This is another of those unicorn-like pencils that are rumoured to exist but seldom seen in the wild (or even online), that I somehow managed to score through dumb luck. I was browsing at the downtown branch of Essence du Papier (which sadly closed at the end of last year), and I picked up a few green Castell 9000s on a whim – they are normally too light and hard for my taste, but it had quite simply been a long time since I bought any. On the way home I felt for the pencils in my bag and realized for the first time that they were round. I was shocked. Had the Castell 9000s been renewed or changed in the meantime? No, fortunately, they were just 9008s. Stickered and mixed in with other humdrum green pencils, with no one around to recognize their value, not even the shop attendant.
I went back the next day and bought the only box in stock, and placed an order for other grades too. It took three months for them to cross the Atlantic. Still, I guess we should count ourselves lucky that there still is a company that makes quality stenographic pencils. I doubt that anyone uses the 9008 for its original purpose nowadays; I personally prefer it, as a normal pencil, to its more famous sibling because the paint job is much better and the lead seems somehow friendlier, or at least not as harsh, as that of the 9000 (although in theory they should be very similar). And the thrill of the unexpected round barrel makes me giddy every time. I wish Faber-Castell would make more of an effort to introduce and promote these kind of specialty pencils outside of Germany (according to this post the Steno has never been introduced in Japan either – a pencil-discerning nation if there ever was one).
The 9008 Steno comes in three grades, HB, B and 2B. I tend to prefer the darker grades, but even the HB is lovable :)