Blackwing


More Blackwing – and an alternative 5

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 11

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. []

Repairs & Alterations – All On Liberal Terms 2


The weather was really nice this weekend and since there was something we had to do in Manchester anyway we decided to spend the afternoon in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Fred Aldous, mentioned in the past, is also located in the Northern Quarter.


One of the shops I discovered and I haven’t been to before is the Dedstock General Store. It’s a gem of a store selling a nice choice of wares for it’s size, including stationery, items for shaving (including Mühle blades), enamel items and other things.


The owner was just working on a sewing machine. He said he was mending things, but it looked like a much bigger operation (the word upcycling and hundred year old garments spring to mind).


In terms of stationery there were Dux and Gedess sharpeners, Kaweco and Mindori pens and accessories, the Blackwing remake and Calepino notebooks. Items priced above £50 were stored behind the counter (no photo, sorry).

Repairs & Alterations – All On Liberal Terms

I’m happy I came across this unusual store and will visit again next time I’m in the Northern Quarter.


Graphite screensaver 5

Look who made it into Amazon’s “screensaver” for the latest Kindle. Fittingly, the advertising shows the Kindle with a pencil next to it, the colour of the case is “graphite” and most screensaver images look like pencil drawings.

I would like to thank Sean for the Blackwing 602 used in this photo.

You can find more information about John Steinbeck and his relation to the Blackwing at the Blackwing pages and at Palimpsest.