The Blackwing Slate: The pencil-optimized notebook

It’s a really exciting day today, folks. It marks the ninth anniversary of my friend Johnny Gamber’s first pencil review on Pencil Revolution! He wrote about Pencils.com’s ForestChoice pencils.

It’s speculated by Pencils.com’s Fearless Leader (and CalCedar president and CEO) Charles Berolzheimer, this is the first pencil review, ever, on the internet. (And to celebrate that, Pencils.com is having a one-day-only sale on ForestChoice products — 25% off!)

Congratulations, Johnny! Long live the Revolution!

Blackwing Slate

Yesterday marked the first day the Blackwing Slate was available for purchase. If you get emails from Pencils.com, or have been reading the blogs at Pencils.com and Blackwing602.com (there’s a lot of websites nowadays in this franchise), you may have seen teasers for this product. It’s a Moleskine-like notebook, but improved for co-branding with the Palomino Blackwing. And, in my opinion, way nicer than a Moleskine.

It seems that the devil is in the details with notebooks nowadays. The Baron Fig, reviewed here back in April, excelled in the little design choices that set it apart from its rivals. The same thing applies to the Slate — there are numerous little improvements that really make it stand out.

The Exterior

It’s size is quite similar to the Palomino-branded journal line at 5” by 8.25”. The cover is a bit thicker and softer,though, and very matte — more of a shark skin feel to the harder, shinier Palomino hardcover. I’m not sure about this softness — I hope that it means it won’t scratch easily. Only time will tell. Besides that, it’s quite nice to touch.

Blackwing Slate Cover Closeup

It has a really nice thick elastic loop on the spine for a pencil, which is a great feature. This isn’t a dinky little piece of elastic either — this thing looks like it’ll hold its stretch for years.

Blackwing Slate Spine

Speaking of spines, the really innovative thing (in my opinion) about the Slate is the spine. because there’s a pencil strapped close to the spine, the two thick covers stop at the edge, and then are bound together with a substrate (I think I’m using that word correctly here). Essentially, the spine is reinforced, not with an extension of the cover board, but with the cloth that binds the cover to the signatures of pages inside.

It results in a very flexible cover — the first time I opened it, it wasn’t stiff at all. And I can even open it with the pencil still in the loop, which is great. It seems like it might make the notebook less durable — if the cover’s not protecting the spine, will it tear easier? Again, time will tell.

The Paper

Writing in the Blackwing Slate

Man. I love, love this paper. It boasts a 100gsm paper, compared to the Palomino luxury notebook’s 90gsm and Rhodia’s 80gsm paper. It’s so thick and plush, you guys.

It’s available in both lined and plain. Since the guys at Pencils.com know I am not an artist, they sent me a lined one to try out. The grey lines are set apart 0.25” on an off-white paper. The paper is smooth, but not as smooth as Rhodia paper. It has a little tooth on it, specifically engineered — I hope — for pencil. It’s the perfect amount to grab your graphite but still feel smooth.

Closeup of Palomino Blackwing 602 writing in Blackwing Slate

I tried it out with a medium-nib fountain pen, just to see how the paper held up to ink (though it would be sacrilege to use anything but pencil in this notebook!), and it worked great! No bleeding of note at all on the opposite page.

Closeup of a medium-nib fountain pen ink in Blackwing Slate

The opposite page from the fountain pen wriiting. As you can see, there is virtually no bleed-through! This is some thick paper.

The opposite page from the fountain pen writing. As you can see, there is virtually no bleed-through! This is some thick paper.

The Details

Besides the spine, this is what really gives the Blackwing Slate its distinction, and contributes greatly to those details I mentioned earlier. It has all the Moleskiney amenities, but all a bit nicer than the Moleskine’s — a satin bookmark, an elastic strap to keep the cover closed, a paper pocket in the back to hold stuff.

There are two different pockets in the flap in the back!

(That pocket is interesting — it’s actually a double pocket, with a small flat on the front for small things like, say, a driver’s license or credit card, and a wider one behind to hold things slightly smaller than the cover)

It even comes with a shiny new Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil tucked in the pencil loop on the spine!

It’s the details.

The Price

The Slate sells for $22.95, a full $9 more than a Moleskine Classic notebook sells at Barnes & Noble. The included pencil is worth about $2 of that price, so at $20.95, is the notebook worth it?

Depending on a lot of factors, of course, in general, I’d say that yes, it’s worth it. I’m not trying to bash Moleskine here (we actually had a discussion on the most recent episode of Erasable about how it’s become fashionable to look down on Moleskine), but the Slate is much better constructed, the paper is so much heavier and nicer, and for a pencil user like me, that elastic loop on the spine is wonderful.

Go check it out!

The Blackwing Slate | $22.95 at Pencils.com

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me, free of charge, for review purposes. No monetary compensation or additional direction was provided to me.

 

The Woodclinched Pencil Vector Pack

My friend Tony Headrick is a super talented designer. His studio, Neno Design, has won design awards and he’s created some of the coolest logos and websites around Fort Wayne (including my blog’s logo!).

We decided we wanted to work on something together. Trouble is, I’m not a designer, and he’s not a writer. Luckily, we figured it out.

Presenting: the Woodclinched Pencil Vector Pack!

Woodclinched Vector Pencil Pack

It contains 14 pencils from my collection, some vintage, and some new. I tried to include a variety — including an old bullet pencil and a fancy antique mechanical pencil — in addition to straight-up wood cased pencils.

Roughly, here’s what real-life pencils the designs were inspired by, from left to right:

  • Faber Castell Grip 2001
  • Yikes! triangular color pencil
  • Field Notes pencil
  • Goldfish Special Drawing 5002
  • iTO Premium
  • Golden Bear
  • Eagle Flash 66
  • Orange Palomino (the old-style — the announcement of the redesign was announced while Tony was designing!)
  • Antique brass mechanical pencil
  • Eberhard Faber Blackwing
  • Antique bullet pencil
  • Yikes! Gripz
  • Blue eraser-tipped Palomino
  • Draplin Design Company carpenter pencil

It was fun hearing Tony talk about creating these:

To me, pencils are one of the most accessible and basic art tools. Working with Andy Welfle, a professional pencil collector, made the experience so worthwhile. Andy provided some of his favorite pencils, the history behind the design and it was a real privilege to be trusted with such unique, vintage and storied pencils. It was a real challenge to try and keep the design minimal. The colors, materials and textures were what really stood out.

Just look at the detail between various lengths o points, and of the sharpening of the barrel between round and hex pencils.

Just look at the detail between various lengths o points, and of the sharpening of the barrel between round and hex pencils.

He did an amazing job, too. As someone who doesn’t normally spend a good portion of his day thinking about wooden pencils, he caught a lot of detail: how a hex pencil differs from a round pencil where the tip meets the paint; how the shape and tip of a carpenter pencil differs from, say, a regular round pencil; the shine pattern on a ferrule or a tipped end. From a design perspective, I love how he managed to keep the design pretty flat and basic, but was able to incorporate a lot of detail, still, like the woodgrain and that shine on the barrel.

What is a “Vector Pack”?

What does one do with a vector pack, all you non-designers may want to know? If you’re a designer, or find yourself in a situation where you may want to use a pencil like this in a design, then this might appeal to you. Rather than a raster like a JPEG or a PNG, a vector file allows you to scale an image up or down infinitely, keeping its shape and integrity all the while. Plus, you can easily change color, add text, or otherwise manipulate your image to fit the needs of your project.

This pack exists in a few different forms:

Free Vector Pack

Sample pencil pack on Dribbble.

Sample pencil pack on Dribbble. Click the image to view

Check out Tony’s Dribbble page for a sampler of six pencil vectors. Some of my favorites aren’t in this package, but if you want those, check out the…

Full Vector Pack

Click the image to go see the full vector pack at The Creative Market, and purchase for only $5!

Click the image to go see the full vector pack at The Creative Market, and purchase for only $5!

This includes all 14 pencils and is for sale for $5 on the Creative Market!

T-Shirt

Woodclinched Pencil Vector Pack on a t-shirtThis is coming soon. I’ll definitely have more information when we get this up and going. We’re going to submit it to The Cotton Bureau to crowd fund the printing of these t-shirts.

A Palomino Blackwing Pearl review

I’ve been a bad pencil blogger, folks.

Pencils.com introduced the Blackwing Pearl back in early May — more than two months ago. I posted two different preview articles about them then, but have been silent since.

It’s not through lack of interest. I’ve used the Pearl almost exclusively since then, switching away to a different Blackwing or a Golden Bear just to compare and contrast.

Box of Palomino Pearl pencils by Pencils.com

I’ve gone through three pencils, and I finally think I’m ready for a review.

Aesthetics

I have to admit, the Blackwing Pearl is gorgeous.

The owner of a local winery (and a client of my employer) took notice of this pencil and bought several dozen to use in the wine tasting room. It compliments the minimalist style of the facility, and a good friend of mine who works there tells me they are running out — patrons keep taking them!

Two-EEs Winery bought a bunch of these pencils because of their style.

Two-EEs Winery bought a bunch of these pencils because of their style.

Visually, this is a logical follow up to the PB Classic and the PB 602 — the pearlescent lustre (that’s right, I spelled that like a British person) looks really nice next to the grey sharkskin of a 602, which sets off the matte black of the original PB.

The Palomino Blackwing family

You can tell which of the Blackwings is most loved in my arsenal.

I have a little bit of an OCD eye twitch that goes off when I think about how, from darkest to lightest, the color of the barrel is:

  • PB Classic
  • PB 602
  • PB Pearl

Yet, from darkest to lightest, the marking of the graphite is:

  • PB Classic
  • PB Pearl
  • PB 602

One thing I got wrong in my (otherwise amazing) mockup of the Pearl was the words stamped on the side. Rather than gold foil, it’s stamped with black, which provides a strong contrast to the barrel paint. And, it matches the black eraser, which brings a little continuity. It’s the little things; I love that.

The barrel of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl

The element that feels out of place, though, is the brass ferrule. I think a steel one would look better, and make the barrel look more pearly. The ferrule here isn’t too gold, though — it’s more subtle, so it still looks really, really good.

Performance

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl writing test against its siblings.

Pencils.com refers to the Pearl as “balanced and smooth”, as a medium ground between the soft PB Classic, which is great for sketching, and the harder PB 602, which is best for writing.

I’ll definitely agree with this assessment. It feels like a great balance between the two previous pencils. In fact, I’d say that it tends to run almost as dark as the Classic, but holds a point much longer, close to the 602.

The eraser does leave dust, but it erases pretty clearly.

The eraser is the same as what comes with the 602 — a black, pumice-like “dust free” eraser. It works great (though it’s not dust free), and it looks beautiful; in high-contrast glory with the white barrel.

Conclusion

I’m a big fan. For my purposes, it’s miles ahead of the PB Classic.

My go-to Blackwing of choice is still the 602, however. I’m more than happy to sacrifice a bit of darkness in my markings to keep the tip as sharp as possible for as long as possible. But then again, I use pencils almost exclusively to write. Coworkers who scribble notes as well as sketch have remarked that they love this; it truly is a great balance between the other two.

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl can be purchased from Pencils.com for $19.95 per dozen, or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can get a gross (that’s 144 pencils) for $163.98.

Elsewhere

There’s a few other pencil and scribomechanica bloggers who were on top of reviews. Check out their posts:

Sneak Peak Pic of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl

Got a snapshot of the new Palomino Blackwing from the guys at Cal Cedar! Check it out:

Palomino Blackwing Pearl

I’m basically the Perez Hilton of pencils. Should I write snarky remarks all over the photo in freehand?

Perez Hilton's Blackwing Pearl

In any case, it’s great to see it. I image the white pencil against the dark desk washes out some of the lacquer detail a little bit, but I’m assuming it’s going to be a bit more, well, pearlized once we can see it in real life. I quite like the black eraser accenting the black lettering on the white barrel, though I don’t know how I feel yet about the brass ferrule. I may want to try a pink eraser in it to see if it looks like a rare albino Blackwing.

Thanks, Alexander, for sending this photo over!

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl — now, with an exclusive preview!

It’s been a very Palomino-focused spring around here at Woodclinched. I hope that soon I’ll have some more Yikes! stuff to show you, but in the meantime, there’s some news out of California Cedar Products that I can’t resist sharing.

Pencils.com and Palomino (I’ve never sure which brand is now the authoritative Blackwing spokes-entity) just announced this week the creation of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl, the third pencil in the Palomino Blackwing lineup.

It sounds like the performance is just right in the middle of the two existing Palomino Blackwings:

The Blackwing Pearl features a lustrous pearl white finish and black eraser, along with a balanced and smooth graphite core that is softer than the graphite found in the Palomino Blackwing 602, but firmer than the graphite found in the Palomino Blackwing.

I spoke with Pencils.com president Charles Berolzheimer, “WoodChuck“, last week about the new pencil. The phrase they’re using to describe it is “balanced and smooth.” I asked if they’re going to put that as the motto on the barrel, and he said no. Charles did, however,  tell me a little bit about the style of the new Pearl.

“It’s going to be pearly white, almost a pinkish, translucent hue,” Charles told me. “We talked a lot about introducing another eraser for it, but we’re going to stick with the black eraser. We’ll still have a series of replacement erasers so people can hack their pencil.”

Admittedly, I imagine a pink eraser would look really good with this pencil, but honestly, the black eraser on the white pencil with that gold ferrule? That’ll look really lovely.

The Blackwing Pearls will be released to the public on May 2, and will apparently be available both on Pencils.com and in retail stores, where the product line has really been become more and more prevalent. No word yet on their price, but I’m assuming they won’t cost more than their counterparts ($19.95 for a dozen, or $163.98 for a gross).

I am proud to announce, however, that Woodclinched has discovered some top secret images of the new pencil. Prepare yourself for the exclusive world premiere of this highly-anticipated pencil:

A fabulous Photoshop mockup of the new Palomino Blackwing Pearl

Just kidding. This is the product of my terrible, terrible Photoshop “skills”. I used to have a vector of the Palomino Blackwing logo, which I can’t seen to locate, so as you can see, I expertly re-created it.

I will, however, attempt to talk my way into a advance sample, so I can give it a good try, all in the service of my Dear Readers. And hopefully, the real-life thing will look much better than this abomination, above. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, check out the full press release here. And after May 2, check out Pencils.com to buy it!

I get email: A good quality, Blackwing-like eraser topper?

I’m thankful for my readers. (In fact, I’m thankful I still have readers, considering I only posted four times in 2012.) I really hope I can ramp up my posting a bit more this year.1

Anyhow, this came in last week from someone who stumbled across my site after looking for information about Blackwings.

Do you know of any Blackwing-like eraser tops that you can buy as separate items and attach to a regular pencil? I’ve googled but haven’t found anything for sale. Continue reading

A Blackwing movie?

I was looking through all the blogs I usually read each afternoon, and on the Pencils.com blog, Studio 602, I saw an interview, posted seemingly offhandedly, with the filmmakers working on a movie called, simply, “Blackwing”.

This doesn’t actually play the movie file — it’s a screenshot of the trailer. Click the image to jump to the filmmaker’s trailer page.

I watched the trailer, blinked, and was all, “wait, what?” — did someone actually make a film about the Blackwing?

Well, it seems, yes. And at least according to the Pencils.com Twitter feed, it was fairly surprising to them, too:

According to the interview, It sounds like the filmmakers, Outside In Studio, had everything scripted and ready to go with their movie concept — except for the key writing utensil.

According to the filmmakers’ interview with Pencils.com:

We had already completed a few drafts of the script and were already entering pre-production. When we were searching for props for Milo’s room, we were looking for items that were ultra-artistic and out of the ordinary, that really spoke about the character and how deep his obsession was.  It wasn’t until we stumbled upon pencils.com and saw the Blackwing on the homepage that we realized the importance between the artist and their tool.  The Blackwing was everything we didn’t know we were missing.  We were first attracted to its appearance – it was simple but had this demure quality, it was the perfect balance between power and subtlety.

From what I gather from the trailer, the plot is sort of a dark version of “Harold’s Purple Crayon” — a misfit child, Milo, finds power in a magic pencil that turns to life what it draws. It seems, as though, he doesn’t fully understand its consequences.

While the film trailer and the interview doesn’t mention which Blackwing it is — an original Eberhard Faber Blackwing or a new Palomino Blackwing — it is clear that the first Palomino Blackwing is used, though in its brief cheesecake shot, only the word “Blackwing” remained. It reflects the beauty of the gold/matte black finish of the actual product, but only the mystical, mythical name: Blackwing.

Although I am more of a fan of the shark-blue-grey found on the barrel of the original Blackwing and the Palomino Blackwing 602, I can understand why they used the matte black. As they pointed out, it is elegant and dark. It looks more like a magic pencil than a pencil you might take with you to jot down notes at, say, a client meeting.

Like many independent films, the filmmakers are going to make their rounds at the film festivals and hope to open in summer 2013, which means it could be another year or so after that before I can see it anywhere close to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I live.

Head on over to Outside In’s site to see the trailer, and over to Studio 602 to read the full interview. It is quite interesting.