Review of Staedtler Norica HB.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

24 Responses to “Review of Staedtler Norica HB.”

  1. Wesley says:

    I believe that the Staedtler norica is made with jetulong. It’s interesting that they are unavailable in the United States as they’re the standard wooden pencil at my high school.

    • John says:

      Thanks! It’s surprisingly strong smelling. Is the version in your country so…fragrant? :)

      • Wesley says:

        Canadian noricas are fairly fragrant but not to the extent of a Ticonderoga–or at least I’ve never noticed them being like that fragrant to be compared to a Ticonderoga.

        • John says:

          I don’t know what Dixon does, but their cedar and finish smell wonderfully together.

          Our talk of smelling pencils probably looks like a joke, to someone finding this page via Google. :)

  2. Wesley says:

    Pardon, *jelutong.*

  3. I really like the way these look: black and white and silver is very classy.

    (Shallow perhaps, but hey…)

  4. Jiri says:

    It looks almost exactly like Faber Castell 1112 :-)

  5. Heather says:

    It’s funny to see these in black rather than blue. I like it though! :)

    It would also be neat to see a comparison post of the different versions of the Norica available around the world.

  6. Jen says:

    I bought a box of these about a month ago, and they’ve been my go-to pencil ever since. I love how they write and I agree with Little Flower Petals: they look classy. Perhaps even more shallow is that I love how they match my Field Notes Night Sky notebooks, as Pencil Revolution previously noted!

  7. Bruce says:

    This pencil goes on sale at Staples for $5 per box of 36 pretty often. I’ve only seen it advertised once. It’s usually in the bins up front. You’ll see the pencils and a “$5″ sign in red.

    It is a very nice pencil!

  8. Matthias says:

    They look very elegant on your photos!
    Like Jiri said, they also look a bit like the FC 1112, which, I think, is made in Thailand, too. I have a colleague who told me they are his favourite pencils. He is visiting Thailand often and buys them there whenever he goes.

  9. Budhi D Sarmadi says:

    Just found this site. Another product from Staedtler. I haven’t found it.

    Here, in Indonesia, I use staedtler-Mars Lumograph 100. it’s good enough for daily activity, like sketching or writing. The price little bit cheaper than Norica, about 2.7 USD a box(12 pieces). I don’t know is it also found in US too.

    I use some other product too like Faber Castell or small brand product .

    Awesome site. Bookmark it. :D

  10. whatchamacallit says:

    Actually John, looking at your photos, the fit and finish of these reasonably priced pencils is shockingly good. I wonder if the eraser tips themselves are “Rasoplast” (portmanteau for ‘eraser’ + ‘plastic’ ?) as the material looks quite similar. Whenever possible I too test drive before buying in quantity, but if I get burned by the siren call of poorly made budget pencils I ruthlessly thin the herd. I don’t want them at home to remind me daily of my folly, nor do I want to send them out into the world to pollute the pencil gene pool.

    • John says:

      I was thinking the eraser on the back of the Noris is a little harder than the Rasoplast, but I’ll have to check again. I was very pleased that it stays clean-looking after being used.

  11. Adair says:

    Incredibly good daily-users for a very reasonable price.

  12. […] Staedtler Norica HB Review (via Pencil Revolution) […]

  13. Lisa says:

    If last year you thought , “At $10 for three dozen, it was a pretty good deal,” what would you think of $4 for three dozen!?! :)

    http://www.staples.com/Staedtler-Norica-2-HB-Woodcased-Pencils-Black-36-Pack/product_949327
    Use code 77975 for 20% discount (Expires August 21, 2014, 20% off your education supplies order of $10 or more)
    Free shipping w/ free Staples Rewards

    I splurged and purchased a 96 pack of Ticonderogas for $12 for school donation.
    http://www.staples.com/Ticonderoga-Woodcase-Pencil-HB-Soft-No-2-Lead-Yellow-Barrel-96/product_824797

    Happy writing!

  14. Pencilfanatic says:

    I have a pack of these that I am using for school & they are great.

  15. Pencilfanatic says:

    Yeah, @Lisa, I got mine at staples for around $5.00! :-D

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