The legendary Palomino Blackwing is not just any pencil; it’s an experience. Loved the world over for its quality, iconic shape, quality of graphite and replaceable eraser, it has inspired the creative work of many throughout the ages. In this article we share the history of the Palomino Blackwing, some of the special Volumes Limited Editions and a quide to the lead and shade variations in the classic Blackwing range.
So why is the Palomino Blackwing so special?
Introduced in the 1930’s, some of the world’s legendary Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer and Academy Award winners were users of the original Blackwing 602 pencils. The list of known fans includes John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, Quincy Jones, Vladimir Nabokov and Chuck ‘What’s Up Doc’ Jones, who used his Blackwing pencils to create Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters.
In 1998, after several corporate acquisitions, the Blackwing was discontinued…but not forgotten. In fact, fans began paying as much $40 on eBay for a single Blackwing pencil!
Artists from across the world soon began to notice that Palomino’s range of premium pencils provided a comparable performance to the Blackwing and asked them to consider reviving the iconic brand.
Palomino Blackwing Reborn
In 2010, President and CEO of California Cedar Products Company and Palomino brand, Charles Berolzheimer II, whose family’s roots in the pencil industry date back to the mid 19th century, used his unique supply relationships to re-introduce the Blackwing pencil, 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.
Charles Berolzheimer is also responsible for creating ForestChoice, the world’s first FSC certified brands of pencils, and is the founder of Pencils.com.
“What’s the allure? Well, just look at it! It’s the DeLorean Gullwing Coupe of the pencil world. And not only beautiful, but adept.” Alex Beam, Boston Globe
Palomino Blackwing pencils are made in Japan with genuine incense cedar, which comes from the forests of California and Oregon. It is amazingly smooth and beautiful, a performance you won’t find anywhere else. Every Palomino Blackwing pencil is hand shaved to fit their unique eraser/ferrule design.
The shaved pencils are then sent to the headquarters in California where the eraser assembly is attached and the pencils are carefully packed by hand.
Check out this Ode to Blackwing video, drawn by Woodchuck, which illustrates why these pencils are so special.
Palomino Blackwing Volumes: Limited Editions
Building upon the popularity of Blackwing pencils, Palomino recently released a Volumes series: four limited edition pencils per year where the model number and design of each pencil honours and celebrates cultural icons and events.
Palomino Blackwing Limited Edition Volume 24
The Blackwing 24 pays tribute to Pulitzer Prize winning author, John Steinbeck. Designed under the guidance of his son, accomplished author Thomas Steinbeck, Palomino attempted to create what would have been John Steinbeck’s ideal pencil.
Thomas was adamant that his father would want it to be black, from barrel to eraser – to avoid distractions when writing! It would also need to sharpen to a firm point without sacrificing much, if any, darkness.
“I have found a new kind of pencil—the best I have ever had. Of course it costs three times as much too but it is black and soft but doesn’t break off. I think I will always use these. They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper.” John Steinbeck, The Paris Review
The Blackwing Volume 24 is just that – an all-black pencil with a brand new graphite formulation perfect for extended writing. “My father’s pencils had a firm, sharp point,” noted Thomas. “They were surgically sharp. You could dissect a mouse [with his pencils].” John Steinbeck saw sharpening as a pointless distraction so every day, before he started writing, he would sharpen 24 pencils and place them point up in the first of two identical wood boxes.
Each pencil lasted just long enough to dull its point – usually four or five lines – before being placed in the second box, point down. After all 24 pencils had progressed from one box to the other, John would re-sharpen each pencil, and begin the process again.
According to Thomas, some days he would use over 100 pencils. But every day started with 24 pencils and the sound of the pencil sharpener…
Palomino Blackwing Classics
Palomino Blackwing: For illustrators
The Blackwing is ideal for illustrators and musicians who prefer a soft, dark line. It boasts a sophisticated matte black finish with pearl white erasers.
If you love to draw and sketch this is your go-to due to the range you get from light to hard strokes. You also get a similar ‘charcoal’ effect from the pencil. The one downside is if you apply too much pressure, it can get blunt quickly.
Palomino Blackwing 602: For writers
Praised in the New Yorker, The Boston Globe, and Boing Boing among others, the Palomino Blackwing 602 features a firm and smooth graphite core that helps it deliver on its promise of “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.”
The 602 is faultless. You don’t have to press too hard to achieve readable handwriting. It’s super comfortable too, most suitable for writing, but would also still work nicely for drawing too.
Palomino Blackwing Pearl: For writing & drawing
The Blackwing Pearl features a pearl white finish, black imprint and eraser, and a balanced and smooth graphite core that is softer than the graphite found in the Palomino Blackwing 602, but firmer than the graphite found in the Palomino Blackwing.
The Pearl is great for writing while still being great for drawing as well. There is a certain fluidity you get from having smooth strokes, which would look really nice for any type of drawing. It is a lot more smoother to write with than the original Blacking, as the ‘charcoal’ texture does not translate as much. The blackness you get from high pressure stokes is toned down a notch in this pencil.
Comparing the classic Palomino Blackwings: Lead and shade variations
And, of course, we couldn’t let up the opportunity to try out the latest limited editions.
Previous Limited Editions
Palomino Blackwing Volume 725
The first in the “Volumes” series of limited edition Blackwing pencils, the Blackwing 725 pays tribute to the Newport Folk Festival and their impact on the landscape of folk, rock and roots music. The pencil features a sunburst finish, white imprint, black eraser and balanced graphite. The unique lacquer is inspired by the sunburst finish on the Fender Stratocaster that fuelled what Rolling Stone Magazine called one of “50 Moments that Changed Rock n’ Roll”: Bob Dylan’s first plugged-in performance. The model number is taken from the 25th day of the 7th month, which marks the date of Dylan’s memorable set.
Palomino Blackwing Volume 1138
The Blackwing Volume 1138 honours 20th-century filmmaker Georges Méliès, who is credited with making the first sci-fi film. image The number ‘1138’ pays tribute to the science fiction genre. Using a process known as movie barcoding, Palomino condensed the entirety of Georges Méliès’s film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ into individual bands of colour and applied it to the barrel of the Blackwing pencil.
The manufacturing process utilises an intricate and unique high-quality printing method called roll-on printing, and this is the first Blackwing pencil with a silver ferrule and silver imprint.
A new generation of fans
Blackwing pencils have been used by some of the most influential creatives in the world, who do everything they can to inspire a new generation of innovators. The ‘new’ Blackwing has a new generation of fans, including creatives like jazz musician and composer Christian Tamburr, Ren & Stimpy animator and creator Bob Camp and comic writer and penciler Sal Abinnanti have already become members of this new generation.
Check out this interesting talk from technology writer and Blacking Pencil enthusiast, Clive Thompson who explores the topic of ‘writing vs typing’.
Did you know?: In addition to their pencils, Palomino have also introduced a unique line of luxury notebooks, sketchbooks and folios that help inspire your ideas from pencil to paper, from cultivation to culmination.