We’ve mentioned the new Palomino Blackwing twice (here and here) on Pencil Revolution so far but have not offered a review yet. This is in keeping with our unwritten pencil review policy, which is that, in short, we do not generally review pencils which cannot be gotten by Comrades, at least somewhere in the world. We held off on reviewing the Palomino until you could buy it, and we’ll hold off on a complete review of the new Blackwing until you can buy it — or, at least, until there’s a date for its official and much anticipated release.
However, it’s just plain mean to keep Comrades completely in the dark about this exciting development in the Pencil World! So, bearing in mind that many things about this pencil might change before Comrades can purchase them, this is a summary of the New Blackwing Experience.
Like any California Republic product, the Blackwing Palomino presents itself as a high-quality pencil the second you pick it up. The cedar smell wafts nicely from your hand. The ferrule is shiny and tight. There are a few issues I found with the finish, but I’ll mention those small qualms later. The balance of the pencil is, of course, different than a regular pencil because of the large ferrule/eraser assembly. But that certainly does not mean that it is necessarily top-heavy. It is just, for lack of a better word, different. You get used to it, being distracted by how smoothly it writes.
One of the most striking characteristics of the orange/blue Palomino pencil is its excellent finish. The paint on the new Blackwing is a matte black, with a color and texture akin to the Dixon Ticonderoga Black (when it was made in the USA — not the Microban version out today). Both of our review pencils had gold dust/paint on the black in areas it should not have been, and there were wrinkles in the paint of one unit. The gold stamping is a little feathery, unlike the very precise stamp on a Palomino. But, these things aside, it is still a beautiful pencil. And, at the risk of sounding sycophantic, I am sure that California Republic will take care of those issues when the production model hits shelves, mailboxes and the page.
Blackwing fans will notice that the eraser, though nearly identical to the previous eraser/ferrule, is white, rather than pink. This does not really bother me, especially since it appears to be made of the same material as the eraser on the regular Palomino. Erasing was clean, easy and quick.
One of the reasons that the Blackwing was so popular — perhaps the reason — was its smooth and dark core. I could gush for paragraphs about how smooth and dark this core is. It is, in short, as smooth and dark as writing with a gel pen — without all the pesky mess involved in that slow-drying ink. As you can see from my terrible photographs, it is darker than a 4B Faber-Castell 9000, and smoother to boot.
As with any dark-writing pencil, this comes at the price of more frequent sharpenings and greater “ghosting” onto the next page. Personally, I found myself writing until I almost hit the wood more than I necessarily found myself sharpening more. The pencil writes so smoothly that I didn’t stop to do anything, let alone carve out a chunk of it with a sharpener. I wore down the point much further than I generally do. Perhaps it would, then, be more accurate to say that it dulls more quickly. One annoying thing about dark pencils is that they ghost onto the previous page when you write on the back of the sheet. This is especially annoying on thin Moleskine paper, but I’ve found that to be an issue with most pencils and even the cheapest of ballpoint pens on that paper. With thicker paper, I think this issue can be solved and might be something we will look at on the official review when the production model comes out.
The key to appreciating the Palomino Blackwing is to consider its nature. In my feedback to the company, I suggested changes that would make it look like the original Blackwing because I was, in some ways, looking at it as the rebirth of the Blackwing, a re-make or reproduction. In that respect, the finish of the pencil would fail. Aside from the ferrule, it doesn’t look like the original Blackwing more than any other black, hexagonal pencil. The logo is missing; the color is different; the eraser is white.
But, if I understand correctly from some of Woodchuck‘s comments, the Palomino Blackwing was coming out with or without the famous name. I think I read that it was going to be called the Pegasus (which would have been fitting) until the Blackwing name became available. In this light, what the new Blackwing amounts to is a fantastic modern pencil under the Palomino line, with a nod to the legend that was the Blackwing 602. In some ways, it could never be the original. Any new Blackwing would not be made by the same company, not be made in the USA (I assume, since pencil factories are few around these parts), would probably have a better eraser and more environmentally friendly paint than the old pink-topped 602 model. I think asking how much this new pencil resembles the old is fruitless and might cause retro grouches among us (and I count myself in this camp on occasion) to ignore an otherwise fine instrument.
So, the questions I will be asking when the new production Palomino Blackwing comes out are: Is this a great pencil? Does it do justice to the Palomino name and the Blackwing name? Could this pencil indeed be the stuff of its own legend, aside from the lineage of its moniker?
I have to tell you: from the preview we have been lucky enough to experience, I think it can stand on its own, apart from either name stamped onto the side in gold letters.