Blackwing Volume 811.

The Library Pencil is here! A tribute to libraries, the number of this edition references where in the Dewey decimal system one might find works by Dr. Maya Angelou. From Blackwing:

In a speech delivered at the New York Public Library in 2010, the late Dr. Maya Angelou poetically described the humble library as a “rainbow in the clouds” so that “in the worst of times, in the meanest of times, in the dreariest of times… at all times the viewer can see a possibility of hope.”

The color of the pencil is a reference to the iconic green lamps found atop the tables in a lot of old library buildings. I doubt that it is accident that this pencil looks so beautifully when placed atop an old volume of lore (forgotten or otherwise).

We were lucky enough to have Blackwing’s brand manager, Alex, on the Erasable Podcast last night. Andy and I had a great time talking with Alex about this pencil and about all things Blackwing. But this is really a pencil you have to see with your eyes.

I find it difficult to really capture the color of this pencil. The gradient runs from an emerald green near the ferrule to a pale green near the business end. Alex tells us this was accomplished with a wrap. However, only with bright light, close examination, and knowing that it’s already there can I find the seam at all. I thought it was just a few coats of lacquer.

The the gold stamping looks specially crisp on top of this green, and it perfectly matches the ferrule. The pink eraser looks great, but I wonder if yellow wouldn’t bring to mind the lamp after which this pencil is designed a little more. As it is, the pink looks fantastic. The core is the same “Firm” that Comrades can find in the Blackwing 602.

While the color is beautiful and perfectly spring-like, I think the green might be a little too cold/blue to perfectly match a little/banker’s lamp. But I could be totally wrong, and it’s danged close enough at any rate.

The the other way in which this pencil references lamps is that it actually lights up; glows in the dark! Alex told us that this pencil is slathered in phosphorescent paint, and it shows. This glows in the dark much more brightly than any other toy that I remember having as a kid. I had very little trouble getting a picture of the glow with a smartphone in a dark room after “charging” it for a few minutes in sunlight. The gradient of this finish, mixed with extra coats of clear lacquer on top, results in a nice matte finish to the eyes but a somewhat slippery finish to the fingers. It is a little bit of a paradox, but I got used to the light slipperiness as quickly as I got used to the slight grit of Volume 4.

This edition is a clear winner in my book. (See what I did there?) over the last few years, some of the editions in the Volumes series sold out really quickly, while some stuck around for a bit. We’re not sure how many of any individual edition Blackwing ever made. So if you like nice pencils, the color green, the library, and things that glow in the dark, I’d hurry and grab a set of these — before they burn out.

In a dimly-lit room, this pencil glows it bit.

PaperMate Handwriting Pencil.

Over the weekend, I came across some interesting pencils at Staples: the PaperMate Handwriting Pencil. My toddler is completely in love with all shades of purple and pink and otherwise brightly colored pencils, and I picked up a pack.

These are relatively short and fat pencils. They’re designed to comfortably accommodate tiny hands. My daughter immediately stole the fuchsia pencil, and she’s having a grand time drawing with it. My kindergartener will claim one later, and I’m curious to see what effect, if any, it has on the quality of his handwriting.

The erasers match the triangular barrels, and the ferrule and eraser assemblies are very securely clinched on top. The imprint is simple and pretty cute, albeit perhaps a little too far away from the eraser end.

The pencils’ finishes are okay. The paint is laid on a little unevenly but on the thick side. The wood is definitely not cedar, but that’s no surprise these days.

What really surprises me about these pencils is that the core makes a reasonably dark line, but it stays put. Perhaps the most ubiquitous learners’ pencil in the United States, the My First Ticonderoga is another fat pencil with a large eraser designed for small hands. These pencils have a wide and soft graphite core, but they smear all over the place. The writing sample above was made in a Field Notes notebook with the most recent iteration of the Ticonderoga in question. As Comrades can clearly see, the PaperMate Handwriting Pencil has a lead more similar to that found in an adult pencil. I wrote a bit with one of these pencils, and it was a perfectly comfortable and enjoyable experience.

The pack comes with a bright orange sharpener designed for the pencils’ diameter. The blade is made in Germany by Eisen, a name we find on some quality sharpeners.

I used as pencil enough to dull the point so that I could tryout this little sharpener. While the transition from the pre-sharpened triangular cone of wood to the round cone produced with his blade sharpener is a little strange at first, the sharpener did a more than serviceable job. The resulting point strongly resembles the angle of the original factory point.


At $3 for five pencils and a sharpener, I think the set is a reasonable deal. It’s too early to tell whether or not these are going to help my kids improve their handwriting, but any bright new pencils that come into our home are always welcomed by my kiddos. If you have children or otherwise enjoy a fat pencil yourself, you can’t go too wrong for less than the cost of a fancy coffee drink.

Blackwing Natural: Extra Firm and Kinda Naked.

A few weeks ago, a new pencil from Blackwing was leaked on social media. Shortly thereafter, Blackwing released their first permanent collection pencil in nearly six years: The Blackwing Natural.

Listeners of the Erasable Podcast might recognize some requests that we made repeatedly. The core is extra firm. The barrel is natural cedar. While I wished for a silver ferrule and pink eraser, this gold ferrule and gray eraser look fantastic next to the wood grain and the gold stamping. I’m not disappointed at all.

The barrel of the pencil is covered in some sort of thin varnish or lacquer. It’s matte, grippy, and lovely. The core is fantastic. It’s plenty dark for me, reminding me of the original Palomino that seems to be no more.

There was considerable delay in getting these shipped, but with them being a permanent part of the collection, that’s totally fine with me. A few of mine had quality control issues. Four or five of them have ferrules not attached very well, and one had a big chip in the wood. But I am not under any illusion that this dozen of pencils is going to be mine for long anyway. Once my kids and spouse see these, I’m going to have to order myself another box.

Thanks to Blackwing, for listening to your customers who have been wanting a pencil more or less exactly like this! Personally, I’m glad they have added the extra firm core to the lineup and that they have added a natural option. Natural pencils got me into these graphite beauties in the first place.

I’m holding myself back from buying many gross of these pencils. For now.