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.
Have you ever noticed that some pencils write with really light lines and some pencils come out smudgy and dark? This can be explained by what type of lead the pencil has. Leads range from hard, light-marking leads to soft, dark-marking leads in both wooden bodies and mechanical pencils.
Leads are usually classified by a 2 digit number + letter system. H stands for "Hardness" and B stands for "Blackness". The more H's you have, the harder the lead and the lighter the lines. The more B's you have, the softer the lead and the darker the lines. In the middle, you'll find the most common lead grade HB, which is equivalent to a #2 pencil and what is usually the included default lead in most mechanical pencils.
In order, the leads are (from hardest to softest):
9H | 8H | 7H | 6H | 5H | 4H | 3H | 2H | H | F | HB | B | 2B | 3B | 4B | 5B | 6B | 7B | 8B | 9B
Typically, leads ranging from 4H to 4B are easily available on the market.
JetPens carries a variety of lead grades in both mechanical pencil lead and wooden pencil format. Mechanical pencil leads, like the hugely-popular Pentel Stein Enhanced Silica lead line or the Uni-ball NanoDia leads , are generally available in grades ranging between 4H and 4B. Sturdier wooden pencils like the Uni-ball Hi-Uni line, have a significantly larger range of 10H-10B lead types available!
How do you pick which lead is right for you? If you want sharp, crisp lines and you write with a light hand, then a higher H value lead is good for you. If you write with a heavy hand, then you want a lead that won't break under pressure and so a higher B value is good for you. Higher H's can be brittle and are typically better for drafting purposes, and higher B's are good for shading. Keep in mind that softer or higher B leads leave more lead on the paper, and so are used up more quickly than higher H leads.
Do you have a favorite grade of lead to use?
September 20, 2009 - Posted by Elizabeth to Pencils
We sometimes have customers who ask us which of our mechanical pencils are "No. 2". Great question!
Pencil leads have different levels of hardness or softness for different uses. You can read more about this in our PenPedia article Picking the Perfect Pencil Lead Hardness. For mechanical pencil lead, the leads are labeled (from hardest to softest):
9H | 8H | 7H | 6H | 5H | 4H | 3H | 2H | H | F | HB | B | 2B | 3B | 4B | 5B | 6B | 7B | 8B | 9B.
The numbering system for wooden pencils actually refers to the same thing, but uses an American labeling system. For example, the equivalent lead hardness for the following wooden pencils are:
So using a mechanical pencil with HB leads should be equivalent to using a No 2. Pencil.
Relief for tired and arthritic hands comes in the form of a winged writing instrument. Through partnership with a research team at Chiba University, Pentel has produced a writing device that leverages four main points of contact in your hand: one each from your thumb, index and middle finger as it grasps the body shaft, and then a special fourth point near the palm of your hand via a wing grip.
The winged support can be flipped open so that the area near the palm of your hand can rest on the device. The result is a writing experience that requires less pressure, has more stability, and produces less writing fatigue.
There are two ways you can adjust the instrument to comfortably match the size of your hand and how you grip your pen. You can adjust the angle at which the wing rests against your palm, and you can adjust the length of the body (and thus the distance of the wing rest from the tip of the pen).
1. The winged grip has two heights, one low and one high.
Low wing grip:
High wing grip:
For a higher wing, push down the lever near the wing towards the grip. This will allow the wing to be positioned higher against your palm.
For a lower wing grip, push the lever away from the grip. This will allow the wing to be positioned lower against your palm.
2. You can extend or decrease the body length. To do this, push down on the rectangular button on the opposite side of the wing. Pull out to extend body length, push in to shorten. Larger hands will need a longer pen length for more support, smaller hands will feel comfortable with a shorter pen length.
ERGoNoMiX pen and pencils are available at JetPens here.