For a long time I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in Central California. Itâ€™s damp up there, cold, and gray most of the year. My house was heated by a environmentally-correct woodstove. In the mountains, because of the weather, after a while, you get a little book-ish. Down the highway about 10 miles or so, in the city of Santa Cruz, well, there was an art supply store called Palace Arts. This store carried Blackfeet Indian Pencils. Now I grant you that I have always been a pencil freak. Itâ€™s just now, with your wonderful site, I can come out of the closet about it. I have always loved pencils. Some of my favorites have been, over time, the Venus Goddess, the old yellow Mongol #1, Black Warrior #1, and the Tombow Mono B. The Blackwing, of course, cannot be mentioned in the same sentence with any other pencil. It is the high chieftain of all pencils. Somewhere, however, between the Blackwing and the Tombow Mono B, there is a place for the Blackfeet Indian #2. A person who understood me really well once gave me a gross of Mongol #1 pencils for Christmas one year. I was happy for months.
The Blackfeet Indian is almost impossible to buy now, but I remember a time when I could go to Palace Arts in Santa Cruz and buy them by the dozen. They are beautiful: simple hardwood, lots of grain, very simply varnished. The eraser worked like a Pink Pearl, and although you could get them with a gold ferrule, my favorite version is the one with the black ferrule. It looked so minimally beautiful, matching the simple black print on the pencil body. The gold ferrule, to my eye, was a little too flashy, a little too Hollywood. I loved the black. The lead was magnificent. It was never gritty. The line was an impressive black. It did not smear. It held a point pretty well, and whatâ€™s even more impressive, I never had a Blackfeet Indian pencil turn into one of those nightmare pencils that break when you sharpen them, and the lead never fell out of the wood after sharpening, either. The lead in these pencils also would last. I bear down when I write and I can use up a Faber Castell Grip 2001 in a couple days. Not so with the Blackfeet Indian pencil. The weight of this pencil was also wonderful, not too heavy, not too light. Some newer pencils, well it feels like the wood is really dried out to the point of where the pencil lends no weight to the writing job. You have to bear down to get a line, some. The Blackfeet, well, it is equal to the task of writing.
I am an internet ranter. When it became clear to me that it was going to be hard to get more Blackfeet pencils through stores, I began to beg them from my pals on the net. A dear friend in Minnesota found that she had a whole box of them, and she sent them to me. She doesnâ€™t use pencils. I have given single pencils from my stash as special gifts to dear friends. Some of them upon receiving these pencils, look at me a little strangely. But I always smile at them and say: there is a poem, or a story, or a drawing, in that pencil, waiting to come out for you. Then the odd look melts into a grin, usually. I only have about a half dozen of these pencils left. I have been looking for suitable substitutes. Consequently I have an embarrassing number of pencils in my house, of which only the General Cedar #2 and the Pacific Music Papers â€œMagic Writerâ€ come anywhere near the Blackfeet Indian Pencil. The General #2 is a little gritty for my taste, although the aesthetics of the pencil itself are magnificent. The â€œMagic Writerâ€ has a good lead, except it wears down too fast. Ideally, my pencil would LOOK like the General Cedar, and behave like the Tombow Mono B or 2B. Right now I am writing with a Staedtler 4B lead in a red Koh-i-Noor Lead holder. Itâ€™s a little thick for me, but at least the line is black. I bought some TriConderoga pencils, and while I like those, I am not in love.
Based on what I read on your site, I bought some Palominos and some Forest Choice. I am hoping that one of these will be my new Blackfeet Indian Pencil.
What I want to know is this: why is it that when people make something that actually works, like the Blackwing and the Blackfeet pencil, that automatically it just goes away? For example: for a while, I could get the Noris ErgoSoft HB at Office Depot. Now this pencil is both elegant and functional. It doesnâ€™t sharpen away into a nub in two days. The pencil is also beautiful to behold â€“ it has a real Art Deco paint job. Everything works on this pencil, and it’s 3 bucks a half dozen — Okay, so a little expensive. But Office Depot wonâ€™t carry this pencil anymore. Nope. You want to buy a pencil at Office Depot you have to settle for a school pencil. Now Iâ€™m not in love with the Dixon Ticonderoga #2, but I love the #1. Iâ€™m willing to deal with the yellow paint for the sake of the lead. Can you find a #1 at Office Depot or Staples? No. At Office Depot or Staples, I can buy all the cheap Pentech atrocities I want. But no Noris, No Ticonderoga #1. For Dixon #1, I have to go to a store across town. For Noris Ergosoft, I have to buy online â€“ General Cedar and Black Warrior #1 I can only get on line, too. To get Mitsubishi or Tombow pencils (and Japanese woodcase pencils are EXCELLENT) I have to drive downtown to Kinokuniya bookstore in Los Angeles. I can get the Faber-Castell GRIP 2001 in stores, but not the excellent Faber-Castell 9000 (and it is, to my way of thinking, a much better pencil).
Sometimes all of this drives me to use a Pentel .9 mechanical pencil, but that does not make my soul happy. I write for a living. I want REAL pencils.
Thank you, I feel better now.
(Many thanks to Humdog for a great contribution!)
[Text, Humdog, used with very kind permission. Image, J.G.]