Palomino BlackWing: The Best Pencil That You've Probably Never Heard Of
I am still an analog kind of guy.
While all the tech that surrounds me on a daily basis is nice, when it comes to down to it, nothing beats a good 'ol #2 pencil and a fresh Cahier notebook.
Over this past weekend, I was wandering around downtown Ann Arbor with my nephew and two sons. Our primary goal was to hit the Vault of Midnight, which is a comic book shop, but I also wanted to stop over at Peaceable Kingdom as I heard they were going out of business soon.
Peaceable Kingdom has been around for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my siblings and I would stop in there and get little trinkets like those "Chinese finger traps", balsa wood airplanes and wind up toys. I wanted to get at least one more thing from there before they closed forever, and that's why it became an important part of this trip downtown for me.
For anyone that's never been in the shop, it could be something that you'd imagine an old fashioned toy and trinket shop to look like. There's toys that are just 10 to 15 cents, Elegant rugs for sale, handmade jewelry and imports from other countries.
The Polamino Blackwing Pencils
As the boys and I were checking out, I found some really curious pencils at the side of the register that were for sale. Each of these were $2.00 but what caught my eye was the differences between them and normal pencils, such as those yellow Ticonderoga pencils ubiquitous to classrooms.
Just on impulse, I picked up two of these pencils without much thought and tossed them into the bag for $4.
Little did I know it, but I just purchased the best pencils in the world without knowing it.
Later last night, when I was sitting at home in the living room, I pulled out the pencils and took a closer look at my purchase.
There's a lot more to these pencils that you'd think.
For starters, the biggest difference between the Palomino Blackwing and normal pencils is the large, flat eraser and eraser housing (officially called a "ferrule"). It's a fairly flat eraser that looks a bit like a piece of Trident Gum (but a bit smaller). The clip for the eraser is removable, and you can either push up the eraser when the top is used up, or replace it completely. This is a God send for parents with kids that use the erasers off regular pencils before they even resharpen the pencil for the first time.
Finally, it's attached to the pencil in a brass housing, giving the pencil a very elegant, polished look.
Replacement erasers can be purchased online for about $3 for a set of 10, ensuring your Blackwing won't outlast the eraser.
Upon very close inspection of the pencil body, the Palomino Blackwing pencil has an extremely smooth, luxurious satin finish surface that results in probably the best pencil gripping experiences ever.
You probably don't think about what a pencil feels like in your hand when you are holding it for writing, but when you do hold a Blackwing, the differences in feeling come to the forefront of your mind. You might not of noticed the bumpier surface that the Ticonderoga and other mass produced pencils have across their body surfaces, but in comparison with the Blackwing, the others feel like you're holding bumpy, moon cratered, low quality pencils.
Aesthetically speaking, when you just look at a normal pencil next to the Palomino Blackwing, it's evident that the Blackwing is in a league of it's own. It's there, not solely due to it's unique eraser, mind you, but the things that your eye sees that are unconsciously registered in your mind. The smoother finish of the barrel, the thicker, bolder lines of the lettering, the smoother wood at the tip of the pencil and perhaps, the sharper point. All these little things register in your mind without your conscious thought, creating the feeling that the Polamino is a more desirable pencil to hold.
The Incense-cedar Wood
Polamino Blackwing pencil barrels are made from genuine Incense-Cedar wood from the Sierra Nevada area in California. This type of wood is has a reddish-brown tint to it, and in the pencil, you can see the seam where the two halves of the pencil were bonded together. The wood has a hint of that familiar cedar smell to it.
In contrast, most mass produced, budget pencils (Including Ticonderoga) have a lighter color wood that appears rougher in texture. While these other pencils don't usually name a type of wood that is used in the pencil, it's often a mixture of synthetic materials and low quality wood or synthetic materials only.
The biggest difference you'll notice is that when you sharpen the pencil with a small blade sharpener, the higher quality pencils with real Incense-Cedar wood will peel easily and uniformly, while the low quality pencils will peel in a much more jagged and broken texture (often breaking the graphite during the process) while needle-like points are possible with the Incense-Cedar wood pencils.
Doing A Bit Of Research
I purchased a both a black pencil and a white one. Not knowing anything about these pencils, I began to wonder if there was more to these pencils than I thought.
Even though it was midnight, I cracked open the laptop and began hunting around. What I found was pretty impressive.
Apparently, The Blackwing pencil has a long and rich history that not that many people know about. These pencils have been used by artists, writers, musicians and many other types of people over the years. We'll get into the history a bit later in this post. More importantly color isn't the only difference between the two Blackwing pencils I just picked up.
The Polamino Blackwing lends itself better to drawing and sketching, but can be used with a light hand for writing. This pencil is a close replica of the original Eberhardt-Faber Blackwing 602. | Check Current Price
Polamino Blackwing Perl
This pencil is the "halfway" between the Blackwing and 602 pencils in hardness. It lends itself better for writing and light preliminary sketching, but dark bold lines can also be accomplished with ease. | Check Current Price
Polamino Blackwing 602
The Palomino Blackwing 602 is designed to be the best "general purpose" writing instrument and is the direct replica of the original Eberhardt-Faber Blackwing 602. | Check Current Price
Blackwing Pencil History
The Blackwing was first manufactured by the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company in 1934 and earned the distinct reputation of being the smoothest and highest quality pencil you could write with. The company touted that users of the pencil would only need to use half the physical energy to write making it easier and allowing for less fatigue. In fact, the pencil had it's own slogan: "Write with half the pressure, twice the speed".
The Original Blackwing pencil ended it long production run in 1988 when Eberhard Faber was acquired by Faber-Castell and the pencil was rebranded as the Faber-Castell Blackwing 602. In 1994, the Blackwing line was discontinued completely. A sizeable amount of backstock was then sold on eBay with auctions reaching to $40 a pencil and the triple digits for a box of pencils, even on boxes with less than the original 12 pencils.
Then, in 2008, the California Cedar Products Company began production of the Blackwing pencils, replicating the originals as closely as possible and selling them on pencils.com. The only change to the original pencil that really stood out was the change to the eraser color, which some die-hards didn't like. The original pink eraser color is available as a separate purchase if you want the original look.
The Blackwing Pencil has made it's mark. Artists such as Stephen Sondheim and Chuck Jones swore by the pencils, and John Steinbeck wrote much of his works using one.