If there are such things as “classic” pencils, then the Castell 9000 would likely be one of them. It has been manufactured by Faber-Castell for 107 years and its design has remained largely the same, but some of the niceties have changed over the years. These are but two examples of the Castell 9000.
The lighter pencil is from the 1980s, and the darker pencil is from 2005. The older pencil has a thicker diameter, and though I don’t have a micrometer, it can only be a matter of millimeters (or less). Yet, it truly feels more comfortable to hold than the 2005 Castell. For lack of a better term, it’s more “pencil-like.”
The label on the package for the older pencils states that they are made from premium cedar, and you can tell. The color of the wood is darker than that of the 2005 pencil, it sharpens very easily by hand, plus there is that unmistakable aroma—and it’s pretty strong. Not so for the 2005 pencil. In fact, I’m not even certain it’s made of cedar—the texture is similar to
juletong jelutong, but I could be mistaken. (Perhaps some of the experts can weigh-in on whether jelutong was ever adopted for the Castell 9000 in some markets, or if they have always been cedar.) Either way, the wood is of a different (and seemingly lesser) quality.
Last, the older Castell is a reminder of when pencils didn’t have barcodes and URLs slathered all over them. Those graphic devices have become eyesores, and in some instances have turned what were once beautiful wood-cased writing instruments into selfsame novelty advertising pencils.
If there’s anything that contradicts the essence—or perhaps the ethos—of wood-cased pencils, it’s a barcode.
I know it’s a bit quixotic of me to wish they could go back to how they once were, but because the change didn’t happen that long ago (in pencil-years), I harbor this (false) presumption that it wouldn’t be too hard to do, and a (fool’s) hope that they’ll do it.