Our first winner was unreachable for over a week and forfeited the prize. We randomly selected another winner, and it is Antonio, whose entry consisted of an original quotation (which I really like!):
“If only people could be sharpened as easily as a pencil, so many people are so very dull.”
Congratulations to Antonio, who will probably have his sharpener this week.
I mentioned that a couple of us at Pencil Revolution HQ went camping early last month. I learned a few things about pencils and about camping.
First, if you are prone to cracking fingers (and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky!), take a fat pencil with you. My pocket-knife sharpened My First Ticonderoga came in handy when I was bandaged one night.
Also: pencil shavings are way way way more flammable than I thought. Comrade Dan shaved magnesium from a block designed for the purpose of making fire. There was too much wind Friday night (and we were hungry) to get it to light. We resorted to matches. Saturday, just for fun, he shaved a nice pile of magnesium shards into a box of a few months’ worth of pencil shavings from my house. Despite fierce sparking, none of the magnesium lit. But the pencil shavings did, and we lit a fine fire that way — which burned for about 20 hours until we thoroughly extinguished it.
Finally, (and I think I knew this), naturally finished pencils are perfect for camping. They grip well, get nice and dirty, and when you get home, they smell like fire forever.
It took us nearly two years to review the Palomino Blackwing 602, and we won’t waste time on this one. Cal Cedar bills this as the middle ground between the point retention of the Palomino Blackwing 602 and the darkness of the Palomino Blackwing 2010 design (which we will call the Blackwing Dark). How does it rate in real life, on paper?
We’ve talked enough about the eraser and ferrule of the Palomino Blackwing line. (See here.) The Pearl ships with a black eraser. I thought pink would look better, but the black eraser complements the black imprint pretty well. A silver imprint and ferrule and pink eraser would combine to look more like a pearl to me, but this pencil remains steadfastly un-aquatic In its current form. And that’s Okay by me.
The finish is, truly, pearlesque. It does not photograph accurately, the way that the tones of the 602 do not show themselves to a lens. (I can’t get them to, at any rate.) For some reason, the finish feels very different from the other two Palomino Blackwings — and most other pencils. It is certainly not rubbery like the Dixon Tri-Conderoga. It is not tacky. But there’s something almost…soft or….grippy about it. I really enjoy holding it. Combined with the soft lead and thicker (Japanese) diameter, it’s a pleasure to write with. The printing is sharp and precise and has stayed put (unlike the 602, which seems to prefer to shed its clothing). I like the minimal marking. All of the dozen I ordered have ferrules which line up with the printed side, save one. All are straight and solidly attached, with well-centered leads.
While the Pearl does not smell…chemically like the Blackwing Dark does out of the box, the cedar has disappointingly little aroma. It does sharpen perfectly though, and I’ve found that the I like my Granate the best for this job.
The lead itself is why we’re here, no? This is supposed to fit between Palomino’s other Blackwings. I found the 2010 Palomino Blackwing Dark to be incredibly smooth and dark, but I rarely use it for writing. Certainly, its dark lines lend themselves well to a pocket pencil, for writing down set-lists, play-lists and reading-lists. But there’s something a little too art-pencil-ish or even charcoal-looking about the lines when the point gets dull. After a sentence. The Palomino Blackwing 602 is much less dark and slightly less smooth than the Blackwing Dark. But the point retention, sharpness of the line and durability of the point (even a looooong one) usually keeps me reaching for that model more often than the Blackwing Dark if I am writing more than a few lines.
Where does the Blackwing Pearl fit?
At first, it felt closer to the Blackwing Dark to me. It is much darker than the Palomino Blackwing 602, and nearly as smooth as the Blackwing Dark. If the latter feels like writing with a stick of melting butter, the Pearl feels like writing with a very very smooth pencil.
Point retention, smearability and erasability are right in the middle of the Palomino Blackwing line. See image (click to enlarge it) for detailed smearing and erasing. Smearing is really not bad for such a dark and soft pencil. Erasbility is, like the Palomino Blackwing Dark, not very good. The included eraser does not fully erase marks made by either the Dark or the Pearl (not even the 602, I find). If erasing is what you like best about pencils, this one may disappoint you.
Oddly enough, ghosting is not bad at all. In the week I used it, the Blackwing Pearl didn’t ghost any more than a regular HB pencil. While erasiblity is not my favorite Character of the Pencil, ghosting does bug me to no end. I was very pleased with the Pearl.
I admit that I was apprehensive that this pencil would be white like an Apple product and a stop-gap between two nice pencils just to make another pencil. (Well, maybe I just thought I should think that.) But, as I understand it, Cal Cedar is not having trouble getting the Blackwing line out there. And, when using it, I really like this pencil. I think it might be my favorite in the Blackwing line, if that’s not some kind of heresy. I’ve used it for journaling and a little sketching, and Comrades here at Pencil Revolution HQ have already pilfered from my dozen. I enjoy this pencil enough to order another dozen straight away. If you found the 602 too light and the Dark too…un-pencil-like, this might be the pencil for you, if you’re looking to buy another box of Blackwings.
I’m working hard on the review, but I thought I’d share a few photos of what the pencil looks like. Though, certainly, they weren’t kidding when they said this finish resists revealing itself to a camera lens.
Stay tuned this week for the review. We’re getting lots of rain in Charm City; so it’s good weather to test this pencil at the coffee shop, drawing with my daughter.
And we have a winner:
Jennie Wolfe “Pencils – A teacher’s best friend, a student’s best friend, always keeping up SHARP :)”
Per the contest rules, Jennie will have one week to email us with her address and Facebook handle (Troy needs to confirm that you “like” the sharpener page), and Troy will send your sharpener to you!
editorATpencilrevolutionDOTcom (You know what to do.)
Congratulations to Jennie!
In 2011, when the Palomino Blackwing 602 came out, Pencils.Com graciously sent us a box. I was literally about to move (I think they came on moving day) from one apartment to another, and we never reviewed them. Add to that the plethora of reviews already out and some controversy. Inspired by the upcoming Blackwing Pearl, I think I’m finally ready to throw my review out there. But what can I say about the Palomino Blackwing 602 that hasn’t already been said? It’s beautiful and smooth and features a unique ferrule and eraser. The cedar is top-notch, and Comrades are sure to start conversations using one in public or at work.
When I review a pencil, usually there is one thing that is the star of the pencil. USA Gold and Silver pencils, which we reviewed recently, feature their nice cores as the star. Some pencils feature a wonderful core and also impressive finishes, such as the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni and, say, a Staedtler Lumograph 100 or Faber-Castell Castell 9000. Some pencils feature something unique, like the dyed leads in a No Blot “ink pencil.” The Blackwing 602 is different. Its starring attributes are its appearance, its core and its “different” features (the squared ferrule/eraser).
What I like best about the finish of the Blackwing 602 is that the color and sheen mirror graphite itself. Rare are the photos that really capture its sheen. (I can’t do it.) I know next to nothing about lacquers, but it looks like several layers are used here, different colors that blend together for the sheen. The stamping is crisp (but doesn’t last long; see below), featuring the famous slogan, “HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED,” and the graphics are gracefully few. It does not suffer from the “flaking” that plagued the first Palomino Blackwing. It’s gorgeous.
The core is just, wow. It’s hard to describe the darkness because I find that I can get a lot of different tones out of this pencil, depending on the pressure I use and the pointing method. Sharpened in The Machine and written with normal pressure, this core produces dark, crisp lines. With a shorter point and less pressure, it feels like a smooth sketching pencil. Pressing with a long point produces seriously dark lines which resist smearing impressively. I’ve read that it mirrors other cores in the Palomino line, but I find the…color of the core a little different. It’s “colder” somehow, looking a little more blue-ish than other leads, where I find the Palomino range to be a little “warm.” Certainly, there are other cores out there that feel a little like the Blackwing 602. But, to me, nothing feels exactly like it, for better or worse. Certainly, this is not the only pencil that makes me feel that way. I suspect that users of the original Blackwing 602 may feel that way about the discontinue model. I see that Eberhard and Faber-Castell Blackwing 602s still fetch pre-Palomino Blackwing prices on eBay. I don’t own one myself, to compare them. Point retention, for the darkness, is fantastic. I can get a few pages out of a long point without resorting to shorting the pencil again.
The eraser and ferrule are, truly, just cool. But they are not the selling point for me. The sharp piece that holds the eraser into the ferrule pokes me when I use the Blackwing 602 as a Pocket Pencil sometimes, and it does make using a short pencil a little uncomfortable because rotating the barrel to keep a point gets hitched by the square ferrule between my thumb and index finger. But, like I said, it’s too cool for me to be bothered by it. And it does start conversations, some of which have led to me confessing to having a pencil blog (hello to you if you got here that way!).
I don’t find that the eraser is, well, sufficient for the pencil in which it is housed. It works well enough. But scratchy pencils “work” well enough, and this is certainly not one of those. This is a Blackwing. I’m not sure what such a worthy eraser would be like or how one could get a Mars or Faber-Castell plastic eraser onto a pencil (are they too soft?). While I have long been a fan of Cal Cedar’s pencils (we featured the first Palomino review ever in 2005), I have always been disappointed in their erasers. Truly, I rarely use erasers on pencils anyway. I usually strike-thru when I make a mistake, and half of the time, I’m carrying an eraser-free pencil anyway.
I do have a few other minor gripes with the Blackwing 602. The gold stamping, as others have mentioned, does come off freakishly easily. The “regular” Palominos in Cal Cedar’s range only exhibit this after some serious use. I assume that it’s possible to “fix” the printing better. The pretty ferrules on a few of mine have small gaps between the finish and the ferrule; they show a little naked wood. This is strange on such a premium pencil.
These days, I am completely tickled by any pencils that come in a box (not a blister pack). Don’t get me wrong. But the box holding the Blackwing 602s is a little flimsy. The newer Golden Bear and Prospector boxes are sturdy, and the plastic boxes that now house Palominos are very nice. I wonder if my Blackwing Pearls will come in a different box? The Blackwing line should have the best boxes in Cal Cedar’s line-up, I think.
Sure, Blackwing 602s are expensive for pencils. But these are something entirely different from what one thinks of when we think of a “pencil,” no? These are well-crafted and useful objects for writing and drawing, not scratchy yellow pencils to stick in a forgotten cup for the occasional crossword puzzle. I assume that most people who have wanted to try these have already done so by now. But, if not, I think they really are worth $20 a dozen. I use mine to little nubs.
Selected reviews from other sites, in alphabetical order (certainly not a complete list):
No Pen Intended
Office Supply Geek
Also in our box of review samples from Shoplet and Tops, we have some of the new Idea Collective Notebooks. These are moleskin (no e) style notebooks (we have the pocket sized version to review) and also softcover large notebooks that come in a pack of two.
The hardcover book has the features with which Comrades who have used Moleskines will be familiar. From Tops:
Inspiration is a personal thing. Where its recorded matters. Idea Collective notebooks and journals are great for capturing thoughts, quick notes or anything that inspires you. Designed with the creative person in mind, these products feature all of the premium details you’d expect in a high-end notebook. The durable covers feel luxurious and the smooth writing paper makes it easy to get carried away. Includes an expanding envelope with attractive yellow gusset to hold odds and ends. Wide ruled acid-free cream paper. Pad Type: Notebook Sheet Size: 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ Ruling: Wide.
The elastic is grey and snappy, and the bookmark and cloth on the pocket are yellow. And there is a subtly debossed pattern on the cover. All combine to make these very attractive notebooks, without making them…loud. With the size, page-count, features and cream paper of a Moleskine, are these notebooks worthy of the Revolution?
These books have everything I’ve liked about Moleskines in the past: all of the above. What I don’t like about Moleskines the most relates to their paper and the company who makes/sells Moleskines. The latter is irrelevant to the review of this book. But where I think these books improve upon Moleskines, INSOFAR AS GRAPHITE IS CONCERNED is the paper.
The paper is thin, like Moleskines. It is smooth and cream-colored, with grey lines. The lines run a little dark, like recent Moleskines (not my favorite thing). Ghosting/graphite transfer is pretty bad, honestly, though I don’t think that’s avoidable with paper that’s this thin. When I get concerned, I put a piece of paper between the pages as I go. I have always found Moleskine paper TOO smooth for pencil. Graphite shows up too lightly, and it smears like crazy. This paper has just a little more tooth than Moleskine paper, and it resists smearing very very well. I like the width of the lines, too, for using fat pocket pencils. At $5.83 a piece, these are a good buy.
The larger, softer cover versions are pretty nice books for big projects. They lack pockets or a page marker, though the Moleskine Volants I assume they are meant to resemble don’t have these, either. I can certainly imagine using these for “work” and/or longhand projects, with the generous acreage and page count. They seem a little expensive, running about the same price as a 2-pack of XL Volants — especially given the modest price of the other book we have to review. They have little to distinguish them from every other softcover black notebook, though: not the yellow trim, grey elastic, or debossing. They also don’t have the DATE stamp on every “odd” page that the pocket hardcover notebook has. I think the design between these two collection mates is a little mismatched.
That said, a new entry into moleskin (no e) territory by another brand is not a bad thing, if, like me, you enjoy many things about a moleskin but have grown weary of Moleskines (or never liked them at all). The hardcover books are, frankly, a steal at the asking price, and mine seems made as well as Moleskines from 8-9 years ago. My review sample is already being filled up.
The Focus Notes pads are designed for meeting and project notes. There is a top margin for “Date” and “Purpose.” The page is split into two main columns. The “Notes” column takes up the majority of the page, with lines that approximate “college ruled” paper. The left column has no lines and is the “Cue Column.” The bottom margin is for the “Summary”.
The funny thing is that this format was very handy when I filled up a few paged with different kinds of pencil for review purposes, for a graphite assessment, and for a general review. I can imagine these columns coming in handy in the kinds of community outreach and higher ed meetings I used to attend at my last regular job and when I was in AmeriCorps. The lines are a nice, light grey that is easy on the eyes. The lines are even light enough to not interfere with graphite marks, provided Comrades use something darker than a Faber-Castell 9000 HB.
The paper is thin and not enormously opaque; I can see the lines from the page under the one I’m writing on a bit. But the paper is very smooth and takes pencil very well. It lacks the roughness and fragility of typical legal pad paper, in my opinion. I’d much rather use one of these for taking furious meeting notes than a cheap legal pad (or the back of the printed meeting agenda). If it makes sense to say, this paper reveals graphite shades/hues to be pretty true. Some papers make cores look darker, while others make them appear more lightly. This paper does a good job of running to what I feel is the true darkness of a pencil’s core. Smear resistance is shockingly good, and ghosting is no issue, since the pages are only printed on one side.
The printing quality various from good to Okay. Some of the lines have breaks, and the lines on different pages don’t exactly line up. But these aren’t premium-priced French notebooks or pseudo-European books, either. The quality is actually quite good for the price and purpose of these books.
I like the design, but I think it could be a little better with a few changes:
1) The top margin just takes up too much space.
2) The “Cue Column” has the word “column” in it, while the “Notes” section does not. I’m not sure why.
3) Graph paper or a dot grid would be very nice. But the line spacing is nice for meeting notes, as they are.
In all, I think these pads will be useful for pencil reviews, since they help to organize thoughts about them (to be turned into a blogged review) and since the graphite’s core will reveal its true…darkness.