Subtle Changes

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One of the most notable changes in the design of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing was when the company stopped painting the black band around the neck of the clamp eraser ferrule. They were still being painted after the company’s move to Wilkes-Barre in 1956/57 but I have yet to determine the exact year this change occurred. It seems that it can be narrowed-down to the same time of this packaging style, but it wasn’t only the black band that changed.

The boxes pictured above (older on top, newer on the bottom) are nearly identical: the main difference is the addition of the PMA logo in the lower-right. But that’s not all.

The older box closes by way of an elongated flap, whereas the newer box has a shorter flap that tucks into the top of the box:

The printing on the flaps themselves remained the same:

It was the older box, however, that was used for the banded pencils. The newer, PMS-stamped box, was for the non-banded pencils.

I’ve always thought that the loss of the black band had everything to do with cost, but it’s interesting that the PMA approval is found on the packaging used for the non-banded pencils — in other words, did the PMA approval force the issue?

I’m currently unfamiliar with what was needed to earn PMA approval back then but I’m beginning to wonder if there wasn’t something about the paint used by the Eberhard Faber Company for the black band that was a concern. Then, faced with having to research an alternative, the company decided to discontinue the practice altogether.

Apart from the black band the pencils are identical (to the eyes at least), and there was only a slight update to the functionality of the box. Rather than being the result of inspiration though, the changes are starting to seem more like an accommodation.

Laurie Spiegel’s Blackwing

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Timeliness and timelessness.

Photo by Laurie Spiegel (Click for her Instagram)

There are two reasons why I can’t help thinking of a rocket shooting past a star when I look at this photo. First, the obvious: the pencil and clamp ferrule kind of look like a rocket, and the flash (or reflected lamp) looks like a bright star.

The other reason? Because this Blackwing belongs to composer Laurie Spiegel, whose piece Harmonices Mundi (The Harmony of the World) is, at this very moment, on two Golden Records speeding toward interstellar space aboard Voyager I and Voyager II.

It might just be me, but there is something about this photograph that is unimaginably hopeful.

Thanks to Laurie for sharing this photo, and for all the other gifts she’s given us.

2018

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Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks to all of those who submitted sightings this year, shared stories, asked questions, or just came by to look around.

Dave Lambert

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Vocalist and composer Jon Hendricks passed away yesterday, aged ninety-six. This photo, from the obituary published by the Washington Post, shows Hendricks on the right along with vocalists Dave Lambert and Annie Ross:

©Getty Images

Tucked behind Lambert’s ear is what appears to be an Eberhard Faber Blackwing pencil. The recording session is attributed to the late 1950s.

Thanks to Michael from Orange Crate Art, who I think has spotted more Blackwings than anybody.

Hogan’s Blackwing

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©CBS

Say what you will about Bob Crane, just don’t forget to mention he was seen using an Eberhard Faber Blackwing.

Since the Blackwing first appeared in 1934, I suppose it’s technically possible one could have found its way to a prisoner-of-war camp in World War II Germany (the Eberhard Faber factory in Germany, however, did not manufacture the Blackwing 602). But I’m not so certain that the creators of Hogan’s Heroes were all that concerned with historical accuracy.

©CBS

The mid- to late-1960s, when this series was televised, was a significant era for the 602. The first and only national advertising campaign for the Blackwing, designed and implemented in 1965 by Julia Faber (the widow of Eberhard Faber III), appeared in several magazines including The New Yorker.

And since Hollywood was no stranger to the Eberhard Faber Blackwing, there are likely additional cameos waiting to be found in the TV shows and movies of the ’60s and ’70s.

Thanks to reader Dan for the tip!

Blackwing Scotoma (or What’s Holden Holdin’?)

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If the mind sees what it wants to see, it’s never so true as when you think you might have spotted someone using a Blackwing. The glint of a long gold ferrule; the brightly stamped graphite-grey barrel. But too often you see it only in profile and you can’t be quite certain. Take for example, this scene from Blade Runner.

Context plays an important role, e.g. a Blackwing appearing in a movie such as All The President’s Men makes perfect sense, but Blade Runner? Well, let us not forget their appearance in another film that was set in a dystopian future: Soylent Green.

So, what do you think? Is Holden holding an Eberhard Faber Blackwing, or is it just another part of the Voight-Kampff Test?