Staedtler Pencilmaker Set

We recently covered the 250th anniversary celebrations of Faber-Castell, who have been making pencils in Nuremberg, Germany, since 1761. Nuremberg has played a major role in pencil manufacturing, including other famous names such as Schwan-Stabilo. However, the Nuremberg company laying claim to the longest tradition of production is actually Staedtler, who can trace their history back to 1662, when first references to Friedrich Staedtler as a pencil-making craftsman were made in the city annals. Faber-Castell have the longest-established formal company however, and the two companies are friendly rivals. The current Staedtler managing director, Herr Axel Marx, was an honoured guest at the Faber birthday celebrations.

The earliest pencils were simply solid sticks of graphite originating from the only known source of solid graphite, in Borrowdale in the English Lake District. As the popularity of this useful new tool spread more convenient handling methods started with simple cloth or sheepskin wraps, and then hollowed-out wooden holders. At some point it was realized that the best method was to use two shaped pieces of wood with a channel cut out into which the graphite is inserted. The two halves are then glued together — et voilà! — the modern pencil is born and that method is still pretty much intact today.

The only substantive change since then was the move to lead made from powdered graphite, which is a much more common source of the material. This method involves baking a mixture of graphite and a clay binding agent, and was discovered by Nicholas Conté, whose name is still on a great pencil brand today. Varying the proportion of these materials gives us the relative hardness or softness of the lead. See our lead hardness information page for details.

Pencil ‘lead’ contains no actual lead (the metallic element) of course, but you know that. Graphite is a form of pure carbon, non-toxic and very stable. Fascinatingly a single atomic layer of graphite has some extraordinary properties and is the new wonder-material du jour, graphene.

Anyway, where were we?

Ah yes, scroll forward several hundred years and we find ourselves on Staedtler’s stand at PaperWorld 2011, Frankfurt, where there was a demonstration of semi-authentic 18th century pencil manufacture by a semi-authentic 18th century craftsman. Batches of wood pencil halves with channels cut through; lengths of extruded lead; some glue; press the halves together; bind with some string and apply a little wax seal to hold the string and brand the product. The poor chap was there for several days manufacturing these things whilst wearing a silly hat, but somebody’s got to do it. Our hand-made pencil now has pride of place here at Cult Pens Towers. Staedtler at PaperWorld 2011

So, all terribly interesting we hear you politely say, but what’s in it for us? OK, listen up: Staedtler produced a little commemorative make-your-own-pencil kit which they opted not to bring to the UK. However the lovely people at Staedtler UK are nothing if not obliging and we’ve managed to get hold of five pencil kits to give away to lucky participants in a little give-away. The set, it has to be said, is pretty simple but it's presented in a nice tin and would make a great gift for a child for a little painless craft + history lesson, or just as a nice Staedtler collectors’ item.

OK, you're going to have work just a little bit for this one.

We'll award a kit each to four people who post the best comments to this article - that interest, amuse, educate, entertain or baffle us on the subject of pencils. No essays required - just one sentence could do it! A fact, a memory, an observation, an opinion, a haiku, a joke, or whatever. For the terminally lazy and/or uninspired, the fifth kit will be awarded at random to someone who retweets our announcement of this competition - check out @cultpens.

**Competition now closed - thank you for all your entries**

The overall winner, as determined by popular vote at the Cult Pens office, will receive a load of extra Staedtler goodies.

Small print: We'll even post these internationally, so everyone's eligible. You can enter as many times as you like. Closing date 31 August 2011. Judges decision is final. No penguins.

Meanwhile, in other Staedtler news you can currently pick up a sample of their excellent 308 Pigment Liner drawing pen from us for just 10p or qualify for a free set of 4 Lumocolor markers when you spend £25 (both offers have now expired).

Cult Pens stocks the widest range of Staedtler products in the UK, and probably the widest range in the world. Great company, great products. (Yes, yes, we’re shamelessly begging for another birthday invitation to Nuremberg! We miss the bier und bratwurst.)

Recommended reading: Staedtler History · Pencils at Wikipedia · Graphite at Wikipedia · Graphene at Wikipedia · Bratwurst at Wikipedia

17 August 2011


  • Quizt 28 December 2011

    I was casting about on the Internet for durable and affordable multi-pens, of which there are regrettably few on this side of the Pond, and happened upon the Cult Pens site and this illuminating exposition of pencil-craft. Having owned a British Museum kit on writing that includes a replica of a cuneiform reed, having used a variety of Staedler products in my time, and having taught a wide range of subject matter through reference to beer, pencils and other homely necessities, I am very nearly insanely jealous of the winners of the Staedtler pencil-making kits. My devastation at having found Cult Pens far too late to compete, however, is tempered by my delight in your erudite but unstuffy blog, which I am now following via Facebook.

  • stephen ashcroft 30 November 2011

    A pedant (carrying a Staedtler Pencilmaker Set)walks into a bar. Well, it's a restaurant with a bar. Technically it's a pub since it has an onsite microbrewery. interest, amuse, educate, entertain, baffle - check!

  • magali 9 October 2011

    my story with pencils start very soon in my life... even before i was mom was passionate by drawing... she learnt how to be clothe's designer. from a poor family, we didn't have enough money to put wall paper in the house then my mom drew on the walls... giving my brother and me, pencils to make our own contribution to our walls...( and they are still there 30 years later to bring memories!) very sick kid, i stayed long time in my bed... then i start drawing too... only way to escape by i'm 32, and i still use pencils everyday... drawing to my daughter a vocabulary book to learn... pencils are all a world for me... graphit, color, metallic, water colors... so many thing to do with them... i can say that my life been traced and fulfill by pencils colored or not...

  • Denis Byrne 19 September 2011

    The first pencils were just chunks of graphite.

  • Chris Otley 8 September 2011

    "In the simple drawing of a fish there is as much artistry and imagery as in a drawing of the human figure or, I should like to say, as there is in a drawing of the entire world and all its cities."

  • Dries 5 September 2011

    Thank you Trevor!:-)

  • DavidH 5 September 2011

    I can't take credit for it but The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead. ~ Robert Brault Is a great quote. The pencil on my desk is about half its length now and that eraser is still untouched, its not that I don't make mistakes, but so many of my mistakes can be turned into something great. A pencil and a dream can take you anywhere. ~ Joyce A. Myers

  • John 2 September 2011

    "you can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead". Stan Laurel.

  • stewart eccles 2 September 2011

    where would any craft be without the humble pencil, wed have no buildings built correctly , an artist would not have one of his most important tools in his bag so for this i thank the humble pencil and its craftsman

  • Cult Pens 2 September 2011

    OK, competition closed. Eligible entries were put up for vote among the Cult Pens staff and prizes go to: Leviathan, Millicent, Ronny Hart and Martin Rose! The judge's vote for the overall winner is Ronny Hart. We'll be in touch - drop us an email if you don't get an email from us. Meanwhile on the retweet front, @stormfayre bags the 5th set. Thanks to all!

  • Martin Rose 31 August 2011

    Did you hear about the constipated mathematician who worked it out with a pencil? Martin Tasmania

  • Leviathan 30 August 2011

    Q: How long did it take the pencil to get from A to B? A: Forever, because it's Stationery! Come on! It's so bad it's gotta be good!

  • Michael 30 August 2011

    A single shaft of lead, so many possibilities

  • TrevorML 30 August 2011

    DOH!!! "barely" NOT "bared" ... told you my English was lousy... looks like I REALLY DO need these pencils to be able to very much practice my crappy English :-)

  • TrevorML 30 August 2011

    @Dries no need to apologise for your English at all !!! I can bared speak English and it is the only language I "know" :-) :-) so your English is a million times better than my Belgian :-) cheers

  • Dries 30 August 2011

    As a student/pen/pencil collector i can always use one more pencil. when i first heard about these staedtler goodies i was a little dissapointed because they where limited and not for sale :-( but now my hope returned :-) awesome !!! i love you cultpens!!! (PS: and of course it would be a nice end of the hollidays !) (PPS: sorry for the bad english i'm from Belgium and i'm still a student)

  • Ronny Hart 26 August 2011

    There is nothing as magical as a line drawn with a pencil. When I was a small boy I would flatten paper sacks and draw comic strips on them with a pencil on the kitchen floor. I was always amazed at the way simple lines could actually look like something real. This magical quality of graphite on paper to fool the eye into perceiving three dimensional objects and even to evoke emotions is why I have quit all other mediums and returned to doing pencil drawings exclusively.

  • Marta Almeida 26 August 2011

    I want this because it is beautiful, stylish, exclusive and timeless (and obviously, a Staedtler). Any more words would be just to gild the main intent.

  • millicent 26 August 2011

    Never mind the whole "pen mightier than the sword" thing - a pencil has the capacity to be a double ended weapon. The pointed end is suited to the written word, which can unleash a torrent of damage if not handled with care. Yet the opposite end from the point can be used to remove a 250lb drunken idiot from a pub. All that from a humble pencil!

  • Andrés Felipe 24 August 2011

    I want this pencilmaker set just because writing is the most important thing you can ever learn in life.

  • David 22 August 2011

    A monkey, when given some pencils, drew lots of great lines (using stencils), He managed to draw, without using his claws, because his tail was prehensile. I know, I know, I should be working.......

  • TrevorML 22 August 2011

    Staedtler pencils have always been really great I have used them for years and years because they write well and rarely break and because of this they never brought me to tears and let me get on with with whatever I wanted to do whether I am happy or I am blue. cheers from Oz

  • TrevorML 22 August 2011


  • Cult Pens 22 August 2011

    If this was QI, there'd be a big klaxon sound and Mr Fry would be deducting points from you.

  • David 21 August 2011

    How many pencils does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, they're pencils.

  • millicent 21 August 2011

    Having grown up in the construction industry with carpenter's pencils, I can only think of one thing when I look at the kit: Building the future, once pencil at a time . . . Corny perhaps, but still very true :)

  • Nick 21 August 2011

    Have you ever seen a left-handed pencil? Left-handed pencils do exist. But it has nothing to do with the way it writes - it's all about the text printed on the pencil. On an ordinary pencil the text runs from the tip to the head so you can read it when you hold it. (Being left-handed myself, I can tell you it's hard enough trying to find left-handed scissors!)

  • Kate 21 August 2011

    •The average pencil can be sharpened 17 times, write 45,000 words or draw a line 35 miles long.

  • David 21 August 2011

    When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C. The Russians just used a pencil.

  • Spaniel 21 August 2011

    Whoever said "The pen (or pencil) is mightier than the sword" obviously never encountered automatic weapons!

  • Atticus Parker 21 August 2011

    The pencil looks good but I want the tin it comes in :)

  • Staedtler pencilmaker sets to be won » Bleistift 20 August 2011

    [...] leads at Cult Pens when I noticed that there are four Staedtler pencilmaker sets to be won on their blog. They post internationally. Deadline is 31 August 2011. 20 August 2011 | memm | No Comments [...]

  • Matthias 20 August 2011

    Recommended reading: Bratwurst at Wikipedia ???? Hmm, they do mention Nuremberg sausages on that page, so it is a fitting link...

  • Andrew 17 August 2011

    Graphite clay wrapped Creative apparatus Plain simple pleasure

  • Heather 17 August 2011

    pencils are sublime delicate potential hue secret indulgence

  • Fayre 17 August 2011

    When I first went to the Lake District I thought I could write with sticks that had fallen off the trees. I thought that pencils were just straightened twigs and special trees had to be grown for different colours. Was a bit of a downer when I was told you had to make pencils putting the graphite in between two pieces of wood. Then they told me that spaghetti isn't grown on trees either. It was a bad year for childhood illusions...

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