Well, I now have an answer to this question: The Tradition is currently also made from upcycled wood.
In the UK it is common for kids who visit a children’s birthday party to get a goody bag to take home. They usually contain sweets, but you won’t be surprised to learn that the ones we put together contain stationery. Not for the first time we bought Staedtler stationery sets for the goodie bags. This year the goody bags include a set of 12 Noris colour pencils, a Mars plastic eraser and a Staedtler Tradition. I ordered them recently and now that the sets have arrived it turns out that the included Tradition is made from ‘upcycled wood’. You can see the set hereand guess what, the day after I ordered these sets for the party goody bags the price came down because they are now on offer.
I am not sure if all Staedtler Traditions are made from upcycled wood, but my guess would be that they don’t produce a wood-cased version on top of the upcycled version as that seems too messy.
With the very common at least in Europe very common Noris and Tradition both being made from upcycled wood I wonder which pencils will be made from ‘normal’ wood now. Does it make sense to have cheaper pencils made from real wood while the Noris and Tradition are not made from real wood? We’ll have to wait and see if the affordable Minerva, the colourful 172 and the ‘natural looking’ 123 60 will still be made from real wood. They are probably produced in much smaller numbers so they might not get the switch to upcycled wood.
When we look at more expensive pencils there is Staedtler’s big boy: the Lumograph. I would be surprised if the Lumograph will be made from upcycled wood in the near future as that would go in hand in hand with switching over to a very different lead. I don’t think the typical Lumograph users would be happy with an extruded lead.
There’s also the question of how all the wood from Staedtler’s new Gmelina plantation will be used. You can read more about it in this press release. How will the wood be used if many of the big sellers are now made from upcycled wood? I hope the Lumograph will be made from cedar, but I wonder if most of Staedtler’s real wood pencils will use their own Gmelia wood soon.
Julia Donaldson wrote the text for the previously mentioned book ‘The Detective Dog’ and is world-famous for her Gruffalo book(s). It’s great to know that she is also partial to good pencils …and like Sara Ogilvie she is also using Staedtler’s Tradition.
The screenshots of Julia Donaldson using a Staedtler Tradition have been taken from the documentary ‘The Magical World of Julia Donaldson’. I believe that the use of these images falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.
While the magistrate is using Staedtler’s Noris the police is using the Tradition:
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 Scouse I should have recognised it earlier …a few years ago I had a student with a very similar accent.
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.
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).
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.
This is not the first time that I mention the fact that Staedtler pencils are quite common in the UK 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.. 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.
Let’s start with real, i.e. non-fictional, people using Staedtler pencils.
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 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.
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.
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.
Before I finish this blog post, a quick look at fictional characters outside the UK who use Staedtler pencils.
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.
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.
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 Tradition Last time I spelled Tradition lower case, as printed on the pencils, but for this post I decided to consistently start with a Capital. 110 post from March 2010A post that mentioned that Stephen Wiltshire is using the Staedtler Tradition. Twelve months later Staedtler managed to get his support for their pigment liners..
1790 – 1920 Wolff and Cohen
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.
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, 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, 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.
1975 – 2009 from Royal Sovereign to Staedtler UK – how the pencils changed
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.
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”.
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”.
I am not sure whether there has been a generation or several generations 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.
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.
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 know This is not meant as complaint. These pencils have other advantages, e.g. a very dark line. 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.
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.
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…
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.