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Staedtler WOPEX pencil review

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

Almost a year ago, the 2009 Paperworld trade show saw industry giant Staedtler announce a new pencil technology called WOPEX (Wood Pencil Extrusion).

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

While neither extruded pencils nor reconstituted wood products are brand new, the combination certainly is, and being backed and promoted by Staedtler, the WOPEX may become a major development in pencil history.

Extruded pencils are of course not brand new.

In 1974, the former Empire Pencil Company of Shelbyville developed the EPCON plastic pencil.

In 1993, the former Conté created the Conté Evolution, an extruded plastic pencil that is popular in many markets today.

Last year, pencil talk took a look at the Conté Evolution Triangle pencil.

So let’s take a look at the WOPEX. My thanks to Gunther of Lexikaliker for sending me a few samples.

My experiments were done on a variety of commercial notebooks and with a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

Exterior

The pencil has what I’d call a light metallic purple-blue finish. It seems to be a colour more likely to be seen on a car, and perhaps was meant to emphasize the high tech aspect of the pencil. The cap is unfinished.

The obverse reads in silver lettering:

Made in Germany Staedtler WOPEX HB

The reverse reads in black lettering:

EAN 40 07817 180006 Art. Nr. 180-HB 329 PEFC

The PEFC marks attests to an environmental certification.

Apart from the colour choice, there are three other things that really stand out.

First, the weight. It is definitey heavier than a traditional woodcase pencil. While a Staedtler Mars Lumograph weighs about 3.8g, the WOPEX is about 8.4g – more than twice as heavy!

Second, the surface has some sort of slightly rubberized grip. It is a different formula than an Ergosoft pencil. One thing about this surface type – after some sharpening, and being among other pencils and graphite dust, the pencil surface seemed to become noticably dirtier. The rubber surface does seem to absorb and retain graphite.

Third, the hexagonal shape is extremely rounded. While this is no doubt an ongoing industry trend, the WOPEX pencil seems to take it a step further.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

Writing

On paper, the lead seems waxier than that of a Mars Lumograph. Not nearly as waxy as a Blackwing (I tested), but enough that I’m sure it will receive a positive reception from many.

I had another sense that there was a “stay put”, non-smearing aspect to the lead. Apart from the case of using the pencil immediately after being sharpened, there appeared to be no graphite residue emitted by the pencil during use – the mark goes exactly where needed.

I’m not sure if the manufacturing process will eventually allow for a range of grades, but for home, school, and office use, it appears to be a very solid offering.

Sharpening

I did not test this pencil in my favourite sharpener (the CARL desktop models), but in a handheld sharpener, it appears to sharpen with not much more force than a woodcase pencil. The shavings of course are a bit different, having a rubbery feel. I also tried sandpaper, and had no problems.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

Erasure

The WOPEX lead mirrored the performance of the Lumograph’s – excellent erasure with a Staedtler Mars plastic on Rhodia paper, and slightly less so on the Apica, for example. The erasure is not a problem.

Conclusion

It is a viable pencil offering, and the pencil’s texture, shape, colour, and weight all proclaim that it is something new. When many pencil manufacturers are still using decades old machinery, along comes this major investment in modern technology.

Staedtler was no doubt aware of the challenges of creating a product like this, and have made it work. I really didn’t expect the WOPEX to perform so well.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

In the larger scheme, what does it mean? A few years ago, I would have thought that the WOPEX wasn’t really a pencil. But it looks and acts (though doesn’t smell) like a pencil, and is made by one of the world’s pre-eminent pencil manufacturers. Though made of wood, it doesn’t have that beautiful ‘clip-clop’ sound when dropped on the floor. And the manufacturing process conjures up images of scientists in lab coats rather than woodworkers.

Is it the future? The first woodcase pencils, before the Conté/Hardmuth graphite and clay blending process was invented, used raw graphite chunks. We don’t regret the advance that followed. Is the WOPEX the next leap forward?

35 comments to Staedtler WOPEX pencil review

  • Drool, drool, drool. Where in the U.S./online are they sold? :)

    Although I’m now pretty much most fond of O’BON and ForestChoice.

  • Very informative post. Thanks for the neat preview on the next pencil offering by Staedtler.

  • David J. Santos

    Nice review. Your comments on the pencil reminded me very much my impressions on the Penol PB1050 (HB). I wonder if you ever tested this pencil. Best wishes from Spain.

  • Henrik

    Thank you for a nice and thorough review – it has been a while since I’ve seen one in the good old”Pencil Revolution” style. Good work.
    However, I’m still curious about how the actual writing looks – if and when it is convenient could you post a writing sample too?
    Regards Henrik

  • Thank you for that excellent review!

  • WOPEX Pencils..
    There is certain ‘drawback’ of such extruded pencils!!
    As I belong to this Industry, I very much know and understand them!!

    Those are as under:

    •DARKNESS: You cannot increase the darkness of this pencil like 2B or 8B. In our traditional Wooden Pencil, lead is manufactured separately by adjusting the percentage of Graphite and Clay. More Graphite and less Clay makes Pencil darker. While mixing the solid mass of Graphite and Clay a manufacturer can achieve as much as darkness in Pencil Lead. But this is NOT at all possible in Non-Wood Extruded pencil. The Polymer Resin (Plastic) can carry a certain amount of filler for during extrusion. Graphite itself is a ‘Lubricant’ material and addition of more graphite may create slippery surface in extrusion machine.

    •STRENGTH: The Pencil wood, itself have certain strength. Wood in form of a Pencil does not break so easily. Here the casing part of a ‘Extruded Pencil’ is not wood, it is composition of various fillers and resins. This ‘compound’ material cannot produce strength and resistance to breakage like our traditional Pencil!!

    •FEELING: A Pencil made of WOOD comes with a feel of ‘wood’. Try comparing use of both kind of Pencil; definitely a Wooden Pencil always wins!!

    •COLOUR LEAD: Similar to graphite lead, one cannot have perfect darkness of Colour Lead. Colour Pencil in Wood always rules the world!!

    •BIODIEGRATION: Wood, Glue, Graphite and Lacquer, the 3 main ingredients of a Pencil, all are ‘Biodegradable’ Material. The Polymer Resins used for holding Graphite and Wood type casing of ‘Non-Wood’ Pencils cannot be like that!! A good quality manufacturer will use ‘good’ material which will have self destructive life but his competitors will follow with cheap material!!

    Just to justify my words, please go through this story…

    This is a TRUE EXTRACT from my autobiography: ‘My Life on Pencil Point’!!

    The day I entered in the business of Pencil Making, My Elder Brother Late Mr. Rasik Raveshia; a Scientist and a Pencil Technician was ‘day dreaming’ about this kind of Pencil. This was in early 1973!!

    Working on various chemicals and engineering plastics and polymers, he first developed a material which can be suitable to encase the Pencil Lead. This was in 1974 and our company was a small company and huge R & D expenses were not possible for us.

    We tried to ‘Mold’ this newly developed wood type material in a ‘Plastic Mold’ with Graphite Lead!!
    This process was too slow and it hardly produced 100 pencil in a day with hand molding. We gave up this development work.

    One day I was invited by a electrical Cable manufacturing company for some repair job of their machine and there see the extrusion line of PVC Material covering the copper wire.
    This motivated us again and we started to work again on Extruded Pencil.

    In those days, we were in a better stage and shape, we were earning and we were in position to spare some funds for R & D.

    Somewhere in 1978, we were able to develop the process of mixing Graphite with certain plastic polymers. Again the dream of ‘Extruded Pencil’ was revived…

    Finally in 1981, we developed the co-extrusion process of Pencil. (on 7th July 1981, my elder son was born and that day I gifted the ‘first’ Non-Wood Pencil manufactured by us to my wife to show my gratitude towards her for making me a ‘Father’!!

    First we developed extruded Pencils for Cosmetic products like ‘eye liner’, ‘lip liner’, ‘bindi’ and ‘eye bow’!!
    This was indeed a miracle in Indian Pencil Industry, the tedious process of Pencil making was cut short in to simple co-extrusion system, No Wood working, No Saw Dust, No Lacquers and pencils were coming out with our latest technique.

    We introduced our pencils in Indian Market and as ‘Eco-friendly Non-Wood Pencils’ it was highly appreciated in local market.

    We ruled Indian Market for this market for so many years, no one was knowing how this was manufactured and what kind of machines were used!!

    Unfortunately in 2001 one of our technicians left our company and started to manufacture pencils himself. He failed in marketing of those pencils and finally he started to manufacture Pencil extrusion Machines and its know-how.

    In a short span of time, there were so many manufacturers with huge cut-throat competition!! In the retail market the price came down to $ 75 for 100 gross of Non-Wood Pencils. Competitors were using all junk material and producing pencils without any quality measures!!

    We took a wise decision to slowly reduce down our production and developed other products like Disposable Ballpoint Pens and Sketch Pens etc.

    Even today also, we manufacture 1000 gross of Non-Wood pencils and market in Indian subcontinent with our price and quality measures.

    Lots of threats have come to wooden pencils in past 300 years, Ball Point Pens, Micro Lead Pencils, Clutch Pencils, Pill-off Paper Pencils and Non Wood Extruded Pencils etc but; non have reduced the share of a Wooden Pencil !!

    And why we all are here, you all readers, I and the editor of this blog, we all are here to promote Wooden Pencil with making it’s user to understand the story of Pencil..

  • My thanks for all the comments, and especially to Harshad for such a comprehensive reply.

    Diane, I am not sure if they are yet in the marketplace. Thanks for the comment.

    Alberto, thank you for your comment.

    David, I’m not familiar with Penol’s products. Thanks for the comment.

    Henrik, thank you for your comment – I’ll see what I can do about a sample.

    Gunther, thank you for your comment.

    Harshad, you describe a fascinating story from the pencil industry in India. It sounds like it was (and remains) quite independent from the industry in Europe and North America. Is that correct?

    The WOPEX’s material is stated to be 70% wood. I’m not sure what the other 30% is, but this must make it somewhat different from extruded plastic pencils, not just in technical aspects, but also the “spirit” of the pencil.

  • Dear Friend,

    The way you say here 70% is wood in this pencil, it is very much obvious. Looking at Pencil Diameter, it has to be 6.90 m.m. to 7.00 m.m. (+/-0.10 m.m.) and the pencil Lead has to be 2.50 m.m. Therefore the major part is wood and the inner core is pencil lead.

    But we know, wood can not be extruded, to extrude it, we have to convert this wood in to ‘PULP’.

    Now let the ‘PULP’ to have some strength, we have to add some resin so that after extrusion and drying, pencil can remain firm.

    Look at the pencil Lead of this pencil. It does not look like our traditional lead made with ‘graphite’. The Dark ‘BLACK’ Colour show that it is made with binding Carbon Black’ or ‘Carbon stick’. Not graphite. Lead made with graphite looks gray with silvery shine!!

    My Friend,

    Every pencil maker started his business in a small way and than expanded..

    Look at the history of Pencil, you can see so many stories..

    Thanks

    Harshad

  • Hi Friends,

    Paperworld 2010 is approaching nearer and nearer..

    All you can meet us at:

    Hall No: 10.00 Stand: A-89.

    If some of you visiting this mega event, you can meet my Son Mr. Suraj Raveshia and Nephew Mr. Santosh Raveshia with our International Marketing Team..

    Please visit us and evaluate our Products and Stand Design!!

    Harshad Raveshia

  • Mr. Raveshia, I will visit the Paperworld and will be very happy to have a look at your stand and your products!

  • My sincere best wishes to Mr. Raveshia, Gunther, and others attending Paperworld 2010. Have a prosperous show!

  • Mr. Raveshia, I have visited your stand and have enjoyed it very much. Your nephew Mr. Santosh Raveshia has been so kind to give me an overview of your product range and has provided some samples. It was a big pleasure to talk to him! I will soon write a short report about my visit at the Paperworld on my blog.

  • [...] zu können. Besonders auf 2B bin ich gespannt! – Bei dieser Gelegenheit möchte ich auf die exzellente Besprechung des „WOPEX” bei pencil talk [...]

  • Saad

    Mr. Harshad:
    1) Can you confirm if the pencil shavings can be recycled as they will contain wood and plastic particles combined?
    2) I’d like to correct you on your 15th of Jan Post. The brown portion of the pencil, that’s made of Wopex material, which is claimed by staedtler of being made up of 70% wood. They aren’t talking about 70% of the whole pencil.

  • [...] I would like to thank Lexikaliker for my first Wopex pencil. You will find reviews of the HB and 2B Wopex on his blog (Google translation). You can find a review of the Wopex (in English) at pencil talk. [...]

  • [...] You can find a review of the Staedtler Wopex HB at pencil talk. [...]

  • It’s interesting that Harshad was developing his extruded plastic pencil at about the same time that we were developing the Epcon pencil process. We began work on the Epcon pencil in 1969, but didn’t have the material and the extrusion process under control until about 1973-1974, when we transferred the process over to Empire. They began full production by about 1975. All of this is explained in my writeup about the development of the Epcon Pencil in ADL Chronicles.

    Irv Arons
    ADL Chronicles (http://adlittlechronicles.blogspot.com)

  • James

    Irv: I clicked on the ADL link and it was certainly worth the visit! The “Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear” is a wonderful and truly inspirational read. It’s places like ADL that give Geekdom the good name it deserves. I absolutely love the “never say die” attitude that seems to rule there. Thanks for that!

  • Chetan Bole

    WOPEX Pencils..
    There is certain ‘drawback’ of such extruded pencils!!
    As I belong to this Industry, I very much know and understand them!!

    Those are as under:

    Q 1)•DARKNESS: You cannot increase the darkness of this pencil like 2B or 8B. In our traditional Wooden Pencil, lead is manufactured separately by adjusting the percentage of Graphite and Clay. More Graphite and less Clay makes Pencil darker. While mixing the solid mass of Graphite and Clay a manufacturer can achieve as much as darkness in Pencil Lead. But this is NOT at all possible in Non-Wood Extruded pencil. The Polymer Resin (Plastic) can carry a certain amount of filler for during extrusion. Graphite itself is a ‘Lubricant’ material and addition of more graphite may create slippery surface in extrusion machine.

    Ans :- It is possible to make darker pencil not as much 8B but upto 4B.

    •STRENGTH: The Pencil wood, itself have certain strength. Wood in form of a Pencil does not break so easily. Here the casing part of a ‘Extruded Pencil’ is not wood, it is composition of various fillers and resins. This ‘compound’ material cannot produce strength and resistance to breakage like our traditional Pencil!!

    Ans :- Your right sir. But when we mix wood fiber with polymer it possible to get strength in polymer pencil not as much wooden pencil.

    •FEELING: A Pencil made of WOOD comes with a feel of ‘wood’. Try comparing use of both kind of Pencil; definitely a Wooden Pencil always wins!!

    Ans :- Again your right sir.When we mix wood fiber with polymer it feel like wooden pencil.

    •COLOUR LEAD: Similar to graphite lead, one cannot have perfect darkness of Colour Lead. Colour Pencil in Wood always rules the world!!

    Ans :- Colour Pencil in Wood having 2 to 3 % moisture. In polymer darkness of lead it is possible only the issue is costing.

    Finally how many days or years we use wood pencil one day we accept polymer pencil or 0.5 polymer lead clutch pencil.

    Also import of wooden slats also costly.

  • Thomas reher

    i’m in no way a pencil expert; more a general user; but i thought you might like to hear my feelings about this pencil.
    to me the WOPEX feels very nice; i like the weight(albeit maybe a tiny mit to heavy) of it and also the rounded corners.
    the thing that makes it shine for me is the feel of the lead; i find it a lot pore pleasant to write with than the Mars.
    i don’t know if that’s what you mean by “waxy”, but if it is i find that a good thing.
    not being an artist; i can’t comment on it’s ability to make drawings; but as a general writer i find it very pleasant!

  • Thomas, welcome to the blog, and thank you for sharing your findings! I also like the weight of the WOPEX. “Waxy” literally refers to wax as an element in the pencil core, which typically results in reduced surface tension.

  • Robert M.

    I’ve been playing around with the WOPEX in HB and 2B. Not much a fan of the HB, but the 2B, while it doesn’t strike me as a 2B in either darkness or in hardness, is very usable for writing. I’m a little ambivalent on the feel of the surface, and I do not really like the way the material sharpens in my rotary sharpener, but the slight heft and the writing performance make for a pretty nice pencil overall. I don’t know if they’ll grow on me, but they might.

  • Yi

    1 have seen WOPEX.I think that tyhat pencil is better than WOPEX.
    your review was very great!!!

  • Hello all you pencil experts!

    I just ran across your discussions about Non-Wood Plastic Extruded Pencils. We used to buy the “jumbo” plastic pencils from Berol Co. They were about 3/8″ (10mm) in diameter. My need for the pencils is not for the writing pleasure, but for being able to carve faces in the pencils!

    I own and operate a woodcarving tool and supplies store. Our woodcarving customers used to carve various faces in the body of the jumbo pencils. A Santa face was a very popular one to carve for a quick and easy Christmas gift. The extruded plastic would be easy to carve and would hold detail very well, unlike a cedar wood pencil. I haven’t been able to find a manufacturer of those type of pencils anywhere. If anyone would have some sort of contact information, I would be very pleased to hear about it.

    I have heard that there are some pencils being made with basswood instead of cedar. Basswood is the most popular wood used by woodcarvers. If anyone would have a source on basswood pencils, that might work also.

    Thank you for your time to read this. I admire the passion which all of you express in using an instrument that has been supposedly “improved on” over the years. There is nothing that can improve on working with a nicely sharpened pencil!

    Larry Yudis, General Manager/Owner
    The Woodcraft Shop
    2724 State St.
    Bettendorf, IA 52722
    563-359-8501
    thewoodcraftshop@mchsi.com
    http://www.thewoodcraftshop.com

  • Steve

    I’ve been using Wopex pencils for about eight months and love ‘em. The sharpened lead tip hardly ever breaks. They have a slightly softer feel writing versus regular pencils, but it’s subtle – requires less pressure. I doubt I’ll ever buy any other brand again. A vendor on Amazon sells them for 8 bucks a package, though I got my first couple dozen from a University bookstore at Grand Forks.

  • This article has been very informative. I have some knowledge and experience on extruded polymer pencils as they are popularly know in India. Some Indian manufacturers have achieved quality and finish, writing “” darkness”" that is comparable to the best in the world and very good consistent quality. This is my opinion that Indian Companies / manufacturers are very strong on product development, research, innovation, but we fail when it comes to packing, presentation, exposing the products / marketing them on the international scene. Wopex by Staedtler no doubt created a lot of enthusiasm in the European / international scene, but as a product this is nothing new for India.

    Indian manufactuers may lack financial strength, marketing exposure, international distribution network, but we can beat any manufactuer in the world when it comes to quality. You can try some Indian brands of polymer ( woodfree pencils ) like DOMS<. . .mmanufactuerd in a small town in Umbergaon, India. The surfacfe finish is excellent, the writing quality, lead darkness, erasing on most paper surface is equally good or my opinion is much better than the much hyped about Wopex by Staedtler pencils and the most important point, almost 1 / 10 th the cost of WOPEX Pencil. Can Wopex beat this.

  • If anyone is interested, I have several dozen of the original Epcon plastic pencils, made by Empire to help celebrate ADL’s centennial in 1986. (Read about the ADL/Epcon story at: http://adlittlechronicles.blogspot.com/2008/07/epcon-plastic-pencil.html)

    I would be willing to send them, while the supply lasts, at $5.00/dozen plus postage (which should be about $2.25 US, tbd for other countries).

    Send me an email at iarons(at)erols.com

    Irv Arons

  • I needed to write you one very little note to be able to give thanks again relating to the amazing advice you have provided on this website. It was simply shockingly generous of people like you to convey unreservedly all that some people might have sold as an electronic book to generate some money for their own end, particularly considering that you could possibly have tried it in case you desired. These advice as well worked as a easy way to recognize that most people have a similar dreams like my very own to know the truth more regarding this condition. I am certain there are many more pleasurable opportunities ahead for individuals who look into your blog.

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  • Jeantifrice

    Hello.

    I really didn’t know there was such enthusiasm for pencils.

    You guys are crazy.

  • Professorcool

    Jeantifrice,

    Well, it is like anything else in modern society. I suppose that somewhere there is a group with rampant enthusiasm for paper clips or rubber bands as well. The pencil has a rich and varied history. Get a copy of Henry Petroski’s book on the history and engineering/design considerations in pencil making. (Titled, amazingly enough “The Pencil”.) I personally am a big fan of the (relatively) new “Palomino Blackwing 602″, a reproduction of a former Staedtler product that is marketed by California Cedar (although actually manufactured in Japan). Blackwings are expensive, about $1.50 each, but where else can you be a big spender for $1.50 these days? The new HB 2 WOPEX from Staedtler I found on sale at a local Staples store. They come presharpened, and tend to have some problems with cheap electric sharpeners. I usually use my KUM “Longpoint” hand sharpener, and that seems to work well. At only $3.00 for a box of 18, they are a bargain even compared to the Dixon Ticonderoga, which I consider to be one of the best “cheap” woodcase pencils on the market (at something like 23 cents each, depending on the quantity you buy). Other good “cheap” pencils would include the Papermate Mirado and the Berol Eagle. To the knowledgeable writer, the really cheap, Wal-Mart-Bargain quality woodcase pencils, made with poplar (or worse} wood are good for little other than kindling. The WOPEX pencils I found are painted green (yes, an earth-friendly cliché, but certainly distinctive), and have a good feel. They do not put down anywhere near as much graphite as the Blackwings, but are certainly excellent for writing. Probably not so good for sketching, but I am no artist.

    With all the mechanical pencils, ballpoint pens,Sharpies, etc. on the market today, and the increasing dominance of electronic media (nobody ever writes letters by hand any more), it is amazing that the humble pencil still has such a prominent place in our society. You may never get rich by being a pencil expert, but knowing something about the subject enables you to view writing instruments with a more educated and critical eye. I am sure that Sherlock Holmes would have been an expert on the subject in his day, and used it to evaluate the sophistication and knowledge of others he so shrewdly observed.

    Regards,

    ProfessorCool

  • Woopex Non-Wood Pencils have reached to interesting stage..
    I have been writing lots of reviews at this blog without mush sharing myself to any exposure to all readers!

    At Pencil Talk, every one have appreciated my write-up including the Gunther and the admin of this blog. The expertise what I have gained is not an overnight result, it is years of learning (40 years) and still learning on this vital field.

    I thank ‘Pencil Admin’ Mr. Gunther, Ajay Gupta (Brother Ajay, I belongs to DOMS Family!), Mr. Chetan Bole (I never heard your name in Pencil Industry as you say that you belongs to this business),Irv Arons and many more!!

    For me, sharing my views here is process of “Learning”!

    Yes, today Pencils are going pretty expensive and while comparing 1 Pencil for $ 1.5 to 18 Pencils at $ 1.5 I give you a better option, $ 1.5 for 25 Pencils with 2 Sharpners and 2 Non-dust eraser!! And I give you the “most beautiful DOMS Triangle Pencil with 2-B Lead”!!

    Pricing of Pencils depends country to country, mainly the ‘BRAND’ name influence the ‘price tag’!!

    Just few days back we returned from Paper World 2014, lots of innovative ideas were seen but surprisingly 3 Major Player of this Industry were missing!!

  • Mr. Harshad Raveshia, in order to avoid misunderstanding: I am neither the admin of this blog nor affiliated with it but only a regular reader; my blog is at http://www.lexikaliker.de.

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