton

Meanwhile, on the other side of the channel. Actually, not meanwhile, but kind of 40 years earlier: MI5’s Alan Montag is using a Staedtler Noris. There are a lot of pencils in the series, but usually they are unidentifiable yellow/orange pencils. For a few minutes I thought Joe Lambe’s accent is Irish until I realised it’s one of the different types of Scouse2.

Alan Montag listening in with a Noris

Alan Montag listening in with a Noris (Image © BBC Cymru)

The previous screenshot is from the great TV series “The Game” – from 2014, but set in the 1970s. In contrast here’s an MI5 pencil from the real 1970s – from the story Atout…coeur! / Hartkloppingen! from Franco-Belgian comic series Clifton. Burton and Taylor seems to be a reference to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the design of the pencil seems to be based on the Staedtler Lumograph.

Clifton's pencil

Clifton’s pencil (Image © Turk & De Groot)

Make me Welsh

After the BBC’s Make me a German this time: Make me Welsh. Funnily enough the TV series The Game I just mentioned was produced by BBC Cymru Wales, too. Sean told me about this programme and sent me a screenshot showing pupils using Staedtler’s Noris (very common in British schools).

Pensiliau Cymraeg

Pensiliau Cymraeg (Image © BBC Cymru)

 

Episodes

If that’t not enough Franconian pencils yet – there are plenty more in the latest season of Episodes. Episodes does again feature an extremely high density of Noris pencils per episode. I’ll skip the screenshot though as it would be virtually indistinguishable from the last one I posted.

 

Noris in the wild

To celebrate what is probably my favourite pencil, the Noris, I have put together a page from the different Noris in the wild blog posts, which can be found here.

Franken Bleistift


I would like thank Sean for the Make me Welsh screenshot.

I believe that the use of the screen shots, taken from Engrenages, The Game, Clifton and Make me Welsh falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. I’m not sure whether this claim is true, but nevertheless I’ll just repeat it here []
  2. I should have recognised it earlier …a few years ago I had a student with a very similar accent []

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. []

Staedtler UK 49

The 100th post at Bleistift. I thought I should make an extra effort for this blog post, so there will be the first ever giveaway at Bleistift (oh, go on then, scroll down to find out more about the giveaway before you read the article). Today’s post will look at the history of Staedtler UK. It is a follow-up post to the Staedtler Tradition1 110 post from March 20102.

By Appointment to the Late King George V

1790 – 1920 Wolff and Cohen

Elias Wolff

The history of Staedtler in the UK seems to date back as far as 1796. As far as I can tell this was the year when Elias Wolff, aged 15, started his career as a pencil maker. In 1822 he officially started his own company and by 1840 his son was on board and the name of the company changes to Elias Wolff and Son.

Why London?

The company was based in London, which is not surprising. The UK was and is very centralised and in the past graphite mining and production was controlled by the crown. Graphite had to be transported all the way from Cumbria to London, to be sold or auctioned. Soon Flemish traders were supplying graphite to all of Europe and the Society of Mines Royal asked the family of Höchstetter to apply their Bavarian mining techniques to make mining more efficient.

Solomon Cohen

Solomon Cohen, another pencil maker, was born around the same time as Elias Wolff. When his son Barnet Solomon Cohen took the business over he started trading as B.S. Cohen. In 1919, at a time when England had some of the best pencil factories in the world, B.S. Cohen and E. Wolff and Sons merged. The name for the new company: Royal Sovereign Pencil Co.

… and Napoleon?

These were turbulent times. Elias Wolff and Solomon Cohen were born around the time of the French Revolution and worked as pencil makers while the war between Britain and France and the Napoleonic Wars were going on.

Paulus Staedtler

Paulus Staedtler, another pencil maker, was born in 1779, in Nuremberg. Turbulent times there as well: Prussia took Nuremberg over before, in 1806, Napoleon’s army gave the city to their ally Bavaria – not long before all of Franconia was annexed to Bavaria in 1815. In 1835 Paulus’ son Johann Sebastian Staedtler started his own factory, the company we know today as Staedtler.

1919 – 1992 Royal Sovereign Pencil Co

The Royal Sovereign Pencil Co started life in 1919 and was renamed to Royal Sovereign Group Ltd in 1974, just before the factories where taken over by Staedtler. Strangely enough the names Wolff and Royal Sovereign never belonged to Staedtler. I have to assume that the new Royal Sovereign company only held on to the names and maybe some other intellectual property rights, not to any hardware. As far as I can tell, based on information provided by Companies House, the United Kingdom Registrar of Companies, the company was taken over in 1987. It took me a while to figure out that the company that took over the rights to the trademarks etc must be the Dickinson Robinson Group, a company that pioneered a number of innovations in paper-making in the 19th century. In 1989 this group was then taken over by Pembridge Investments, around the same time the rest of Royal Sovereign became part on Nontradorm, before the rest of the Royal Sovereign Group was officially dissolved in 1992. The names “Wolff” and “Royal Sovereign” do however live on. A family owned business, West Design Products, somehow got hold of the rights to the names Wolff and Royal Sovereign and sell Indonesian-made pencils under this name. A first attempt at contacting West Design Products nearly twelve months ago was unfortunately left unanswered, as was a subsequent attempt, so I was not able to find out how these traditional names came into their possession and whether their pencils are made in Staedtler’s Indonesian factory.

West Design’s Wolff’s Graphite Sketch Set

1975 – 2009 from Royal Sovereign to Staedtler UK – how the pencils changed

RS Bonded

In April 1966 Royal Sovereign started to produce two different types of Staedtler pencils in Pontyclun, Wales. The early Staedtler Tradition 110 pencils made there had “RS – Bonded” printed on them. The factory still made Royal Sovereign pencils and they, too, had “RS – Bonded” printed on them. These early Staedtler Tradition pencils were pre-sharpened on the right side, i.e. looking at the pencil with the print facing up, the right side of the pencil has been sharpened. The RS Bonded version hexagonal, like all other Tradition 110s, and mainly red. The cap has the typical Staedtler look, but only the side of the pencil with the gold letter print is painted black. All other sides of the pencil are red with a thin black strip in the middle.

Bonded

The next generation of Welsh-made Tradition 110 pencils is pre-sharpened on the left, the same way as nearly all modern pencils. This means that the text on the pencil is not upside down if the pencil is held in the right hand, as was the case with the RS Bonded version. The black and red pattern changed, too, and is identical to modern Staedtler Tradition 110s. The side with the print and the opposite side are black. The other fours sides are red with a black strip between two adjacent red sides. For this generation the stamped text “RS Bonded” has been replaced with “Bonded”.

Jet Bonded

The next generation of Tradition 110 pencils was probably released around 1972, a few years before Staedtler bought the factory in Pontyclun in 1975. This is the first generation of UK Tradition 110s, where the glue has been applied by a machine. Previous version had the glue applied manually. The print changed from “Bonded” to “Jet Bonded”.

Barcode S

I am not sure whether there has been a generation3 of Tradition 110s between the previous Jet Bonded version and the next version that features a bar code. It is more than likely that this version of the Tradition 110 was released in 1990 or shortly after.

Last generation

You can still find the last generation of the Tradition 110 made in Pontyclun in some shops that have old stock. This generation was in production until the factory was closed in 2007/2008. Around the same time, in 2008/09, the rest of Staedtler UK moved to nearby Bocam Park, about five miles West of Pontyclun.

Australia

Royal Sovereign had two factories, one in Pontyclun, South Wales (UK) and one in Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) and when Staedtler took over they bought both factories.  Unfortunately, the one in Dee Why (Sydney) closed down nearly 40 years after it opened, around the same time as the one in Pontyclun. Another Staedtler plant that was closed shortly after was the one in Pahang, Malaysia. Products previously manufactured in Australia and Malaysia are now made in Thailand (pens) and Indonesia (pencils). It is a real shame that these factories had to close down.

Pencils can last a long time. On several occasions I took a whole day worth of notes using a Staedtler Mars Lumograph F without having the sharpen the pencil the whole day. In comparison some other pencils wear down really fast, a Dixon Ticonderoga for example, or most of the Korean pencils I know4. Even the ones that wear down fast are usually good value for money, the ones that last longer often cost a bit more, but are even better value for money. In a time when many consumers will buy the cheapest pencil they see in the supermarket it must be difficult for the established, high quality pencil manufacturers to keep smaller factories and factories in high wage countries alive. I hope that in the future consumers will not just buy any old, scratchy pencil, but a good one, so that these factories can stay open as long as possible.

Pencil and ballpoint pen from Staedtler UK, sharpener from KUM

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. There was more I wanted to include, but this post starts to get a bit too long, so I will write more about Staedtler’s popularity in the UK another time. If you have further information about Staedtler UK’s history or pencils, not mentioned here, or if you find any mistakes please let me know.

Giveaway

After I heard that Staedtler’s Welsh factory closed down I started buying pencils from this factory in different shops. To celebrate the 100th blog post I am giving away three prizes, they are not worth a lot (check penciltalk’s anniversary post: How much is my pencil worth? Probably nothing! …but they were made in Staedtler’s UK factory in Pontyclun).

You can win…

  • A dozen Welsh-made Staedtler Noris. You can choose between the rubber-tipped version (Noris 122 HB) or the version with the traditional Staedtler cap (Noris 120 HB)
  • A pack of six  Welsh-made sketching pencils
  • A blister pack with three Welsh-made Staedtler Tradition 110s

I am happy to send the prizes to any country as long as Royal Mail doesn’t refuse to send them there. I will use random.org to get a random number and the author of the corresponding article will get the price (unless I am the author or the comment is definitely spam, e.g. advertising for medicine, …). To take part please leave your comments before Friday, 8th July, 23:59 UTC.


I bought West Design’s Wolff’s Graphite Sketch Set in September 2010 from Granthams in Preston for £4.25 (~ $6.80; €4.70). The Sketching pencils set with six pencils (B – 6B) used to sell for £1.70 (~ $2.70; €1.90) in Granthams and for £3.70 (~ $5.90; €4.10) in Paperchase. All the old Staedtler Tradition 110 pencils are from shops in and around Lancashire. The oldest ones are from a corner shop about 200 yards from my home.

Exchange rates: July 2011

If you want to read more about Staedtler UK’s pencils…

You can find more information about…

I would like to thank my colleague and business historian, Dr. Mitch Larson, who gave me very useful information and suggested contacting Companies House, a registrar I hadn’t been in contact with for ten years.

  1. Last time I spelled Tradition lower case, as printed on the pencils, but for this post I decided to consistently start with a Capital. []
  2. A post that mentioned that Stephen Wiltshire is using the Staedtler Tradition. Twelve months later Staedtler managed to get his support for their pigment liners. []
  3. or several generations []
  4. This is not meant as complaint. These pencils have other advantages, e.g. a very dark line []

Staedtler promotional tins 2011 3

Next year Staetdler will release “nostalgic metal tins” as a limited edition. There will be tins for the Mars Lumograph, the Noris and the Tradition (yes,  this time with an upper case “T”).

I assume that that only the tins have the nostalgic look and that  the pencils inside will have the modern look.

Fantastic! I hope I will be able to buy some before they are gone. Getting this years 1835-2010 set was difficult enough.


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. []