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