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Dear Readers,

If this is your first visit here, please be sure to visit this page. It is a summary of the contents of this blog; an essay called “No Ordinary Pencil.”

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

Collections (3)

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This collection belongs to Andy Welfle. Andy writes:

I don’t smoke cigars, but I love cigar boxes. At one point years ago, my mother gave me this gorgeous matte black Frank Sinatra-branded cigar box, and when I started to learn about Blackwings, I realized it was the perfect container for them.

Over the years, my loose supply of Blackwings have dwindled a bit, either through usage or trade. I have three unsharpened pencils (two EF and one F-C) and one sharpened one. I also have this Hackwing that Sean made out of a Palomino HB, years before they ventured into Blackwing territory themselves, and a decade or more before the idea of “hackwinging” took off (Check out a friend of mine on Instagram with the handle @hack_wings).

Also of note is my boxed dozen of Boston Athenaeum Blackwings. I have whipped those out a few times to show people or to post in our Facebook pencil community, but other than that, I haven’t had the guts to sharpen one up and break up the dozen.

Thanks to Andy for sharing his collection with us. And if anyone else would like to share a photo of their Eberhard Faber Blackwings—from a single stub to a brag-worthy collection—get in touch at blackwingpages {at} gmail.com

Collections (2)

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Watts

This collection comes from Stephen Watts. Stephen writes:

Over the last five years I’ve bought and sold a number of individual Blackwings and boxes and have obtained versions of all the box types I’ve seen. My collection of the various Blackwing versions continues. I discount references to a definitive number of versions because it all depends on how you differentiate. In my accompanying photo, I have 18 of what I consider to be independent versions of the Blackwing 602. I’m counting, for example, misprinted Boston Athenaeum and different length “no ferrule” pencils as different types.

I do have the only metal-capped red tip Blackwing I’ve seen. Exactly why and how it came to be likely will remain a mystery.

My most interesting acquisition was two boxes of “Steven Spielberg Blackwings” purchased from a seller in the United Kingdom. He didn’t say anything about the story behind the boxes until I had already made the purchase. Only then, almost in passing, did he mention that Steven Spielberg had given him the pencils in 1991. I had to go back and forth over e-mail a couple of times to get the rest of the story. The seller had been an artist at Spielberg’s Amblimation studio in London. On one of his visits, Spielberg brought boxes of Blackwings and handed them out to the artists, telling them these pencils were the “crème de la crème.”

I remained skeptical until I did more research on my own and discovered the timing, place, and seller’s name all matched up. Steven Spielberg imported Blackwing 602s which he then personally handed out to his artists at Amblimation studio in London. Nearly thirty years later I’d acquired two of the boxes before I was aware of the backstory.

I only have one arrow-stamped ferrule and it’s on a sharpened pencil. I’m on the hunt for an unsharpened example and I know there are some out there with black arrow-stamped ferrules. I occasionally find them for sale but the prices have gone through the roof. The hunt continues . . .

Thanks to Stephen for sharing his collection with us.

Collections (1)

Photo courtesy of Michael Leddy

Many of you likely know Michael Leddy from his blog Orange Crate Art. His photo features a Blackwing box from the lesser-seen Faber-Castell era. He writes:

More a stash than a collection, it’s a box of Blackwings I bought when any office-supplies store with the right catalogue could order them. I have a few stubs as well.

Something I never noticed before taking this photograph: the gap between “Woodclinched” and “Blackwing.” Perhaps the photo first showed the Eberhard Faber name, later scratched out for Faber Castell.

Thanks to Michael for sharing his stash with us.

Blackwing Collections

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Part of my original aspirations for this blog was to create a kind of repository for the history of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing, including stories, photos, and anecdotes that readers would be willing to share. Though many readers have reached out through e-mail over the years (thank you for the media sightings!) there hasn’t been much in the way of readers’ own collections.

Consider this an invitation to share some photos of your Blackwing “nests” if you’d like—no matter how many or how few you might have (even if it’s just one pencil!). Based on the questions I usually receive, there are many people who would be interested in how long you’ve been using and/or collecting Eberhard Faber Blackwing pencils.

As far as privacy is concerned I’d be happy to post things anonymously, or include whatever details you’d like; it’s up to you. You can get in touch using the following address: blackwingpages [at] gmail.com.

Black Beauty

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Black ferrule, notched, with gold band. Red Ruby eraser.

“Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed”

Judy Green Music, Hollywood

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The first Judy Green Music catalog.

Judy Green Music was a mainstay in the music paper industry for decades. Based in central Hollywood, Judy Green supplied composers, arrangers, and students with high-quality manuscript paper, pens, pencils, and much more.

Judy Green began working as a copyist in the 1960s, and by 1980 she opened her own concern on Cahuenga Boulevard.

1634 Cahuenga Blvd., former location of Judy Green Music (January, 2020).

In addition to myriad formats of music manuscript paper, either on slick ivory paper or vellum, the company offered ink, writing instruments, reference books, standard contract forms, binding, and xerox services.

There is a robust selection of fountain pens in the catalog: Pelikan, Schaffer, and Rapidograph are well-represented.

Judy Green also offered her own music writer pencil. It is a descendent of the Alpheus Music Writer, which I’ve written about here. But also in the catalog is the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602:

It’s interesting to note that there is an “IBM Soft Lead Pencil” on offer as well, which presumably means the IBM Electrographic.

Sadly, Judy Green passed away in 2007. Her legacy carries on however, through AllPrintUSA, from whom you can still order music paper and JG Music Writer pencils.