Thank You.

Dear Readers,

If this is your first visit here, please be sure to visit this page, which is the summary of my research about the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602.

Not long after I started this blog, California Cedar’s first Palomino Blackwing* began making its way into the world, and I was excited like a lot of people and very supportive: I gave them some early photos of mine for free, which were used for some international PR, and loaned them some items to be photographed for their website. However, that initial excitement dwindled into ambivalence after some early misrepresentations were uncovered, but the benefit of the doubt persisted. Though not long after, that ambivalence eventually turned into disappointment—I, as well as others in the pencil community, noticed that the advertising campaign for the Palomino Blackwing was at times wildly inaccurate (if not purposely suggestive), and my site and its contents were in some ways becoming an involuntary partner to that enterprise. I finally began posting about these things along with other blogs in order to bring attention to what was going on. My intention was, and remains, to document as accurately as possible the interesting true story of the Blackwing, and to that end it was hard to understand the choices that CalCedar kept making.

For better or for worse it seems that this blog happens to be the only one of its kind vis-à-vis the history of the Blackwing 602 pencil. The blog itself is about two years old, but it represents about four years of work and countless hours spent researching, photographing, collecting, trading, and writing—all done just for doing’s sake; a labor of love. But because this blog has content unique to the Internet, it means that it gets the attention of those who would like to use that content. Most have done so rather innocently (personal blogs, sharing photos, etc.) which is fine by me, and some have been responsible enough to send queries or notifications, but others—including some for-profit companies—have been less honorable and have infringed upon my copyrighted work. But my complaint isn’t simply about scholarship and attribution, and it’s not at all about money. Rather it’s a combination of the appropriated work, plus how it has at times been folded into California Cedar’s questionable PR campaign, which in turn has distorted the Blackwing’s story, that has spoiled things (see this page for details). Everyone wants to be recognized for their work, but this is less about my wanting credit than it is about me wishing they would just do their own work and leave mine alone—just like how you’d want the person sitting next to you to stop copying from your test paper.

Knowing that a company—one with vast financial resources—was watching my every post (the CEO of the company has subscribed to this blog) slowly began draining my enthusiasm: it’s difficult to explain just what it’s like to work hard for each new and unique Blackwing-related “find” and to put the work into posting about it, only to realize it’s likely just to be taken or copied in some way (and sometimes even inaccurately to boot). And it puts me in a unique position: as a consumer, I share the opinion of those who think CalCedar’s marketing has been inaccurate and questionable at times, but I have no control over that. The best I can do for the Blackwing is to publish my own work and let people decide for themselves. But, when on top of everything else it’s my own work that is being copied—especially when it’s coming from a company that claims to be continuing the “legacy” of the Blackwing—that’s a bridge too far. My interest remains unabated, but I don’t want to continue this blog if it means being a source of reference for CalCedar’s designs—the Blackwing, and the work I’ve put into documenting it, mean too much to me.

 

I want to say how grateful I am to everyone who has visited here, supported this site, and contributed to the conversation. It’s remarkable how this immeasurably obscure thing—a pencil—could bring together so many kind and like-minded people from all over the world. I’ve enjoyed hearing from you and more importantly, learning from you.

I’m going to leave the site up and the comments open, and I will be cleaning-up and updating older posts as well as continue to edit and expand the “No Ordinary Pencil” essay, but I do not plan on posting any new Blackwing content. There’s always a chance there might be a new post, but if there is it will likely be about current events. I would have preferred to keep sharing my ongoing research about the Blackwing 602, to say the very least, but not everyone is playing fair—I hope you understand.

For anyone who thinks this is about pencils, it’s not—they’re just pencils. It’s about caring for something very deeply.

Thanks for all of your support, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.

All the Best,
Sean

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21 Responses to Thank You.

  1. Sean, your site is a model of care, and more care, and still more care — every photograph, every bit of writing. Your attention to the history of this one small and beautiful part of modern material culture is an reminder to look with care upon all things and take no piece of design, no tool for granted.

  2. jankdc says:

    I just want to say thanks for doing this. I’ve really enjoyed it.

    I am also glad that you are keeping the website up, it will be a resource for Blackwing lovers in the years to come. Before this blog, there was another that I believe that you did on pencils and composing. I miss it.

    These last posts have felt like salt in a wound that is the utter failure of the California Cedar blackwing experiment. I was so hopeful when I heard that they were going to bring back the Blackwings because the Palomino 2b were some of my favorite pencils (I initially thought that they had bought the copyright and aquired the formula). I was part of their “pre-release” group that worked hard to give them encouraging feedback in the hopes that they would release something really good. I was really dissapointed that their pre-release pencil was actually a post release. The first version is too soft and is unusable as a writing pencil. Again I got excited when they relesed their second version (the so-called 602), but they screwed up and went too far in the other direction, using a HB lead (they could have done better with a mediocre release of the Palomino 2b lead inside their “602”).

    The truth is, I could have forgiven them for their misrepresentation on what they were bringing back, their mismanagment of the “pre-production” release, and their stupid marketing ploys if only they came up with a really great pencil. Instead, we have a mockery of something special. Their coporate culture that produced these marketing blunders is the same corporate culture that took shortcuts in trying to bring back a legend.

    As it is, they turned a loyal and passionate customer into one who will probably never buy another of their products again. I have a bunch of California Cedar pencils, including the Palomino 2b’s that I use to love. Now if I want to use a modern pencil, I get much more pleasure from picking up a Hex (HB) or Unigraph 2b from Musgrave: Honest pencils that aren’t trying to be something that they are not.

  3. Kevin says:

    Sean, thank you sincerley for this blog. Your attention to detail through meticulous research, means this blog will always be treated with reverence by people who believe such things matter. Apart from the Blackwing, your posts provided an insight into the world of vintage American pencils, which to me, with no strong history in Australia, I have found to be truly remarkable and has taken me away from my necessitated Staedtler and Faber-Castell bias. Your recent posts I found disturbing and can understand your depth of feeling from being diverted from the main reasons for this blog. I wish you well.

  4. Kevin says:

    …and I mourn my wallet after your donated vintage and modern specimens spurred me on all the more.

  5. Sean says:

    Thanks, guys. It’s very much appreciated. :)

  6. Gunther says:

    Sean, thank you very, very much for your effort with your blog! The care for detail, the careful research and the excellent presentation are impressive – your blog is a work of art.

  7. Sean

    Many thanks for your hard work maintaining your blog. I am sorry you have taken the decision to stop updating it, but understand why,

  8. I just stumbled upon this site while researching the Dixon TruColor Film Marker 2225. Year ago, I blundered across a box at an office supply store. I’ve been enjoying them ever since, and I’m almost out, so today I went to buy some more online. The are DISCOUNTINUED. Oh, the pain!

    I appreciate what you’ve created with this site. Gorgeous photos. If I ever have the luck of using a real Blackwing, I’ll be all the more appreciative having read your work!

  9. fisk says:

    Please count me among those who appreciate your time and effort in assembling the blackwingpages..
    Beautifully executed.

  10. Great work and effort Sean. Really appreciate it when people put time in things most people wouldn’t even consider to study, like pencils :)

  11. carolkraa says:

    Hi Sean. I’m based in Singapore and am starting a pencil blog (Pencil Pals on WordPress) and love the Blackwings. I need a couple of free photos of these original pencils and wondered if you could help. May I also link to your site when I mention the Blackwings. As for the new Palomino Blackwings 602, are they made in Japan? Cheers.

  12. Jacques says:

    Sean, as you say, it is your love of your subject which will endure long after the graphite of the last Blackwing (evil day!) is ground into dust. I do hope you will gift us with this monument of care in perpetuity.

    And please Sean, bring back your other blog on pencils and music, I miss it greatly!

  13. This site is beautiful and engaging. I’m just beginning to explore it. Wow!

    I keep pencils in my pocket and have a few metal tip protectors, but the one pictured on the 602 in this post is the most elegant I’ve ever seen. Does anyone know where it comes from?

  14. Tex says:

    Sean,

    I’ve been drawing according to my mother’s history since I was 2 years old. I’m now 48 years old. She always said she couldn’t understand how I knew how to draw (obviously not good) before I could ever write or speak in complete sentences. All I know is this … I am not special because I draw, and in turn that admission and belief is what actually does make me special. I hope that makes sense in some very strange way. Drawing is an honor to me personally, I treat it as the gift it is, and I don’t take it for granted. I don’t tell the world I can draw very often. I think it would be hard to explain this way of thinking to people and have them really get what I’m saying. But I’ve found others who are just like me and they do get it.

    I’ve encountered people who openly tell others of their abilities, and more often than not they possess the gift of illusion in the way they portray themselves. Almost as if they say “I’m an artist” enough, they believe it will become a reality. But that’s like me saying “I’m a pilot” just because I’m a passenger on an airplane. Now you might ask “Why am I saying all of this to you?” Well it’s because of reading this blog. Simply feeling something, because I feel the passion you feel for this pencil that changed the landscape of animation.

    By sheer dumb luck I found your blog, and reading this one post was like magic. It spoke to me. The passion you display for the subject matter is undeniable. I want you to know that your words mean something special, and I plan on reading every single post. What I appreciate the most is that you are the keeper of a memory, a historian who not only knows his subject matter … But feels a responsibility to keep a wonderful memory alive. A pencil will never be a person, but like people, nothing really dies if it is thought about and talked about. The memory of this pencil, that touched people from all walks of life with its usage in the animation of our youth, will not be forgotten. It created memories and laughs that we all still carry today. That memory is kept alive by you. What a great thing you’ve done to make sure it’s importance is remembered.

    Many people who watch animation will never think of the people who sat for hours on end, honing their craft. That’s what makes animation so magical. It looks effortless and allows for the fantasy world to come to life. Maybe that’s what is so fitting about it. That the unsung hero who did sit in that room creating the magic, is not thought about whenever a person is captivated by what they are watching on the screen. It’s that anonymity that bolsters my belief that drawing, in a way, is like religion. That it is extremely personal in nature. That the person who possesses the ability to draw, is happiest when they can just do what they love to do, and not search for the spotlight in the process.

    Sadly, I found this blog after you had decided to step away. I do understand why. But my hope is that you don’t stop telling this important story. That you see the people who take your words and twist them for their own personal gain, as a very small hiccup. I’m a believer that karma is a real thing. I will not wish for bad things to happen to anyone. That’s not what I’m saying. But I do believe this simple thing. Decisions we make, will eventually catch up to us, and the universe will balance things out in the very end. We can’t control what others do, but we can control what we do. We can continue to walk through our personal journey doing what we are meant to do. All the while holding our head high because we know we are doing it the right way. That’s how I see you, based on this one blog post. You were meant to tell this story, and that story is far from over.

    Regardless of what you choose to do, I typed all of this to pay tribute to what you are doing. To let you know that it has touched, at the very least, one life. My life. Thank you for that, and I wish you nothing but the best, as you decide where to go from here.

    Sincerely,
    Tex

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