Thursday, April 18, 2013

Introducing the Blackwing Pearl

Recently, our Palomino business unit announced the newest addition to our Blackwing pencil range, the Blackwing “Pearl”. Here is the first photo of the "Pearl" set to make it's official debut on May 2nd at and other dealers around the world. You can register for the Studio602 newsletter updates at for more information on just when the product will go live.

May also marks two years since we introduced our “602” model as a follow up to our first Palomino Blackwing pencil launched in October 2010. Since then, we’ve focused on building awareness and distribution for our two Blackwing pencil models, as well as our flagship Palomino and ForestChoice brands. This included introduction of a complementary range of high quality notebooks and sketchbooks. We’ve been pleased with the progress, as many of these three product ranges are now available in an increased variety of online and independent retail stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as growing international distribution in Europe, Australia and Asia.

Over the past two years, we’ve received numerous requests for new Blackwing items from fans as well as our dealers and distributors. Many want new color combinations for the casing and/or erasers and others have made suggestions for alternative graphite formulations. We’ve also considered numerous requests for custom imprint services on Blackwing pencils similar to the custom imprint options now available on our traditional Palomino HB eraser tipped pencils.

One of our key concerns in introducing any additional Blackwing pencils has been positioning the new pencil for use when it comes to differentiation of the graphite performance. In the tradition of the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencils, we’ve never published a specific hardness grade for our Blackwing models. When we launched our 602 model in 2011 we introduced the “firm and smooth” and “soft and smooth” descriptors to differentiate the new pencil from our original Palomino Blackwing in the black matte finish, which has a much softer, buttery feel loved by those doing a lot of sketching, music notation and other activities that require a dark mark. The “firm & smooth” 602 has been well received by those doing extended writing and note taking who want longer lasting performance between sharpening in a pencil that more closely replicates the original Blackwing 602 in performance, look and feel. Adding new grades and colors and keeping such graphite performance descriptors certainly foretells future taxonomy challenges and increases potential for confusion among consumers, so we’ve thought much about this before proceeding. In fact we've already had a few interesting suggestions from fans on coming up with our own Blackwing graphite grade scale to simplify things down the road.

Given that we already have a well-received graded graphite range in the Palomino brand, we’re not looking to replicate that by continuing to add a large variety of graphite grades in the Blackwing brand. In selecting a course of action for adding one additional grade we could have gone firmer than the “602” or even softer than the Blackwing, but we experimented with several options and looked at things within the context of our wider artist graphite range and decided to go for something in the middle to fit the broadest user base which offers about the same darkness of the 602, with a bit softer feel that still gives improved wear rates vs. the “soft & smooth” model. We’ve decided to call it our “balanced & smooth” formulation.

For the casing décor, we chose a completely new effect by adding a pearly luster finish to contrast with the flat matte black of the Blackwing and the gunmetal metallic look of the 602 model. White is our most requested color for lacquer finishes and we think it looks just great with this new finish style. Thus the combination of white lacquer and pearly finish lead us naturally to name this pencil the Blackwing Pearl. We chose a black imprint for a stronger contrast, which looks great with the black eraser combination. In fact, we think the Pearl will look great with all six of our available eraser colors, which allows for further personalization or “hacking” for those so inclined.

We can see the Pearl being popular for use in home office décor or used as great guest gifts in weddings and other special events, but also well received for a broad range of existing uses by our fans and new initiates. In reality, regardless of the many different uses of our Palomino or Blackwing pencils, the selection of any specific pencil is always a matter of personal preference. In that sense, we think there is plenty of opportunity for you to find the pencil that is “just right” for your individual taste or a specific need in different situations throughout our full Palomino family as it’s grown and adapted over the past two years. We hope you’ll try out the Pearl and continue to discover the great function, design and performance of our developing Palomino family of products that help you to express your creative spirit in new and exciting ways.


Andy @ Woodclinched said...

Nice! Is this a factory comp pencil, Charles, or a photoshop mockup?

WoodChuck said...

No this is photo of the actual product. Has a bit of Photoshop work on the shading issues. Very difficult to get a good image of the pearly luster on these pencils.

John said...

Gracious! This is very fine looking! I'm looking forward to trying this one for sure.

Anonymous said...

Should have gone with a silver ferrule.

Tom Morrisey said...

Of course I am going to buy a dozen. But as the primary purpose of a hexagonal barrel is to add roll resistance -- and the Blackwing pencils are virtually roll-proof by virtue of their distinctive ferrules -- have you ever considered offering a round-barrel Blackwing? The very slight extra bit of diameter makes a difference. And even though I use my pencils to write, I long ago acquired the illustrator's habit of rolling the pencil slightly as I work (to even the wear on the point), and that feels ever so much better when one is working with a round barrel.

WoodChuck said...

Tom -
Thanks for your input.

I have not considered to use a round pencil with the Blackwing ferrule yet due to several cost and technical considerations.

Technically the reason a round pencil is a larger diameter is it uses more wood than the hexagonal pencil. So round yields one less pencil per slat than hexagonal pencils during production. So it's not just the roll resistant functional difference you mention but a wood cost advantage that hexagonal pencils offer as well.

So we would need to assess the pencil geometry issues here that would allow us to use the same ferrule design without having to create new tooling for a larger diameter ferrule and higher inventory carrying costs of a new specialty ferrule item. This would not offer the same added diameter advantage but would allow for comfortable rolling in your fingers as you mention. Anyway it's something to consider for the future.

Finally, I have been considering a round Palomino HB pencil with standard eraser tipping to complement the hexagonal in Palomino HB eraser tipped product. This would allow for a more creative design treatment on the barrel while using standard ferrules and erasers for round pencils.

Tom Morrisey said...

Let's see -- a dozen of the new Blackwing Pearl and a dozen of the upcoming Palomino HB round ... it sounds as if the pencil cup on my desk is going to be very, very happy.

Tom Morrisey said...

My string of 12 Pearls arrived in the mail today, and the timing was perfect; my last Blackwing 602 is now short enough that I am taking notes with the ferrule pressing into the side of my knuckle, and my wife just appropriated my one remaining Palomino Blackwing to do her newsprint sodoku puzzles.

I have only sharpened my first Pearl once, and can already tell that this is going to be my "A" pencil for taking notes, writing poetry and sketches, and correcting manuscripts. Impressively smooth yet, even after sharpening to a fine point with my Long Point sharpener, I can bear down without fear of snapping the tip.

After using the Blackwing Pearl for a few minutes, I switched to a regular office-supply No 2 pencil, and the office-supply model felt as if I was scratching the paper with a car key. I urge others to try the same experiment; it is revelatory.

A very good product, Charles -- I am pleased, and will order more.

WoodChuck said...

Thanks for the feedback Tom. Glad to learn of your approval.