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FAQs: Pens and Pencils

How are pencils made?

Anyone who wants to experience the production of wood-cased pencils live is welcome to visit the site in Stein. In addition to wooden pencil production, visitors can also experience the historic lead production and visit the Graf von Faber-Castell castle. Registrations via our online form.

What does SV stand for on the pencils?

In the past, the two plank sections were only glued together in specific points during pencil production. The lead could keep slipping out of the wooden shaft. With the introduction of a patent-protected manufacturing process in the 1960s, Faber-Castell succeeded in bonding the lead securely with its wooden case over the entire length. This procedure is still known as secural bonding (SV from the Latin secura = secure) to this day. It makes the lead much less susceptible to breakages and also improves the sharpening ability considerably.
Faber-Castell uses the secural bonding method for all wood-cased pencils and labels them with “SV” for the German “Securalverfahren” (secural bonding).

What are the pencils varnished with?

All wood-cased coloured and black pencils produced in Europe are coated with an environmentally-friendly water-based varnish. When this self-developed technology was launched in 1993, the company set new standards in the field of pencil coatings.

How many colours are there?

The Colour Grip and Goldfaber pencils are available in 48 different colours, Pitt Pastel artists' coloured pencils are available in 60 different colours, the Pitt Artist Pen is available in 66 colours. The Albrecht Dürer artists' watercolour pencils and the Polychromos artists' colour pencils are available in 120 different colours. All colours are based on the same colour spectrum and are therefore compatible with each other.

What are the colours named after?

Our artists’ coloured pencils are traditional products, some of which were developed back in 1905 for professional users. We still use the traditional, handed-down colour designations Phtalo green, Madder lake and Manganese purple to this day, as they are as established in artistic circles as the consistent numbering system. For new colours, we try to use the chemical name of the colour pigments or related metaphors.

What hardness grades are available?

The mixing ratio between the clay and graphite during lead production determines the hardness grade of a pencil lead. The higher the clay portion, the ‘harder’ the pencil writes.
The hardness grade of the lead is indicated with letters and numbers. Harder leads are generally labelled with H and the softer leads are labelled with B. Different hardness grades can be defined by placing a number in front of the letter. This means that 6H is harder than 4H.
The designations can most probably be traced back to English terms. B stood for Black and H stood for Hard - the accompanying number indicates increasing levels of black or hardness. F may have stood for Firm or Fine Point. The classification of the hardness grades was never internationally standardised in definitive terms, which means that the exact designation still depends on the relevant manufacturer. Faber-Castell offers the popular classic pencil Castell 9000 in 16 hardness grades.
Soft pencils are preferably used in the artistic field. An ideal writing pencil (e.g. for use in the office) has a medium hardness (“HB”), a school pencil has hardness grade B.
Faber-Castell uses the following designations:
B = Black
H = Hard
HB = Hard Black
F = Firm

Hardness grades in numbers:


Why do the pencils have different shapes?

Wood-cased pencils are produced and sold worldwide in three main shapes.

Round cross-section shape 
In the past, this shape was predominantly used in offices for stenography (shorthand), as the round pencil can be turned easily in the hand to prevent the lead from becoming blunt on one side, meaning that less frequent sharpening is required. Because the round cross-section shape is easier to turn in the hand, the pencil also has to be held more firmly, however. During prolonged use, this can cause the hand to tire faster.

Hexagonal cross-section shape
The hexagonal (six-sided) shape is currently the most commonly used cross-section shape for standard applications in schools and offices. It enables easier gripping of the pencil during use and prevents the pencil from rolling off the table.

Triangular cross-section shape
In normal writing position, the pencil is held by the thumb, index finger and middle finger. With a triangular pencil, each finger has a larger contact area. This reflects the ergonomics of the hand and therefore enables fatigue-free writing. A pencil like this does not roll off the table easily.
In recent times, the triangular shape is recommended for writing novices. Because the triangular pencil ends in a round cone shape at the front, it can be sharpened easily with a normal sharpener.

What is special about the dimples?

Technically speaking, the dimple technology developed by Faber-Castell is an embossed (“convex”) structure of small dimples. 
These dimples are mounted on the front end of the pencil and act as an anti-slipping feature, thus enabling a more secure and slip-proof grip.
They are the distinguishing feature of our entire Grip range.

What makes the perfect pencil?

One disadvantage of the traditional pencil: It has to be sharpened from time to time. A suitable sharpener isn’t always on hand.

Faber-Castell, as the leading manufacturer worldwide, has found the perfect solution to this problem of the transportable pencil: A pencil with integrated sharpener and eraser with a clip, which can be carried like a ballpoint or fountain pen and can be sharpened again in no time wherever you are.

Faber-Castell offers this perfect pencil concept in a variety of price classes.

What is the best way to sharpen my Pitt pastel crayons?

The high-quality pastel crayons should only be sharpened with a sharp knife (item number 181398) or using sanding paper (item number 1851004).

Can the lead of water soluble pencils be dipped directly into water?

No. If the pencils are dipped into water, the wood absorbs moisture and swells, which means that the pencil can no longer be used.  For the watercolour technique, use a wet brush or draw on damp paper.

You will find some inspiration and ideas in this tutorial.

Can you buy replacements for individual colours?

We offer individual colours for Colour Grip, Jumbo Grip, Goldfaber, Goldfaber Aqua, Polychromos artists' colour pencils and crayons, Albrecht Dürer and Albrecht Dürer Magnus artists' watercolour pencils, Pitt pastel crayons and all pencils.
Individual colours are available to purchase in our online shop or from specialist stationary shops. 
You can find a specialist retailer in your local area via our retailer search.

Should I fix my drawing with fixative?

Yes, when drawing and painting with Pitt Pastel artists’ pencils or Polychromos artists’ pastels. Fixing is not necessary with Polychromos or Albrecht Dürer artists’ pencils, as they have an oil lead.
Pitt Pastels are pastel crayons and their lead contains no grease or oil components. This means that they can be smudged easily and should be fixed once the drawing is complete or while working (interim fixing).
We have no fixatives in our product range. We can recommend the following products, however:

1. Sennelier: Latour pastel fixative
2. Marabu: Fixative
3. Schmincke: Aerospray pastel fixative

All spray products are available from specialist stationary shops or online.

What can I use to blend my drawing?

We don’t have a blending agent in our product range.
One option used by some artists is linseed oil or baby oil, which partially dissolves the Polychromos colours, enabling them to be blended with a brush.

How lightfast are the pencils?

In the artists’ colour industry, the lightfastness is divided into three classes:
Three stars *** - maximum lightfastness   
Two stars ** - high lightfastness
One star * - limited lightfastness 
To make the classification clearer, we have included the lightfastness information on our artists’ pencils in the form of stars in addition to the colour number.

What is the best way to preserve my drawing?

Drawings should be protected from direct sunlight, soiling, dust, strong temperature fluctuations and moisture. Protection can take the form of a picture frame with glass insert or a space without exposure to direct sunlight.

Why do my pencils keep breaking?

Our pencils must fulfil high quality requirements and are constantly tested for the breaking resistance of the tip. If you have any reason for complaint, please contact our customer service.
Register there and send us the affected products so that they can be tested and reimbursed if necessary. 
To ensure that you continue to enjoy our pencils for as long as possible, take care that you sharpen them correctly. When sharpening, insert the pencil in the intended opening and turn it as evenly as possible. Turn gently without applying large amounts of pressure. Otherwise, there is a risk that the pencil may become tilted and the lead may break. 
If the opening used for sharpening is too large for the pencil, the lead can also be tilted and break. 
The sharpening angle is another important factor. The sharpeners in our product range include 21° – 24° - 28° - 31°. Pencils are sharpened with a sharper point than coloured pencils, some artists’ coloured pencils even have a more pointed cone. If the pencil is sharpened with too sharp a point, the lead protrudes further than normal and is more sensitive and more susceptible to lead breakage. 
The correct opening size and the correct sharpening angle guarantee that you have the right sharpener for the product line, e.g. our Grip sharpening box with an opening for the ultra-thick Jumbo Grip pencils, another for the Grip pencil and a different model for the Colour Grip coloured pencil with the flatter sharpening cone.
But the most frequent problem is a blunt sharpener. After sharpening 12 complete pencils, a sharpener becomes too blunt to sharpen reliably. Broken leads in the sharpening cone should only be removed with other pencils or sharp plastic objects, but not with metal needles or scissors, as they could damage the blade. Empty the sharpener regularly.