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 shortening 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