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Steno pencils: pencils with a job

Steno pencils

Faber-Castell and Staedtler each make a specialty extension to their premier lines – a “steno pencil”, aimed at shorthand practitioners. They are round versions of the Castell 9000 and Lumograph 100.

Staedtler’s entry is the Mars Stenofix, model 101. A round version of the Lumograph 100 (a Lumograph 101?), it is dark blue, but with the cap in turquoise rather than black. My thanks to Dave for providing this pencil. It is unfortunately not locally available to me.

Steno pencils

Faber-Castell’s offering is the 9008 Steno, corresponding to the Castell 9000 series. In appearance, it looks just like a round 9000.

Each is a high quality pencil, and I couldn’t detect any difference between the lead used in the mainstream pencils and the steno versions.

Steno pencils

The Stenofix is available solely in HB, while the 9008 is offered in HB, B, and 2B.

There is one other practical difference – the Stenofix has a full size diameter at about 7.45mm, while the 9008 has a thinner 7.25mm diameter.

They are interesting, quality pencils, and it’s unfortunate that they aren’t more widely available.

20 comments to Steno pencils: pencils with a job

  • adair

    I’ve long loved these two pencils. The round barrels make for better handling, and the leads feel stronger, even at dark grades. In my view, these are the two best pencils in the catalogues of Faber Castell and Staedtler. It is indeed sad that they are not more widely available. I can only stock up when I visit Berlin.

  • Do you know why they are round? Why are round pencils supposedly more suited to shorthand than hexagonal pencils?

  • That’s a good question. I don’t have any definitive information.

  • I always look to see what kind of pencils are being sold by the stores I visit during my errand runs. Sometimes, if an arts/crafts supply store is nearby, then I take a real quick detour and check out their inventory. I am almost always disappointed by the stock I see. Other than online stores, where can these premium pencils be seen?

  • Hi Boris, keep looking for interesting pencils! They are out there. These pencils were both purchased at retail.

  • @Kiwi-d: As far as I know shorthand relies heavily on the thickness of the strokes. To accomplish this, the pencil must allow for slight rotation and be kept in the new position. A hexagonal barrel works as some kind of detent and makes the latter more difficult, so a pencil with a round barrel is much more suitable for this purpose. – But I will look into that matter more detailed.

  • Jim Barnes

    Frankly, I’ve been looking for round pencils. Other than the Black Warrior, these are the only ones I’ve seen referred to. Are there any distributors in the US? Or any on eBay who will ship to the US?
    Here’s Hoping
    Jim

  • Frank

    @ Kiwi-d & Gunther: That is right, at least some of the German shorthand systems rely on the thickness of the strokes. That’s the reason why shorthand pencils are always a bit smoother (Stenofix HB compared with Lumograph HB or Faber-Castell 9008 HB with 9000) and shorthand fountain pens like the Pelikan Steno P470 have a very flexible nib. And another reason for making shorthand pencils round is that it hurts holding a hexagonal pencil for hours, as John Steinbeck confirmed once in an interview: “Pencils must be round. A hexagonal pencil cuts my fingers after a long day. You see I hold a pencil for about six hours every day. This may seem strange but it is true.” By the way: Steinbeck prefered famous Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602.

  • adair

    Jim—did you know that Ticonderoga makes a round-barrel version of its flagship yellow pencil? It isn’t widely distributed and in fact is only sold individually, dispensed from big plastic containers at certain university bookshops and such. It is quite a decent, solid pencil, in some ways superior to the hexagonal version. Why Ticonderoga/Dixon doesn’t make it available more generally is a mystery to me.

  • Jim Barnes

    Adair, thanks for the information. I searched the Dixon/Ticonderoga site and couldn’t find any reference to it. But, I will definitely keep my eyes open. For now, I’m going to try to find a source for the Stenofix or Steno.
    Thanks again,
    Jim

  • colleen

    I’m looking for Empire Pedigree Steno 7419 pencils,they are thin and light green and my grandmother used them.
    Colleen

  • Nick Hayes

    Unable to find a supplier, I contacted Staedtler UK
    ‘Cheryl’ sent me her regards with this ‘helpful’ reply:

    “The Stenofix pencil is not part of the product range that gets brought into the UK, Some products that can be found on our website are only available in other countries, As the website is our worldwide site apology.

  • Coleen,

    I’m wondering if you were able to find a supplier for the Empire Pedigree
    Steno 7419 ? We have and love it but can’t find any more. Any help would be appreciated.

  • This must be a compelling pencil – Empire Pencil Co. was acquired over twenty years ago.

  • Scott

    I am looking for WHSmith Shorthand pencils that were available around 10+ years ago in the UK. Have had no luck with WHSmith, they are a yellow pencil with code EAN5159 stamped on them.

    Down to my last four, please help! ;o)

    S.

  • [...] zu Steno-Bleistiften gibt es bei pencil talk unter “Steno pencils: pencils with a job” und “Another Steno Pencil – the Hardtmuth Steno [...]

  • Adair

    I was in Berlin recently and as usual went to “MacPaper” to stock up on the Staedtler Stenofix. To my horror, I was told that this pencil will no longer be manufactured! What a pity. I then went to KaDeWe (quite simply, the world’s greatest department store, with a whole floor devoted to stationery and writing instruments)and sought to purchase some of the Faber Castell steno pencils, and found they were in short supply…Are steno pencils about to become extinct? There is something about the round barrels of the Staedtler and Faber Castell stenos that makes them perfectly fitting in the hand, and the leads are superb. Perhaps the great Lexikaliker has some inside knowledge of what is happening to these wonderful German pencils.

  • Hi Adair, thanks for the news. While the great Lexikaliker may indeed know something, I’ve also sent a brief enquiry to Staedtler about this.

  • Thank you, Adair and penciladmin :-) Unfortunately I don’t have any official information.

  • Hramm

    Don’t believe that with all the Triangular Pencils they produce, they will stop the production of steno pencils. Those ones are still available on german and french amazon too.

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