Review of Staedtler Noris HB.

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I have held off on reviewing the Staedtler Noris for over a year. It is not officially available in the United States. But, if our traffic statistics do not lie, then a large portion of our readers read from Western European Outposts. Add the number of sellers on eBay who will ship packs of these German Beauties to our shores, and this pencil is far from a stranger to our little community – at least potentially. My daughter loves this pencil (see handicraft piece), and, finally, Staedtler sent some (as result of that piece) to HQ last month. It has become semi-ridiculous to have not reviewed this pencil by now.

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I am fortunate enough to have great Pencil Friends like Matthias and Gunther, both of whom have sent me wonderful Noris gear. The beautiful vintage Noris pencils in the photos are from Gunther. Matthias sent the sharpener (which is the envy of my peers who pass through Pencil Revolution HQ) and multi-grade Noris packs. I would be foolishly remiss not to mention that Comrades interested in the Noris (or pencils in general!) would do well to visit the wonderful posts about and photos of Noris pencils at Bleistift and Lexikaliker.

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I will be confining myself to the red-capped HB version of the Noris for now. This hexagonal pencil features two black sides and four yellow, with a black stripe running the length of the yellow sides’ intersections. The effect is striking. The ends are dipped in white lacquer and then (in the case of the HB) into red lacquer, resulting in a layered cap that further sets this pencil apart. The gold stamping is as fine as the haloed Mars Lumograph, though the texture and quality of the Noris’s paint job is certainly not as smooth or glossy as the top-tiered Lumograph. But that is neither the market nor the price-range of this pencil. Every Noris I have seen comes pre-sharpened and ready for action.

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A note on the print. Some of the German Norises I have on hand say:

MADE IN GERMANY [Mars logo] STAEDTLER Noris HB [boxed 2]

while others say:

MADE IN GERMANT [Mar slogo] STAEDTLER Noris school pencil [boxed HB]

I do not discern any quality differences between the two, though the former’s lead seems somewhat more waxy. I assume that the difference is in marketing, since the Noris (unlike the Lumograph) is billed as a writing pencil, not an art pencil. (Please, Comrades, do amend any mistakes I am making here, honestly.)

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I cannot tell what kind of wood this pencil is made of. I have read of the Noris being made of cedar and of jelutong. But none of mine smell like cedar or look like jelutong. (Perhaps this article by the always excellent Pencil Talk could be helpful.) The pencil’s wood is light-weight and is treated to sharpen very well. Despite not having the incensed aroma, whatever wood it is of which these pencils are constituted performs well as a pencil casing.

I like the core/lead very much, especially for what I understand is currently (?) a budget pencil in some markets. What it lacks in the smoothness of its Blue and Black Cousin, it more than makes up for in darkness. This core exhibits a nice balance of smear-resistance and erasability. Often a mark’s resistance to smearing makes erasing difficult, and, at other times, pencils whose marks are easier to erase make a smeary mess of a notebook. Point retention is average at best, and I find myself sharpening this pencil more often than any other German pencil I use in the HB grade. So my Noris pencils do not retrain their original measurements for long. Perhaps I was inspired by this photo of Gunther’s. But this is a pencil that looks good short! As I finally have more than a few stashed away in The Archive, I find myself reaching for this pencil, no matter how stubby the current one gets. To be sure, there is a very short Noris in my NaNoWriMo pencil box this year.

I heartily recommend the Noris, especially to American Comrades who might not be familiar with this pencil. It is available via a few eBay sellers who will ship overseas, some of whom even have reasonable shipping rates. I get a lot of comments when I use this pencil, whereupon I tell folks that it is commonplace, in, say, England – which I still find surprising — with a little jealousy that the common pencil depicted in our country is certainly not this distinctive.

27 Responses to “Review of Staedtler Noris HB.”

  1. A great review of my favourite pencil! Thanks.
    In my opinon the point retention isn’t too bad. It’s a shame that the Noris is not available in F like its cousin, the Staedtler Tradition.

  2. Sapphire says:

    This pencil turns up a lot in school rooms in England. I believe Staedtler is an official supplier in many school districts. Perhaps the school pencil is just printed on for that market. The Noris is a budget pencil in this country and features in the sort of pencil, eraser and sharpener blister packs you find in supermarkets next to the baked beans.
    It is fairly dark for an HB grade, much darker than, say, Faber Castell HB and darker than the B grade in the UFO Perfect Pencil.
    It’s a bit rougher and noisier than the Lumograph or even the Tradition, which is priced between these Staedtler offerings. I don’t find point retention a problem but then I twist and turn to get the benefit of all the corners that appear as the lead wears. It’s an unconscious habit probably born of parsimony.
    Nice to see a review of a pencil that’s common here.

    • John says:

      I think I over-stated the point retention issue. While pencils that can’t write more than a paragraph without needing to be sharpened do irk me for writing, I like when some pencils require the pause to hone the blade. :)

  3. Tim says:

    There are several vendors on EBay that sell these pencils. I found an EBay store called OMG How Cheap :) http://stores.ebay.co.uk/omghowcheap (I am not affiliated with this store). They appear to have international shipping since I accessed the store through the USA site, and have several types of Staedtler and other brands of pencils. I want to order one of everything!

  4. Gunther says:

    Thank you for reviewing this classic and iconic pencil, John! I would like to add that the quality of the lead has been improved considerably – just compare the Noris which has the all-caps lettering with the current one. – Re the wood: The old Noris were made from cedar. After that there was a phase (not so long ago) in which they have been made from Jelutong, and the current Noris is made from white fir (however, this only applies for the German Noris; I don’t know which wood has been used e. g. for the GB Noris). – By the way: The dipped cap with the curved border was introduced in 1954 so I expect all pencil aficionados to enthusiastically celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Noris cap next year ;-)

    • John says:

      Thank you for the info, Gunther, especially about the wood species.
      I volunteer to make Official Endcap Hats for next year. I have some red felt around here somewhere. :)

  5. KostasK says:

    Thank you for the excellent review of a great sensibly-priced pencil. By the way this is no knight, it is the head of the god Mars, as in Staedtler Mars.

  6. Gunther says:

    May I add a detail? On the oldest Noris, the one at the bottom in the third photo, is a small, fancy rectangle between “STAEDTLER” and “NORIS”. It encloses the astronomical sign of the planet Mars, flanked by two moons, namely Phobos and Daimos, the two Mars moons which were discovered in 1877 by the American astronomer Asaph Hall (i. e. 23 years before the Mars brand was registered).

  7. Sapphire says:

    Now you have to get the eraser tipped Noris, the Triplus Noris, the Triplus Noris Jumbo, the Noris Ergosoft Jumbo, the Eco Noris (a WOPEX version with green stripes) and the mechanical pencil made to look like a Noris Noris. :-)

    • John says:

      WOPEX NORIS?! I need to locate these ASAP! :) Another Staedtler pencil I am really enjoying is the Wopex, which is even harder to get in the States. :)

      • Sapphire says:

        Cult Pens has just started stocking them. Both WOPEX and all the Noris varients. cult pens.com. I haven’t tried them yet.

  8. dobro says:

    OMG how cheap claim the Noris is made from California cedar in their product info. However, I certainly am going to take Gunther’s word for it that the newest model is white fir, not some reseller’s unsupported assertion. That said, OMG how cheap is a very likely candidate with affordable shipping for those of us stateside who wish to purchase Staedtler’s incredibly attractive Noris and Tradition lines (£7.99 for all fourteen degrees of the Tradition, anyone?), plus they sell Noris Jumbos in school yellow, and yellow and black. They also sell a very pretty selection of Lyra in blue, Helix Oxfords, and Comrade John’s aforementioned Noris tub sharpener. For the life of me I can’t understand why Staedtler doesn’t distribute their Noris and Tradition over here. They are every bit as iconic as the Mars Lumograph and Faber-Castell 9000. Fine review and commentary everyone!

    • John says:

      They shipped quickly to me in Maryland. I might add that they did not mention that I bought the Noris School Pencil, which might irritate some folks (and did irritate me for a few minutes).

    • Gunther says:

      dobro, many manufacturers change their wood – or at least suppliers – now and then, especially with pencils in the lower range, so I won’t rule out the possibility that some newer Noris pencils are (or have been) made from cedar.

  9. […] Staedtler Noris HB Review (via Pencil Revolution) […]

  10. Antonio Bouza says:

    Sometime -duall.com- carries Noris pencils in the States. I bought a few boxes, two years ago. They currently have the Noris Club Learners Triangle, http://www.duall.com/store/product/117982.118015/noris-club-learners-triangular-pencils-hb-degree-box-of-12.html.

  11. Adam says:

    What a good review. As other commenters have said this pencil is pretty ubiquitous in the UK, and it’s good to see reviews of something that, to me, was an everyday staple of my school days. Even now there’s a box of Staedtler Traditions in the stationary cupboard at work.

    I didn’t realise that these pencils are rare outside Europe. Maybe I should buy a couple boxes and send them over to you :)

    • John says:

      Thanks, Adam. :)
      Perhaps if we all ask enough on this side of the pond, Staedtler will offer the Noris line here — and the Wopex and Tradition. :)
      (One can hope!)

  12. Cia says:

    I picked up some of the eraser-tipped version of these pencils in my college store today. 3.50 for a dozen :D

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