Wanted Down Under: the Castell 9000

Here in the UK there are several TV shows about buying holiday homes abroad or emigrating. One of those shows is “Wanted Down Under”. The format is usually the same and involves showing how much more people would earn down under and showing what to expect in terms of costs, facilities etc. I’ve never seen a whole episode, but over the years I’ve seen different bits from several episodes and (suspenseful music) they have never talked about the stationery situation down under!

Time to remedy this. Let’s look at the Castell 9000 down under.

Castell 9000 Germany Indonesia

The Castell 9000‘s main markings. Top: Germany, Bottom: Indonesia
Please enlarge by clicking, so that the differences are more obvious.

For the last three to four years Faber-Castell Australia1 has been buying the Castell 9000 pencils from their sister company in Indonesia2. They said that prior to this they bought them from Germany, but if Faber-Castell Indonesia is out of stock Faber-Castell Australia will request replenishment from Faber-Castell Germany.

castell9000-indonesia2

The Castell 9000‘s bar codes. Top: Germany, Bottom: Indonesia

In reality this situation seems to be a bit more complicated than that. You might remember Kevin from New South Wales because of his guest review of the Dahle 133 sharpener. Kevin reports that for the last eight to ten years he usually only came across Indonesian Castell 9000 pencils, the exception being some mixed grade tins, which are from Germany.

Sarab from Western Australia also struggles to find the German Castell 9000, which he prefers, and reports that its not easy finding a stationery shop in Europe that will ship small orders internationally. In his experience the differences in grade of the Indonesian Castell 9000 are very subtle or non-existent. In the past he managed to get Bavarian made Castell 9000 pencils in some branches of Jacksons Drawing Supplies, but now they also only stock Indonesian made Castell 9000 pencils.

Castell 9000 Germany Indonesia

Only the German Castell 9000 (top) has markings on three sides. The Indonesian Castell 9000 (bottom) only has markings on two sides.

There seem to be so many unused numbers after 9000. I can see that Castell 9000 is an established brand, but I wonder whether life wouldn’t be easier if the Indonesian pencil had another model number – what about 9001? It’s easy to distinguish the different 9000s anyway. In terms of colour and feel the paint of the Indonesian 9000, which doesn’t seem to be water-based, seems to be more similar to the paint used for the Mitsubishi 9800 and less similar to the one used for the Castell 9000 from Stein. The bar code, lead hardness font and print on only two sides of the hexagonal pencil also give the game away anyway…

 

The 'town' of Castell

The ‘town’ of Castell. The Castell 9000 is (indirectly) named after this town, through the Counts of Castell.
Nearby, on Schwanberg, you can even find pencil cedars. The first seeds to plant these trees in Bavaria were imported by Lothar von Faber (Faber, 1873, p.44)3.


I would like to thank Sarab, who brought this issue to my attention, Faber-Castell Australia for further information, Kevin for further information and for the Indonesian Castell 9000 he sent me in October 2011 and Sean for telling me about the book referenced in the third footnote.

More Castell 9000 related posts can be found at Contrapuntalism, Pencil Talk and Bleistift.

  1. Their boss is our other favourite Count, Count Andreas Wilhelm Eberhard von Faber-Castell, who has been mentioned previously. []
  2. Made in Bekasi in one of several Faber-Castell plants in Indonesia. Here’s a photo of the impressive entrance. []
  3. Faber, 1873. Die Bleistift-Fabrik von A. W. Faber zu Stein bei Nürnberg. Nürnberg : Sebald’sche Buchdruckerei []
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16 Responses to “Wanted Down Under: the Castell 9000”

  1. kevin says:

    Great summary of the 9000. I have no real problem with the lead quality of the Indonesian pencils because these are imported from Germany, but the overall package of the pencil is not in the same league as the German equivalent AND I don’t like the “deception” practised by FC in not printing the country of manufacture on the Indonesian pencils. I’m afraid if these big companies are going to manufacture away from their home base they should be BIG enough to let consumers know that.

  2. kevin says:

    …forgot to mention, for Sarab, I use Cult Pens in the UK for German 9000s, they sell loose stock and boxed dozens, but shipping costs are a bit of a problem.

  3. Gunther says:

    Thank you for the comparison and the details. I like the 9000 from Indonesia very much – the ring colour matches the colour of the imprint (a detail which would suit the German 9000 well too) and there is no third side printed with garbage.

  4. Matthias says:

    Kevin, I also like to see useful information, like the country of manufacture, on products (Outside the world of stationery, too. I find it a shame that products from Aldi UK (a big supermarket) usually don’t have the country of origin printed on the packaging).

    Gunther, I’m not so keen on the font used for HB, I think it doesn’t fit with the rest of the pencil. I actually do like the third side of the of the 9000. They could have left the URL out, but I guess you can’t make a pencil that will appeal to all pencileers..

  5. Gunther says:

    Could it be possible that the one from Indonesia is counterfeit?

  6. Matthias says:

    It’s possible, but seems unlikely that this one is counterfeit – Faber-Castell Australia have confirmed that they get their pencils from the Indonesian factory and other photos I have seen, as well as information I have received from another reader (who wants to stay anonymous) confirm this information. I hope I’ll find the time soon to put his photos and info into a blog post.

  7. Sola says:

    It’s interesting how one or two letters just slightly off will alert you to its provenance – our brains must be really absorbing much more than we think ;) Does Kevin have his own blog or does he just put in guest appearances? :)

  8. kevin says:

    Does Kevin have his own blog or does he just put in guest appearances?

    Hi Sola…i’m just a normal stationery nut. I just look for honesty and integrity from the manufacturers The barcode difference is a dead give awaybetween the German and Indonesian pencils and easily researched in the googlesphere. The Indonesian lacquer coating is not water based like it’s German counterpart – it attracts unsightly finger print smudge marks on the pencil and is definitely a more cheaply made pencil, albeit with good German lead as previously noted.

  9. Gunther says:

    Kevin, I like the wording “normal stationery nut”! :-)

  10. Sola says:

    Thank you for the clarification Kevin :) I have to say, I’ve never been impressed with the varnish on the original Castell 9000s very much, they fade and wear terribly, much more than other pencils. And you say the Indonesian coating is worse…?!

  11. Gunther says:

    I have been told quite a few times that the varnish of the German 9000 can come off and leave green marks on the hand. – By the way, even water-based lacquers can contain up to 10% solvents. These solvents – hydrocarbons, softeners and alcohols – and the preservatives (up to 0.5%, e. g. biocides and sometimes even formaldehyde) which are necessary to prevent a microbiological attack during storage make handling of and working with these lacquers more difficult than the term “water-based” suggests.

  12. Sola says:

    Of course, Gunther, you remind me that pencils are made of wood, after all! It’s actually amazing that they don’t rot! And we should really appreciate ones that don’t even crack or bend…

  13. Gunther says:

    Oops – ” the preservatives (up to 0.5%, e. g. biocides and sometimes even formaldehyde) which are necessary to prevent a microbiological attack during storage” applies to the storage of the lacquer, not the wood.

  14. Sola says:

    Oops, that was a collosal misunderstanding on my part! Sorry!

  15. kevin says:

    interesting discussion this. German FC are on their *own (of the high end models) using water based finishes and there is certainly a trade off between the “‘environment friendly” FC9000s and other well known brands Tombow Mono 100, Mitsubishi Hi-Uni, Staedtler Mars 100, CDT – all of which i think use oil based finishes… an oil based finish allows for a higher standard and longer lasting finish – but, hey we’re talking about pencils here.

    *Derwent Graphic also use water based varnish with a cheap finish, but these pencils also have other reliability issues IMO.

  16. Matthias says:

    I think a big reason for switching to water based paint, linked to the environmental friendliness, was the well being of the employees – who then didn’t have to be surrounded by the bad fumes all day long. I think I might have read that on Sean’s or Gunther’s blog.

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