Review of Palomino Blackwing 602.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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):
Boing Boing
Lexikaliker
No Pen Intended
Office Supply Geek
Pen Addict
Pencil Reviewer
Planet Millie
Recording Thoughts
Stationery Traffic
Woodclinched

15 Responses to “Review of Palomino Blackwing 602.”

  1. JAbbott says:

    Well said! They’re among my favorites. And I ordered a box of Pearls yesterday, of course.

  2. Ana says:

    I just had someone tell me a story about how much his wife loves the Palomino Blackwing 602 I gave her awhile back. The he went on to say he misplaced the pencil and was in the doghouse with his wife so he went online and bought her a whole box. These pencils do inspire loyalty. They are sturdy, striking and good writers which is a rare combination these days.

  3. Delicious review of this pencil. I never really LOVED pencils – I enjoyed them because they were cute and came in a variety of colors and such, but when I got my hands on one of these, I suddenly wanted to write everything in pencil. Love it.

  4. [...] anticipation of the release (today!) of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl, a review of the Palomino Blackwing 602 (via Pencil [...]

  5. whatchamacallit says:

    Yeah, despite its ideal form factor, Palomino’s iteration of the Eberhard 602 eraser design does not improve upon the original’s mediocre erasing ability, which really is a shame in view of the ingenious engineering of the ferrule and clip behind the world’s first detachable mini block eraser. The size and shape strikes a perfect compromise; small and narrow enough to erase very fine detail yet large and handy enough for a sure grip between the thumb and forefinger, yielding equally precise erasure when unposted. Too bad Palomino hasn’t taken advantage of the advances in eraser compound materials technology. The Palomino 602 substance neither lifts off graphite nor sloughs off the saturated eraser bits cleanly, the twin hallmarks of today’s best performing erasers. In recognition of this lack some Comrades have been known to carve out substitute erasers for their 602’s from their favorite block erasers.

    A premium pencil demands a premium eraser. If Woodchuck won’t supply one himself, perhaps some enterprising Comrade will offer a premium aftermarket replacement?

  6. whatchamacallit says:

    Staedtler Mars Plastic white block eraser is reasonably firm and does a great job erasing. Papermate Black Pearl is firm but due to its flattened egg shape you’ll waste a lot of eraser cutting the correct size rectangles from the core–worth it though, this is a very good eraser material which erases cleanly with minimal debris, resists torque, and lasts me way longer than the 602 itself. I suspect almost any top brand eraser will deliver better results for this application than the included erasers do, although I admit to not having tried out the softer Japanese erasers because I fear they’ll go all wobbly on me.

  7. Millie says:

    Thanks for linking to Planet Millie :)

    Over time, I’ve grown less and less fond of the eraser on the Blackwing. I don’t generally use pencil erasers because I don’t like the appearance of pencils when the erasers have worn down, and they usually don’t work well anyway. But I liked the fact that you can switch out the Blackwing eraser for a new one, so for a while I indulged in using it, before realising that most individual erasers do a much better job! I think pencil erasers should just be kept for emergencies!

  8. [...] 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 [...]

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