I found these at Staples (in the US) a few weeks ago and bought a pack. At $10 for three dozen, it was a pretty good deal. Less than $3.50 for some quality pencils is something I’d find it difficult to pass up. But three dozen is…a commitment to make to the Pencil Gods, when the pencil might just be terrible. I mean, they are pencils. One can’t just throw them away if they turn out to be awful. Luckily, these pencils are not awful at all. Unluckily, having a Big Box means that I’ve given most of them away already.
I have two blue Norica 2B pencils from Matthias that I like very much. It’s a smooth and dark writing pencil, and one is actually in my Go-To Pencil Cup for quick notes. Heather has a review of the blue HB version available in Canada. I’d never seen them for sale in the US, and I was delighted to spot them in person, with some other new and unexpected (stay tuned!) Staedtler items at Staples.
The finish is a nice matte black, very much like the last USA-made run of the Dixon “Black” and the 2010 edition of the Palomino Blackwing. The stamping is silver foil and much sharper than the Blackwing. The only marks are “STAEDTLER norica HB 2″ on one side. The silver ferrules are affixed much better than those of any recent Dixon pencils. Topped with a white eraser, the black HB Norica is one attractive-looking pencil.
It’s made in Thailand out of a wood that I think is basswood (?). Truth be told, it smells like lumber when sharpened. Usually, non-cedar woods don’t smell much at all, but this is an exception. Out of the three dozen I originally bought, the cores were nearly perfectly centered in 90% of them and were still well-centered in the other 10%. I like that. I like that very much.
The core is pleasant to write with. For a pencil from Staples that sells for that price, it’s very smooth, with a pleasant darkness than runs along the lines of the current Dixon Chinese models in HB, possibly running a little more smoothly, definitely a touch more darkly. Despite not being made of cedar, the pencil sharpens well, with no splintering or cracking.
Smearing and ghosting are pretty much what can be expected for an HB core that runs a little to the Dark Side. If you’re a Comrade who requires very tidy papers, anything this dark is going to smear and ghost a little. But it’s not terrible with the Norica, certainly.
The Norica erases completely via a Mars eraser, though the attached eraser leaves a bit of graphite traces behind. The Norica’s eraser is adequate, but (and we say this a lot) few, if any, pencil-topped erasers work half as well as a good plastic block eraser. I will add that the Norica’s white eraser does not hold dirt as some other pencil-topped erasers do (Dixon’s pink, Blackwing’s white, Mirado’s pink). As such, I find myself actually using this eraser.
I was very happy to find good pencils, at Staples, in person, that come in a box, didn’t cost a fortune, and write and look very nicely. There’s not much more a Pencil Fan can ask for, or, at least, not much more one can expect. The outlay and volume commitment are certainly mitigating factors if Comrades find them at, or order them from, Staples. But if you’re in need of a good-sized box of very good pencils for the price of merely good pencils, this might be right up your alley. Oh, and my pack came with two free Rasoplast erasers!