My father used these pencils, I remember them being around when I was in school so I used his, and preferred them because they were unique. When I was later working as an accountant, and able to order my own pencils, I found these at the supply store we used and myself and everyone in my office used them. That was in the 90’s. They were discontinued in 1998, reportedly because the Eberhard Faber machine that crimped the erasers broke.
This was the only wood pencil made that had an adjustable eraser. But that’s not why these pencils are now fetching $30 a piece on Ebay, it’s because of the soft lead that was prized for drawing and writing, and is the subject of endless odes in writers blogs. (And now my blog)
Yes, half the pressure and twice the speed. It was the Pentium processor of it’s day!
Well, this would be just an interesting history story, maybe not so interesting, if I didn’t have some news to report: The Blackwing is back !
If you spent some time on pencil blogs (I need a life), you would learn that the Palomino blue graphite HB(#2) pencils, made by California Ceder Products and sold at Pencils.com, were considered the closest match to the Blackwing 602 for writing and drawing. Hearing that people were buying there pencils because pencil bloggers were recommending them, they bought the rights to make the Blackwing 602 from Eberhard Faber and about a month ago they released the Palomino Blackwing
Retails for $19. 95/dozen (click here to find it). They could have copied it exactly, and included 602 and the “half the pressure, twice the speed” mark, but they wanted to distinguish it. Also, it’s not just a Palomino blue with different paint and eraser. It’s a pencil the company’s owner researched, made prototypes, sent the prototypes to loyal fans of the original, took comments, adjusted and released finally, two months ago, as the new Blackwing. You can read the history of this new release here in Woodchuck’s blog, at pencils.com if you like.
I had two boxes of the original Blackwings that I gave away, admitedly before I realize they were fetching $300/box on Ebay, to a friend at work who also liked pencils. I never used them, and it was more fun to give them away. So yes, I bought some of these new Blackwings and I give them a thumbs up. My friend says the lead in the originals is slightly softer, and I trust her on that. I don’t notice the difference. Worth noting is the eraser is white, not red, so it works better. This is discussed on the above-linked blog. Red erasers make a mess on paper.
I guess I’d put this down as an inexpensive holiday gift suggestion for someone who is old enough to remember these pencils. Even it they didn’t use them regularly, if you’re over 40, you’ll probably remember seeing them from time to time and having a box will bring a smile and thoughts of a time before anyone knew that ridiculous smile symbol.