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.