Saturday, 18 September 2010

Faber-Castell Grip 2001

For my next review, I thought I would try a competitor to the Staedtler tradition: the Faber-Castell Grip 2001. This pencil is widely available here in England, and is marketed as a high-quality pencil which is produced in two variants: one with an eraser, and one without. This blurb from Cult Pens gives an idea of the market for this design:

The Faber-Castell Grip 2001 series is a traditional wood-case pencil redesig

ned for the 21st century. Winner of numerous design awards, the patented soft-grip zone provides a secure, non-slip grip, while the ergonomic triangular shape aids tireless writing and drawing.

The eraser-tipped version costs 99 pence in my local WHSmith’s, an

d the non-eraser version (the more common of the two) costs 89 pence, which is about half as much again as the Staedtler tradition. My local WHSmith sells this pencil only in HB, though a quick check on Cult Pens shows it to be available in up to five grades: 2B, B, HB, H and 2H. This suggests to me that the Grip is really optimised for writing, rather than drawing.

The Grip is a striking-looking pencil. For one thing it has a triangular section, not hexagonal, is finished in a smart silver-grey matte lacquer, and sports 26 rows of raised dots painted on in black along each side of the barrel. Their purpose is to provide a non-slip surface for the user. On the non-eraser version I used, the end-cap is painted in a gloss gull-grey. The shade of the end-cap varies from black for the 2B to a light grey for the 2H. The lettering (which occupies only two sides of the pencil) is crisp and the barcode is tastefully printed and unobtrusive. The eraser variant sports a ferrule and eraser in black, to match the lettering.

The wood used is not cedar, but I am not sure what it could be. It has a pronounced grain with easily visible pores, and there is no odour from it. In my KUM sharpener it sliced the wood very easily.

I used this pencil exclusively for a few days, and my overall impression is that this is indeed a quality pencil for writing. The HB lead is lighter in colour than Staedtler’s, and requires sharpening less frequently. For example, during a two-hour meeting at work I wrote some five sides of notes and needed to sharpen the Grip only once. The point stays sharp longer, and even when it has worn down it still lays down a good, legible line. It is not so prone to smearing as the Staedtler HB, nor to breaking; using my KUM sharpener I could get a very sharp point which would not yield under moderate writing pressure. Even when the point has worn down, and provided I did not press too much into the paper, it would leave a thicker, though still silvery, line. F-C’s HB standard is harder than Staedtler’s, for example. I would estimate that F-C’s HB is at least one if not two grades harder than Staedtler’s so the HB on a Grip 2001 would equate to a Staedtler H.

The triangular grip is reasonably comfortable, but I am not sure it is any more so than a traditional hexagonal pencil. However the main problem I experienced using the Grip was that the raised dots would dig into my fingers, so that after a fairly short period of time I would feel some discomfort in my writing hand where the pencil rests on my middle finger. This is not a problem for writing notes but for extended periods I think it would be. To be honest the Grip idea seems to me to be a gimmick, a way of differentiating this design of pencil from its competitors. I do not have a problem with slippery pencils, but I find the Grip to be uncomfortable after a while.

Furthermore I wonder if Faber-Castell has practical difficulties manufacturing this model. Close inspection of the few Grip pencils I have, shows the dots to be unevenly applied. Some are rounder and more pronounced than others, whilst some are not even full circles, but have a slice taken out of one side.

But any gripes I may have are very minor. Overall this is a high quality pencil – and a very modern one, too. It is not a favourite of mine because of the comfort issue which I mentioned above, which is odd considering that this pencil is marketed as one which can be used for long periods. Its price puts it almost in the premium pencil class – nearly as much as the Mars Lumograph, for example, or F-C’s own 9000 series. I don’t think it’s quite as good as that and I would rather use a 9000, but this is still a very nice pencil for the money and well worth trying.


  1. I am also not keen on this pencil, but I do like its black brother, the Faber-Castell Design Pencil in black. Pencil Talk did a review at .

  2. Great review! I wish these were easier to find in the US, but that tends to be the case with a lot of good German pencils. :)

  3. Thanks for this review, and am I jealous! Over on this side of the Atlantic, we can't find the eraser tipped Grips (well, at least not in Fort Wayne, Indiana). Did you test the eraser? How did it hold up?

    Also, a word of warning — don't leave this pencil in the car on a hot summer's day. Those little dots will melt! I left one in a pencil bag with some Palominos and Lumographs, and it got all over their pretty lacquer. Luckily there were no Blackwings in there...

    Great review. Thanks again!

  4. Thanks for the comments. As for not being able to get hold of certain pencils in the US, here in Europe we have the same trouble obtaining Japanese and American pencils, so don't feel too bad! I can get Tombow Mono 100 pencils here, but not the Hi-Uni, for example and I've not even tried to get a Palomino let alone a new Blackwing (yet).

    Incidentally I've been using the Mono 100 HB at work and hope to get a review up soon, but as it was my birthday today I treated myself to a Mitsubishi Kuru Toga mechanical pencil and been very impressed with it. I've gone a bit mad on pencils lately but at least I can review them here.

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  6. Oops, sorry I didn't say that I did not test the eraser. I didn't think about it, because I tend to use pencils without erasers attached. I prefer to use a separate white eraser (either a Mars or Stabilo Legacy ).

    I'll try to remember that for future reviews, though.

    (Edited version of the post I have just deleted)

  7. @Stationery Traffic:

    Here's an intriguing idea: if you would ever like to set up a trade — we could supply each other with our country's pencil stock. You could send me some Tombows and erasered-Grips, and I could send you some Palominos and whatever else you might like that I can get. (-:

    Food for thought. Let me know if you're interested!

  8. In case there is a wish list.. ;) - If you do a review of the Mono 100 HB could you please compare it to the Castell 9000 2B or 9008 2B? I have a Mono 100 HB and a 9008 2B on my desk at home and use both frequently but struggle to see a difference in blackness, smudginess and other attributes. I haven't compared yet how fast they wear down, but otherwise they seem so similar. Still, subjectively I feel that the blogosphere rates the Mono higher or rather ignores the Castell 9000.

  9. @woodclinched: that's a good idea, though isn't the Mono available from Jetpens?. I can send a few Europencils in the post for you to try out....

    @Matthias: also a good idea. Although the Mono HB and the 9008 2B are ostensibly different, they do have similar characteristics on the page. I'll have to do a comparison feature on them. BTW I love the 9008s you sent me and I've ordered some more from a seller in Germany who had some Bs in stock.

  10. Great review – thanks and welcome to the pencil blogosphere.

    I like most things about Faber Castell – except their leads and some of their more curious ideas.
    This pencil is no exception – the idea is great, the design is great – there’s also an eraser cap and a sharpener in matching colours. Really nice thought out. A nice looking pencil and a good concept.

    Unfortunately, I find the lead rather useless – one or two grades lighter than everybody else’s and much more shiny. Being a light writer, it makes my writing almost invisible even at 2B. So I have a problem with these, they would be close to perfect, if only the lead was dark.

    Good luck with the Blog.

  11. I have to agree with Henrik about the leads.
    I went for a B when I first tried them because that was the darkest grade the local W H Smith store stocks but it's more like an H or even a 2H as far as legibility goes but without the ability to keep a point like the H grades.
    I have a Graf von Faber Castell Perfect Pencil which is also too light despite being nominally a B. The 9000 pencils don't seem to be as bad.
    I was thinking of getting the e-Motion pencil but as the lead is an odd size I'm reluctant - unless Faber's mechanical pencil leads are any darker.

  12. It's a nice pencil with white background and black spots.The barcode is tastefully printed and unobtrusive. I like this style.