Take a look back at my 2017 and 2018 Wish List posts...TL;DR? I’ve been asking for this pencil since the BW24 Extra Firm Core came out. I thought maybe I’d never get my wish because they DID release the Cal Cedar 100 Blackwing in what I consider the perfect combo (green eraser, natural finish, EF core). I’m glad to be wrong. Palomino has finally released the Extra Firm core in a full-time pencil, aptly named the Blackwing Natural because it has, you guessed it, a natural finish. It’s very very close to perfect, but nothing is so perfect that it can’t be criticized, so while I love this pencil 99.9%, I’ll gripe about a few of the choices they made (while hopefully realizing that I got what I want and not to look a gift horse in the mouth so damn much!)
Let’s start with the finish. Yes, it’s natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s unlacquered. There is a thin layer of clear varnish, just enough to keep your greasy paws from making the pencil unworthy of Instagram. Unlike the General’s Cedar Pointe, which gets darker and grimier (and better looking) over time, the Blackwing Natural will basically look the same at Steinbeck Stage as it does fresh out of the box. I kid about Instagram, of course, as MOST natural pencils I’ve run into have a thin clear layer over them. Maybe it’s a splinter thing? I dunno. Personally, I would’ve liked to see this pencil be able to get dirtier over time, but I understand why they didn’t go COMPLETELY naked.
The eraser is a crisp medium-to-light gray that looks like an eraser that hasn’t been given any dye yet. I dunno what raw eraser colors are these days, but in my mind, this would be it. Regardless, it is a match with the aesthetic of natural-ness and raw-ness that the pencil has. Where it gets lost a little bit is in the color of the ferrule and the imprint. The whole thing is GOLD CITY. To me, this doesn’t quite match. I don’t mind a gold ferrule, and I don’t expect them to make a special ferrule for an everyday pencil, but I think gold and wood doesn’t quite match. I think I would like the tarnished ferrule of the Vol. 4 or the not so gold 211 ferrule. Something that would look a little more natural. But I understand about keeping a good ferrule across the whole line. It’s a choice they made to keep the line the same. I would also much prefer a painted imprint, as I think it would go better with the “natural” theme. What color paint? I’m glad you asked...I have no clue. Anything that isn’t shiny like the gold and silver foils they use. I’m not asking for them to make it brown like the 211, but maybe just black paint?
As for the core, it's a little odd. This thing is DARK. 602 dark, definitely. But the point retention is good. I compared it next to all the other Extra Firm cores in the Volumes lineup, and I can say this one definitely writes with a darker line than the 24 or 530. Not by leaps and bounds, mind you, but there is definitely a difference. Call it batch variation if you want, but it's darker. This also makes me wonder about what happens to pencils as they age. It'd be an interesting test. I know most HBs from yesteryear seem to write lighter than current HBs of the same pencil. Formula tweaks or chemical changes in the pencil? Where's Lenore when I need her???
Overall, I'm freaking STOKED that this thing is here and available and in the standard lineup. No more hoarding ugly Volumes series pencils just to have an Extra Firm core constantly available...I'm looking at you, 54! (Not really...the pink is nice.) It's everything I wanted, but with a few minor things I wish were different but understand why they chose what they chose. I would say BUY NOW HURRY GO....but these are available any time! Get them when you want!
Available from Blackwing, $21.95 for a dozen.