The Blackwing 602 (Palomino)

Welcome back cultists of the crayon!  Today’s subject is the Blackwing 602 by Palomino.

First a little bit of background.  If you google terms along the lines of “best pencil in the world” or “world’s best pencil” or “pencil pricey enough to take two people to the movies for the price of a box,” odds are you will come up with the Blackwing 602.  Now they are very nice, but as you will see in the history portion of this, these pencils have a bit of a cult following, and it may be that following that drives them now.

The Blackwing pencil was originally produced by the Eberhart Faber company.  I did not find a start date for production, but Eberhart Faber opened in 1861 in New York City, the factory was located at the present site of the United Nations.  What we do know is that the pencil was produced up until 1994.  The problem was apparently the very iconic ferule and eraser.

The “paint brush” eraser is held in by a custom clip.  That clip (which you can see) was made by a custom machine, which in 1994 broke (wikipedia the blackwing for this) they may also have been victim to a decreasing market.  Either way the argument is that there were enough of these clamps to continue sales until 1998.  Then that was it, the original Blackwing was gone.  Now It was beloved by the likes of Stephen Sondheim and John Steinbeck, enough that their mention of the tool is enough to have created part of the cult following.  The most excellent article I have ever read about the Blackwing original (contained on a forum solely for posts about this specific pencil) is here.  I will not attempt to out do the author, as I am not here to talk about the old pencil, I am here to say they have been back for over three years and what I think of them.

Palomino resurrected this rather excellent pencil in 2012.  Now I have to be specific, their first attempt was just called the Blackwing and it was a tribute pencil.  Fans of the 602 were not pleased, they felt it strayed too far.  So Palomino came back with what we now call the 602.  They actually have three.  The blackwing (soft), the 602 (firm) and the pearl (balanced.)  I will only be covering the 602 today.

I am a little concerned about the pencils that they believe to be soft and balanced as I find the 602, their firm model to be a little soft.  The Japanese graphite found with in is not a let down, but the pencil does wear down somewhat quickly.  However a note on that, the pencil boasts “half the pressure, twice the speed.” It may be the part about half the pressure that is my issue, I am heavy handed and I know it.  ( I FEEL IT IN MY FINGAS…)  This is an incredibly smooth writing tool.  Also you can customize it by replacing the eraser with different colored ones.  I first sharpened up about half the box of twelve.

This will be fairly standard practice for this blog.  I used the brass bullet, the two stage feature of an M+R Tri hole, a Kum magnesium, and my new double burr hand crank.  Now I was afraid to feed that hand crank a 602 as it is still being broken in, but I suppose the fear drove me to be more careful.  After sharpening I went to work.  The new torture test for new pencils will be thirty minutes of cursive practice.  Yes I am an adult who does not know how to write in cursive, I am working on it.  There will probably be a post about it.

Each block of practice was done with a different point, the winner was the tri-hole as it creates a somewhat flat and not brittle point (similar to what I imagine of the El Casco) with the double burr coming in close second.  I still say these pencils wear down fast, but again that sweet smooth ride makes up for it, and I also wield a pencil like a club.  Ferule and all it measured in at eight inches.  The silver finish is incredibly smooth as well.  Again this is not a pencil you stumble onto, it is something you hear about.  Your perceptions may be influenced by those who told you about this piece of wiring greatness.  It is made of California cedar, and Japanese graphite.  Palomino makes lots of pencils (more reviews to come.)  You have to want it with these, they are about 25$ per twelve.

It rated in at an easy B grade (the graphite) I wouldn’t call it an HB and this lends a little validity to my argument that they wear down quickly.  However I am a junkie of the first order.  I am easy to please when it comes to things I am passionate about, and I am easily effected by the Blackwing cult.  As so this will be the standard of a pencil for me.  This is not your work horse, it is a treat.  They can be found on Amazon (if they are in stock) cwpencils.com, and eBay.  I hope you start spotting them in my photos soon.  Have a happy New Year.

Hrolf the Ganger

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There are two kinds of people in history…

I have been away for a while.  I believe at is or a similar phrase are the beginnings of most of my posts.  It is true though, I was taken away by my School.  Ah yes I have completed my first year of college.  For a high school dropout who has actually realized the dream of using my military benefits to better myself (in my opinion), it is fairly amazing to be attending college and by some miracle coming out on the Dean’s list for both semesters so far.  I know that it is a very long road to be sure, but when you say a year is down, then the next three do not seem all that long.  We have had a good year here.  I am behind in posting the journal posts, but the idea is that I am not going to go back and type them all out.  What counts is that they are in the journal for my family to read, not that they end up in here, all further ones will be posted.  The idea is not to spend all my time in life rerecording, just the once will do.

I will give a brief recap.  There was a second post about camping.  There is a rather good entry espousing to my son(s) the dedication that you have show if you wish to succeed at anything.  That little gym was written at about 0300 one night when I stayed up to do homework rather than working on it while Liam was awake.

I want the boys to see that you must be prepared to sacrifice if you want to succeed.  You have to be ready to skip movies, concerts, sleep.  I managed my goals this semester, I kept my grades up and I still managed to spend time with my family.  Liam has been in daycare the few days that I am class and it has done him a world of good.  He has learned at a faster rate than he would have cooped up with me.  The baby is due in February and I had intended to take the semester off.  However my advisor has asked me to take at least one online history course and Katie believes that I should keep moving as well.  Our family has come through in fine fashion to help us get through the coming semester as I have been offered (and hopefully will get) the chance to be a student instructor in history.  That is the kind of thing that grad school applications are made of as my grades and high school drop out will only walk me so far.

Our family had a nice Christmas.  Our pajama theme was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The day before Christmas Liam became sick.  We have all had a cold, but Liam’s got worse.  I hoped he would kick it but he didn’t and two days later it was apparent that he had pneumonia.  We were going to make him an appointment Monday morning, but during the night he kept getting worse.  At 0430 I finally took him to the hospital.  It was there that they confirmed that he had pneumonia.

The raging fever, accelerated hear rate, trouble breathing, the infection…this could have been a death sentence a relatively short time in history ago.  That is what leads me to my main point.  In some parts of the world today, pneumonia, especially in children, is still a death sentence.  We were at the hospital for maybe an hour and a half. Basic medicine (which we had at home, and were already using) to bring the fever down, couple of chest x-rays to confirm the diagnoses, and a dose of and prescription for antibiotics, and we were on our way, with the certainty that my son would survive the night.  It is only my studies of medicine and history, I feel, that make me sensitive to what a modern miracle that is.  I walked out thinking “everyone should have that.”  That is where the point of this post begins.

Firstly I have always had a bent towards history, and realized my passion in an epiphany when trying to pick my major.  However our long educations make us insensitive to certain things.  I have the theory that in history there are two kinds of people: Historical Figures and just Figures.  Your historical figures are someone remembered.  We will work with examples like Jamestown colony.  We know names like Captain John Smith, he is a historical figure.  However your “figures”are just that, they are numbers.  From elementary school onward we learn things like “over half the colonists died of…” the figures were worse than that, but you get the idea.  The death figures we read over, to us they are facts and figures.  We get accustom to them, and our currently low mortality rates do not help us to think of the ones in the past as being something that borders on fiction.  It is true that a certain normalcy forms when something happens often enough.  A situation in Brazil proved that maternal instinct is more cultural construct than it is total instinct, in that it can be overridden by prolonged and truly desperate circumstances. They were people though, starving, freezing, dying of disease.  They were husbands, wives, CHILDREN.  They were peoples children.  Children died too.  We forget to think about when we read “children that survived to adulthood.”  Let that sink in.  You may have seen my graveyard posts.  The end of all anti vaccine arguments is “I am sorry that you enjoy being able to name your children before they are six.”  We are not so far into a time when children don’t just die.  At least to the people reading this.  That is the second half.

My studies have made me aware of problems in the world.  I knew about them, more than the common man anyhow, due to service in Iraq, seeing the people so poor they didn’t eat enough.  I won’t go into all the details, but with my school I’ve realized it isn’t just war zones.  There are places where people just do not have anything.  If their children had gotten the same sickness that my son had and I consider it minor, their child would be dead.  I am grateful that my son has that, but I am aware of the imbalance in the world.  My son lives, countless die.  I avoid things like commercials of the kids starving because I know I cannot do enough, like I could not do enough in Iraq.  The weight of millions bares down on me.  Past and present.  I ignore the fact that I enjoy the products of this situation.  I sit here on my fancy made in China computer, wearing my Singapore and Vietnam clothes not knowing if they get a decent wage or if they are modern slaves.  The more I study the more the weight heaves on thinking about how there are children forced to be soldiers.  Someone posted an article saying minority children in America do not get to be children.  Fine that may be true in some cases (race put aside) but I wonder if the ones saying we must broaden our thoughts want to broaden far enough to the places where nine year olds carry AK-47’s.  I am thankful my son had a hospital and care and insurance, and I wish everyone had that, but I have this fight club moment when I sit on my Ikea couch and wonder if the guilt will win, or if I just accept that is the way it is?  We journey on, but we wonder, will we always have it so good?

Hrolf the Ganger

Aftermath: Journey to the Force Awakens: Star Wars

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This book by Chuck Wendig is a part of the new Star Wars canon.  As I have said before, I am glad that they are giving the new movies a newly ordered canon.  I know many people are angry that the novels that were perviously canon are now just classified as legends and are no longer a part of the official storyline.

This book takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.  It is part of a series that will lead to the new movies and clear up how the galaxy laid out after Return of the Jedi.

This book earns two and a half to three stars.  The characters are forgettable (perhaps further books will redeem them) and the plot is slow moving, but that is the point.  The books treasure lies in the fact that the main story is just a pretense for putting in all the details about the larger Star Wars universe.  The entire purpose of this book (and probably the others) is to lay out the state of the New Republic, The Empire, and The Alliance and how we passed the time between movies.

With that in mind it gets the three stars for appealing to information, canon, and lore junkies like myself, but still remains mediocre at best.  It is not supposed to tell a good small story–and with the exceptions of the escapades of the droid Mr. Bones–it does not tell a good small story, it is supposed to be filler material.  It does enrich the viewing of The Force Awakens if you thought the movie was just a copy of episode four, but beyond that it is a mediocre at best book.  I really only recommend it to true junkies.  2.5/3 stars.

Hrolf The Ganger

Baton Fire Wood

Here is my post on batoning firewood.  The technique is best used to make kindling or in the last ditch, split firewood.  Enjoy the video.

 

The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB

I have espoused to you before my great love of the wooden pencil.  Now that I am on a short break from school I am going to get down to some straight blogging.  First post will be about one of my great passions, the wooden pencil.  Today’s subject, as the title suggests, is The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB yellow pencil.

 This is THE yellow pencil.  is what people think of when they think of pencils.  That wonderful school yellow, the smell of cedar, a nice pinkish eraser…brings up great memories of Ms. Norris and Ms. Gentry/Carmona in their various grades at John H. Allen Elementary School, Soddy Daisy Tennessee.

I cannot explain to you the love of pencils, maybe I am just a technophobe (I have some pens as well that are not by any means standard, but its the pencil that I love) this is my drug.  It is like that feeling when a pain killer kicks in, there is a thrill to a new pencil.  My wife got The Ganger a subscription to CW Pencil Enterprises Pencil of the Month club.  The last year they will be doing of the club as a matter of fact.  I have considered going into this enterprise for myself, I will think it over. Anyhow for me pencils are euphoria, and the wonderful ladies at CW Pencil Enterprises, New York City, are a bastion of civilization.  I am planning a train trip to New York soon and that will be worth of a post all to itself.

People discover this obsession in various ways.  For my good friend Carl it was rather by accident.  He observed my engaging my senses with a pencil…in other words I forgot he was in the room when I decided to smell a pencil (most likely a Ticonderoga) what could I do but tell him to smell it.  His response, in true Carl fashion, was to smell the pencil and say “yep that is a number two pencil.)  For my peers at school they either observe my locking pencil case, or in the case of Andrew, he was nearly knocked off the walkway when I crossed by him suddenly to snatch an abandoned pencil off the ground.  For the rest of that class the moment arrived when they found out they would need pencils to complete the final, pencils they didn’t have as they all carry pens, and i was able to shout “MY DAY HAS COME!” while holding up my pencil case.  However the moment comes for you when your friends and family realize that you are a Crayonophile (working custom term) you will learn who truly loves you.

 The Dixon Ticonderoga company was founded in or around 1795 by Joseph Dixon.  They do make other pencils than just Ticonderoga, usually under the name Dixon, but this is all about the Ticonderoga.  The name Ticonderoga didn’t come in until 1815, thats where the Graphite Ore was processed, Ticonderoga New York.  For a long time the packaging sported an awesome picture of a minute man.  I speculate that this is an obvious reference to all the ‘Merica reference to Fort Ticonderoga.  The Ticonderoga pencil began being cranked out in New Jersey (around the time the name came about) and became an American Staple.

 Now for that American part…The pencil is no longer manufactured in America.  However I have not noticed a downturn in quality from the globalization of this pencils manufacture.  I have not found any sources that say that their foreign labor practices are unfair or equate to slavery so with those concerns put to rest, we won’t get into my thoughts on outsourcing jobs, we will just accept that we live in a global world ( you are reading a blog…).

The Ticonderoga’s stats.

  • Length: 7.7 inches
  • diameter: 3 centimeters (best measurement I will improve soon)
  • color: yellow
  • logo: green
  • ferule: this is where the signature of the maker is to be found (at least in this instance) the Ticonderoga ferule is always green with two yellow bands at the top and bottom, making Ticonderoga pencils instantly identifiable. 
  • Material: PEFC certified cedar
  • Special features: one of Ticonderoga’s features is that their pencils finish has Microban, which prevents the growth of bacteria on the pencil (they intend for you to have them for a while.
  • The hardness claims to be HB.  Pencil grading is not an exact science.  I choose to use the HB scale (chart found on pencils.com) and I check my pencils against the scale physically.  I agree this one is close to HB give or take a grade. 

With all the grading scales out there the words “Number 2 pencil” do not really mean a lot.  However in this case the pencil, in my opinion, rates HB as in hard and black.  Later you will see number two pencils that will easily fall into the 8 or 9 range. Basically the harder the pencil the less of a mark it will leave, and the less it will need to be sharpened.  The softer the pencil the darker the mark with less pressure, but the more you will need to sharpen it.

**UPDATE** I forgot to say this earlier.  Fun historical note.  This was the favorite pencil of author Roald Dhal.  When he went back to England he had them shipped over.

The Ticonderoga #2, HB yellow pencil (note I did not say soft) is in conclusion always a winner.  I would call it a 4 star pencil, but I will give it 5 for consistency. The eraser is everything that you need.  I usually keep stick erasers around because I hate to have a pencil with no eraser on it, but this nice pink number will take away the mistake with little streaking. That is the point (take what you will from the pun) the fancy pencils might have some faults or something quirky about them, but the Ticonderoga is almost always consistent and you can get them for a reasonable price…depending on where you look.  The standard I’ve seen is about three dollars to twelve pencils, but at a Walgreens I saw them for eight dollars for 12 which is ridiculous.  This teachers dream can even be found in nice large bulk boxes and one day I will buy one just for the fun of it.  Grab a Ticonderoga and engage your senses.  If you love pencils you will keep this in your arsenal the way that I do.  Get these in your adventure pack.

Hrolf The Ganger

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