What's so special about Blackwing pencils?

What's so special about Blackwing pencils? 

Blackwing pencils

Here at Hunter Paper Company, we are big fans of Blackwing Pencils, with their sleek designs and unique rectangular erasers, they make beautiful additions to your pencil case. They are our bestselling pencils in our Belfast store, where we sell them as single pencils or in boxes of 12, but what’s so special about Blackwing? 

History of Blackwing

Blackwing pencils date back to 1934 when the Blackwing 602 was first manufactured by Edward Faber in New York. Marketed as enabling, ‘half the pressure, twice the speed’ due to their unique lead composition and prized for their replaceable ‘clamp’ mechanism eraser system, Blackwings became a favourite of designers, artists and writers.

They were manufactured for over 60 years before being discontinued in the 1990’s after the machine used to make the clips for the erasers broke down. As supply stopped Blackwings became rarer and much sought after collectors items with unsharpened pencils selling for up to $50 on eBay.

A box of ‘Faber’ Blackwing 602s

A box of ‘Faber’ Blackwing 602s

 In 2012 the brand was revived by California Cedar Products which purchased the name from Faber and started manufacturing their version of the Blackwing 602. Other variants including the Pearl, Natural and Matte pencils were subsequently introduced and proved popular with pencil lovers worldwide. This means the Blackwings on sale today are not the same as those originally introduced in the 1930s and this has led to some controversy surrounding the marketing of the modern Blackwing which has emphasised the history of the original to help sell the modern, see the fantastic blog, Blackwingpages for an in depth discussion of his issue, the history of the original Blackwing and terrific images of early Blackwings.


Who used Blackwing pencils?

Warner Bros animator Chuck Jones using an original Blackwing

Warner Bros animator Chuck Jones using an original Blackwing

A number of famous creatives have been documented to have used the original Faber Blackwing 602, these include the composer Steven Sondheim, animators Ollie Johnston and Chuck Jones, authors Vladimir Nabokov and John Steinbeck and music producer Quincy Jones.

Today the modern Blackwings are used again by creatives and anyone who appreciates a good pencil.

Where are Blackwing pencils made?

How Blackwing pencils are made

There are three core components to a Blackwing pencil - the lead, the wood and the eraser.

Using only Genuine Incense-cedar wood from California and Oregon, this is shipped to Japan where skilled woodworkers cut it into blocks and then slats and finally a groove is made to which the graphite is inserted. The Graphite is crafted in Japan with clay for strength and wax for smoothness. Both the signature rectangular erasers and ferrules are made in Vietnam by skilled craftspeople.

What's the difference between the Blackwings?

Core Blackwing pencils

Blackwing Pencils come in four key variants, each designed to fulfill a particular need, such as soft, smooth pencils for drawing or those with firmer leads for quick writing and precise architectural sketching. 

There is a core collection consisting of the Matte, Natural, Pearl and 602 pencils which are constantly available  and special limited editions or volumes which are released every three months.  The volumes use one of the core lead variants but feature a unique design which celebrates cultural icons and movements.

Blackwing Vol 7

Blackwing Vol 7 pencils - a tribute to animation

Below, we will look at each of the core collection Blackwing Pencils and explain what is the difference between them.

Blackwing Matte


Blackwing Matte 

The Blackwing Matte boasts a soft, dark lead that is perfect for drawing or sketching, its is closest to a 4B lead. It smudges and blends well, and produces rich, dark tones. We would recommend the Matte pencil to illustrators, fine artists, animators and anyone who loves to draw. It is also suitable for scoring sheet music, or for woodworkers/carpenters who require soft, dark lines for their projects.


Blackwing Pearl:

Blackwing Pearl pencil


The Pearl has a ‘balanced’ graphite lead, similar in nature to a 2B pencil. Like the Matte, it is a delight to draw with. The balanced lead means that you get the experience of sketching with a soft lead, while also benefiting from it staying sharper for longer so you can draw crisp lines.We would recommend it to calligraphers, musicians, illustrators and animators. It is also perfect for writing, handling homework, essays or letters with ease. 


Blackwing Natural:

 Blackwing Natural Pencil

Sporting extra-firm graphite with an exposed Incense-cedar body, closest to an HB or H lead, the Natural is described by Blackwing as a ‘fan favourite’, handling both sketching and writing with ease. Even with it’s ‘firm’ description, it writes with an effortless smoothness, while maintaining its sharp point. We would recommend this to anyone who loves to write with pencil, especially for schoolwork or journaling. It would also be great for people who prefer more technical drawing, or for light sketches under paintings.


Blackwing 602:

 Blackwing 602 pencil

With a firm lead, closes to an HB, the 602 is perfect for precise, architectural or technological drawings. It has the best point retention too, meaning it will stay sharp between sharpenings. For this reason, it’s also great for note taking, letter writing or journaling. The extra-firm lead is ideal for very detailed sketches; we would recommend it for architects, engineers (anyone who works with schematics of plans!), artists and avid writers alike.


Hopefully we have answered some of you Blackwing questions, if there's anything else you's like to know please drop us an email, we always love to chat stationery! You are also very welcome to call into our Belfast store and try our any of the Blackwings we have on offer.

Click here to see our full range of Blackwing products


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