Friday, 26 November 2010

Palomino Blackwing, Smooth Operator and Smear King

Standing tall at an amazing 20cm (or 8 inches) the Palomino Blackwing is a colossus of a pencil: matt black (peppered on close inspection with specks of gold), with golden lettering, a band of gold at the top, a golden ferrule and white tablet of an eraser at the crown. The box of 12 and its contents from is a dazzling black and gold affair, the sleek barrels like dark, hexagonal wands, the ferrules glimmering in the light, the erasers emerging like rubber pearls.

But at $19.95 I won the right to moan.  And I start with the presentation. Well, call me Mrs Whinge, if you will, but the pencils do not line up in the box as they should.  They simply do not fit neatly with the lettering all showing on one side and the ferrules lined up at the same angle. The box is too small for these colossal pencil specimens. And then they are the specks of gold that randomly adorn the matt surface of the barrels. Like the pencils were produced in a factory that handles also glitter.

The Palomino Blackwing gives an exceptionally dark line. Making a line on paper feels like gliding. Writing is a pleasure if you like your pencils soft.The Blackwing is much darker and much smoother than the California Republic Palomino HB. Maybe too smooth. A smooth operator but also a smear king. It is inevitable of course. You can’t have this amount of smoothness with no smear.

I like an acute point in a pencil and to achieve this with the Palomino Blackwing you have to sharpen it constantly. It wears quickly.  But for one appreciating the pleasures of sharpening, this is not a bad thing. Because this new Blackwing sharpens like a dream. It produces such fragrant and visually pleasing shavings that I can see Palomino-Blackwing-sharpening used as a form of therapy.

Would I use for everyday writing? I have not decided yet. I fear it is too long and too soft. Too heavy and it wears easily. But oh the buttery feel. And the sharpening. And the pressing down of the point on paper and the feeling of wearing down the graphite on every move. 


  1. Thanks for this review. The photo of the pencil shavings is fantastic!

  2. Oddly, the thing I cared least about when I initially heard of a BW project, the ferrule, was the only part of the finished PBW that actually impressed me at all. The rest of the pencil, from the lead to the finishing to the eraser, was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the ferrules enough to strip some of them off the PBWs and put them on other pencils. Unfortunately, without a lathe, it is a bit of a hassle to set up a good fit, and then cutting a better eraser for it is a bit tricky, so it's almost not worth the effort.

  3. As a journalist, I prefer using pencils whenever I take notes, as in a telephone interview. My favorite thus far has been the Palomino HB—it’s smooth, sharpens well, maintains a reasonable point, and produces a fairly dark and readable line. So I was pleased to see Palomino offering the legendary Blackwing, which I had heard of, but never had the opportunity to use.

    I was disappointed.

    The Blackwing is entirely too soft for consistent writing, will not maintain a point, and produces a dark, but too thick and thus, hard-to-read line.

    The new Blackwing is handsome, and although it may be desirable for other uses, it’s of little value for heavy-duty writing, which for me is taking notes that are clear and readable.

  4. I think everyone is asking too much of what I understand is a 4B pencil - afterall I would never use a 4B pencil from FC, Staedtler, Mitsubishi or Tombow for writing. Anyway the problem is now solved in terms of choice with the recent introduction of the Palomino Blackwing 602 and its harder lead, but much longer wearing point.