Pencils


More Blackwing – and an alternative 4

My previous blog post, looking at Tiger’s Blackwing, seems to have made some people upset.

The ‘points’

It might be worth to walk a few steps back and to get an overview of the points I tried to raise.

  • There is no continuity between the original Blackwing and the CalCedar/Palomino version.

If the new Blackwing would use the same lead recipe or was made in the same factory I would see that as ‘strong continuity’. If the name was bought from Faber-Castell I could see that there is some continuity, but the Blackwing stopped being made, the name ‘expired’, someone unrelated grabbed the name. These are just facts – Don’t shoot the messenger.

  • I like Tiger’s Blackwing more because it keeps the point better.

I’m writing with pencils, I’m not an artist as you might have noticed from the low quality of the occasional drawings you can find here. I also write very small, so need a fine point. People use pencils in different ways, so for you a 4B like pencil might just be the thing you need. Everyone’s mileage varies. The Palomino Blackwing might be great for some, but I spelled out why I prefer the Tiger. Put the Tiger in your hand! (was: put the tiger in your tank).

The ferrule

There were some questions about the ferrule, asked by Gunther and on social media. When those questions where asked I made a little video instead of writing it up, just because talking to a microphone is so much faster and more convenient than writing a blog post and my blog is still in hibernation mode because of a lack of time. I thought I link to the video here, in case you want to compare the ferrule to your own ferrule.

Cheaper alternatives

Graph from the DelGuard post.

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the CalCedar Blackwing, why not try a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 3B. It’s great! ..but don’t take my word for it, look at Pearson Moore’s comparison instead. The man who spent some 1,200 hours collecting and categorising data point for different pencils. I first heard about his book from Gunther.

If you remember my DelGuard blog post you know I’m into this kind of stuff. Unfortunately that blog post only got one comment, so I assume this topic is not of interest to readers of my blog. but if you are one of the rare ones who likes this kind of stuff have a look at Pearson Moore’s book: Pearson’s Graphite 2015 ($19.95 in the USA, £13.95 in the UK)

 

Here are some of the attributes of the two pencils that are most important to me.

NameTypeDarknessSoftnessLissance
Palomino Blackwing201015912
Staedtler Mars Lumograph3B15714

The have the same darkness, but the Staedtler keeps the point longer as it is less soft. Lissance, i.e. smoothness is higher for the Staedtler. That’s a win win for the humble blue pencil. The Palomino does score higher in some other areas like Pressure Insensitivity, but they are not important to me. Pearson Moore checked pencils between 30 mN and 1N. I guess if you are an artist this might be of interest, especially if you only have one pencil you need to do all your shading with, but again this is not the case for me.

If you love the Palomino Blackwing please let me know what you think of the Mars Lumograph in 3B.

 

 


Tiger’s Blackwing 10

You might have noticed that it’s been very quiet here on Bleistift. That’s not because I lost interest in pencils, but because my job has been keeping me more than busy. Just in case you wonder – no: I didn’t change jobs and didn’t get promoted. In the past, there were up to fifteen blog posts a month, but for now, probably up to and including January there won’t be many blog posts. I might also have to suspend the Pencil Pot of the Month series for now. A shame as it has been running continuously for exactly 24 months – the two years from October 2015 until September 2017. I will, however, try to give occasional life signs every now and then, like I do today, until blogging can resume again as usual.

Since we’re talking about the Pencil Pot of the Month: the one from August 2016 was from the Danish chain ‘Tiger’1 which has a shop in the city where I live. The last purchase I made there was Tiger’s version of the Blackwing pencil.

Tiger’s Blackwing

In today’s ‘life sign’ I want to talk about this new Blackwing copy. If you read pencil blogs, and if you are here you do, the Blackwing probably doesn’t need any introduction. CalCedar’s remake of the Blackwing doesn’t need any introduction either. Well, now it’s not the only remake anymore. As mentioned aboveTiger, also known as Flying Tiger Copenhagen, introduced one, too.

Tiger’s Blackwing

In the introduction I wrote that I am quite busy, so am not following what’s going on in the pencil fandom (with very few exceptions). That’s why I didn’t know that there seems to be some controversy going on about the new Danish Blackwing remake. I was told that apparently, some CalCedar/Palomino Blackwing fanboys are pretty upset about there being a copy of the Blackwing. I don’t know what arguments have been made or where they have been made, but here are my initial thoughts after having used the Danish Blackwing for a while.

Ship of Theseus

We could start by talking about the Ship of Theseus and what makes the CalCedar Blackwing2 a descendant of the original, but in reality I don’t see much of a link.

Well, what happened is: the Theseus sunk. Somebody else registered another ship under the same name.

Here’s why. There used to be a pencil called Blackwing. The company behind it stopped making this pencil. The owner of the trademark didn’t renew the trademark so it lapsed. An unrelated company took the trademark and manufactured a similar looking pencil, the main similarity being the characteristic ferrule. The lead recipe is different. It’s made in a completely different country. There is no continuity, nothing that links the original and the remake except the name ..and with me being German I am automatically reminded of the German saying “names are but noise and smoke”3.

A real Blackwing and Tiger’s Blackwing

The Theseus example doesn’t apply because the original Theseus sunk. There’s a new Theseus. There’s a new Blackwing. In the end York and New York have more of a link4 than the Blackwing and the new Blackwing.

CalCedar’s contribution

My point here is: don’t complain that Tiger’s pencil is a copy of the Blackwing. The new Blackwing from CalCedar/Palomino is itself only a copy with no link to the original.

What CalCedar did do is bring a pencil (that was previously mainly known to pencileers, molyvophiles5 and molyvologues6 through anecdotes and the odd poem) to the mass market. In my 2010 blog post I wrote that the new Blackwing might become the new Moleskine. With its price tag I think it must have an even higher profit margin than a Moleskine – and like the Moleskine you can now buy the new Blackwing on the high street in the UK. Something the original Blackwing never achieved. I guess that’s the power of marketing – you create a link to something greater in people’s mind and make it a Veblen good. People who wouldn’t have bought 3B, 4B, 5B pencils in the past are happy to pay a premium and because of the characteristic ferrule it’s easy to show off that it’s a posh pencil.

 Tiger’s Blackwing

With that in mind, I think the Danish Blackwing is as much a modern Blackwing as the CalCedar one. Actually, I like it even more than the CalCedar remake, because it actually keeps the point. Something I don’t like about the Palomino Blackwing, as explained earlier. If you write small with Tiger’s Blackwing you don’t have to sharpen it every few words often. Ok, the wood on the Danish7 one doesn’t look as good, but I can buy 4 for £1, so 12 are £3, whereas 12 CalCedar ones are £29.95 in the UK, nearly exactly ten times as expensive. For such a price difference I take the one that keeps the point ..and is therefore usable for my purposes8 any day.

PS: What a shame that Tiger didn’t put 602 in the item or barcode number, then I could have referred to the Tiger Blackwing as a 602.


If you want to find out more about the Blackwing and its history visit the Blackwing Pages.

 

  1. Outside our store is labelled Tiger, but the in-store newsletter refers to the company as Flying Tiger Copenhagen []
  2. ..which I will refer to as the new Blackwing []
  3. apparently this saying is from Goethe []
  4. They used to be ruled by the same empire []
  5. Someone passionate about pencils (see this post) []
  6. A student of pencils (see this post) []
  7. ..but Made in China []
  8. Your mileage may vary. If you are an artist you might be after a different pencil than me. []

Pencils for score keeping

My ‘baseball pencil’ choice

Last month Josha from the Netherlands sent me an email. He is using pencils for the purpose of keeping score during baseball games. He wrote:

For baseball score keeping addicts, like myself and many others out there, there are three important things to a pencil:
1. lead must not smear
2. a good sharpener so you can use the pencil without sharpening too often during a match (which can take up to three and a half hours)
3. a good eraser.
(4th optional: a good red pencil!!)

Pencil (graphite) and no sharpener

Keeping all the requirements in mind my first idea for a graphite pencil is a Mars Lumograph in F. It doesn’t smear and will keep the point for a long time. I have written many pages of text in meetings with the Lumograph in F, without sharpening, so I think it should be able to survive 3½h of writing of score keeping.

Eraser

There is no eraser tipped version of the Lumograph, so I would take a dust free eraser with me. My favourite type of eraser. You can get them from Faber-Castell (in big and small), Staedtler, Tombow and many other brands.

Red pencil

Josha explains:

The red pencils are commonly used for tho things: number the strike-outs and underline red handed players. So they’re mostly used for writing numbers.

As a good red pencil that keeps the point for while I would go for the Staedtler Noris colour, made from Wopex material, or the Mitsubishi 7700. Both pencils have been covered in this previous blog post. Mitsubishi’s 7700 line was stopped, but luckily the red 7700 is still available.

As described in that blog post the Mitsubishi creates a darker shade of red on the paper (…at least when used with 1.8 N and an angle of 90° while moving along the paper with 25 mm/s. The pencils will behave differently under different conditions).

Mitsubishi 7700 #15 RedNoris colour, a similar shade of red
Sample:m15Histogram:
hbm15
Sample:ncredHistogram:hbncred

The comments from Josha’s Instagram account imply that he is selling notebooks he made for baseball score keeping. I don’t have further information and didn’t try to explore this further. I just liked matching the pencil requirements to real world pencils.


Graphite vs Ink 4

I was just getting rid of some old documents from my office when I came across three sheets of paper I had written on in 2010 – one with pencil, one with rollerball and one with fountain pen.


All three documents were not exposed to direct sunlight.

The squared paper in the middle shows the rollerball. I am not sure which rollerball this was, but seven years later the text is hardly legible. The once red rollerball is now just a light shade of yellow.

On the right you see the writing from the fountain pen. I am not sure which ink was used, but the writing is much lighter than any ink I would have used at the time. I assume this must be either because of the ink’s properties or the paper or both. The fading can’t just be down to age. I have school notebooks from the early 1980s (ink: Pelikan Royal Blue) that still look great.

On the left you see text written with a pencil. Still as good as on the first day. OK, graphite isn’t darker than black ink, but look how light the ink has gotten in seven years. Maybe in another seven it will be hardly legible while the graphite will still stay dark.

 


Old and new left-hand friendly stationery from Staedtler

It’s International Lefthanders day this weekend. For more than 40 years this day has been observed on 13 August.

 

In my wife’s photo above you can see two Staedtler items for left-handers. Yes, that left-handed Metro pencil is apparently made by Staedtler UK in Pontyclun. They also made pencils for Berol and Chambers in their Pontyclun factory (You might remember the 2014 La La Land post with Chambers pencils and the 2013 Berol post).


You can read more about the notebook used in the photo in Pencil Talk’s latest blog post and more about Helmut Hufnagl in this Insights X post and more about the left-handed rulers in another Insights X post.