Thanks to Mike for his generosity in sending me, amongst other classic pencils, a brace of Palomino Blackwings for review. "Hype" is probably too strong a word to describe the interest there has been in the reincarnation of this classic pencil, but there certainly has been a lot of discussion on this pencil around the blogosphere. To sum it up, briefly: Eberhard Weber in the USA manufactured the original Blackwing 602 from around 1933 unti 1998, when for a variety of reasons, including declining sales and raised manufacturing costs, production was ceased. After a period in which original Blackwing 602s soared in price, CalCedar relaunched the design in 2010 to much acclaim from fans of this classic.
I followed the relaunch with much interest, but held back from ordering some for myself. In a way, I am glad that I did, because now CalCedar has announced the forthcoming Blackwing 602 Classic which is closer to a functional office pencil, as I will explain.
The Palomino is supplied unsharpened. It is a bit longer and wider in girth than a standard office pencil (definitely thicker than a Staedtler Noris, for example) and is presented in a satin black finish, with gold accents. Apart from the all-gold lettering and distinctive ferrule, there is a gold band painted around the circumference, close to the ferrule. It's a masculine pencil; it would not surprise me to learn that this pencil had been designed by Hugh Hefner, though without his trademark rabbit's head. Although the lettering has been applied cleanly, as Palimpsest pointed out, there is also a scattering of gold flecks on the paint, clearly a side-effect of the process used to imprint the pencils. You can just see this in the top photo. This detracts from the overall image of the Palomino Blackwing, which otherwise oozes quality.
When I started to write with it, I was surprised to find the lead on the Palomino Blackwing to be so soft; obviously I was aware that it was softer than HB, but when I did use the Palomino, I found it to be closer to a 4B. Indeed, it's as soft as the lead in my Woerther Shorty. Whilst this makes for a lovely sketching pencil (which is why I bought the Shorty) it's not much use as an office pencil, which is where I use pencils most.
Where the original 602 had a Pink Pearl eraser, the 21st Century successor boasts a white plastic eraser. I used it a couple of times, as a test. It works well enough, though it leaves a noticeable line on the paper afterwards. I would only use this if I had no other eraser handy, because a vigorous erasing would probably wear most of it out. I like the fact that the eraser can be detached from the ferrule, and used for close-quarter erasing, however.
I wish CalCedar every success with the reinvigorated Blackwing line. Launching any kind of premium-grade pencil in today's market is probably highly risky, to say the least. Initial sales seem to be good, though, and hopefully this is the beginning of a successful line.
Finally: as an art pencil, the Palomino Blackwing is very good indeed, and I hope my misgivings about this pencil's use as an office writer will be solved by the forthcoming Classic. This pencil is well worth a try, if you haven't, already.
Thanks again to Mike for the review pencils.