California Republic Stationers recently added a new version of the Blackwing pencil to their line. Called PEARL, it is a pencil in the style of the famous and, alas, long gone, Eberhard Faber BLACKWING 602.
This new pencil joins the Palomino Blackwing and the Palomino Blackwing 602. Their advertising says the PEARL falls between the previous two in degree of hardness (or softness, take your pick.)
Being a reasonably obsessed pencil fan, I ordered a box as soon as they were available. Wish I hadn’t.
Not that the PEARL isn’t a nice pencil. It’s an okay pencil and as aficionados of the original BLACKWING 602 are inclined, okay it not enough.
I did the requisite tests comparing the PEARL to the other two Palominos as well as the Palomino HB (which is a lovely forgotten option in the race to clone the BLACKWING,) a BLACK VELVET and two versions of the original BLACKWING 602 (2 and 5.)
Tossing aside the notion of exactly how many times should this particular hair be split, we are definitely in the Goldilocks realm now.
1st came the Palomino BLACKWING which Net reviews said was TOO SOFT. My opinion, this one lays down a beautiful dark line. Carry a sharpener, soft’s not a problem. Although I noted at the time SOFT is not a quality of SMOOTH, so though nice, this pencil did not compare to the original.
Next came the Palomino BLACKWING 602. Reviews were mixed, but to my hand this is as close as one can get to the original. And that, my friends, is saying something. This pencil is not TOO SOFT. It is not TOO HARD and remarkably it is very smooth. Almost as smooth as an original EF BLACKWING 602. So close I would say, don’t pay $40+ on eBay for an original. Get 12 of these for about $20 and be happy.
And now we have the PEARL falling somewhere between the two, neither TOO SOFT or whatever. I noticed a little crumbling but the biggest difference was, this pencil is not as smooth.
I was surprised. I changed to a better paper – from a nasty old yellow legal pad to some nice Rhodia and got a little better result, but so what.
Do we need a middling middle grade?
Yes, it’s pretty. The white lacquer stands out. The BLACKWING style looks cool. As a reasonably obsessed pencil person, I'd say, this is one too many, close but no cigar.