Signs of the Times

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Jurassic Blackwings

Jurassic2Images ©Universal Pictures, 1993.

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The pencils in the last photo must have been Blackwing stunt-doubles: I mean, to put actual 602s at such risk…

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Arrows.

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Another example of an “early” Eberhard Faber Blackwing with an arrow cut from the ferrule, a reminder that the eraser is adjustable and can be pulled out. There is also a gold version with a painted black band.

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One wonders how many ferrules were made during each production run, and to what extent design decisions were driven by cost (there were at least a dozen or more variations). To that end, how much did the cut-out arrow add to production time and expense?

The Blackwing Is Ready For Its Close-up

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Today I spent the afternoon with William Allen, who is finishing-up a documentary he is making about the pencil. You can see a trailer for it here, and its Kickstarter page with updates here.

We discussed the history of the Blackwing, the seeming mystique surrounding it, and what the future may hold for pencils in general. In addition to the filming, many photos were taken of Blackwing pencils as well as some other vintage Eberhard Faber items I brought along.

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William hopes to have the documentary finished by this winter. For updates, follow the Kickstarter page or try his Facebook page.

Thanks to William for having me along, and be on the lookout for a screening of “No. 2: Story of the Pencil” at a film festival near you this winter.

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Famous Blackwing Users: Eberhard Faber

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Of all the people associated with the genuine Blackwing 602, one name rises to the top of the list: Eberhard Faber. I recently had the privilege of paying Mr. Faber a visit at his home in Pennsylvania, and while there were very few pencils on the shelves, there were three 1/2 gross boxes of Blackwings.

We spoke a great deal on the phone and in person about the origin of this pencil, and to what degree it was directly advertised by the company:

“The original Blackwing was introduced in 1934. The lead was a formula that my father developed [Eberhard L. Faber, 1893-1945]. He was a chemist, and in fact he developed most of our lead formulations at the time. The Blackwing, I think, was the first wax-impregnated lead, which is one of the things that gave it its smoothness. It was popular among people who did crossword puzzles because it wrote well on newsprint.”

I was curious to learn how the company viewed this pencil, because compared with the campaigns for the MongolVan Dyke, and the Microtomic I have come across comparatively little in terms of advertising:

“There was an advertising campaign in the New Yorker Magazine [1965], and my mother was responsible for that—she was at that time in charge of public relations. That [ad] reawakened a certain amount of interest in the Blackwing, but it always had its fans, who would not use anything else.”

I learned more in an afternoon than the past several years of research. Now, the work begins to write it all down and fill-in the rest of the story.

Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Faber for their hospitality and generosity.

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Blackwing by Eberhard Faber

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