Rough Drift

"Small" writing challenges for my small writing talent. Hotel note pads are the only space allowed. Let's see if I can strip it down and tighten it up to learn something. Improving my skill of weird fiction.

A harder yet more perfect pencil? Blackwing’s lineup.


The grey, accidentally set wrong side up, is the 602 – a modern replica of Faber Castell’s famed 602: originals go for $40 on ebay.

There are now four hardness ratings for Palomino’s Blackwing pencils. I discovered their Volumes line, which donates a few bucks to school music programs with the purchase of a box of twelve, in my local stationary/cards/journals/fountain pens store. I had sampled their standard three types of pencil and myself use two of them; the 602 is the classic and firm, Pearl is medium, and the standard Blackwing is the soft, which I do not use for writing, it’s too soft to finish a page without another sharpening, but great for sheet music or art or any place for heavy but brief line. In a way, the Stadetler Norica HB2 would be a great substitute for the soft Blackwing as it is very smooth and soft, reminiscent of a felt tip pen, and costs heaps less, but can still write for a little bit.

Their fourth is extra hard, the 530, found in their Volumes line. It commemorates California historical site 530, where gold was discovered and the rush began. As a result, the barrel and ferrule are gold. The box art picture of the thing does not do it justice to just how gold it is. At first you think it’s leaning towards a yellow no.2, but when the box opens, it’s definitely gold. So be it. It’s the graphite core I’m interested in.

The graphite used by Palomino is quite nice, as I’ve discussed earlier in the blog when describing the Staedtler Norica HB2, the lifetime of the tip before falloff and the feel across the page can make writing a real treat of relaxing focus; that interface of mind and page is just that much clearer.

The Norica, in place of the soft Blackwing, needs lots of sharpening to stay decently on point; The Pearl requires a more frequent sharpening but the glide across the page is sublime, yet only lasting maybe 300 words before the point falloff begins to fatten up the letters, and for me at least, these two need sharpening interruptions once too many times to really enjoy the use. The 602 is that perfect balance of nice silky glide, holding the tip longer – long enough to finish 500-600 words before hitting the blade again, but one could go longer if they don’t mind a rounder tip and larger letters.


Then I used the 530. The immediate feel is just like the other two; It writes very smooth but I can tell a sacrifice in silky feel cross the page for a longer lasting tip. Although, it’s not a big fall off, perhaps ten percent difference exists equally across all three. Had I tried to write with the standard soft led Blackwing, I’d undoubtedly last only 200 words, which makes it more perfect for the advertised intent: musicians and sketching.

The time I put a blade to the 530 comes around one thousand words. Of course, as with all reviews and advertisements, your wordage may vary. How heavy do you press? Can you read your text via braille on the back of the page? Do you write so light you have to squint to see? It’s all relative, but I generally press an average amount.

I really like the 530 for the mileage it gets with the feel it retains similar to the 602. On good quality paper found in a Muji A5 (a great value for the quality pages, as used in these reviews) or Rhodia, Molskine or any other higher end notebook that can handle fountain pen ink, you will find a great experience with this nice reinforced Japanese graphite pencil. Mead’s ninety-nine cent tablets are so rough to a pencil it would lessen the experience, but I’m no elitist, overdemanding author of fine works demanding the best goods for my talents. It would still be better than the Ticonderoga yellow No.2.

The 530 is a great edition to their line. I hope it’s not a limited edition and becomes a regular to the lineup if the Volumes editions end.

Now for the cost analysis. At my local store, or anywhere, you will see these 520’s for $25-box of 12 (Yes that’s worth 52 Stadetler Noricas or 108 yellow No.2’s) The regular lineup of Pearl, 602, and soft Blackwing are around $21/box. Palomino advertises them as an affordable luxury and to be honest, they are. Who would spend $2 on a pencil? honestly, some ballpoints are cheaper but there’s something about analog in ones life. A pencil and page give a bit of space against our invasive lives so why not make that moment much more enjoyable?

Your shop may sell them individually. Give the 602 a shot and see what you think. Overall, I would recommend the 602 and the 530. They’re worth the expense if you have an extra dollar. They do last a while. Just don’t go crazy with mistakes or you’ll wind up buying their replacement eraser tips in three different colors; one of the cool things these pencils have over others.


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This entry was posted on February 10, 2017 by in pencil, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , .
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