Tiger’s Blackwing 15


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. []

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15 thoughts on “Tiger’s Blackwing

  • Amro

    Having been lucky enough to try an original Blackwing and the reincarnation I have to say I agree with you. Apart from the outward design (ferrule) there is very little to connect the reincarnated Blackwing and the original.

    There was still a huge demand for Blackwing (new old stock pencils were going for crazy amounts on online auction sites) that CalCedar decided to fill, and they should be commended on that business decision.

    For me, the price is just too high for any real use. I could get the best German or Japanese pencils for that much.

    I haven’t been to Tiger, but I’ll have to see if there’s one near me. Sounds like an interesting shop.

    Good to see another blog post.

  • Ron Hessing

    Great article! I totally agree. I never really got interested in the new Blackwing as it have nothing authentic. And I must purchase a large box. But it seems to work great from a commercial standpoint. I wondered if this pencil is also a 4B or similar or uses a HB like lead?

  • Gunther

    Thank you for these details! I wonder how the ferrule of the Tiger compares to the one of CalCedars copy and how it is attached. Could it be that they are from the same source? It’s great to hear that the Tiger keeps its point.

  • Michael

    Interesting. The ship of Theseus paradox doesn’t quite apply since there was continuity in the sense that the name went on and the same crew sailed the ship.
    I got a box of the Cal Cedar 602 in March 2015 and I still have 9 of them left. I also got a pack of replacement erasers and I haven’t used a single one of them.
    The 602 doesn’t keep a point for more than half an A4 page and although it’s nice and dark it is very smudgy. I use spiral bound books a lot and the movement of page on page is enough to seriously erase writing from the 602.
    In the end I just reach for my B grade Staedtler Tradition. It’s also quieter than the 602.
    And about a quarter of the price.
    As for the Tiger, is it really a Blackwing copy? Sean could probably tell you how many other pencils and even extenders had the square ferrule. Maybe the Tiger is a copy of one of those. Or maybe they just thought it was a good idea.

  • Stephen

    Thanks for shining some light on an unusual pencil. I know of an Instagram post from Naples – and cannot find anything else online.

  • Sean

    Regarding Michael’s comment, I see what you mean regarding the Blackwing’s continuity having been broken as compared to the ship’s voyage. I would submit though that CalCedar would rather have you think there is some continuity; their advertising approach supports this.

    NB: I interpret the Ship of Theseus as having to do with denotation and connotation; is what we call and identify as being some ‘thing’ the same ‘thing’ though its original constituent parts have been replaced, and are not from the same source? Of course, there are many ways to interpret this, and at this point I’m interested more in the analogy than how it might relate to the Blackwing, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

    Perhaps, though, the analogy of Neurath’s boat applies as well. The Oxford Reference puts it nicely: “Any part can be replaced, provided there is enough of the rest on which to stand. The image opposes that according to which knowledge must rest upon foundations, thought of as themselves immune from criticism, and transmitting their immunity to other propositions by a kind of laying-on of hands.” That last sentence applies well to CalCedar.

    But, my thoughts about CalCedar’s “Blackwing” are no secret.

    There’s an irony with the clamp eraser being the Blackwing’s most distinguishing characteristic: the Van Dyke 601 got one first (1921), and that line went on to become the Microtomic 603 and kept the clamp. Some of the mechanical Mongols and mechanical Microtomic pencils had them, there were lead refill containers that had them, and there was even a great deal of advertising for the clamp itself. So there were products identified with the clamp before the Blackwing was even invented, it’s just that the Blackwing happened to be the last clamp standing.

    And while there were imitations of the clamp, both in America and abroad

    https://contrapuntalism.blog/2014/12/17/clampesque-streaks-of-black-and-blue/

    for whatever reason(s) they didn’t endure. It seems fair to me then that one thinks (first and perhaps only) of the Blackwing when they see a pencil with such a ferrule, and so by extension, “Tiger’s Blackwing” is a fitting description. In fact, there are quite a few pencils out there today called “Blackwing” that resemble their namesake much less than these Tiger pencils do (save for their ferrules, of course). But that’s another boat altogether… 🙂

  • Matthias

    Thank you all for your comments and sorry for the late reply.

    Amro,
    I agree. There’s the ferrule and the name. I don’t think you can protect the ferrule design today, now that it has been used by many pencils. He got the name, which is a connection, but he revived a dead name, so there is no continuity. Business-wise it makes a lot of sense, but implying to customers that this is pencil liked by all those famous artists is misleading.

    Ron, like you suspect it is not so different to a 4B, e.g. the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 4B. We are not the only two people thinking that.

    Gunther, I can’t find my CalCedar copies, even though I have a few of them, but here’s a look at the Tiger’s ferrule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQWaVnTkqrY&t=2s I would be surprised if they are form the same. I assume that if CalCedar told a company to make them the ferrules would have signed contracts not allowing the ferrules to be sold to others.

    Sean, it really does.

    Michael, yes, Theseus doesn’t apply, that’s why I wrote Theseus sunk (=the Blackwing stopped being made, i.e. stopped exiting as a ‘new’ product). All that’s left is the name without continuity which is the equivalent of someone building a new ship and calling it Theseus. What do you mean when you write that the Tradition is quieter? Well, the colour is more similar to the Blackwing than to some of the other pencils that used to have this ferrule. It looks a bit like a Blackwing, just like CalCedar’s copy. I have contacted Tiger a while before the blog post, but as is common for companies, they don’t engage with small blogs like mine, so I think we’ll never know unless one of the big blogs or someone more pushy will ask.

    Stephen, from Naples? I think Lung from Lung Sketching Scrolls is from Naples, but I’m not up to date with social media (just like I’m not up to date with my blog), so I missed that.

    Sean, they certainly like to imply that their pencil is the one loved in the past. Thank you for these details and your enduring effort to bring the Blackwing’s history to us. “But that’s another boat altogether” I love that 😀

  • Koralatov

    I tried the Flying Tigerwings, and quite liked them. They’re pretty good for a cheap pencil, but obviously not in the same ballpark as a premium Japanese-made pencil. I still much prefer a Tombow Mono or a Staedtler Mars Lumograph in B.

    I’ve never tried an actual Blackwing, so obviously can’t compare, but have tried the first Palomino tribute and their 602 tribute. (‘Tribute’ is possibly a little generous, but I can’t think of a better term.) I didn’t particularly like either pencil — the first was far too soft, and the second was decidedly average. Better pencils than the Flying Tigerwings, but so much more expensive that it’s hard to recommend them.

    One thing that Flying Tiger make which I really like are their reporters’ notebook — lined paper, A5 size, spiral bound at top, and with a red line down the middle in the style of an old stenographers’ notebook. They’re £1 each and positioned as a sort of pro and con notebook, but they’re ideal for learning shorthand, which is something I’ve been planning to do for a while. Now that I’ve got some notebooks suited to it, I’ve no excuse not to do it now!

  • Ray

    I was in Flying Tiger in Dublin today but alas no pencils like the ones described were on sale. I bought a football boot pencil case for my daughter so it wasnt a wasted journey. Two Mars Lunograph in Easons were 4 euros so their price is going up. Ive read through a few years of the blog and I have to say its been very informative and interesting. Thanks for all your work.
    Ray

  • Matthias

    Thank you very much for your comments.

    Koralatov, I agree. In my opinion it’s all about the special ferrule. I seriously doubt CalCedar’s would have been able to make such an expensive pencil so popular if it wasn’t for the ferrule. You grab the customers’ attention with the ferrule and then convince them further by telling them who used the original Blackwing. Good luck with learning shorthand. When I was in school you could pick it as an option, but I didn’t. There also seem to be many different systems out there and I get the impression the different systems wouldn’t work across different languages, so I never picked it up, despite my interest.

    Ray, I’m very happy to read that you like my blog. I nearly didn’t spot the Tigerwings here in Preston, they were hidden away in a corner. I hope you find some next time. Four Euros for 2 Lumographs does sound very expensive… I hope this kind of price won’t become the norm.

  • Andy

    I just had a thought about the Ship of Theseus metaphor, Matthias (after having read this post over again from a link someone posted in the Erasable FB group).

    Is the EF Blackwing / Pal Blackwing relationship better described with a Star Trek metaphor?

    The Enterprise of TOS lore (“no bloody A, B, C or D”) was an iconic, legendary ship that was perhaps under appreciated in its day (TOS having barely squeaked each season), but later gained momentum and popularity in syndication. That led to the movies featuring the cast of TOS, of course, but it also led to TNG, which featured a starship Enterprise in name, but with none of the crew or original Enterprise hardware.

    I guess I’m conflating the shows (TOS and TNG) with the in-universe Enterprises here. And at least in-universe, there is some continuity between Enterprises, since they were both commissioned by Starfleet (though you could argue the Federation pre- and post-Khitomer Accords were different, but we don’t want to go down that rabbit hole), but I think there’s still some validity.

    And it just so happens that I like TNG and the Enterprise-D much more than TOS and the original Enterprise, but that’s probably just a generational thing, since I grew up on TNG.

    What do you think?

  • Matthias

    Thank you for the very good point you are raising. There many commonalities between the Enterprise and the Blackwing. I do however think that the Star Trek analogy is sub-optimal, especially when it comes how the heritage is/was used to promote the product. I am saying that because resellers and ‘online publications’ still keep going on about the genuine Blackwing’s fame und users when they talk about the new product. I think my main problem with the Blackwing is that the trademark expired. Anyone could have grabbed it and could make the same claims as CalCedar. If anyone could be the successor you could argue that no one can be the real successor.
    TNG is a proper descendant of TOS (Roddenberry), but even if it wasn’t I would argue the following, based on how the new version is presented in relation to the old version.
    In TV series terms it would be a bit as if TNG would had been advertised along the lines of Martin Luther King really liked to watch the adventures of the USS Enterprise (but he was a fan of TOS afaik).
    In Star Trek Universe terms it would be a bit like praising Picard’s crew for getting the whales from San Fransisco for the alien probe, thus saving earth (STIV).
    By the way, since you live in San Francisco, I have never been there (not even in America), but I thought the depiction of 20th century in Voyager seemed quite fake, probably much less realistic than the one in Star Trek IV. What do you think?

  • Andy

    Thank you for your thoughtful response! And you’re right — that’s not a great metaphor since clearly Roddenberry and his crew were behind both series. (Perhaps I was reaching just so I could intersect pencils and Star Trek — two of my favorite topics).

    Going down the San Francisco rabbit hole: I’ve lived here only for a few years, and within this time I haven’t re-watched that two-part episode of Voyager. I do remember how great it was — anything with Ed Begley Jr. and Sarah Silverman has to be, right? — but if it was realistic, I’m not sure! I’ll watch it again and get back to you.

    Speaking of Ed Begley, Jr, I will say that Henry Starling, the villain of that story, does seem a LOT like Elon Musk. You know that Starling would shoot his electric car into space and antagonize reporters on Twitter. 😀

  • memm Post author

    To be honest, I remember the San Francisco scene, but not the whole story of that episode. I don’t remember the baddy. It might be because I like Voyager the least of all series (including TAS, which I like). Maybe because it had a prime time slot in German TV and was very hyped and many early episodes ended with some techno-babble that brought a quick solution to a problem that looked, at first insurmountable, and was used to build up throughout the episode – while DS9 wasn’t given much attention at all. I guess I was rooting for the underdog DS9.