Staedtler at Insights X 5

Welcome to the first of two articles about Staedtler at the Insights X 2016. This one is looking at one of the great minds working at Staedtler: Helmut Hufnagl.

Helmut Hufnagl

Helmut Hufnagl

Helmut Hufnagl loves to solve problems.

Wopex pencils have a different material, so sharpeners don’t work well with them?

No problem, Mr Hufnagl comes up with a Wopex optimised handheld sharpener als well as the crank sharpener 501 180.

Normal rulers are created for right handed people, so left handed people might struggle with them?

No problem, Mr Hufnagl comes up with new rulers that are equally suited for right and left handed users.

Sharpeners make a mess in the pencil case?

No problem, Mr Hufnagl comes up with a sharpener that won’t leave bits of wood and graphite all over the pencil case anymore.

For 2017 he also came up with a new set of compasses that convey the idea of geometry through basic geometric forms and that convey the idea of colour through a special paint and a new set of metallic coloured sharpeners.

..but the best one is yet to come and it reminds me of a story I read many years ago about Adi Dassler, the boss of a German sports shoes and clothing manufacturer, who is also from the Nuremberg area. Not only did he equip Jesse Owens who went on to win four gold medals, he once watched the Olympic Games on his telly from his home in Bavaria and noticed that one of the athletes at the Olympic Games in Montreal 1976 was running unevenly. He advised over the phone how to adjust the shoes and Alberto Juantorena, the athlete we saw on telly, went on to win two medals.

Well, Mr Hufnagl’s story is quite similar. He spotted a problem in another part of the world when he was reading an article in Wall Street Journal about his favourite designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man who designed the original VW Golf, the DeLorean (Back to the Future), the Lotus Esprit (James Bond – The Spy Who Loved me) and many many more.

In the article in WSJ Mr Giugiaro wrote:

I can’t live without: my blue Staedtler pencils. I use the pencils with the hardest lead when I have to draw the most precise contours, and softer leads for drawing shadows or for 3-D effects. When I draw one-to-one scale figurines, I prefer charcoal pencils and chalks.

Mr Giugiaro's lead holder

Mr Giugiaro’s lead holder (Image © Wall Street Journal)

The article also features a photo of Mr Giugiaro’s Staedtler ‘pencil’ – it has a beige mark, presumably to indicate which type of lead is in the lead holder. This is where Mr Hufnagl realised that it is easy to help Mr Giugiaro and others by introducing a lead hardness indicator. This was the birth of a classic with a new twist, the Mars technico 780C with a lead hardness indicator that can bet set to 4H, 2H, H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, red and blue by twisting the clip. I find it amazing how a simple idea can improve a tool that has been around for decades. The special black edition of this lead holder, pictured here, is being released at the same time as the traditional blue version gets the lead grade indicator update.

Staedtler Mars technico

Staedtler Mars technico

The new lead hardness or lead grade indicator is probably especially useful if you don’t use Staedtler leads. If you buy the original leads each different grade is supplied with a different colour replacement push button (they are however only push buttons, the lead holder comes with a more useful push button that doubles as a pointer/sharpener). This is not being mentioned on the Staedtler web site, but you can find this information in the comments on Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, on the Cult Pens web site or in Pen Paper Pencil’s review of the lead holder.

Staedtler Mars technico

Staedtler Mars technico

Mr Hufnagl is changing his role within Staedtler, he stopped working as a Product Manager in the area of sharpeners and technical drawing and has started his new role as Head of Trade Marketing. I hope he will still have an opportunity to develop new products in his new role.

Staedtler Mars technico

Staedtler Mars technico

Google also lists a patent with his name on.

I believe that showing the image from the Wall Street Journal in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

SiVO / Hindustan Pencils at Insights X 2016 4

I first mentioned Nataraj pencils in 2009 in my blog post about another Indian pencil, the Reynolds. Well, as mentioned recently Hindustan Pencils, the company behind the Nataraj and other pencils, was at the Insights X so I had a chance to look at their stand.

Vikrant R. Pathak, Hindustan Pencils' International Business Manager

Vikrant R. Pathak, Hindustan Pencils’ International Business Manager

Hindustan Pencils’ International Business Manager told me that they are trying to enter the European market and are currently looking for a distributor. In Europe they are not using Nataraj and Aspara, well established brand names in India. Instead they are using SiVO as their main brand name in Europe.


A lot of the pencils at their stand were colour pencils, but luckily there were some graphite pencils, too. Some had patterns printed on them and looked like they were clearly aimed at teenagers and school children.


Others looked like very affordable pencils (the ‘yelo’, shown on the right in the photo below – open in a new tab for a high res version of the image) or pencils that try to distinguish themselves with their looks (fluorescent or metallic body).

Most interesting to me was the ‘absolute’, available in a hexagonal and a triangular shape. It’s box is labelled ‘premium black lead pencil’, so I assume this is their best pencil. Its plain look makes me think it is supposed to compete with high quality pencils like the Mars Lumograph and the Castell 9000.

If there is any interest I’ll be happily having a closer look at the sample I brought home.

Interlead 3

Just a quick Interlude (or should that be Interlead) before I continue with the blog posts about the Insights X 2016.

The first edition of the James Bond novel “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” from 1963 features a hand sharpened Mars Lumograph.

( Image from )

(Image from

For comparison: here’s a similarly sharpened Mars Lumograph.

Hand sharpened Mars Lumograph

Hand sharpened Mars Lumograph

The photo of the James Bond book has been taken from the article about James Bond First Editions from Raptis Rare Books. I believe that showing the picture of the book in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

Super5 at Insights X 2016 6

Super5 presented their new fountain pens, the 07 and the B) at Insights X. They belong to Papierlabor / Format from Darmstadt in Hesse (not to be mixed up with Austrian paper manufacturer Format Werk).

Additionally to the 0.5mm nibs they now also sell 0.7mm nibs, M nibs (1.0mm) and B nibs (1.5mm).

Like the 05, the 07 version has no iridium point – that’s what gives the Super5 the very different writing experience and style. The M and B versions do have iridium points, though.

Robert Neumann, the man behind the Super5 fountain pen.

Robert Neumann, the man behind the Super5 fountain pen.

Some sources on the Internet suggest that there is no iridium in fountain pens’ iridium points, e.g. this article, but when I asked at the stand about this I was told that there is in fact iridium in the iridium point of the nibs.

Also available at the stand were Super5/Papierlabor’s waterproof inks, their ink cleaner concentrate and their new brush with soft synthetic fibres.

Super5 fountain pens

Super5 fountain pens

When you see the new fountain pen colours on a screen they look good, but in reality they look absolutely amazing! Especially the blue and green versions, but also the yellow one look just so good to me.

Robert Neumann, the man behind the Super5 fountain pen, also told me about the flex nib verison of the fountain pen they are working on, together with JoWo. I love flex nibs, so I am definitely looking forward to their new fountain pen.

Super5 ink

Super5 ink

By the way, the new pen bodies don’t have the logo printed on the body anymore. Instead they are embossed. I preferred the old look, not only because on the new body you can see on the outside where the thread is, but everyone has a different taste.

Top: the old Super5 body with the printed logo Bottom: the new body with the embossed logo

Top: the old Super5 body with the printed logo
Bottom: the new body with the embossed logo

You might remember my leaky Super5. Luckily I got it swapped for another one.

Kaweco at Insights X 2016 2

Kaweco stand

Kaweco’s stand was the stand most visitors would see first as it was just next to the entrance to the first hall.

They showed many of their new products. I particularly liked the red fountain pen. It is a red colour that feels like a red that has been revived from Kaweco’s past, but when I asked about this I was told that it is a new colour they came up with recently.

Kaweco new pens


Kaweco also introduced new packaging in the form of a big plastic screw (you can see it in the back on the left, in the photo above).

The employee at the stand also told me that black is their ‘best colour, so they introduced black as part of their ICE Sport series (that’s the series of Sport pens that are half transparent)

Ink-wise they showed their new colours Smokey Grey and Sunrise Orange.

The new nib holder is at the bottom

The new nib holder is at the bottom


Kaweco’s new aluminium dip pen / nib holder was also being presented at their stand. There is only one nib for now, but more will be available in the future.

What I found most exciting: They brought all the tools needed to assemble their fountain pens. I was lucky enough to have witnessed how these tools are being used and made a little video. The pen being assembled is a fountain pen that is a bit darker than the new Macciato colour. This Caramel colour is limited to 300 pieces.

The last item I want to show is their new pen holder in the shape of a German Shepard, Kaweco’s heraldic animal. The pen is made from artificial stone. I have used Pelikan’s pen holder in the shape of a pelican, but it is made of some sort of ceramic and will scratch the plastic body of Pelikan pens. From the looks of it I think the problem with scratches shouldn’t be as bad with Kaweco’s pen holder, but I haven’t really tried it out.

Kaweco German Shepard pen holder

I was happy to hear that all of these items will be available in the UK.

You can find more information about Kaweco’s new products on their web site.

I found more information about the Kaweco pen holder at