So, I read a lot of stories about the best pencil in the world: the Blackwing 602. Unfortunately this pencil is out of production. It was offered by Eberhard Faber until 1998, but disappeared after that, only to become one of the most sought after pencils in the world. In 2008 a company from California, namely Palomino took up the challenge (in buying the rights) to reintroduce this legendary pencil. So I recently found an UK supplier that ships them to Central Europe and ordered a set of 12.
First thing to notice is that the pencil is in fact thought as a writing pencil, but my review looks on it from an artists point of view.
The pencil is gorgeous! The dark grey metallic finish, the golden imprint and eraser holder and, yes, the fantastic rectangular eraser himself. It’s a rather light pencil, with a bit of overweight on the top, due to the eraser holder and eraser, its noticeable, but gives the pencil a weighted, precious feel that does not interfere with handling it. It has the classic hexagonal cut that one is used to from other pencils although the angles feel much more rounded than on other models.
It’s a wooden pencil, with real wood, that smells like pencils should smell, unlike those new-ish ones with the compressed wood-dust shafts. But now I’ll get into the core of every pencil: the graphite. And this is where this pencil is outstanding. Imagine a greasy pencil, like lets say a 4B, that feels like a 2H pencil… yes, it is kinda weird. I mean I used a lot of pencils in my career as an artist, from almost any manufacturer you can find in Europe, but I never ever experienced something like this. The first drawings will be difficult as you have to adapt to that new feeling. You have to work lightly at first, sketching out what you’d like to draw. And here you’ll already see that even with very light pressure, there’s a nice steady stroke appearing, putting slightly more pressure creates big differences. So the Blackwing 602 has quite a “learning curve” or “getting-used-to curve” to it, but which is ultimately very rewarding, as you have almost 6 different pencils in one.
The secret lies in the amount of graphite that this pencils sports. It is tremendous. But it does this in not being soft like a 4B, but firm like a 2H. It really creates some awesome dark lines, really useful for big contrasts. It produces a really dark, almost black shade of grey, unlike other pencils that are really grey and even the greasiest of them will still look grey, here it is the darkest graphite I’ve ever seem from a pencil.
So what do I think of this pencil, well I think all the above sounds already rather enthusiastic and that is how I feel about this pencil. It is not an easy one, but a very rewarding pencil. It demands a lot of control, and is unforgiving, although the attached eraser tries its best to get rid of the heap of graphite the pencil leaves on the paper. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the eraser. A really ingenious contraption: the eraser is held in place by some sort of U-formed metal piece. This allows you to pull it out as it is being used up and ultimately replace it. Although I’ve never used up an attached eraser before the pencil was useless.
So despite being an expensive pencil, I can only recommend it for drawing artists. But the slogan would have to be changed to: “Half the pressure, twice the contrast.”