“I’m not in the employ of Eberhard Faber, but I regard it as duty to set down his devotion to the Blackwing.” ~ Joseph McElrath, from John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews

Vladimir Nabokov writing draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil getty image
Vladimir Nabokov writing a draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil
(Getty Image attributed to his wife Vera)

Writers are a funny bunch . . . I have always insisted on using Ticonderoga #1 pencils because of the softness of the lead. Believe me this desire has caused consternation for many an office manager.  Then there is my need to write on graph paper, usually four lines per inch; I even use a grid when working in Word, which has frustrated many people when I send them a document that still has the visible grid.

Oh well.

In fact, I’m down to my last box of #1 pencils, but my goal is to replace these yellow Ticonderogas with Blackwings . . . some day.


Blackwing 602 by ursonate fcc
Vintage Blackwing 602
by ursonate (FCC)

When Eberhard Faber discontinued production of the original Blackwing in 1998 because of production costs, original 602’s could be found on E Bay for as much as $50 per pencil. Devotion is a wicked mistress.

“Since the pencil’s introduction in the 1930s, the Blackwing has developed a cult following of artists, writers, and designers. Vladimir Nabokov preferred Blackwings for sketching out his novels on index cards, Truman Capote kept boxes of them on his nightstand, and John Steinbeck once declared the the pencil  ‘the best I have ever had.’ (He used some 300 of them to complete East of Eden.) The pencils have appeared on “Mad Men” and in the hands of the likes of Quincy Jones and Stephen Sondheim.”

~ Margaret Eby, An ode to the Blackwing 602, Vladimir Nabokov’s favorite pencil


From the Palomino website:

Palomino founder and CEO Charles Berolzheimer re-introduced the Blackwing pencil in 2011, both in its original form (the “602″) for devotees, writers and everyday users, as well as a modified version with a slightly softer lead for artists.

Some of the world’s most legendary Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer and Academy Award winners have created with Blackwing pencils. The list of known users includes John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Chuck Jones, who proudly used Blackwings to create Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters.

Its roots go back to the 1930’s when it was first introduced by Eberhard Faber. In 1998, after several corporate acquisitions, it was discontinued, but not forgotten. In fact, fans began paying as much as $40 on eBay for a single Blackwing pencil.