The return of the Blackwing pencil

 Sites Default Files Old Blackwing Photo: Dan Cole

In 2007 I reported that Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencils were selling for $30 each on eBay. The manufacturer stopped making them in 1998 (the retail price at that time was 50 cents). Since then, the price has gone up to about $40 per unsharpened pencil. Here's a good article about the history of the Blackwing and why it was discontinued (in short, it was because of low demand and high machinery-repair costs).

I recently learned that the Blackwing, with its distinctive blocky ferrule, is coming back. On August 5, 2010, California Cedar Products Company acquired the Blackwing trademark. A few minutes ago I received an email from California Cedar addressed to me and a dozen other people, which read, in part:

Here at California Cedar Products Company, we are all extremely excited about the re-release of Blackwing pencil. In order to show our appreciation for the biggest Blackwing fanatics, we would like to send pre-production, never been seen, Blackwing pencils to a select group of people... We would like for you to try out the pencils and comment on various aspects of the new product.

I'm very curious to find out how well the California Cedar Blackwing 602 performs against my Eberhard Faber Blackwing (a gift from Mr. Jalopy that I use sparingly). California Cedar is the same company that makes the excellent Palomino pencil, so I have high hopes that the new Blackwing will live up to the slogan that was stamped in gold foil on the original: "Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed."

I'll keep you posted.


  1. OMG

    ok, geek alert- hoping and praying theyre as good…

    my 602 is worn to about 3/4 inch and ive been sharpening it with a razor to save as much of the lead as possible…

    time to stock up, say a case or two,,,(for emergencies)

  2. I’m genuinely curious–no irony meant here, I swear.

    Why do you love these pencils so much?

  3. Well, for–they might have emailed me! Hmpf.

    Seriously, that’s great news. We shall see…anxiously awaiting your report.

    -Jenny Lerew(Blackwing Diaries)

  4. How do you keep a pencil for very long without the eraser becoming unusable? Any pencil eraser I’ve had for any length of time develops a hard coating, which I’ve had no luck removing.

    1. I take my pencils off to my local pencileeur to have the eraser restored to its original condition about once a year. (The place I use provides me with a “loaner” while I wait for the work to be done.) Cost is about 30 dollars and down, depending on how much of the eraser is left…

    2. Maybe people don’t care about the eraser, or maybe they use the eraser often enough to wear off the hardened rubber and then put a cap eraser on it.

  5. Many, many moons ago I used to run the art room for an animation studio in San Francisco, stocking art supplies, back in the day when everyone drew on bond and painted on cel. To work in such a iterative medium, consistency was crucial. An artist got used to the feel of a particular tool; it’s weight, lead color, softness. I used to scour art supply stores for the right type of #2 kolinsky sable paint brushes and these special Hunt crow quill nibs, which were supposed to be much superior to the ubiquitous Speedballs that shops only carry nowadays because the demand for such tools is so low.

    I bought animation bond from the UK because it was more translucent than the stuff Cartoon Color in Culver City used to produce, and even some cel vinyl from overseas as well. Artists got what they wanted because quality was what we offered to our clients.

    I remember the Blackwing; I used to stock it, but it wasn’t as popular with our crew as other pencils with different characteristics. Perhaps they didn’t like the balance; that flat pink dyed eraser was dead weight and fairly useless to an animator who needed to keep their work as clean as possible.

  6. Try some Mistubishi Hi-Uni or Tombow Mono pencils and the Blackwing won’t seem so special any more.

  7. The Blackwing is the only real pencil an animator should use. If this new version is anything close, it’ll be a miracle.

    An interesting note: I saw the recent play SONDHEIM N SONDHEIM. At one point he espoused about the Blackwing, stating that it’s the only thing he would use to write his songs with. In front of him was a small vase filled to the brim with Blackwings.

  8. Acquiring the trademark doesn’t mean they’ve also acquired the formulation of the graphite. Blackwings had a lovely combination of smoothness and depth of color. Here’s hoping the new ones aren’t merely empty nameplates for hipster poseurs.

  9. the palomino is all ready a great pencil, on par if not better than the tombow mono! these guys really love pencils and know their stuff, I’m glad they’re the ones that are attempting to revive the brand and not a big corporation!

    i’m on that preview list too! i’ll try and do some reviewing over at my drawing blog if i can, but i’m really interested to see your original vs new blackwing comparison! is i. i don’t update much but i did do some goofy pencil “reviews” a bit ago and use the palominos for animation which i guess is why they included me in the previews. pretty amazing!!!

    i wasn’t sure if it was secret but i’m glad it’s not!

  10. Here’s a good site about the blackwing.

    I didn’t realize so many people loved this pencil…wonder why I hadn’t heard of it till recently. Definitely looking forward to the new one!


  11. There’s no way the Blackwing could be in better hands. This is VERY exciting! If you want to know a little about what makes this trademark purchase so important, I invite you to read an article I wrote back in 2006 about the CEO of CalCedar. There isn’t a bigger pencil-lover anywhere. Learn about this fascinating man and you’ll feel good about the Blackwing’s future.

  12. Pencils, ha. Any real professional knows that charcoal briquettes are the only way to go. Kingsford Sure-Fire or Duraflame for everyday note-taking and memos, of course. But I find that nothing beats the scribing surety, line, and smoothness of a Royal Oak Natural-Glo Old Hickory (fresh out of a new bag).

  13. Sniff sniff — I’m the one who wrote that 2007 review. And my email box is, sadly, empty. No love. No love at all.

  14. This is super exciting for the pencil community! I’m holding out hope for an email from CalCedar to get an advance sample, but alas, I fear not.

  15. Intriguing. I wonder if this pencil would truly be a contender for the “Best Pencil in the World” title which in my mind would currently be held by a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni or a Tombow Mono 100.

  16. We used these pencils in the clasical animation classes at Sheridan College back in 1980.(The school, outside Toronto, is now the Harvard of animation with a large percentage of George Lucas’s employees coming from there.) Since I am from NYC, I was asked to buy a few pencils for my fellow students when I returned from a break. The pencils were not legal in Canada because they contained too much graphite(This is what I was told anyway.) We loved the pencil for sketching because you could lay down a very thin soft line, test our animation by flipping our drawings, and then commit with a very dark line. Many people would compare them to a standard 4 or 5B, but there was a lacy. elegant quality to the lines you laid down. The graphite seemed harder than a 5B but could get just as dark. I am looking forward to see how this new Blackwing functions.

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