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