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.

Blackwing Volume 4.

Blackwing Volume 4 is here, and it is the Mars pencil. While the soft core will leave some folks wanting, I’m delighted by the latest offering from Palomino.

Clad in a matte rust orange, Volume 4 sports the usual hexagonal cross-section. Embedded in the finish are little pieces of sand. On first using these, right before we recorded the latest episode of Erasable, I was not a fan of the sand. However, after using this pencil more, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle texture. The grit is more of an extra feature of the design than it is something Comrades will actually notice very much in use.

The imprint is cream-colored, as is the eraser. The hue is very close to a standard Blackwing white eraser, but it is definitely different. I was surprised that subscribers did not get an extra pack of such a non-standard eraser color, which is usually the case. (Gray might be a suitable replacement.)

But what did come extra in subscribers packs is a lovely art print!

The ferrule is marketed as having a bronze finish, but I would call it more of a gray or gunmetal. It’s still lovely, and it blends with the color and design of this pencil to great effect.

Altogether, I find this pencil tops. I don’t usually buy a box in addition to my subscriber pack, but I have another pack of these beauties on order. I am a sucker for the soft core from the MMX.

Speaking of which, this is only the third time that Blackwing has put their softest core into a pencil from the Volumes series. I’m glad that they are revisiting what seems to be their least popular core, at least among folks who use their pencils for writing. The grip provided by this finish and the smoothness of the graphite core make this pencil a singular pleasure with which to scrawl.

I was not a super fan at first, but this pencil has just shot into my top 5 favorite Blackwing releases so far.

Blackwing Volume 33 1/3.


Monday is the official launch date of Blackwing Volume 33 1/3, the fall release from Palomino. As usual, subscribers get a first taste, and I got to take mine for a spin all weekend. Two of my three favorite Volumes have been autumnal releases, and I’d consider each of the three previous fall efforts to be a success. So how does the latest stack up?

I like that Blackwing has started to match the packing material to the Volumes releases. It’s a nice touch that I appreciate as a subscriber.  As usual, we get the extra pencil in a tube, an item that’s become attractive to collectors since the first Volumes came out in summer 2015, number 725.

What’s more, the last few subscriber extras were basically print-outs on card stock. This time around, subscribers get a bottle of vinyl pellets out of which a record could be made. My record-loving pal asked me, after my package came, if the set comes with a record. Yes! I don’t know what to do with this item, but I think one of my friends who is into vinyl would enjoy it. At any rate, I’m happy to see a unique extra this go-round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, I have very little interest in vinyl records. I understand the advantages some folks experience with them, but I’ve grown too accustomed to streaming music wherever I go to go back to physically stored music now. I haven’t always gotten particularly excited about the themes/tributes around the Volumes releases, but I appreciate these as interesting pencils in their own right. The design is big thumbs up.

These pencils are black. The finish is matte and smells like an MMX, and the stamping is black and calls to mind Volume 24. The ferrule and eraser are even black, making this pencil perhaps a perfect mate for the matte black Field Notes Raven’s Wing of the Write Notepads Lenore. How much more black could this pencil get, without dying the wood (and cedar is apparently really difficult to dye)? None more black. 

Near the business end, we find foil-stamped rings that echo the grooves on a record. They could function as a sort of grip-area, though I’m not sure if I’d like them better if they went all of the way up the pencil or if they were just not there. The core is the “balanced” core from the Pearl, Volume 725, and Volume 1. It’s honestly my least favorite of the four cores found in Blackwings, but I enjoy all four. Aside from the MMX (the darkest, my favorite), it’s a very close call between the other three.

The ferrules look a little worse for the wear. All of mine are pretty scratched up, and the “seam” where they are attached shows through in this monochromatic color scheme. Some Comrades might find this bothersome with such expensive pencils.

I have to admit that I was initially a little disappointed by the lack of autumnal hues and getting yet another black pencil from Blackwing. Once I opened my package, I found that the uniform matte black aesthetic is a winner here.  Matte black has served well for over eight years as of this dispatch, and it’s among my very favorite finishes on any pencil (assuming there’s a finish, with unfinished pencils being  my usual favorite). These pencils will definitely get a workout during NaNoWriMo this year, if my kids don’t run off with them all for Halloween first.

Back to School, Grade 4.


My daughter just skipped third grade (where the list included blue and red pens) and, this week, entered fourth grade, where the requirements concerning pencils were:

1) Pack of sharpened pencils: We picked the Futura from CWPE, with two protected pencils being sharpened (to save the yellow lining of this pencil case).

2) Eraser: I picked out the Matomaru-Kun Long Plastic Eraser because it’s shaped in such a way that it fits into a pencil case very well, while still maintaining a good volume of “rubber” for erasing.

3) Container sharpener: We settled on the Sect Enclosed Pencil Sharpener that Caroline talked about on a recent episode of Erasable. There are two holes: one for a long point and one for a short point.

The tooth fairy brought her this lovely Fluf case (which he bought at MOM’s Organic Market). It holds a lot, but it won’t fit unsharpened Blackwings.

My son started Kindergarten today, but I didn’t get a photo of his cute little pencil box full of fat pencils. I’ll invade the classroom and give it a shot.

(Last year’s post.)