Pencil Review(s) - Palomino Blackwing line

Real talk time before I launch into the review.  Have you ever had one of those dreams where there is something you need to do or somewhere you need to be, but you just can't seem to make anything happen because everything is going wrong and keeping you from making forward progress?  I have that kind of dream a lot when I'm stressed out about something.  Anyway, today is being one of those days, where everything is twice as hard as normal to do because nothing is working.  I was going to record a video to accompany this but the room where it's quiet has no light, and the room where the light is perfect is too loud.  Cue cursing and abandoning of filming.  Anyway, without further ado, let's get on with this, shall we?

From left to right, the Blackwing (MMX), the Blackwing 602, and the Blackwing Pearl

The Blackwing line is the flagship pencil produced by Palomino.  It consists of three distinct members, which are the Blackwing/MMX (MMX is a nickname given by the guys at the Erasable podcast and I will be using it for the duration of my review to eliminate confusion), the Pearl, and the 602.  In theory, these pencils are supposed to be a revival of the magical Eberhard Faber Blackwing, which was prized by many artists and writers and is increasingly difficult to obtain without selling a soul or first-born child.  You can read a blurb about the history from Palomino, or you can read this article and come to your own conclusions.  For the record, I don't really care how this pencil compares to the original because it is highly unlikely that I will ever use an original Blackwing so the comparison is moot.

Grey = 602, white = Pearl

All three Blackwings are made from cedar and sport a lacquer finish that can be used to distinguish them from each other.  The 602 and Pearl have a semi-gloss finish that is slightly metallic and has a bit of grip to it.  The MMX has a matte finish that is really quite nice and gives the pencil even more grip than the other two.  To me, the matte finish of the MMX combined with the gold lettering and stripe near the ferrule makes this pencil feel the most luxurious out of the three. 

Matte and magical MMX

All three are hexagonal pencils but are a bit softer hex and they feel similar in the hand to the Palomino HB, though the HB is a glossier surface.  I'm lucky enough to have a slightly larger sample size of Blackwings, around 10 total, and they all have flawless finishes and well-centered cores.

And, of course, part of the construction of the Blackwings is the goofy ferrule that you can see in the first picture of this review.  I know that it's part of what makes the pencil special and it's supposed to tie into the original, but I sort of hate it.  I do like the look of it, but only when the pencil has been used down to approximately 2/3 of its original length.  Otherwise the ferrule makes the pencil awkwardly long and I have to imagine that it's part of what contributes to the premium cost of these pencils.  

When it comes to sharpening, these pencils give no trouble whether you chose to use a wedge or a knife.  I find that I prefer using a knife because it is truly a joy to sharpen a pencil made with quality wood, and I enjoy getting a nice long point that isn't sharp and stabby at the end.

MMX sharpened with a wedge

Pearl sharpened with a knife

All three pencils are smooth, easy writers, though they differ in lead hardness.  If I had to guess, I would put the 602 around an HB hardness, the Pearl at a B, and the MMX at a 2B.  When writing the differences were not extreme but they are noticeable, and the MMX is definitely smoother on paper than the 602.  They all can hold a point for a least a full page of writing, assuming that you give it a longer point when sharpening and frequently rotate while writing.

When it came to smearing and erasing, they behaved the way that I expected - the harder lead of the 602 produced less smearing and cleaner erasing, with performance decreasing as the lead hardness did.  Even still, I did not find the MMX to be overly smear prone or difficult to erase.

Testing on Miquelruis paper

ForestChoice on the left, Field Notes on the right

Of course, on toothier papers like the Field Notes, the smearing and erasing problems were not as evident and I have had no problems using any of the three in my daily Field Notes.

As I mentioned before, these pencils are not cheap.  They will run you ~$22/dozen, which means that we are getting close to a $2 pencil.  If you don't burn through pencils and really want luxury writing tools, I don't think that buying a dozen is an awful idea.  On the other hand, there are certainly cheaper options out there too that are well finished and will make a lasting mark on paper.  Prior to sitting down to write this review, I was prepared to announce that I would definitely be buying a dozen of these pencils at the conclusion of pencil month and make them my daily user.  

Now, however, I'm not so sure.  Having pulled out my Palomino HB to compare them side-by-side, I am not convinced that any of the Blackwings are that much nicer and worth an extra $10 per dozen.  But, that's just me and I might change my mind yet again by the time the month is over.

These pencils were purchased with my own money and I am not being compensated for this review in any way.  All opinions expressed above are my own and you are free to disagree with them if you like.