Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pencil Review: Faber-Castell Castell 9000 4H

At first glance, wooden pencils might not look that interesting - compared to pens, they don't have as much variation in size and shape, and, apart from coloured pencils, they all come in the same "ink" colour.  But there's a lot to explore with wooden pencils - different brands (many of which have long and interesting histories) and an array of different lead hardnesses.



Take this pencil for example.  It's a Faber-Castell Castell 9000, and it was first introduced over a century ago in 1906 by A.W. Faber.  It's also a 4H, making it much harder than the medium to soft (HB, B, 2B) pencils that I've been using up to now.  I had no idea how much different a harder pencil would be.  I'm not yet sure what I will use this pencil for, although there are things I like about a harder lead: it keeps a sharp point longer and, because the lead contains more clay, it looks less shiny on the page.  But it's also not as dark as a B pencil (B is blackness, while H is hardness).  (You can find out more about pencil grades in this excellent article.)


The Castell 9000 has a green body - but a darker, more staid green than the General's Kimberly pencil I reviewed earlier - and gold lettering, a colour combination I love.  I'm not as fond of the white lettering and the barcode on the other side of the pencil, which to me looks cheap, but it's a minor issue.  I'm a bit curious about the description of "water based varnish" - why would this be significant?

The Castell 9000 is hexagonal, and seems to be quite easy to hold.  Having used hexagonal, round, and triangular pencils, I think I prefer hexagonal - it's more comfortable than triangular and easier to grip than round.

Quick sketch and writing sample.  Yes, it really is that faint and it's not just my photo.

As I said before, 4H is relatively hard.  Because of that, the lead is too light for writing, and after doing some quick sketching, I don't think it's a pencil I would use regularly for sketching either, although I could see myself using it along with my softer, darker pencils.  When sketching, I can use it to build up layers of darker gradations of light grey, making it suitable for light shading.  It would also be good for a rough initial sketch that I could later fill in with a darker pencil, or to roughly sketch in a background that I wanted to fade away (as I did with the leaves in the sketch above).  However, as I've said before, I still need a lot more experience with pencil sketching.


Overall, the Faber-Castell 9000 is another great pencil to try out, although until I try it in a softer grade, I won't be able to compare it to any of the other pencils that I have used.  Although 4H may be a bit too hard for me, I am still happy to have used it as it's given me a chance to expand my pencil experience and knowledge.

Related reviews: pencil talk, Pencil Revolution, John the Monkey, Lung Sketching Scrolls.

7 comments:

  1. The water based varnish being used on the body may make it less toxic but it is definitely more friendly to the environment.

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    1. Well, less toxic and more environmentally friendly both sound like great features to me! Thanks for the comment, Andy.

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  2. The 9000 is one of my favourites, especially in the softer grades, where it vies with the Staedtler Lumograph for my affections :)

    Personally, I use the harder grades (although generally a 3H or 2H) for outlines that I know I'm going to ink, or paint - the lighter line erases and can be covered more easily.

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    1. Yes, I definitely want to try this pencil in a softer grade! I'm thinking that I should have found all these pencils in the same grade (like HB or 2B) before reviewing them so I could make better comparisons. But, oh well, it's more fun this way :)

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  3. Great and detailed review! Thanks

    I ve seen a bigger version of the 9000, called Jumbo.
    According to the website (http://www.fabercastell.com/products/pencils/GraphitepencilCASTELL9000JumboHB/119300) its available in HB and softer.
    Did you have a chance to test it already?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you as well, Oliver! And no, I haven't tried the Jumbo version. It looks awesome though...

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  4. I have recomended you my blog about ball pens: www.pismiennik.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

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