Three exclamation marks in the title of this post - probably a personal record - and all for good reason! The Palomino Blackwing is not just another pencil and yes, it is worth every seemingly superfluous piece of punctuation. Variously described as 'Black Velvet', 'like writing with butter', 'the best wood pencil in the world' and the 'fountain pen of pencils', the Blackwing (and Blackwing 602 for that) is something you just have to try.
It's so good it will make you re-evaluate your standards, your whole pencil cosmology, of just what a wood pencil can be. Even if you don't really like pencils, you still have to try it. Maybe I'm just stuck in some ill-proportioned infatuation with pencils (see below for my last Rhodia pencil), but the scope of expression that the Blackwing gives its lucky user is entirely endearing.
Where to start? Well, there is a key difference or two between the Blackwing Pencil and the Blackwing 602 Pencil. These are most easily summed up as: The Blackwing is great for sketching. The Blackwing 602 is great for writing.
The Blackwing is a modern homage to the famous Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602 (discontinued in 1998) and like a phoenix, rose from the cedar wood ashes of its forebear to be better than ever. It is made for sketching and has a special graphite formulation lead which is distinguished for two reasons. It is seriously black (see the gradation below) and seriously smooth.
The point more or less vanishes, wearing away much faster than 4B lead, and probably has a small amount of wax too. It's just ridiculous. For sketching, the degrees of blackness you can get out of the Blackwing, the breadth of shading possibilities and the feedback you get is so much more than you can reasonably expect from a wood pencil.
The Blackwing 602, on the other hand, is a writer's pencil. It is super fast (Half the Pressure. Twice the Speed), more grey-black than straight black like the Blackwing and has greater point retention. It too is extremely expressive, i quite like the comparison to a fountain pen. It is smoother, faster, more free and gives much greater feedback than its proverbial ballpoint competitors in the world of lead pencils.
This point about expression is worth noting. The lead formulation sits around HB if you just want to write with it normally. But take a little care, caress it just right, and you can get anything from H to 3B or 4B out of the Blackwing 602.
The Blackwing is an homage to the infamous original whereas the Blackwing 602 is more of a revision, an audacious attempt at direct improvement on its namesake made by Eberhard-Faber. And a success at that.
The common traits are equally endearing. That beautiful gold ferrule, the removable eraser, the incense cedar body. Its so elegant, seemingly aware of its preeminence and not shy about it either.
Grab a long-point sharpener (oh, how I could bang on about my love of this sharpener...) and Blackwing and just enjoy something that is the very best of its kind in the world. Few things, humble like a pencil or not, are exceptional enough to make us reconsider our view of them, to re-organise our schemata, but these are that good. I'm in love.