When you first lay eyes on a Palamino Blackwing, it is immediately clear that this is a thing of beauty. It is not a garish school-bus yellow, there are no cartoon animals. Just a matte black with dark gold lettering. Even the standard dusty pink eraser is done away with for a stark white one. This is not the pencil that writes one’s first giant, shaky words — it writes great American novels.
Type “Blackwing pencil” into a search engine and you’ll quickly learn that its virtues have not escaped notice. The original Blackwing enjoys nothing short of a cult following. After a couple of decades in obscurity and 12 years out of production, however, the Blackwing is not widely known. But those who do know it love it to a frenzy.
This Palomino Blackwing is a re-creation of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing that originally went into production in 1934. The only machine in the world that made the pencil’s distinctive eraser clamp broke some time in the late ‘80s, and when the current makers exhausted the remaining back stock of clamps in 1998, they simply let Blackwing production fizzle to a halt.
The reaction in the pencil community was immediate and indignant. Collectors who were certain of the pencils’ value came out of the woodwork, selling single, dead stock Blackwings for prices upwards of $35. The likes of composer Steven Sondheim tried to convince Eberhard Faber to restore production, but to no avail.
With the tagline “Half the pressure, twice the speed,” the Blackwing was beloved for the especially smooth formulation of its graphite. The flat eraser clamp (formally called the “ferrule”) let you replace the eraser and kept the pencil from rolling off the desk onto the floor.
The Palomino Blackwing keeps these distinctive elements in place, but with a few adjustments to bring the pencil to the modern world. The lead — reformulated by a Japanese graphite producer — is every bit as smooth as the old Blackwing, but blacker and softer (graded at 4B). The hard pink rubber erasers were updated with more effective white vinyl erasers and the shiny blue-gray made matte black. Most controversially (and least consequently for the performance of the pencil), the “Half the pressure…” line was left off.
Other than the backlash against leaving the tag line off, pencil enthusiasts have received the Palomino Blackwing with great anticipation and unambiguous acceptance.