It has been a long time since we posted a review of a pencil, and that is one of the purposes this site was meant to serve when I started it. Among the pencils that keep popping up on the list of what Comrades would like to see reviewed is the Mirado Black Warrior, the pencil which will lead the charge in this resolution to a more consistent program of posting reviews.
Material: California Incense Cedar.
Finish: Glossy black with gold lettering.
Ferrule: Red-banded brass.
Eraser: Genuine Pink Pearl.
Core: Waxed-ceramic/graphite composite. Available in #1/B, #2/HB, #2.5/F, #3/H.
Markings: “USA/Mirado Black Warrior/HB/[two hearts].”
Packaging: Varies from open-stock, to packs of eight or ten, to boxes of a dozen.
Origin: Made in Lewisburg, Tennessee, United States by the Sanford Corporation.
Availability: Widely available in office supply stores, art supply stores, university bookstores, department stores and online.
What the Mirado Black Warrior has over other pencils that are as widely available is that it is obviously of a higher quality. It is not nicer than the Mirado Classic, but the latterâ€™s yellow color does little to set it apart from cheapos you might find discarded on the sidewalk. The Black Warrior, with itâ€™s black finish, banded brass ferrule and rounded shape, stands out among American pencils when on a desk or sticking out of a shirt pocket.
The obviousness of its quality does not end with the appearance. PaperMate bills the Mirado pencils as the smoothest writing pencils in the world. While that is certainly a matter for debate, the core of the Mirado is smooth, due to being impregnated with wax. This has its ups and downs. On the bright side, you get the above-mentioned smoothness and a superior strength of point that resists breakage and lasts long between sharpenings. On the not-so-bright side, the ultra-smoothness has the price of leaving a very faint line, even for an HB pencil. As a partial remedy, you could try the #1/B grade, which maintains the legendary smoothness and generates a darkness of line that runs a little darker than a Dixon #2/HB. Personally, I prefer this grade for writing and the HB for underlining and marginalia in books.
There is debate over whether “rough” erasers like the Pink Pearl damage paper too much compared with something like the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. With the pumice in the Pink Pearl, this may very well be the case, and I would never use one on watercolor paper or the like. But that is not the purpose of the Pink Pearl or the Mirado. While one can certainly sketch away with a Black Warrior (and I have attended boring lectures where people did just that), the primary purpose of Mirado pencils is writing. A new Mirado with a semi-soft Pink Pearl will not burn holes through the pages you write on. It might remove a small layer, but only an overly heavy hand or inferior paper will cause ruin for pages of writing with a Pink Pearl. If one is concerned about the microscopic flaws such a rough eraser might cause on writing paper, one might not like a Mirado. Not caring about that myself, I prefer the eraser on Mirado pencils to the eraser on any other Sanford pencil, by far. The eraser does what it should do, while managing to last far longer than softer erasers. They are a bit on the messy side, but no one said this Revolution was going to be a tidy one.
Writing with a Black Warrior is a new experience for someone used to hexagonal pencils. With the glossy finish, even only slightly damp hands make getting a good grip a bit difficult. On the other hand, the round shape allows for holding the pencil in different positions, and I imagine that Comrades who have had the corners of a pencil embedded into fingers will appreciate the gentler shape of the Black Warrior. They fall right off the desk, so angle them carefully.
Of course, the Black Warrior smells heavenly because of its cedar construction, and sharpening a rounded wooden pencil is a breeze with any quality sharpener. And there are always some times that a very sharp and light-marking pencil is exactly the tool for the job, such as writing in precious LOA volumes. Still, with the softest grade, one can enjoy the smoothness and the darkness of a fine American pencil. Considering their relatively inexpensive price tag, wide availability and impressive quality, the Black Warrior is a formidable tool to have in a Comrade’s graphite arsenal.
[Text and images, J.G.]