Palomino Blackwing

Faber-Castell 1117

It is probably superfluous to write about the Faber-Castell 1117. Not because it is a very common pencil everybody knows about, but because this pencil is not new to the blogosphere. It has previously been reviewed at penciltalk and this isn’t its first appearance at Bleistift either: the 1117 was the supporting actor in the review of the Deli pencil sharpener 0668. So why do I write about it again? The reason is that I thought Faber-Castell stopped producing this entry level pencil – after I was unable to buy this pencil in shops that sold this specific model previously. Before you panic: Calm down, dear. The good news is that Faber-Castell confirmed that they are still making the 1117.


My guess is that the 1117 is the cheapest pencil made in Germany [1]Probably even the cheapest pen. Today, you can find the version without ferrule and eraser for as little as € 0.20 (~ 28¢; 17p), if you buy them in Germany  over the Internet. That’s a bit more than half the Internet price of a Staedtler Noris and about ¼ of a good Internet price for the Castell 9000. I bought the last few dozen in the local stationery shop Schreibwaren Jäcklein in my home town of  Volkach when I went there in April. eraser-tipped 1117s for € 0.58 each (~ 82¢; 51p) and the untipped 1117s for € 0.36 each (~ 51¢; 32p). Last November I bought the eraser tipped 1117s in B for € 0.29 each (~ 41¢; 25p), online at Schule-Uni-Shop / CTK, but CTK do not stock the 1117 any more.

Writing qualities

The lead of the 1117 could be better, there is not doubt about that, but in good Faber-Castell tradition it does last a long time before it wears down and needs sharpening. Once the pencil it dull or blunt it is, at least in my experience, less pleasant to write with. This is however quite normal for inexpensive pencils and only very few pencils would excel in this category. The 1117 is however usually quite smooth and there would be very few combinations of paper and pencil point state that would result in a scratchy writing experience. The lead could be darker, but this is again something we shouldn’t be surprised about as Faber-Castell measure and label the softness of the lead quite conservatively. The 1117 shows no problems with smudging when being erased erased. I would describe the eraser from the eraser-tipped version as “normal quality”. It performs a bit worse than the eraser of a Dixon Ticonderoga , is similar to the eraser of a General’s Semi-Hex, but much better than the white eraser of the Palomino Blackwing. [2]In case you wonder why I picked these two for the comparison: Those pencils were just lying on my keyboard. Thanks to Sean, Kent and Adair for these.


This is an extremely cheap, or better: inexpensive,  pencil and value for money is definitely excellent.  Production of the 1117 started in 1991/1992 (20th anniversary soon!). When this pencil was first introduced it was unfinished, but for hygienic reasons later versions got a protective finish. The feel is however very similar to an unfinished pencil. Depending on your perspective this means that the pencil has a great grip or it is slightly too rough and therefore uncomfortable. The version without ferrule and eraser is available in 2B, B, HB and H. I have seen the eraser-tipped version in B and HB, but according to the label on the box the eraser-tipped version is available in five grades. All versions feature SV-bonded anti-break leads.

Næturvaktin, episode 8: Is Ólafur giving Daníel a Faber-Castell 1117? Will there be a pencil in the US remake? (Image © Saga Film)

Prices: November 2010, April 2011 and June 2011

Exchange rates: June 2011

I would like to thank Ms Schaklies from Faber-Castell for the additional information about the 1117.

The photo of Ólafur handing over a pencil to Daníel has been taken from episode 8 of the great, Icelandic comedy Næturvaktin. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.



1 Probably even the cheapest pen
2 In case you wonder why I picked these two for the comparison: Those pencils were just lying on my keyboard. Thanks to Sean, Kent and Adair for these.

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Palomino Blackwing

I was quite excited when I received some of the new Palomino Blackwings yesterday. I sharpened one in my Deli 0635 pencil sharpener and took it to the office. Later that day I tried the Palomino Blackwing out, writing a word or two and was amazed: The pencil was incredibly smooth, very dark and did not smear as much as expected from such a soft pencil. In the afternoon I took it to a meeting to take some notes, but when I tried to use it in a real life situation I became disillusioned pretty fast. I found it necessary to constantly rotate the pencil to keep the point from becoming too wide. I usually use very few pressure and in this case, too, I used very few pressure (this type of pressure and angle normally does not even make the Kuru Toga engine revolve), still the point was just eroding away more and more.

T-Prime and Palomino BW. More in common than the eraser colour.
The 602 after one line

This behaviour is very different to a Blackwing 602, which will keep the point for much longer. The Palomino Blackwing did actually remind me of another pencil I like, the TiTi T-Prime B (previously mentioned here). Both are very dark, very soft, the Palomino Blackwing even more so, but both are not pencils I would like to pick up when I have to write something, just because they use up so fast that they need constant sharpening.

The Palomino BW after one line

Please do no think that this is supposed to be an objective review. Without specialist equipment to replicate the same conditions this is obviously not possible, e.g. applying the same pressure. (In a previous blog post Lexikaliker mentioned two devices that would do just that, the Elcometer 501 and 3086). Despite my unscientific approach: the thickness of the lines in the beginning and the end should give an indication of what I tried to describe. The pencils were sharpened using a Möbius + Ruppert’s grenade. The paper is from Rhodia (Bloc Rhodia Nº 13).

The 602 keeps a finer point longer

The Palomino Blackwing is a great pencil, one of the smoothest pencils I have ever used …I just find it too impractical for writing small text (my lower-case letters are usually 2mm (1/16″) high). It might be better suited for other tasks, such as drawing or writing large letters, where you need a thicker line. Who knows, the Palomino Blackwing might still become a success story despite this problem, maybe it will be the new Moleskine. Moleskine’s paper does not seem to be the best for fountain pens, but we all know how popular it is today. I was told that in Chinese fairy tales the beautiful girl is usually ‘a bit ill’, which is supposed to make her even more ‘precious’. This reminds me of Moleskine and the Palomino Blackwing.

  • I would like to thank Sean for the Blackwings.
  • I would like to thank Kent for the TiTi T-Prime B.
  • The Blackwing 602 used in this comparison is the version with U.S.A. printed on the body, but without the black stripe on the ferrule.
  • I referred to the Elcometer and a blog post from Lexikaliker. These devices move a pencil over a surface under a fixed pressure and angle to the surface. The purpose of these tests, scratch hardness tests (Wolff-Willborn tests) is actually to determine the resistance of coating materials or lacquers to scratch effects on the surface, not to test the pencils themselves.

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