Blackwing 602

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The Blackwing 602 is a discontinued model of pencil that has developed a cult following[1] as "the best pencil ever made."[2] It was produced by the Eberhard Faber company until 1998. The pencil initially sold for 50 cents each; as of 2012 reproduction pencils, called the "Palomino Blackwing 602" and made by California Cedar, are available in packages of 12 for about $20. Single original pencils can be found on Ebay for over $50, with some older (and rarer) ones being sold for over $100. Originals are becoming increasingly rare, as they are still being occasionally consumed without new ones being produced, making them more scarce as time goes on.

It was a very soft pencil with wax added to the lead, and has been advertised as requiring only half of the usual physical effort to produce the marking. The wood was made from cedar. The pencil was used mainly by artists, writers, and musicians, including Oscar-winning animation director Chuck Jones, author John Steinbeck, and record producer Quincy Jones. After the pencil was discontinued some writers, such as Joseph Finder[3] and Stephen Sondheim,[3] tried to convince Eberhard Faber to continue production; or they at least said some warm words about the tool they were used to. This likely popularized the pencil, creating its cult following.

While the company says that other pencils with similar leads are available, the devotees are convinced that there is no adequate substitute.[4]

The Blackwing used a special eraser ferrule which required special clips that could only be manufactured by a custom-made machine. By the time Eberhard Faber was acquired by Faber-Castell in 1994 this machine was broken; however, a sufficient backstock of ferrule clips enabled Blackwing manufacture to continue until 1998.[5] At this point the company ceased production on the Blackwing, claiming it was not commercially successful.[6]

Palomino reproduction[edit]

In October 2010 Cal Cedar Pencil Company released the Palomino Blackwing,[7] a tribute to the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. The pencil features a matte black finish, the iconic ferrule and replaceable eraser, and a soft and smooth lead formulation. The pencil was widely acclaimed at the time of its release. Alex Beam of The Boston Globe called the Palomino Blackwing "better than an iPad,"[8] and Joyce Grant from Getting Kids Reading stated that "giving one to your kid will actually help his schoolwork,"[9] but some pencil enthusiasts felt the pencil strayed too far from the original Blackwing 602's design.

Thus in June 2011 Cal Cedar and released the Palomino Blackwing 602,[10] a pencil that more closely resembles the original Blackwing 602. This pencil features a metallic grey finish, the unique ferrule, and the iconic slogan "Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed" printed on the shaft. Just prior to the new Palomino Blackwing 602's launch Alex Taylor of Fortune magazine examined the history leading up the launch in his article "The Great Blackwing Pencil Brouhaha".[11] After its launch the pencil was met with the same level of acclaim afforded to its predecessor. Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing declared the Palomino Blackwing 602 his "new pencil of choice".[12] Nonetheless, many fans of the original have criticized it for taking advantage of it's already popular name.


  1. ^ Frauenfelder, Mark. Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 Pencil Fetish. Boing Boing web page. 11 May 2005 [1]
  2. ^ “L. Laughy Ninth Wave Designs” Flickr page
  3. ^ a b Finder, Joseph. The Best Pencil in the World. Web blog. 3 December 2008. [2]
  4. ^ [3][dead link]
  5. ^ Pencil Pages - the Blackwing 602 - the Final Chapter
  6. ^ - the Blackwing 602 Archived July 25, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^
  8. ^ YouTube
  9. ^ Getting Kids Reading
  10. ^
  11. ^ Fortune Magazine
  12. ^ Boing Boing

External links[edit]