Staedtler 134 yellow pencil

Staedtler 134 pencil

pencil talk has had ongoing comments on the Staedtler 134 yellow pencil. The 134 is apparently a standard pencil in many Asian countries, yet it is absent from Staedtler’s websites. The pencil is not sold in North America.

The name is just a bit odd – it is clearly a yellow pencil – so why call it “yellow pencil”? This somehow reminds me of “No name” brand products, and those establishments calling themselves “Le Café”, “The Bar”, and so on.

It’s a delight to finally get some of these pencils for my own examination.

Let me mention something as an aside – I’m well aware that this blog is only covering a fraction of the world’s pencils. Many countries have national pencil industries that don’t generally export their products. I wish there was an easy way to get pencils from Conté, Lyra, or the Hindustan Pencil Co., just to name a few.

Staedtler 134 pencil

So let’s start with the outside packaging. My pencils don’t say where they were made – just “Manufactured for STAEDTLER Nuernberg, Germany”. While no statement of origin usually means “Made in China”, the packaging version shown at PenciLog explicity says they are made in China.

Though the German says “Bleistifte” (pencils), and the French “Crayons grafite de qualité, (quality graphite pencils), the English says “School and office pencils.”

Uh-oh. “school” and “office” often mean “the cheapest we could get away with”. Why do people in schools and offices deserve the worst stuff?

The pencils actually look great, with black printing on a dark yellow base, black ferrule, and pink eraser.

They are marked:

Obverse: [logo] Staedtler yellow pencil 134-HB

After sharpening them, a mismatch is revealed. Though the finish is superior – the lead is just another not terrible, but not great, somewhat scratchy lead.

They sharpen easily in a Tombow longpoint sharpener. I don’t know the constituent wood.

Now some of the people who have commented on this pencil have also asked – what is the difference between pencils, and why are some pencils so much more expensive.

I’ll try and give a partial answer.

If your pencil use is sporadic – jotting down an occasional address or phone number, I think any old pencil might do. The 134 would be more than up to the task.

But if you’re using a pencil as a regular writing tool for work or school – the difference between a great pencil like the Tombow Mono 100 and the Staedtler 134 is remarkable and immediately apparent. (Honestly, you can still take advantage of a great pencil even if you’re just jotting down phone numbers.)

The lead is so smooth and applies in such a way that the pencil “gets out of your way”. You don’t have to think about the pencil, and can more directly think about whatever you’re really working on.

While writing, pencils last a long time. The most extreme example I can think of is someone liking a very soft pencil, in combination with a sharp point. This can result in using half, or even a whole pencil in a day.

Yet even in that extreme case, with the highest quality pencils, this cost is negligible compared to other typical office or school expenses – computers, printing, lighting, electricity, copying, paper, etc. If you work in a downtown office tower, the square footage consumed by your deskside blue bin probably costs more than an ongoing supply of Hi-Unis.

And also keep in mind – a Japanese pencil in North America has a very inflated price, but in Japan, they have regular pencil prices.

Now for an artist, the answer is much easier – smooth, dark, consistent, non-crumbling, non-breaking, high quality graphite is worth it. And being 10 or 15% better than an alternative may be worth a significant premium. In some cases, tools that are 1% better may be desirable.

So our Staedtler 134 looks great, but trying it side by side with Staedtler’s flagship Mars Lumograph 100, it is only so-so. The darkness of the 134 in HB is more like a 2B in many pencils – probably a bonus for writing.

I’m curious about the origin and history of this pencil.

Related Post: Staedtler 132 pencil

12 Replies to “Staedtler 134 yellow pencil”

  1. The intention is probably to convey value, because office managers won’t pay premium, and schools/students often can’t. That’s my take, anyway.

  2. I wonder if this “cheap” pencil is something Staedtler uses to get their “foot in the door”. You certainly don’t want to keep yourself out of any market and school supplies are no exception.

    What’s the eraser like? Is it just a token adornment or does it actually work? I think I’m starting to see that a truly low quality pencil typically has a nasty eraser.

  3. The Staedtler 134 yellow pencil is on http://www.staedtler.co.kr/ and here you can read that it’s made in China. I contacted Staedtler Germany last week to know if there’s any chance to buy it in Germany but got no answer so far.

    By the way: I love your blog, it’s great.

  4. I’m trying to translate my reviews into English. Here‘s one of my try, the translated version of the posting mentioned by penciladmin above.

  5. Thanks for the comments, all.

    I concur with Kent, the eraser works reasonably well.

    Frank, thanks for the comment and that correction, I do see the 134 here. I somehow missed it.

    Kent, thank you very much for offering an English translation. The Bonanza is another pencil that isn’t known in North America. I liked the way you lined up the tiers of pencils from the two manufacturers.

  6. More rigorous analysis from penciltalk.org! I believe you have hit upon the essence of the relationship between the consumer and any consumable. The more casual the use, or the less educated or experienced the user, the less attention paid to quality. From this inverse relationship, some manufacturers draw the wrong conclusion, that is, that any old thing will do, and find the temptation to offer absolutely shoddy goods irresistable. Hence the dumping of lowest-common-denominator products into foreign markets. But the race to the bottom does reach a nadir when the consumer rebels and refuses to buy any more substandard goods WHATEVER THE PRICE. Forward-looking corporations recognize the intrinsic connection between long-term maximization of profit and the quality of the goods they offer, and that is why many of them will not offer a product which falls below a certain standard even when potentially huge short-term profits beckon (this is why, anecdotally, I love this blog which is about the pursuit of excellence however narrowly we define it). However, and this is the real source of the consternation the first-world consumer feels, there simply is no historic, and therefore no expectation of a minimal level of quality for consumer goods in many if not all of the emerging markets in the third world. For many global manufacturers of whatever product, volume business is found in Asia and the sub-continent, and it simply isn’t worth the candle to produce goods to a higher level to sell in developed economies. The result is that those Western economies which no longer manufacture their own consumer products are left to fend for themselves in the world marketplace, but the Catch-22 is that the strength of the national currency with which they enter into the world marketplace is completely dependent upon the demand for the goods they bring to sell into that market, and, as we Americans are finding out much to our chagrin, aerospace and defense industries, along with other boutique (for want of a better word) manufactures are not, by themselves, sufficient to create a robust dollar. One further wrinkle is that even if the Western consumer is old enough to remember a certain level of high quality and demands such in his purchases, with his shrinking purchasing power he won’t be able to afford it. Without disposable income there is zero incentive for any manufacturer to up their game and the Western consumer, for the most part, will be limited to a choice between the shoddy and the mediocre. Certainly there are vestiges of quality remaining in American manufacture within the industries that produce the highest-ticket items, but given the state of globalization and the dollar they are rapidly pricing themselves out of the domestic market and it is questionable how long they will be able to compete globally. I fear that until the third-world consumer starts demanding higher quality or we here in the West revive our domestic industries, we are stuck with a cornucopia of crappy stuff that we won’t want for very much longer. So this is what I wrestle with, the nexus between profit, consumer expectation, and the dysfunction introduced into domestic economies by globalization.

    On an unrelated note, Kent’s blog looks excellent, but when it loads I don’t get any text just a bunch of boxes or squares (the pictures load fine). Perhaps someone more technoliterate could tell me if there is anything I might do to remedy this? Sorry for the sermon, but I am really worried.

  7. Hello. I expect to head home to India (for a visit) in a few months (Dave is a name I use onln, it’s not my real name) – I will bring back a few pencils made by the Hindustan Pencil Company Ltd and Camlin (which is the other major Indian manufacturer) so you can review them.

    I like your blog and I like pencils.

  8. Barrel, thanks for the kind words. I’m not sure this ranks as ‘rigorous analysis’, but the support is appreciated.

    About the “boxes” – this is some sort of language support issue in the browser and/or operating system. I’m hoping someone will chime in with a good reference or suggestion.

    Dave, thanks for your comments, that is a very kind offer.

  9. I am from Hong Kong and the yellow pencils are abundantly available here. In our mind their status is like that of “Chung Hwa pencils”, the cheapest pencils with a barely acceptable quality. Chung Hwa pencils cost 7HKD for 14 and yellow pencils cost around 12-15HKD for 12. So, not mocking, but it’s quite funny for me to see you guys talking about it so seriously :)

    * 1.3USD = 10HKD

  10. A few days ago I was able to get a box of these. Maybe it was only bad luck but the leads of eight are displaced to such an extent that after sharpening the point is covered by a small piece of wood. The lacquer is bad and stained, the ferrule must have been put in place with raw force (there are bulges below them), the printing is bad – in short: These are the pencils with the worst finish I have ever seen, and I hope that my box is not typical for the 134.

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