about:drewcsillag

Musings of a programmer, musician, photographer, and Christian.

How I Wound Up Using Blackwing 602s

Pens and Pencils

While I’ve had my organizer figured out for over four years (see here for the full series), I had struggled with the choice of writing utensil.

I realize this is more of a connoisseur kind of thing, as strictly speaking, my choices are wide, so if you’re not into stationery, you can basically ignore the rest of this post.

I started with the classic Bic Stick pen. While it has the advantage of being cheap and pretty bulletproof (at least for me), it’s not that smooth of a writer. I tried a fountain pen for a while, a Lamy Safari, which it’s a smooth writer, it suffers in that it doesn’t write well on the small sticky notes I use, and it hardly works at all on my Rite in the Rain pocket journals I use. The paper dust, which I presume is from the sticky notes, clogs the tip pretty quickly. I tried various roller ball pens (including the G2), but they smear easily, blot, and skip (probably because of the paper dust), and while they write better than the fountain pen in the RitR journals, that’s not saying a ton. The best was probably the Uniball Jetstream… until it would start skipping.

So I gave up on pens and decided to try mechanical pencils. I find that the standard 0.7mm lead is too thin, and I break them a lot, or punch through the paper if my writing setup isn’t just so. There are pencils with 0.9mm leads, but they’re really limited as to choice. I got a few autopoints and by and large, they’re pretty good, but the erasers aren’t wonderful. The twist to extend the lead, and that the lead doesn’t retract when you twist it the other way made for it being a good second pencil, but not my primary. I tried the other 0.9mm mechanical I could find, and it’s ok, but it’s fat and the weighting is off.

Finally, I tried wood pencils. Most are just crap. My wife has always sworn by Ticonderoga pencils, and I see why. Compared to most other #2 pencils, they’re quite good, and inexpensive to boot. I probably would have just stuck with these, except for a Christmas gift my daughter got.

For Christmas 2016, she got a box of Palomino Blackwing 602s. I had heard of their somewhat legendary status, so I asked if I could try one, and she gave me one from the box. I now see why they’re a big deal. They’re exceptionally smooth, and sharpen well. I’ve never broken the point. They do need to be sharpened a bit more often during heavy use, but I’m ok with that. The erasers are just plain amazing. They’re longer than a regular pencil, and a bit heavier. I would not recommend using an electric sharpener, not just because I want to conserve the pencils, but the regular twist sharpeners (I use a prismacolor sharpener) make for a shorter point, which I prefer. So when the point gets dull, I usually just give it two or three turns in the sharpener, and I’m all set.

So now I have my own box of Blackwings, and a coworker gave me some special edition Blackwing 73s. I put on some pencil clips so they will stay in my organizer. While $1.90 a piece for a pencil is a bit much, since the Ticonderogas are less than a tenth that price, but having had to go back to the Ticonderogas from time to time, there’s really no comparison. That’s not to spit on the Ticonderogas, they’re good for the price, but compared to the Blackwing, the Ticonderogas seem really scratchy.

In any case, if you want to ruin yourself on cheap pencils, pamper yourself and splurge on a box.

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