Kolkata, India

Blackwing – can’t help falling in love

Blackwing – can’t help falling in love

People often ask me, what is the pencil equivalent of Elvis Presley? Which is the one pencil that fires the imagination of pencil buffs, collectors, and users alike? Which is the one pencil, without which, no pencil collection is deemed complete? The answer is simple. Blackwing.

The next question that many ask is also simple and straightforward – where do we acquire one from? Before I get into that part, I guess, we should acquaint ourselves a little with the legend called Blackwing.

The Blackwing was introduced in the 1930’s and it was not long before that it had curved out a distinct niche for itself in the hearts of the users with its distinctive look, awesome graphite quality, replaceable eraser, and iconic look. The fanbase of the Blackwing – the Blackwing 602 to be precise, was comparable to those of rockstars in its day – what was even more striking was perhaps the composition of this fan base. Almost every pencil user who mattered in the day, be that John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, Quincy Jones, Vladimir Nabokov, and Chuck Jones, (creator of Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters) swore by their Blackwings.

In fact, it will not be an exaggeration to state that if the awards were to be linked to the Blackwings that were used to create the timeless works that won them, the cupboards would overflow with Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer, and Academy Awards! These pencils were darker than the dark side of the Sith, were softer than the hearts of the Jedi knights, and were amongst the most attractive in the galaxy. Needless to say, they were blockbusters of a different kind.

However, in 1998, following a spate of acquisitions, the production of Blackwings ceased. While it was a culture shock of immense proportions to many – who could just not fill the void – for others, it was an opportunity with collectors pushing up the price to phenomenal levels. However, it was not long before the Blackwing made a triumphant comeback, thanks to Charles Berolzheimer II, President and CEO of California Cedar Products Company and Palomino brand, whose family’s roots in the pencil industry date back to the mid-19th century. The year was 2010 and the Blackwing was back – both in its original form: 602 Blackwing for devotees, writers, and everyday users, as well as a modified version with a slightly softer and smoother lead for artists: Palomino Blackwing.

What many people do not know, is that Blackwing pencils are made in Japan with genuine incense cedar, which comes from the forests of California and Oregon. The amazing smoothness and breathtaking beauty of the pencils are matched by a performance that cannot be matched by pencils sourced from anywhere else. What is more, every Blackwing pencil is hand shaved to fit the unique eraser(ferrule) design. The production process ensures that the pencils travel around the globe as the shaved pencils are sent to the headquarters in California where the eraser assembly is attached and each pencil is carefully packed by hand.

Today, the Blackwing family is a growing one and is a living testimony of the fact that neither the graphite pencil is dead and buried, nor has its place in the hearts of genuine users and lovers become any smaller. As a matter of fact, the growing popularity of Blackwings with people like us, who had grown up with our standard black and red Nataraj pencils during our school-going days, and had not even heard of Blackwings, speak volumes about the winds of change that are rippling through.

What is more, acquiring Blackwing pencils is no difficult task either. They are easily available on the Pen Specials website, from where I have acquired several. The price is well within the means and the service of the site is brisk and breezy. They also have in stock mechanical pencils from Kaweco (the brass ones, but I guess that will warrant another full-length feature) and TWSBI (which are in fact a steal, considering the fact that they are still available at a price that does not reflect the exchange rate which has since skyrocketed).

Sketch, doodle or write – whatever your passion, get hold of a Blackwing and you will also hum, just like Elvis, “it’s now or never.”  


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