A year after the relaunch of the Blackwing, CalCedar found themselves in the position of having to choose between forging ahead with their new vision for the brand, reflected in the “non-traditional” design of the first Palomino Blackwing pencil, and appeasing the Blackwing purists, who were clamoring for a more “authentic” pencil in line with the vintage Eberhard Faber original.
The result was the Palomino Blackwing 602, which catered to both constituencies by incorporating new design elements while maintaining a “vintage” look. Most notably, the new pencil featured a pearlescent gunmetal lacquer similar to later iterations of the vintage Blackwing, and also reintroduced the classic slogan “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed,” on the barrel. While some find the tagline nonsensical (and apparently there was some internal debate over whether to revive it at all), it may have its origins with stenographers, who appreciated the pencil for its ability to make dark, legible notations while still maintaining a decent wear rate. CalCedar tweaked the original design somewhat, using a black eraser instead of pink, and omitting the black stripe from the ferrule.
Just recently, Blackwing again changed the design of the 602 to bring it even closer to the original vintage pencil, switching the default eraser color from black to pink. Previously, the only way you could get a Blackwing 602 with the “vintage pink” eraser was by purchasing a pack yourself (sold separately) and swapping them out, or by purchasing the Chuck Jones special edition Blackwing 602 (now discontinued).
In addition to different aesthetics, the Blackwing 602 uses a firmer core of Japanese graphite, designed to maximize point retention while at the same time sacrificing as little smoothness and darkness as possible. Personally, I think CalCedar succeeded. The 602 doesn’t have Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood-style point retention (and that pencil is borderline too hard for me), but two Blackwing 602s, freshly sharpened to a long point, will get me through an hour-long meeting at work with heavy notetaking. Someone who writes with a lighter hand than I do might squeeze out even more mileage.
While I love the original Palomino Blackwing, if I had to stock a classroom or an office supply closet with the best Blackwing for most people - I can dream, right? - my choice would be the 602. The Blackwing 602’s combination of point retention, darkness, and looks makes it an excellent choice for everyday work situations, such as when I’m going into a meeting and won’t have access to a sharpener.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
As I mentioned in last week’s review, the original Blackwing pencil remains my favorite simply because it’s somewhat unique to find a pencil that makes such a dark line while remaining usable for writing for any length of time. The Blackwing 602, however, runs a close second, and sees a lot of use at my desk.
The quickest way to buy Blackwings is via Amazon. As with the original, Blackwing regularly features the 602 core in the Blackwing Volumes special edition pencils, including Volumes 211 (John Muir); 344 (Dorothea Lange); 205 (Jade); 56 (Joe DiMaggio). If you want to automatically receive future limited releases, consider a Blackwing Volumes subscription.
This review is the second installment of an anticipated multipart review of the various Blackwing pencils on the market today. You can check out Part I - my review of the original Palomino Blackwing with some background on the revival of the brand - here, as well as my earlier review of the Blackwing line of notebooks.
Disclaimer: I purchased the pencils featured in this review with my own funds, for my own use. This post contains affiliate links.