Pencils have three main components: a graphite core known as the "lead", a plastic or wooden body that encases the lead, and an eraser. Depending on how hard the lead is, the pencil makes different marks. A hard pencil lead leaves light, fine marks that are great for drawing precise details. A soft pencil lead leaves dark, heavy marks that are typically used for filling in large areas, or for shadows. Pencils in the middle of the spectrum are most suitable for writing, but as usual, it comes down to personal preference—you have to play around to figure out what works for you.
Not all pencil leads are made equal. They vary in strength, smoothness, smudge resistance, and hardness. Some are relatively dark, while others are relatively light. Refer to the chart below for details.
Staedtler has long been a pillar in the stationery scene with its iconic logo, quality drawing instruments, and technical writing tools. Founded in 1835 by J.S. Staedtler, this German company developed a reputation throughout the world due to their impeccable pencils. Surprisingly, the rich tradition behind the Staedtler pencil started even before the founding of the company.
Fig 1. Palomino Blackwing 602 Wooden Pencils.
You may be familiar with the basics of the Blackwing story: introduced by Eberhard Faber during the 1930s, it was lauded by famous creatives like John Steinbeck and Chuck Jones. It claimed to write with “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed,” and featured an iconic eraser and ferrule design. After it was discontinued in 1998, its desirability grew to a fever pitch until single pencils were selling for as much as thirty dollars.
Only twelve years later, sixth-generation pencil manufacturer Charles Berolzheimer II revived the brand as the newly minted Palomino Blackwing. The cacophonous fan reaction was equal parts criticism and acclaim, but one thing soon became clear: it was a commercial success.
That’s the short version of the Blackwing tale. But as any historian knows, history is more than just a sequence of events. To truly understand the reputation and hype that grew around the Blackwing, read on.
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