Our first winner was unreachable for over a week and forfeited the prize. We randomly selected another winner, and it is Antonio, whose entry consisted of an original quotation (which I really like!):
“If only people could be sharpened as easily as a pencil, so many people are so very dull.”
Congratulations to Antonio, who will probably have his sharpener this week.
And we have a winner:
Jennie Wolfe “Pencils – A teacher’s best friend, a student’s best friend, always keeping up SHARP :)”
Per the contest rules, Jennie will have one week to email us with her address and Facebook handle (Troy needs to confirm that you “like” the sharpener page), and Troy will send your sharpener to you!
editorATpencilrevolutionDOTcom (You know what to do.)
Congratulations to Jennie!
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 shorting 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
Also in our box of review samples from Shoplet and Tops, we have some of the new Idea Collective Notebooks. These are moleskin (no e) style notebooks (we have the pocket sized version to review) and also softcover large notebooks that come in a pack of two.
The hardcover book has the features with which Comrades who have used Moleskines will be familiar. From Tops:
Inspiration is a personal thing. Where its recorded matters. Idea Collective notebooks and journals are great for capturing thoughts, quick notes or anything that inspires you. Designed with the creative person in mind, these products feature all of the premium details you’d expect in a high-end notebook. The durable covers feel luxurious and the smooth writing paper makes it easy to get carried away. Includes an expanding envelope with attractive yellow gusset to hold odds and ends. Wide ruled acid-free cream paper. Pad Type: Notebook Sheet Size: 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ Ruling: Wide.
The elastic is grey and snappy, and the bookmark and cloth on the pocket are yellow. And there is a subtly debossed pattern on the cover. All combine to make these very attractive notebooks, without making them…loud. With the size, page-count, features and cream paper of a Moleskine, are these notebooks worthy of the Revolution?
These books have everything I’ve liked about Moleskines in the past: all of the above. What I don’t like about Moleskines the most relates to their paper and the company who makes/sells Moleskines. The latter is irrelevant to the review of this book. But where I think these books improve upon Moleskines, INSOFAR AS GRAPHITE IS CONCERNED is the paper.
The paper is thin, like Moleskines. It is smooth and cream-colored, with grey lines. The lines run a little dark, like recent Moleskines (not my favorite thing). Ghosting/graphite transfer is pretty bad, honestly, though I don’t think that’s avoidable with paper that’s this thin. When I get concerned, I put a piece of paper between the pages as I go. I have always found Moleskine paper TOO smooth for pencil. Graphite shows up too lightly, and it smears like crazy. This paper has just a little more tooth than Moleskine paper, and it resists smearing very very well. I like the width of the lines, too, for using fat pocket pencils. At $5.83 a piece, these are a good buy.
The larger, softer cover versions are pretty nice books for big projects. They lack pockets or a page marker, though the Moleskine Volants I assume they are meant to resemble don’t have these, either. I can certainly imagine using these for “work” and/or longhand projects, with the generous acreage and page count. They seem a little expensive, running about the same price as a 2-pack of XL Volants — especially given the modest price of the other book we have to review. They have little to distinguish them from every other softcover black notebook, though: not the yellow trim, grey elastic, or debossing. They also don’t have the DATE stamp on every “odd” page that the pocket hardcover notebook has. I think the design between these two collection mates is a little mismatched.
That said, a new entry into moleskin (no e) territory by another brand is not a bad thing, if, like me, you enjoy many things about a moleskin but have grown weary of Moleskines (or never liked them at all). The hardcover books are, frankly, a steal at the asking price, and mine seems made as well as Moleskines from 8-9 years ago. My review sample is already being filled up.
The Focus Notes pads are designed for meeting and project notes. There is a top margin for “Date” and “Purpose.” The page is split into two main columns. The “Notes” column takes up the majority of the page, with lines that approximate “college ruled” paper. The left column has no lines and is the “Cue Column.” The bottom margin is for the “Summary”.
The funny thing is that this format was very handy when I filled up a few paged with different kinds of pencil for review purposes, for a graphite assessment, and for a general review. I can imagine these columns coming in handy in the kinds of community outreach and higher ed meetings I used to attend at my last regular job and when I was in AmeriCorps. The lines are a nice, light grey that is easy on the eyes. The lines are even light enough to not interfere with graphite marks, provided Comrades use something darker than a Faber-Castell 9000 HB.
The paper is thin and not enormously opaque; I can see the lines from the page under the one I’m writing on a bit. But the paper is very smooth and takes pencil very well. It lacks the roughness and fragility of typical legal pad paper, in my opinion. I’d much rather use one of these for taking furious meeting notes than a cheap legal pad (or the back of the printed meeting agenda). If it makes sense to say, this paper reveals graphite shades/hues to be pretty true. Some papers make cores look darker, while others make them appear more lightly. This paper does a good job of running to what I feel is the true darkness of a pencil’s core. Smear resistance is shockingly good, and ghosting is no issue, since the pages are only printed on one side.
The printing quality various from good to Okay. Some of the lines have breaks, and the lines on different pages don’t exactly line up. But these aren’t premium-priced French notebooks or pseudo-European books, either. The quality is actually quite good for the price and purpose of these books.
I like the design, but I think it could be a little better with a few changes:
1) The top margin just takes up too much space.
2) The “Cue Column” has the word “column” in it, while the “Notes” section does not. I’m not sure why.
3) Graph paper or a dot grid would be very nice. But the line spacing is nice for meeting notes, as they are.
In all, I think these pads will be useful for pencil reviews, since they help to organize thoughts about them (to be turned into a blogged review) and since the graphite’s core will reveal its true…darkness.
Troy has graciously offered to let us host a give-way for a Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener for the Comrade who wins a contest . There are only a few rules:
1) Comrades must “like” Classroom Friendly Supplies on Facebook (this will be verified).
2) Contest is only open to residents of the United States, or, rather, people who get mail here (no international shipping).
3) Please respond within one week to the post announcing the winner, or we’ll pick another winner.
4) Please remember to let Troy know which color you prefer! (Black, blue, red, green.)
TO ENTER!========>We are looking for great pencil-related quotations. Please leave your pencil-related quotation (and source if you know it; or make up a memorable one!) in a comment to this post, and head on over to “like” Classroom Friendly Supplies. (Only comments with a pencil quotation will be entered into the drawing.) One entry per Comrade.
The contest will close on Friday, May 3rd, at 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time. We will randomly select a winner over the weekend though paper entries in a hat (you’ll have to trust the randomness, but I’ll get a 3-year who is impartial to pull the winner). The winner will be posted on Monday, May 6th on this site.
I expect that we’ll get some very cool entries, and we’ll post some of the best on the site in the coming weeks.
Happy quotation hunting!
Via Comrade Brian.
Don’t trade in your pencils and paper for a keyboard just yet.
A new study that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing has found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.
Children who don’t learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.
Read more at The Huffington Post.
Also in our box of review items from Write Dudes: the USA Silver pencil. In short, these are very good for budget pencils. In fact, I find them to be the very best very cheap pencil I’ve tried. Ever. I have to admit that I wasn’t excited about reviewing these pencils, but I was taught the old lesson about appearances soon enough.
The wood is not cedar: “The wood comes from all over (from sustainable sources) and they are assembled/manufactured here in the USA.” (email from WD), to distinguish them from the cedar-cased USA Gold pencils. I was confused by the name of these pencils for a while, since most are not silver. The original version of the USA Gold is a yellow-gold; I don’t think I was that crazy to make that assumption. Either way, the wood sharpens very well, almost as nicely as cedar.
I’ve seen USA Silver pencils in black that are finished very well, perhaps better than the USA Gold. The yellow review samples we were sent feature “Write Dudes” instead of the URL (which will be removed from the USA Gold). The finish various from good to acceptable. Again, at this price, it’s actually not bad at all. The ferrule is plain and attractive and complements the pink eraser and yellow finish very well. The eraser feels…dry, but it works well enough.
The star of this pencil is the core. It’s smooth and soft and durable. In a cheap pencil! This is the best writing cheap pencil that I have ever used. Ever! I can’t tell if it’s the same as the USA Gold, but it feels softer to me somehow — maybe it’s just in my head.
There are a lot of very bright pencils that would appeal to children in this series (USA Silver). Big deal? These are made several notches above most novelty pencils, and they are, largely, made in the USA. Shopping for party favors for my daughter’s upcoming third birthday, she picked some glittery pencils (think Princess Party) that not only look like they are made pretty well and have pretty nice cores – they are USA made, which a few of the parents I know will appreciate. In fact, we picked some USA made pencils from this manufacturer for birthday presents for my daughter’s friends’ birthdays this spring (to go with pencil sharpeners and books).
When I started to be really interested in pencils, part of the fascination came from their, well, cheapness. Of course, back then, truly cheap and good pencils were less rare, in same ways. But the American Naturals went for something like $1 a dozen in 2004 (and I wish I had bought more, since they are gone). I suppose we’ve been a bit…snobbish lately with what we review on Pencil Revolution. But it’s wonderful to encounter a pencil that is, plainly, cheap, American and also very good to write with. If you see these locally, definitely grab a box. A big box. (Ours had two dozen.)
Office managers: If you have to stock a supply cabinet with store brand pencils, try these instead!