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Blackwing Pencils - When a Pencil is More than Just a Pencil

Box of Blackwing pencils

To most people, a pencil is just a pencil. A simple tool, and useful, certainly, but not very interesting. Probably something they think they’ve somehow grown out of. Children work for their ‘pen licence’ these days, so they’re finally allowed to stop using pencils. But are pencils so bad?

Blackwing Eras pencil endsWe most definitely don’t think so. We love pencils. But there’s still some truth to the idea that a pencil is just a pencil. Maybe that’s one of their strengths - ubiquitous, usually at least good enough, and there’s nothing to go wrong, no complexity to hide their functionality. Yes, the lead can snap, but we all know how to ‘fix’ that.

And some pencils are better than others. The very finest quality pencils, like the Tombow Mono 100 and the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni, are really nice quality. The difference is noticeable. And there are those who prefer them, and are happy to spend a little extra for that quality.

Blackwing point guardsBut even given all that, the Blackwing is different. It has history. Chuck Jones used it to draw Bugs Bunny. Music has been written with it by John Williams and Stephen Sondheim. Artists, playwrights, poets, have all loved the Blackwing. So how did it ever disappear, if it was so loved?

Well, mass market probably covers it. There’s a huge market for pencils, but a much more limited market for a super high quality pencil. So, while it was profitable enough to keep making them, when an important machine broke and was going to be expensive to replace, it just didn’t seem worth it. The people who loved it would find something else. They’d have to.

Blackwing NotebookExcept something was different with this pencil. Something more important than those mass-market economics. So along came Palomino, who actually cared about pencils, and they brought it back. They knew the love people had for the Blackwing would somehow make the effort worthwhile.

Michael Randall

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