Review of Staedtler Wopex HB.

wopex_tiltshift
I have been meaning to review the Staedtler Wopex for a long time. But it is a pencil about which I have thought so much that it became a daunting task. For starters, this is not the kind of pencil I expect to like. I usually like something a little darker, and the fake wood angle is not one that attracts me.* The lead feels waxy, but in a tacky – not necessarily smooth – way. And it was, until recently, difficult and/or expensive to build a Stash of them in The Archive. But there’s something about this hard-to-sharpen and heavy pencil that pleases me to no end. On yet another Snowday at HQ, I thought I’d sit down and write about it.
wopex_book
The Wopex is an extruded pencil made of recycled wood and plastic. This is nothing new. Nor is the finish being part of the extrusion new. But Staedtler has improved on the process, in my opinion. For starters, they released the Wopex during a time of greater ecological consciousness. I was young when Eagle came out with their extruded pencils, but it was certainly not a time of great eco-attention. One of my least favorite things about the older plastic pencils is their flexibility. Not only do the barrels feel like they might snap under my meaty grip; they actually bend when I write with them using anything but the lightest touch. The fact that these older plastic pencils have such light-marking leads that they require significant pressure for legible writing exacerbates their shortcomings, in my experience. The Wopex is dense, heavy and rigid. It is very comfortable to write with.
wopex_3points
I bought a 10-pack from Amazon, at the end of summer 2013, for around $8-$9. These have the same subtle glittery-sparkly finish as the European models which Matthias was kind enough to send me. The feel is very…grippy, but not in the sticky manner of some grippy pens which attract lint and pieces of coffee grounds like Silly Putty. The newer Wopex pencils that I found at Staples this winter are a much brighter green, and the sparkles are gone. They have a nice, tactile sensation to their finish, but it is no more than half as tacky as the few European Wopexen I have or the eraser-tipped version I bought on Amazon a few months ago.
wopex_point
The lead is extruded with the barrel, and it is a plastic/graphite composite – similar to the leads for mechanical pencils. As I mentioned, it feels tacky and produces a light line. However, as several other bloggers have pointed out, this pencil’s marks stick to the page. They do not smear or transfer (ghost) easily. As such, I find that they make excellent pencils for pocket notebooks, and I keep shorter ones on my person.** I am surprised by how much I like it for Pocket Writing.

These pencils are marketed as eco-friendly because of the material of which they are constituted and because they are supposed to last twice as long as a wooden pencil. I have not found this to be the case. Because their line is a little light, I sharpen them more often. So whatever long-lasting properties the lead might have is rendered moot by its lightness. As the current price of $5 (US) for a dozen and a half, it is certainly an economical pencil. And I do not generally mind needing to sharpen a pencil more often.
wopex_sharpener

As Matthias points out, the Wopex is tricky to sharpen. There are sharpeners from Staedtler with a small W on the underside that are supposed to be great for the Wopex. The only reason I have found this to be partly true is that the blades are very sharp and are held fast to the sharpener body. Any KUM sharpener with a similarly new blade that I have tried has given me the same results. With care, I can get a nice point with a wedge sharpener, and it is what I often use to sharpen a Wopex. Burr sharpeners do no work as well. I lost a good inch and a half from my first Wopex last year by using a crank sharpener. The Wopex material gives the blades so much resistance that the auto-stop does not work. Using such a sharpener with care and not making the Wopex point into a plastic needle works satisfactorily, if one stops the sharpening process short. A Deli 0668 that Matthias sent me works great, with the point adjustor dialed back from the sharpest setting a bit. Also, I have been improving my knife sharpening skills lately, venturing into blade sharpening on occasion.
wopex_ferrules
The eraser is white and surprisingly good. It erases better than most of the Pencil-Mounted Erasers I have on hand, and even a few block erasers. To be sure, it’s no match for the Mars plastic eraser. But it does bunch its “dust” together into a tight ball in a similar fashion. It is soft, but stiff, and very securely clamped into the ferrule. I am trying to think of a pencil whose mounted eraser is better than the Wopex’s, and I am drawing a blank (or, at least, with a German 9H).

wopex_ferrule_attachment
What struck me about the new US version, aside from the brighter green, is the ferrule. I am not aware of owning other pencils with this feature. The ferrule is molded to both the eraser and the barrel. It is round where it holds the eraser. And it is actually hexagonal where it meets the barrel of the pencil. The result is an inexplicably pleasant feeling of Completeness. Please, Comrades, do not judge me too harshly for staring at one of these pencils long enough to find the source of this Completion Sensation. The other result of this Ideal Marriage of Ferrule Ends is that the ferrule does its job very well. You ain’t getting this pencil apart without large steel tools, several people or very very strong teeth.
IMG_2381
The Wopex is available in quite a few colors in Europe, and I have considered attempting to collect them myself. I am glad that it is finally available in the US at all, and I hope we get a few more hues. There’s a market for neon pencils, Staedtler! I am a huge fan of these pencils. Send us some colors, and make us Happy.

*But I have recently acquired some eraser-tipped Bic Evolution pencils, after a recommendation by Speculator, and I am enjoying them.

**Perhaps subconsciously, I matched the case for my recently-purchased Android phone to the green of a Wopex, since they often ride in the same pocket.

9 Responses to “Review of Staedtler Wopex HB.”

  1. Gunther says:

    Thank you for this thorough review! I would like to add a detail regarding sharpening the WOPEX, based on my experience: If you use e. g. the M+R “Granate” wich is economical because it produces thin shavings you will notice that it will more carve than cut, i. e. tends to slip and produces a lot of small shavings. Other sharpeners like some from KUM and those marked “W” from STAEDTLER produce thicker shavings and are therefore easier to use with the WOPEX.

    • John says:

      Thanks, Gunther! It’s strange that, despite it being tricky to sharpen, so many of us are still so enamored by this pencil. ;)

      • Gunther says:

        You’re welcome! (Of course “wich is economical” should read “which is economical”.) I would like to add yet another detail I have recently discovered: The re-engineered KUM 400-5L sharpens the WOPEX very well.

  2. Matthias says:

    Nice to see a knife sharpened Wopex in your post! …and what a great review.

    It looks as if the Wopex’s unusual properties make us use it in different ways. While you sharpen them often I tend to get away without sharpening them for a long time – the only other pencil I can think of, off the top of my head, where this is the case is the Staedtler Mars in F.

    I tend to use what I think is few pressure with pencils, so I wonder whether few pressure gives you a fairly dark line, compared to a standard pencil, while a lot of pressure doesn’t increase the darkness and gives you a lighter line, compared to using a similar pressure on a standard pencil. I should try that out.

    The ferrule on the Noris eco, currently the only Wopex with a ferrule in Europe, is similar to the darker Wopex in your pictures. Is that the new American Wopex?

    • John says:

      Thanks, Matthias! The darker one is the new North American version. I hope they keep them in the USA line-up!

      I have some of these to send you and to Gunther, when I get to the Post Office (hopefully by Friday). I miss the grip and glitter a bit, but the fit and feel of these make it a great pencil.

  3. […] in some way (whether truly or not). There are some very nice pencils in this category, like the Wopex, Forest Choice, Ticonderoga EnviroStik*, O’Bon, etc. I promise that this will be a very cool […]

  4. […] can check out the Well Appointed Desk and Pencil Revolution for additional perspective and detail on these Staedtler WOPEX pencils.  In the mean time though, […]

  5. […] are magnificent! They remind me more of the European finish, which is more rubbery and sparkly than the North American version we reviewed this spring. Everything I loved about the green Wopex, I love about this […]

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