Perfection in a Pencil
When something is designed well, thoughtfully packaged, and its purpose carefully considered, you get a seriously beautiful product.
I was perusing a Folio Press & Paperie in Santa Barbara a couple days ago (because I cannot resist a stationary store), I saw these curious looking pencils. I’m someone who is a bit of a devotee to a handful of writing instruments and have been since high school.
My favourite pen is the Uni-Ball Vision Micro in black. I have used them exclusively for at least 6 years. Once before my final exam for the Italian course I was taking, I realized I didn’t have a pen on me. I went to the bookstore and had to purchase the exact same pen. It was a necessary three Euros.
My favourite bubble-sheet exam pencil is the Staedtler Norica. The sharpening reliability and quality eraser are key.
My favourite mechanical pencil, and only pencil I carry around is Faber Castell’s Grip Mechanical Pencil.
The Blackwing pencil has a long storied history. They were a cult favourite of many creatives during the 20th century. However, they became too expensive to produce and fell out of production by the millenium. Due to the rise of the internet, devotees of this pencil were paying up to $40 to get their hands on one of these pencils. The brand was acquired by an American company in 2010 and they have been carrying on the legacy of this pencil.
The first thing you notice about this pencil is its eye catching flat, gold eraser holder thing (aka the ferrule). It is a skinny rectangular shape instead of the standard circular shape.
You are either one of two types of people. The one who used the eraser on the back of the pencil without a second thought and ran out of eraser very quickly with too much pencil. The eraser to pencil ratio is never right. OR you are the kind of person who reserves the eraser for emergencies and prefers to keep it in pristine, unused condition.
The Blackwing has a replaceable eraser that you can use until it runs low, and shimmy it up, thanks to its unique eraser retainer clip.
Continuing on with the aesthetics, there are three classic “models”. There’s the regular Blackwing, the Pearl, and the 602. They even release special editions that feature things like, different graphite densities, lacquer colors, pencil shape (for those who prefer a pentagonal instrument to a hexagonal one), and textures. They have a $99 annual subscription where you can get a pack of 12 limited edition pencils each quarter.
In your hand, each of the classic models feels different. You have the luxurious feeling matte black of the regular Blackwing. The glossy lacquer of the 602. And what feels to me to be a nearly imperceptibly thinner lacquer of the Pearl, compared to the 602.
Compared to other pencils, they definitely have a distinctly woodier pencil smell. Apparently this is a feature. I didn’t really notice until I put my nose to the pencil and did a comparison sniff.
Okay, now we dive “inside” the pencil.
The regular Blackwing has the softest graphite, and the 602, the hardest graphite of the three. The Pearl is the in the middle one, that could be used for either drawing or writing. However, after a few words, I had to readjust the Pearl in my grip because it was getting too dull for my writing (I have small writing).
Each eraser is different. Not all erasers are made the same. White, black, and pink erasers are different even when they’re from the same company. It also makes sense that they paired different erasers with different pencils because the leads are different densities. You can also purchase a multitude of replacement eraser colours from their website.
In general black erasers are softer and erase better, especially if you’re using soft graphites and want to reclaim white space. Pink erasers are generally harder (sometimes grittier), so they are better at erasing hard graphites that are often slightly depressed into the paper. The kind of graphite that is better suited to writing because they don’t wear down as fast.
I swear I’m not pencil nerd. These are all things I learned just from taking art classes and noticing what works with what. Also, I’m picky.
The pencils themselves sharpen nicely in my standard German-made sharpener. It’s a slightly harder wood than most pencils (from my very scientific method of digging my thumbnail into it).
Anyways, I just wanted to share my new discovery with you today. I’m itching to get my hands on the Blackwing sharpener… There are designated holes for sharpening the wood and graphite. Plus it comes with a break so you don’t over sharpen. 😱
If you want to learn more here is some further reading: