New Palomino Pencil Finish.

IMG_2580

A few weeks ago, Pencils.com sent out an email unveiling the new Palomino. I bought a dozen of the orange HB Palominos as a gift only a few weeks before that, and I noticed that the imprint had been cut down to just the word “Palomino” and the grade. “California Republic Stationers” was gone. I was disappointed and went home and counted all of the orange HB Palominos in The Archive. I wished I’d saved some more, especially the blue end-dipped, which is one of my very favorite pencils ever.

I ordered a set of the mixed new grade Palominos, to compare them with the mixed grade pack I received for my birthday in August 2012. I ordered them Monday, and they came today, all of the way to Baltimore on the $1.70 shipping. Excellent.

The new Palomino is, finish-wise, more different than folks let on. But it’s the same ride under the, er, saddle. I thought I’d report on it here, in magical list of ten that I jotted down on a Rhodia pad tonight.

IMG_2573

1) I sharpened all seven grades with the same sharpener and tried them out on Rhodia paper. Good news: I cannot distinguish between the cores of the new and cores of the old.

IMG_2625

2) The orange is a bit different. I was seconded and thirded in blind tests at HQ, indicating that I am correct: the new color is ever-so-slightly less red. But I have noticed subtle changes in the orange and blue before, going back to 2005. I am not disturbed by this. On its own, the new pencil looks like the same orange enough. And who says it has to be the same?

3) As a Baltimorean, I should appreciate that the color scheme mirrors that of our major-league baseball team (I’m looking at you, Tim.)

IMG_2616

4) I like the black imprint, though it is not as crisp as the old Palomino or the Blackwing Pearl, which shares the black branding.

5) The end could use another coat of black. I can see the orange paint where the end of the wooden barrel and the plastic cap meet on all of the pencils in the box I bought.

6) Unless these are going to be sold individually, I do not understand the sudden appearance of the barcode. Indeed, I have often seen various Blackwing models for sale individually sans barcode. But if this is a sign that the Palomino’s market will increase to more brick-and-mortar art supply stores, then I heartily embrace it. (I feel badly for the staff at my favorite shop when they have to look up codes from the shelves when I buy pencils which lack barcodes.) I am also glad to see the country of origin included in the pencil, though I’m not quite sure why this makes me feel that way.

IMG_2612

7) The grade is only stamped on the end on two sides, the same two that have printing on them further down the barrel. This threw me a bit, as pencils are often stamped on three sides for easier identification. But these new Palominos are still myriad times easier to select than the older version, with only one small grade identifier.

IMG_2607

8) The Palominos feel more like an art pencil than they did before. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, and indeed might indicate the direction in which Cal Cedar plans to move the “original” Palomino pencil. However, with the long-standing, short spectrum of grades (2H-2B) dominating for nearly seven years, I always thought of the Palomino as a writing pencil, a fine writing pencil, and I think that distinction could very well have been a part of my affection for this pencil.

9) I have long wondered what would be the fate of the pencil which (unless I am mistaken) ultimately made the Palomino version[s] of the Blackwing possible. It is reassuring to know that the Palomino is still getting attention, after giving its name to the new branding. Cal Cedar seems to be breathing new life into this Senior Pencil. It’s also especially nice (to me) to know that things are the same on business end of the pencil – same core; same cedar; same excellent centering. It is the same writing experience that I have enjoyed since Woodchuck sent the first review pack almost nine years ago.

IMG_2618

10) I’m not sure that I like this treatment as much as the original finish, but I hope it will grow on me. It feels less like a “fancy” pencil and more like a Work Horse pencil now. And, despite my few qualms, it should tell Comrades something that I have replaced the gold-stampled Palomino in my small pencil box with one of the HBs in my new set.

(These were not provided by Cal Cedar. Opinions expressed about this model and about this brand toward which many folks feel very strongly – one way or the other – are my own.)

Review of Palomino Blackwing Pearl.

DSCN1074
It took us nearly two years to review the Palomino Blackwing 602, and we won’t waste time on this one. Cal Cedar bills this as the middle ground between the point retention of the Palomino Blackwing 602 and the darkness of the Palomino Blackwing 2010 design (which we will call the Blackwing Dark). How does it rate in real life, on paper?

We’ve talked enough about the eraser and ferrule of the Palomino Blackwing line. (See here.) The Pearl ships with a black eraser. I thought pink would look better, but the black eraser complements the black imprint pretty well. A silver imprint and ferrule and pink eraser would combine to look more like a pearl to me, but this pencil remains steadfastly un-aquatic In its current form. And that’s Okay by me.

DSCN1059

The finish is, truly, pearlesque. It does not photograph accurately, the way that the tones of the 602 do not show themselves to a lens. (I can’t get them to, at any rate.) For some reason, the finish feels very different from the other two Palomino Blackwings — and most other pencils. It is certainly not rubbery like the Dixon Tri-Conderoga. It is not tacky. But there’s something almost…soft or….grippy about it. I really enjoy holding it. Combined with the soft lead and thicker (Japanese) diameter, it’s a pleasure to write with. The printing is sharp and precise and has stayed put (unlike the 602, which seems to prefer to shed its clothing). I like the minimal marking. All of the dozen I ordered have ferrules which line up with the printed side, save one. All are straight and solidly attached, with well-centered leads.

DSCN1073

While the Pearl does not smell…chemically like the Blackwing Dark does out of the box, the cedar has disappointingly little aroma. It does sharpen perfectly though, and I’ve found that I like my Granate the best for this job.

The lead itself is why we’re here, no? This is supposed to fit between Palomino’s other Blackwings. I found the 2010 Palomino Blackwing Dark to be incredibly smooth and dark, but I rarely use it for writing. Certainly, its dark lines lend themselves well to a pocket pencil, for writing down set-lists, play-lists and reading-lists. But there’s something a little too art-pencil-ish or even charcoal-looking about the lines when the point gets dull. After a sentence. The Palomino Blackwing 602 is much less dark and slightly less smooth than the Blackwing Dark. But the point retention, sharpness of the line and durability of the point (even a looooong one) usually keeps me reaching for that model more often than the Blackwing Dark if I am writing more than a few lines.

Where does the Blackwing Pearl fit?

DSCN1081

At first, it felt closer to the Blackwing Dark to me. It is much darker than the Palomino Blackwing 602, and nearly as smooth as the Blackwing Dark. If the latter feels like writing with a stick of melting butter, the Pearl feels like writing with a very very smooth pencil.

On Rhodia Dot Pad
On Rhodia Dot Pad

Point retention, smearability and erasability are right in the middle of the Palomino Blackwing line. See image (click to enlarge it) for detailed smearing and erasing. Smearing is really not bad for such a dark and soft pencil. Erasbility is, like the Palomino Blackwing Dark, not very good. The included eraser does not fully erase marks made by either the Dark or the Pearl (not even the 602, I find). If erasing is what you like best about pencils, this one may disappoint you.

Oddly enough, ghosting is not bad at all. In the week I used it, the Blackwing Pearl didn’t ghost any more than a regular HB pencil. While erasiblity is not my favorite Character of the Pencil, ghosting does bug me to no end. I was very pleased with the Pearl.

I admit that I was apprehensive that this pencil would be white like an Apple product and a stop-gap between two nice pencils just to make another pencil. (Well, maybe I just thought I should think that.) But, as I understand it, Cal Cedar is not having trouble getting the Blackwing line out there. And, when using it, I really like this pencil. I think it might be my favorite in the Blackwing line, if that’s not some kind of heresy. I’ve used it for journaling and a little sketching, and Comrades here at Pencil Revolution HQ have already pilfered from my dozen. I enjoy this pencil enough to order another dozen straight away. If you found the 602 too light and the Dark too…un-pencil-like, this might be the pencil for you, if you’re looking to buy another box of Blackwings.

Review of Palomino Blackwing 602.

DSCN0989
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).

DSCN0983

DSCN0992

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.

DSCN0996

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.

DSCN0960

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.

DSCN0987

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):
Boing Boing
Lexikaliker
No Pen Intended
Office Supply Geek
Pen Addict
Pencil Reviewer
Planet Millie
Recording Thoughts
Stationery Traffic
Woodclinched