Faber-Castell 9008 Stenographic Pencils

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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 :)

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13 thoughts on “Faber-Castell 9008 Stenographic Pencils

  1. Wow, that must have been great to find them in the wild (despite the initial shock). I only got some because I asked my local shop to order them – I’ve never seen them in the wild.
    I prefer hexagonal pencils, but nevertheless I really hope the 9008 will survive many more decades.

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    1. Yes, I hope they never go out of production too! It almost seems like a mark of higher civilization to be able to retain some speciality pencils (too many are already lost to posterity). And I actually prefer round pencils so I love them all the more – they are the only pencils from Faber-Castell that I’ve purchased by the dozen :)

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    1. Yes, they are worth savoring :) However I still don’t understand why a pencil currently produced by a manufacturer with such a wide retail network should be so hard to find…

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      1. These are favorites of mine, too. And I think since the Staedtler Stenostift is no longer being made this may be the last “steno” pencil, though I’m not sure.

        Regarding Faber-Castell: it’s confounding, isn’t it? After visiting their headquarters in Stein though, I think trying to understand the company partly involves seeing it not as a global corporation with immense consumer networks, but rather as a small, family-run business that just happens to be all over the world. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to see how maybe some catalogues didn’t get to store X, or that there were only a few boxes of 9000s in store Y, etc. Though I know nothing of the business-side of the industry, it seems like this model has worked for them, literally for 100s of years.

        Anyway, I wish things were easier to find too! But if they were, then I wouldn’t have anything to bug Gunther and Matthias about. :)

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      2. You’re right, the “hard-to-get” factor is part of the attraction ;) But I also have the impression that in many instances both retailers and consumers simply don’t know that these other pencils exist and therefore don’t demand them! Last year I sat next to a retired stenographer at a calligraphy workshop and she didn’t know about them either. I have the impression that stenographers actually prefer mechanical pencils…

        BTW have you seen the new video series “Comma Queen” at the New Yorker, starring the copy editor Mary Norris? It’s ostensibly about English grammar and punctuation but I’m intrigued because she looks like she’s been using pencils for a long time and she’d know about the differences between various EF pencil models. I wish she’d do an episode on pencils.

        P.S. The flash of grey we see at the start seems to be the Palomino Blackwing – if it was the original she might not have sharpened it so decisively ;)

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      3. Sean: I am not sure about the 9008 being the last steno pencil either but I would be very surprised if there was another – we would have noticed! – Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Faber-Castell and their business which sometimes looks confusing to the customer. I am sure that if they would operate differently it would surely had an influence not only on the availability of their products but also on the products itself.

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  2. The stenographic pencil is an endangered species, and I always enjoy coming across one (although most of them are vintage ones). I hope that Faber-Castell will continue the production of the 9008! – Your post made me grabbing an old Staedtler Stenofix (with barcode and white uppercase lettering, i. e. made between 1990 and 2003) and using it during this week.

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    1. Yes, the Stenofix is gone (sob;) but what’s even sadder is that it was never widely available. These kind of pencils are gone before you know it.

      I originally started this blog as a dialogue of sorts and I very much like this relay of posts going back and forth :) And I’ve had the pleasure of re-reading your Steno-related articles, thank you for the refresher! I will comment soon on the Grafik and Black Wood too.

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  3. Thanks for an interesting article. I use the 2B for general writing, as you can write for long stretches without needing to sharpen it if you don’t press too hard on the paper. You can buy them in Germany in a Muller Drugstore, which has all 3 grades. They were inexpensive and easy to find. Muller is a great source of stationery.

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    1. Chandon, thank you for your comment. I’m glad they’re easily available in at least one country! I’ll be sure to look up the store next time I’m anywhere nearby (hopefully not too far in the future).

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