In 2002 and 2005 I wrote about the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil, which hasn't been made since 1998. It's slogan, "Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed," is stamped in gold foil on each pencil. They cost 50-cents when they were being manufactured. Today, you have to fork over $20 for a new one on eBay. Last year, Ninth Wave Designs started looking around for a pencil that matched the awesomeness of the Blackwing 602.
In my search for a replacement of what I consider the best pencil ever manufactured, I needed to find a pencil that had at least these qualities established by the Blackwing 602:
- Dark smooth graphite with a slightly waxy feel to it.
- Graphite that doesn't smudge easily (eliminating most grades over 4B).
- Reasonably priced (i.e. not so rare that you have to buy at collctor's prices).
- Produced by a company with commitment to pencil quality (to avoid future heartbreak should they stop production on a whim).
And the winner is: California Republic Palomino: HB & 2B! A tie really between the 2 grades -- both possessing smoothness in writing that compares equally to the Blackwing 602.
The Blackwing 602 will never be replaceable, really. It possesses a certain inimitable quality, the combination of unique elements that make it impossible to reproduce exactly. Now that I have found Palomino pencils I am much happier having a day-to-day writing instrument of such high quality without the concern associated with using a rare and collectible pencil. The Blackwing may be gone, but long live the Palomino!
It would be neat if someone started taking Palominos and used them as basis for home-made Blackwings, complete with distinctive square eraser. A tall order for sure, but a guy can dream, can't he?