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 GERMANY [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 retain 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.

A Little Staedtler Noris Handicraft.

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Following in the footsteps of Matthias, some simple handicraft.

Background:
I am a big fan of the Noris, but they are not available in the USA normally. I found ten unpackaged versions from a domestic seller on eBay. They were packed very badly, and five showed up with the red end caps cracked, to varying degrees. To be sure, the envelope (white and paper — not for packaging pencils!) was full of red paint chips. I didn’t feel like dealing with a return and all that.

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Solution:
I thought of what I could do to repair the five bad units. I considered eraser caps. But unless I could find very very red ones, that would ruin the aesthetics of what I consider to be a beautiful pencil. I remembered some enamel in the house: my daughter’s nail polish. She said she wouldn’t mind Daddy “stealing” some for pencil repair purposes. I took the closest thing to red and tried it on the pencils with the most red paint left on their tops. I should have read “Bubblegum” on the label before I used it: hot pink with subtle sparkles. Against the background of the black granite counter, it really did look red to me at the time. But, I am not bothered by this. It’s Crayola and scented to boot. The ones with really bad paint? I used purple, for my daughter and for the Ravens. I even added a sparkle top-coat (not pictured yet). I am not kidding. The results tickled the dickens out of a 3-year-old. She’s got one with her princess pencil and markers right now.

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The Process:
Apply a bit of the polish with the pencil’s business end pointing down. Smooth it out, until you’re satisfied with the volume of paint. Next, hang the pencil with the point facing the ceiling/sky. Turn it slowly, and blow on it for a few minutes. Realize you should have opened a window or otherwise not done this project in the kitchen. Leave it to dry, being careful not to stick three of them together, needing to re-do them all (ahem).

Enjoy your repaired German pencils!

(Apologies for the bad photos. I’m not sure why the light in my kitchen is so weird.)

In Praise of Thick.


Loose Arrows has a great post about preferring thick pencils and thick leads. Personally, I enjoy them as well and have found a fat ole’ learner’s pencil to be just the thing for days of really sore hands and/or really big notes.

“I’ve become a big fan of jumbo pencils with triangular cross sections.  I’m not sure whether it’s because they remind me of wankel rotary engines, or because I have long fingers and do a lot of writing.  I’m particularly impressed with the Staedtler Norris Triplus Jumbo in bumblebee plumage.  It has great balance, nice grip, and best of all, the 4mm HB lead puts down a line as dark and dense as antimatter.”

Read more at Loose Arrows, “A blog about sharp things” that features a lot of good stuff about pencils.  Also, see previous mentions of the Ergosoft, from Scruss.

(Images, Loose Arrows.)