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The amazing world of Faber-Castell – Majestic Germany Interview

In Germany, in the city of Stein, near Nuremberg, it is here that the whole history of the most famous pencils in the world began, still in the 18th century, with the artisan Kaspar Faber. At the invitation of Faber-Castell Germany, we visited the Faber-Castell museum and palace, and former pencil production. We were very well received and took an exclusive guided tour, in which we learned a lot about the history of Faber-Castell and the family that gave rise to the company and until today it leads.

Our visit to the Faber-Castell museums in Germany. In the background, the old pencil factory, where the company started.

1 – When did the company exist?

The beginning of Faber-Castell dates back to 1761 with Kaspar Faber, a craftsman from Langenzenn, who produced handmade pencils in the nearby town of Stein, near Nuremberg. Kaspar was the one who started it all, he was the first generation. The name Faber-Castell as we know it today came after the wedding of Ottilie von Faber (sixth generation of the family) with Count Alexander zu Castell-Rüdenhausen, a member of the aristocracy. Until then, the company was known only as A. W. Faber, according to Anton Wilhelm Faber, son of Kaspar.

The Faber-Castell Palace.

2 – Why the name Faber-Castell? Does the Castell family still hold titles from the nobility?

The Faber family, it can be said, made their name and fortune based on hard work. They achieved success and prestige in this business, but they were neither members nor descendants of a noble family. Due to his services to the business world and in social affairs, Baron Lothar von Faber became a lifelong partner and raised to the hereditary nobility in 1881.

The staircase at the entrance to the Faber-Castell palace. Today, the palace is a museum dedicated to the company’s history.

In 1898, Ottilie, the granddaughter of Baron Lothar von Faber (fourth generation), married Alexander, a member of the Castell-Rüdenhausen family of aristocrats. Before his death in 1896, Lothar, a man already very successful in his business, had stipulated that his descendants should carry the name of the company and also the name of the Faber family. That is how the names Faber and Castell were combined.

Alexander and Ottilie – the palace we now know as the Faber-Castell castle was used as the couple’s residence in the early 20th century.

3 – How did the company become a world reference for pencils and stationery items?

Much is due to Baron Lothar von Faber, who, in the mid-19th century, placed it as his personal mission to elevate the company and its products to “the highest rank, doing the best that can be produced in the world”. He had a keen vision for business and marketing, which was not even called that time. Some things that can be attributed to Lothar were, for example, the creation of beautiful pencil cases to attract the consumer. At the time, foreign pencils were the biggest competitors for Faber products. Therefore, he had in mind that he should focus on product quality, on consumer perception when he saw an A.W.Faber pencil box for the first time.

The concern with the quality of the products and the presentation – delighting the consumer: a concept now so talked about in marketing, was already realized by Lothar von Faber in the 19th century.

He boosted A.W. Faber on a global level, in production, distribution, and reputation. He was also the first businessman in the world to be concerned with the trademark (Markenschutz) and wrote a letter to the German parliament in Berlin to obtain it. The name A.W.Faber is the oldest still active trademark in the United States. Baron Lothar von Faber knew how important it was for the company to achieve this international position, maintaining the quality of the product and, also, keeping the business within the family, bringing his brothers to the affairs of the company, and working to ensure a future for the companies. generations to come.

Faber-Castell packaging at the end of the 19th century brought illustrations from different cultures and regions of the world. Thus, its consumers knew places to which they could not travel, in a primitive form of Instagram, as very well analyzed by our guide.

Instagram followers questions

4 – Does Faber-Castell use wood from Brazilian forests? Are there reforestation areas in Brazil?

Yes. In Prata, Minas Gerais. Faber-Castell also uses 82% renewable energy as hydraulic turbines for production in Stein, Germany. The company has also been very concerned with reforestation and biodiversity in areas where wood is used for its pencils.

5 – Is there a museum in Germany where we can learn about the company’s history and activities for children?

Sure! In Stein, near Nuremberg, you can visit the castle of Faber-Castell, which was the family’s residence in the early 20th century. Production is also nearby, in the same place where Kaspar Faber started in the 18th century. The visitor can enjoy a tour of the castle, the “Alte Mine” museum (former mines) and production, and learn more about the history of the company, how pencils are made, and so on.

In addition to the Faber-Castell palace, it is also possible to visit the museum of the old factory, across the avenue.
Learning how a pencil was handcrafted. Have you ever held a graphite mine like this? At the Faber-Castell museum, you can have that experience.

6 – Where is Faber-Castell’s production located?

In many countries. Germany, Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, Austria, United States, Malaysia, Colombia, China, and India.

7 – How was the pencil invented?

The use of the lead stick as a writing instrument dates back to Ancient Egypt. However, the pencil as we know it today, with the mine inside the wooden structure, must be something of more recent times. In the exhibition of the Faber-Castell, museum is the oldest remaining pencil (photo below), from the 17th century, found inside a building in Germany.

The next questions were sent by children from Brazil, aged 7 to 11 years.

Question from Valentina, 11 years old:

8 – How does the company imagine using pencils, pens, and school products in the future?

Well, now there is Repaper, the Faber-Castell graphic paper tablet, which is a tablet on which you can write or draw, maintaining the feeling of handwriting, hand drawing, but with the possibility to transfer the content digitally, whether for your smartphone or your computer.

The store just outside the Faber-Castell museum – above, the Repaper, the tablet that gives the feeling of writing on paper.

Question from Helena, 9 years old:

9 – How are pencils produced? How is wood transformed into pencils?

Well, it’s a long process, almost 100% handmade. It is important to make sure that the mines will not break inside the wooden pencil body, that the colors are precisely mixed to maintain a pattern and such things. Do you know the non-slip balls on the Grip 2001 HB pencil? So, this is one of the many details that must be taken care of during production. In this video, the process is very well illustrated.

Question from Luisa, 6:

11 – How are colored pencils made?

It depends on the mine. Be it the graphite mine or the colored mines, in the manufacture of the colored mines, the high-quality pigments, the derivative cellulose (a kind of wallpaper mass), and the kaolinite (a clay mineral also used in the manufacture of porcelain) are mixed together.

The steps of cutting the wood until it becomes the body of the pencil. The guided tour is excellent, very well explained, and illustrated.

The dough is placed under low pressure through a nozzle to form the ditches for the mines. The colored mines are not burned, as the color pigments would be destroyed during the burning, the colored mines are softer and more sensitive than graphite mines. To make them more stable, the diameter of the colored mine is larger than that of the graphite mine.

Even those who do not know how to draw feel like having a box like this. 🙂
A delight for those who like pens and stationery items.

P.S. Our visit took place in July 2020. We would like to thank the marketing team at Faber-Castell Germany for the kind welcome and guided tours. The photographs of the museums have been authorized and are for exclusive use for our interview.

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