Blackwing Natural Pencil Review

Blackwing Natural Pencil Review

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!)

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Golden Bear Pencil Review

Golden Bear Pencil Review

It's been almost a year and a half I've been writing this blog and I can't believe that I've yet to review the Palomino Golden Bear. This pencil is a staple in my everyday carry pencil bag and great as a "car pencil". Basically, anywhere I keep a pencil, you're likely to find a Golden Bear there. It's an amazing pencil for the price.

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Palomino Blackwing 2017 Recap

Palomino Blackwing 2017 Recap

We're into Year 3 of the Volumes series. Palomino continued to do a few different things with the limited pencils this year, some cool, some not...along with a few head scratchers. Some thoughts on each Volumes series release, then we'll get into the rest of what they did with the line.

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TBT: Blackwing 211

TBT: Blackwing 211

For this week's Throwback Thursday post, I thought I'd revisit one of the most coveted modern pencil releases: the Blackwing 211. Original released as the second in the Blackwing Volumes series, the 211 has become something of a grail pencil for some people. Let's find out why.

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Palomino Blackwing Volume 1 Pencil Review

Palomino Blackwing Volume 1 Pencil Review

When I first saw a spoiler video of this pencil, I was convinced I wasn't going to like it. And while I still don't really care for the idea behind the theme, I really like the pencil itself, its color, roundness, and core. This edition is named for Guy Clark, a country music singer / songwriter from the 70s that had a debut album called Old No. 1 which Blackwing claims is regarded as one of the most influential records ever made.

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Palomino Forest Choice Pencil Review

Palomino Forest Choice #2 Pencil

One of the nicer natural pencils that often gets overlooked, the Forest Choice #2 is one of my favorite pencils that I rarely use. I have rectified that error in the past few weeks and decided that though they've been reviewed in multiple places, I felt like I wanted to give them the treatment.

There's been some talk about expanding the Forest Choice line, maybe separating it from the Palomino branding, but the pencils I have are still branded as Palomino Forest Choice. Early Forest Choice pencils were just under their own brand, and it seems they may be going back to that. The carpenter pencils and colored pencils, as well as the Forest Choice notebook line, are free from the Palomino branding in the pictures on the Pencils.com website. For a little bit more info on the subject, check out Palomino & Cal Cedar owner Charles Berolzheimer's interview on the Erasable Podcast.

These pencils are FSC-certified and these were the first pencils given that certification. I don't think it determines the quality of the wood, but it's a nice thing for the environment. There are other pencils that have followed suit.

The pencils have a natural finish and a green paint applied for the "imprint". They are actually blind embossed with the words Made in Thailand, but the FSC logo, Palomino logo, and the Forest Choice word mark are all painted on. The ferrule is green, but it doesn't quite match the dark green of the paint. It's a little brighter and more metallic. The eraser is a bright red and a little gritty, but nothing like a Musgrave eraser.

The wood is cedar, of course, and really nicely grained. There is just the thinnest of clear coating over the pencil, sealing it off from gaining that nice hand-stained patina. The cores in my box of 12 were all centered perfectly. It's a fairly standard HB core, not quite as smooth as the Palomino HB, but it's not overly gritty or hard, either. It's just not a Japanese-quality core. I'd say it's closer to the Golden Bear core than anything. The point retention is about average for an HB, again, similar to the Golden Bear.

Dark green imprint.

Shiny ferrules.

Made in Thailand embossing,

The eraser does its job, but isn't the greatest. I find that colored erasers that aren't "dust-free" usually have a bit more grit to them than a standard pink or white eraser. It's just a theory, but I wonder if the coloring agent has something to do with it? In all honesty, I don't know why every eraser isn't dust-free these days, besides the erasers that have special qualities for different tasks.

Overall, this is a fine natural pencil at just around a quarter per stick. It's one for me that gets lost in the shuffle too often, but having spent the last couple weeks with this one, it's definitely back in the rotation.

Available from Pencils.com, $2.95 for 12.

Palomino Blackwing Volume 73 Pencil Review

Video Review

I grew up in a lake town. Lake Shelbyville is a man-made lake, built in the 1960s to protect some farm land from flooding from the Kaskaskia River. The Army Corps of Engineers bought land from Shelbyville north to Sullivan along the river and bridges were built, a lake was excavated, and a dam was put up. My father, like many young men from the area, worked on those crews when he could, in the summers between school years.

When you grow up in a lake town, you either don't care about it much (because it's just always been there) or you're obsessed with it and spend as much time on it as you can, boating, fishing, hanging out on the beach, etc. I was in the "don't care" camp growing up. I've always liked to see my feet when I swim. I'm a pool person all the way. I don't have a fear, it's just what I prefer. The land around the lake is owned by the government, so luckily, there are no houses on it. The lake belongs to the people, not a few rich that can afford the property. I remember having a conversation with an Illinois gubernatorial candidate at a restaurant I worked at, and when he asked where I was from, he knew it because of the lake. "It'd be great if we could get that opened up" he said. I argued against it, and when he asked why, I said "So people like YOU can't say 'get off my lake' to people born and raised there."

The water of Lake Shelbyville is nowhere near as clean and clear as Lake Tahoe.  It's not surrounded by mountains or any other pristine land features, just corn fields. But I'm willing to guess that the people of Lake Tahoe love their lake as much as the people of Shelbyville love theirs.

Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular lakes in the United States, and most likely the cleanest. It's the largest alpine lake in the North America and is the largest lake after all the Great Lakes. If it's not popular enough for the clear water and water sports on the lake, the surrounding mountains are very popular for skiing and hiking, not to mention the casinos on the Nevada side.

What a blue!

Lacquer closeup.

Silver ferrules, white erasers.

The Blackwing 73 is a tribute to Lake Tahoe and its beauty. The 73 stands for the Secchi depth reading, which is a clarity reading. It was one of the clearest lakes, but it started to decline, hitting its low point in 1997. Through the efforts of The League to Save Lake Tahoe and other groups, they have gotten their most recent reading to 73. I can't see my feet when I'm waist-deep in Lake Shelbyville. The lacquer is blue (named "Lake Tahoe Blue" by Palomino) and the pencil is printed with a white imprint and a white topographical map wrapped around the pencil. The map is raised, and provides a little grip in the hand. The ferrule is silver this time, and the eraser is white. It's a welcome departure from the gold ferrule, black eraser doldrums we've been in for the last two releases. I like when they play with the colors of these. More colored erasers, please!

The wood is, of course, cedar. I always forget how fragrant a box of Blackwings is until I open a new one. Every pencil should smell like this. But the real draw is the core: MMX! Soft! The softest core they make, from the standard Blackwing. The Volumes series hasn't had a soft core since the 1138. I know some people who will be happy. It doesn't erase the best, and it smudges, but that's to be expected of a core this soft, dark, and smooth.

The extra in the box is a Keep Tahoe Blue sticker, and even more importantly, every sale comes with a $2 donation to the cause. I'm willing to give up something extra to give to a cause like this.

Overall, I like this pencil. They tried some stuff with the printing, which works well, and they gave us a core we haven't seen since the second in the series (unless you wanna buy the boring plain one!). I personally don't like a pencil this super soft for the writing I do, but it is a good sketching pencil and fills a need. Now, for the real need: a year-around Extra Firm pencil...get on it!

Available from Blackwing, $24.95 for 12.