Inexpensive smooth writing pencil: Mirado Black Warrior

The Mirado Black Warrior pencil is made in the USA from high quality materials, available practically everywhere, and, very importantly, cheap (hey, it’s a pencil, after all).

The Black Warrior’s No. 2/HB graphite is darker and softer than standard No. 2′s and has a wax additive to make it smoother. The writing experience is noticeably superior to most other pencils. It’s easier and more satisfying to write with, with less effort involved. The barrel is round, with a good hand feel, but that also means it rolls off inclined surfaces. One other con: the Pink Pearl eraser has pumice in it, which can abrade paper, unlike nylon erasers.

Other than that, it is flawless (and the cedar is pleasingly aromatic when freshly sharpened). Cheaper pencils aren’t a bargain if they’re hard to sharpen, scratchy to write with, and the lead tends to break. More expensive graphite pencils that are more suited to artists, along with the frequently mentioned Blackwings, don’t seem as practical at $20 for 12, in my opinion. They’re like the Ferraris of pencils, and harder to source than the Mirado.

I’ve used these pencils for over a year, and haven’t found one that has more bang for the buck. Paired with the Kum sharpener, these are a no-brainer part of my EDC (every day carry).

-- Tom Anvari

[On my friend Michael Pusateri's advice, I ordered 3 dozen of these pencils. They are about 90% as good as my favorite pencil, the Blackwing 602, which costs five times as much as the Mirado Black Warrior. I now use both! -- Mark]

Mirado Black Warrior Pencil $3.50 a dozen


    1. A pencil, like any writing instrument, is a tool. I like to use quality tools and appreciate hearing from experienced users. I’m an analyst and use computers 95% of the time for work but I prefer to take notes with pencils when I’m with a client because I can sketch out project ideas.

      This isn’t an article about skinny jeans.

  1. We used to have Mirado Black Warriors at work.  Now the supply rooms are stocked with generic Office Depot No. 2’s.  I miss the Warriors.

  2. Yes! Good to see some love for the Mirado Black Warrior. I’ve got (*counts*) five boxes in the drawer to my right at the moment. Lovely smooth dark line, and stylish too. (I agree the erasers could use an upgrade, though.)

    1.  I find the Black Warrior to be firmer and write longer on one sharpening than the Mirado Classic.

  3. I’m curious about the wax additive.  Aside from writing smoothness I wonder if it could act as a binder (not sure if that’s the right word) which makes the graphite less smudge-y on the page?  That would be great for us lefties, but either way it sounds like a neat pencil.

    1.  as far as smudges go, it’s not bad. i do tend to smear a little bit since i am a messy note-taker and go all over the page but the words remain legible and i don’t end up with graphite all over my hand

    2. Wax has been a common component of pencil leads for a long, long time. (See Henry Petroski’s book “The Pencil.”)

      1.  i’ll…  probably skip it, tbh, but thank you for answering my question  :)

  4. When the Blackwing was retired, a lot of the Blackwing afficionados I knew in animation switched to the Tombow Mono in 2-4B. It’s about $1/pencil but that’s about what the Blackwings cost.

    I mostly just use Ticonderoga 2.5Bs these days. I’ve got a couple packs sitting in my supplies cupboard.

  5. It’s true — these pencils are really lovely! I’m a shameless fan of the Blackwings, but these are, like Mark said, 90% as good and waaaaaay less expensive. I found a box of them at my local drug store a couple of years back, bought them because they looked kind of badass, and loved them. 

  6. These old analog writing sticks are pretty cute.

    I love the quaint ‘eraser’ function, it seems very old school. These ‘pencils’ must be a hit with the hipsters though.

    But it must be a pain saving your work when working with these analog writing sticks, and they also dont seem to be reusable once your sharpener ( an important accessory thats an extra cost) reaches the end of the pencil.

    What they need to do now is come up with a steampunk variation of analog writing sticks. Steamcils?

    1. Don’t you just take a photograph of the Blackwing scribbles in your moleskin notebook with your googleglass and upload it to your cloud/i/flitter stream?

    2. Those ‘analog writing sticks’ are good to have, in case you run into Paxans.

  7. You may find some old stock here and there made in the USA, but the production lines are in Mexico now, and all I’ve bought recently are marked (in small letters on back) “Made in Mexico.”  Some have complained that the pencils are not as straight as they once were.  Can’t swear to that myself, but some of them I’ve seen won’t roll off the table.

    1.  hrm, i never clean out my pencil cup so i happen to have stubs of both types, and a whole box of the new ones, which does indeed say made in mexico on the back of the box. the ones on the left are old ones, and shiny. the ones on the right are matte finished [not my favorite but the matte actually wears with use and becomes shiny] and made in mexico.
      i prefer the erasers on the new ones, the old erasers didn’t work as well. and i find slightly more frequent lead breakage in the newer ones, but still minimal.
      on the whole, i can’t tell any difference with the straightness and they roll off my desk easily – i tried it

  8. They are probably the best pencil that is widely available at your local chain store. Not as good as Tombow Mono 100’s or the like (Mitsubishi Hi Uni, Palominos) though. I used to have a serious woodcase pencil problem…

  9. Ah the joys of the Mirado black warrior! From a poem of mine, if I may:

    “I believe in Paper Mate Mirado Black Warrior F 2.5 cedar woodcase pencils with straight wood grain and black matte barrels. I believe in the twin helix blades of the Boston KS wall-mount rotary sharpener, in the unused dial for pencils of nonstandard heft. I believe in the huk, huk, huk of the grind, the rising friction of cedar and stone, the blow on the lethal point to clear the clung specks, the smoke.”

  10. These seem to be round, and the Blackwings hexagonal. Is this a great divide among pencil enthusiasts? Serious question.

  11.  I’m a sucker for new pen or pencil selections. Off to order some. It’s not like I don’t have about 1000 pencils stockpiled from over the years. But but but a new pencil to try out…

    Thank you for this post…I think :)

  12. Mirados are great pencils. I’ve used the yellow F 2.5 for years, drawing hundreds of pages of comics with them. No smudges, great line and way better than those crazy smudgy Blackwings.

  13. After trying, and failing, to find a suitable mechanical pencil for RPG scribbling, I switched to Black Warriors a few years ago and have never looked back.

  14. I work at a college administering exams for students, and I was super happy to find this guy.  It fills out little circles like a boss.

  15. Dixon Ticonderogas and Black Mirado Warriors are both fine pencils for the everyday user. They get the job done without being annoying or expensive, and in most cases where you can get your office to buy pencils, you can get your office to buy these pencils.

  16. Is it just me or did the package designer intentionally make the box look like a cigarette carton? It’s really classy, but the resemblance is so striking (down to the description “The World’s Smoothest”) it can’t be total coincidence.

  17. Okay, what gives — What’s so hipster about a pencil? Is it really that obscure to want to take a note paper than fiddle with your iPhone to fire up “Notes” or to wait for MS Word to load on your computer? And is not being able to erase your ink pen’s markings “too mainstream”?  I don’t live in Brooklyn or have ironic facial hair, and I am a huge fan of pencils. Is there something wrong with that?

  18. Repeating what was mentioned above me: I don’t think these are made in the USA any longer, despite the images commonly seen online. Maybe they switch production back but every pack I’ve seen over the last couple of years says Made in Mexico.

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