As part of my self-enforced reeducation program on pencils, I decided to free myself of prejudice and try the Staedtler Wopex properly. I saw them on sale as early as June 2012, but did not buy them because they looked so strange. This is how they were presented in Korea (very similar to the photos here at Lexikaliker). BTW plastic packaging is not that popular back home.
You would forgive me for initially mistaking them for eyebrow pencils! My post on Penhood at that time records myself as saying , “the surface lacquer looks overdone and the strange grainless casing reminds one of the limbs of a Barbie doll”. There was no mention of any new technology; I thought Staedtler was trying to go fancy. The name was sometimes pronounced “woo-pex”. Overall, it was a strange pencil.
Two years later, I’m buying a blister pack here in Canada. They look a lot more like normal pencils. They are an appealing shade of green, and comes with a cool Mars-themed eraser.
The blister pack is startlingly cheap, less than $4, which puts it squarely in the “school pencil” category (in my opinion) – although slightly more expensive than a Norica or a Papermate Mirado. I made sure to get a dedicated sharpener for it too, since many blogs mention the difficulty of sharpening one, looking for the “W” mark on the back as shown on Bleistift.
The Wopex writes a bit waxily on some surfaces but most of the time it approximates the feel of a regular pencil well enough that it is often possible to forget the new technology behind it while writing. However, my son, whom I use from time to time as a sort of lab mouse to test new pencils (him being oblivious to the history, availability, or price), soon complained of the feel of the grip, and above all its weight. And in fact it is a bit too heavy for a child to write with – I wonder why they decided to stick the ferrule on, when a regular eraserless Wopex would already have been heavy enough. With the ferrule and eraser it threatens to tip over backwards.
Sharpening would also be a problem if it is to be used in school. It’s not that difficult if you use the dedicated sharpener, but the result looks terrible. Is the Wopex not meant for children? If so it would be a shame – if there ever was a generation to capture, it would be this one. I’m thinking of testing it on older schoolchildren and librarians later on…