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     The Palomino Blackwings
    Engineering: Things that are built
    By a chance reading on BoingBoing.net in June, I was introduced to a line of pencils I had never used. These pencils were special, but long gone. A small company was now reviving this pencil line. I read the article with great interest. After I marked it as read, it was lost to my RSS reader. My memory being what it was, I could recall the name of those unique pencils. But BoingBoing to the rescue, and my memory was refreshed. The pencil was called the Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602, and it had a slogan, HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED. They had a special wide eraser that was adjustable. They had gone out of production many years ago, when the machine that made the special eraser ferrule wore out. Now they could only be found on eBay at roughly $25 a pencil.

    The California Republic Stationers company was the place where the revival Blackwing pencils were being produced. They had released a pencil called the Palomino Blackwing in 2010. It had the patented Eberhard-Faber wide adjustable eraser ferrule. However, the Palomino Blackwing had not been totally embraced by critics as the successor to the Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602. Ultimately, California Republic slightly re-formulated the graphite core and matched the color of the original, even placing the slogan on the barrel of the pencil. This new pencil has been well received. California Republic now makes both the Palomino Blackwing and Palomino Blackwing 602.

    Upon seeing the article in September, I began some research and reading of many Blackwing articles. Many older articles discussed the possible replacements for the Blackwing 602. Others discussed who had used them and for what purpose. There are blogs purely devoted to this long-lost pencil, which I liken to the Packard: Luxurious and well appointed, but time had passed it by. By the end of the 20th century, copy editors worked on computers, as did music composers and authors. I had figured that cartoonists and illustrators probably never embraced the Blackwing 602, probably preferring harder leads for layouts, and softer leads for final outlining before inking. Howvever it is reported that Chuck Jones and Disney cartoonists favored the Blackwing 602. 

    Eberhard-Faber had a line of pencils for draftsmen and engineers called the Van Dyke Microtomic line. It was equipped with a similar eraser ferrule attached. Some Microtomics did not have that patented eraser. It seems the Blackwing 602 was a niche pencil oriented to the publishing industry. And low sales and competition from other brands from Japan and Germany caused it to be discontinued.

    The gushing odes to this pencil influenced me. I have been a pen person since early grade school. Pencils never wrote smoothly for me, the leads always broke, and I could never get a nice looking line. If only there were a pencil that was pleasurable to use.

    Within days, I ordered some pencils through Pencils.com. I threw in a dozen Palomino Blackwings, a dozen Palomino Blackwing 602s, along with a set of Palomino drawing pencils, Palomino colored pencils and two dozen of the Palomino HB pencils. Their marketing campaign is a success so far, as I have spent more on pencils in that one order than in years of purchasing pencils for my school children. I eagerly awaited the order as if Christmas was coming. I got out my Kimberly General drawing pencils to get a feel for the anticipated softer leads of the Palomino Blackwings.

    The Palomino Blackwings have been extraordinarily fun to write with. I have brought them to work to show off. I gave one each of the Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils to my children to try at school. But the bigger story might be that I am drawing again. Although, not necessary using the Blackwings! The Palomino Blackwings may not be great layout pencils, as they are somewhat soft.

    I have compared with many in my collection. Here are my thoughts after many pages of side-by-side comparison. The Palomino Blackwing is softer than the Palomino Blackwing 602. In my test driving, in fact, all the Palomino pencils are soft dark leads. The Palomino HB, what one might consider a standard #2 pencil, actually turns out to more closely match some B and 2B pencils of other brands. It is much darker and blacker than the common #2 pencils, even including the Dixon Ticonderoga. I find that the Palomino Blackwing 602 is roughly the same color level as the following pencils: Derwent Sketching 3B, Blick Studio 3B (Dick Blick), Staedtler Mars LumoGraph 3B, Kimberly General 2B, Prismacolor Turquoise B, Artists Loft (Michaels) B, and California Republic Palomino B sketching pencils. I find the Palomino Blackwing is slightly darker and compares to the same color level as the following pencils: Derwent Sketching 4B, Blick Studio 4B (Dick Blick), Staedtler Mars LumoGraph 4B, Kimberly General 4B, Prismacolor Turquoise 2B, Artists Loft (Michaels) 3B, and California Republic Palomino 2B.

    I never was aware of the disparity in manufacturers grading. I thought that color levels and thicknesses would be much closer. I was very surprised by how dark and smooth the Palomino pencils are. Only the Faber Goldfaber pencils are as smooth. I did not have darker levels of those to compare. The Palominos are all darker than the HB and 2B Faber Goldfaber pencils. Some readers doing similar comparisons may have different results. I would expect that. I draw and write in a certain way with a certain amount of pressure using a certain couple of holds. I have a heavy hand, and break leads on ordinary pencils quite commonly.

    Who is the winner? I think California Republic is the number-one winner. They are attempting to grow their business with a commodity object, the pencil, and I think they will have a successful year. I spent nearly $150 on pencils to research this article. This is a boon to all pencil manufacturers and consumers, to have an American player, although with a Thai factory.
    Who also wins? I have enjoyed drawing again, more so than in a long time. Of course, now I have a whole bunch of pencils to play with.

    So what is my favorite? I like the Palomino Blackwing the best. I like it more than the Palomino Blackwing 602. I like lettering and writing cursive with the Palomino Blackwing. I like taking notes with the Palomino Blackwing 602. I enjoy the Palomino drawing pencils. Although, my favorite are the round Derwent Sketching pencils, that are slightly bigger and round. Interestingly, I found that I like the Derwent Graphic pencils the least, and had many problems with the 6B. I could not keep from breaking the leads for love or money. I went down two inches in total, carefully hand sharpening after the first three breaks. The lead still broke off 3mm into the core (boo). The Dick Blick 6B from the Czech Republic performed beautifully in the same situation. I prefer this as my 6B over all the others: Steadtler, Prismacolor, Derwent, Kimberly and Palomino.

    >>> See the Palimino Blackwings Part II
      
    Posted on Saturday, September 24, 2011 @ 17:57:06 UTC by BB
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