The Blackwing 602 Pencil is famed as the greatest pencil ever made – complete with its hexagonal barrel, famously smooth-writing graphite , and replaceable eraser. Chuck Jones drew Bugs Bunny with one, John Steinbeck used a lot of them writing The Grapes of Wrath, and Stephen Sondheim used one for “Send in the Clowns”. This century, Bob Camp used a Blackwing 602 to draw Ren and Stimpy.
It was a luxury pencil – smooth writing, graphite that didn’t break with use or sharpening, and the eraser was always handy. In the 1930s it cost US 50cents (equivalent to $6 nowadays) and felt like something of high value.
The Blackwing pencil was first manufactured by the Eberhard Faber Company of Germany from 1934 to 1988. Herr Faber’s company transformed into Faber-Castell, and by 1998 his famous pencil was no more – a victim of changing consumer demand and a broken machine that made the eraser’s ferrule.
In the manner of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, people missed the Blackwing. Spurred by images of Truman Capote, Igor Stravinsky, and Vladimir Nabokov using the unusual pencil, e-Bay Blackwing prices skyrocketed, and the Blackwing scored its own blog.
Enter Mr Charles Berolzheimer II and an obsession to reinvent the mighty Blackwing Pencil. His ancestors began making pencils in Bavaria in the 1800s and later co-founded the Eagle Pencil company in the USA. The Berolzheimers went on to own California Cedar Products – the America’s biggest supplier of pencil slats (barrels).
The junior Berolzheimer applied the family history and a Stanford MBA to reviving the famed Blackwing 602. Providing the FSC certified incense cedar barrels was easy, but it took him over a year to find a manufacturer for the crucial and troublesome ferrules. Graphite cores and assembly went to Japan. In 2010 the reinvented Blackwing was finally released.
The Blackwing is now returned in its glory in three versions. The silver barrelled Blackwing 602 is the one closest to the original of the 1930s – with hardness equating to a HB it’s best for writing ; The black barrelled Blackwing equates to 4B hardness and is the softest and best for sketching ; The white barrelled Blackwing Pearl equates to 2B and is an all-rounder. They’re all beautiful.
Specifications: length = 200mm (inc. eraser); weight = 5.3grams