Do not adjust your screens. I actually AM talking about pencils today, not pens. Don’t shoot me.
BUT, I’ve found that pencils are equally as nuanced, beautiful and interesting as fountain pens. I know, I was shocked to the core too (like the pencil pun ;)?!). Sometimes, a pen just won’t cut it and the archival, erasable and instantaneous quality of a pencil is what you need. Like drawing a mark on wood. Or jotting down a shopping list on crap paper in a hurry. Or stabbing your enemy in the eye. PENCILS WILL DO THIS!
So, when the lovely Mishka at Bureau Direct asked me if I wanted to try a selection of their Blackwing range I jumped at the chance, despite the fountain pen part of my brain screaming ‘NOOOoooOOOOO!’
Here are my layman thoughts on these Blackwing Beauties. Erasable Podcast Boys eat your heart out!
Intravenous Drip: Palomino Handheld Sharpener
In case you aren’t aware (or have the IQ of a gnat), you need a decent sharpener to get a killer point on your pencil, much like an intravenous drip of blood to keep you alive. The Palomino Handheld Sharpener made by Kum is an incredible example. It comes with two holes: one to sharpen the wood into a long cone, and one to sharpen the lead into the LONGEST POINT EVER! Such a simple but well put together tool, this sharpener was easy to use and delivered amazing points every time. My only gripe is that it didn’t hold a high volume of shavings; after one pencil I was frantically searching for a bin whilst ruining my carpet with off cuts. Nevertheless, a must have for pencil aficionados on the go…if you think £10.95 is reasonable for a sharpener.
Here come the pencils in order of firmness, starting with the limited edition 530 at the firmest end of the scale for writing, through to the Classic at the softer end of the scale for sketching. Look at me being all official and that!
The New Registrar: Blackwing 530
First up and – just to spoil it – my absolute favourite of the bunch is the 530. As a Blackwing limited edition, it commemorates a key moment or figure in American history because…well it’s hipster as f**k, isn’t it? The 530 represents James Marshall discovering gold in California in 1848, hence the Goldfinger style paint job. It has an extra-firm graphite core, and I LOVED the way it wrote. Super smooth, great point retention and little smudging if you smeared your greasy paws all over it accidentally. The rubber on the end wasn’t too bad either, removing most of the pencil mark after a few swipes. I’m not mad keen on the gold finish as it makes me look like a pretentious tit when using it, but I am happy to endure this social labelling just for the writing experience.
4 pencil-cillin pills out of 5
The Sexy Nurse: Blackwing 602
Everyone worth their stationery salt has tried one of these. The 602 is made of incense cedar (so smells DIVINE!), has a super-cool grey and gold finish and is the flagship Blackwing model. It’s firm yet smooth core promises to deliver ‘half the pressure, twice the speed’ and it does so with aplomb. I enjoyed writing with it, but preferred the darker, firmer line of the 530 for everyday writing. The 602 was a touch too soft and light for me, but is a great all rounder for writing and sketching if that is your thing. Not a bad pencil at all…just not a 530.
3.5 pencil-cillin pills out of 5
The Hassled Doctor: Blackwing Pearl
Another of Palomino’s standard models, is the Blackwing Pearl. It is much softer than the 602, and puts down the darkest line of the bunch. I liked how dark it wrote, and it was awesome for underlining in books due to its boldness. I also adore the finish; as a recovering Apple whore, the simple white and black lines really turn me on. It is my second favourite of the bunch; only pipped by the 530 as the Pearl is so ridiculously soft, I was sharpening it every couple of lines to keep a decent point. Will be a firm favourite in my pencil case.
3.75 pencil-cillin pills out of 5
The Hospital Janitor: Blackwing Classic
Finally, my least favourite of the Blackwing gaggle, the Classic. It is soft as sh*t, more boring than a party political broadcast in terms of looks (it’s plain black), and is a NIGHTMARE to erase. I didn’t enjoy it for writing as it smudged all over the place, BUT I can see the merits of it for sketching and shading. Its ‘smudgeability’ lends itself well to artistic pieces and it lays down a dark line. I also liked the look of the white eraser…but alas, it couldn’t even erase invisible lines ;)! Not a crap pencil by any means, just not to my taste.
2 pencil-cillin pills out of 5
I can’t believe it. I have to admit that I like – no more than that – REALLY LIKE pencils. They are as idiosyncratic as pens and provide an equally diverse writing experience. Overall, I’ve loved the Blackwing selection I received to test. They look awesome (and appeal to my inner hipster toff), have good point retention and lay down amazingly dark lines with a wonderful writing experience. Another added bonus: they smell delicious when sharpened.
Big thanks to Bureau Direct for providing this test sample free of charge (although all opinions are my own). You can pick up a box of 12 of each of these Blackwings for £24.95 (excluding the 530 limited edition). Check out their website for the latest Blackwing offerings and subscribe to their newsletter for a 10% discount code every month. BOOM!
Have you ever ventured to the graphite dark side?!
Keep those nibs (or should I say points?!) mucky!