Ever since I first heard California Cedar Products had come out with a new version of the famed Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil, I've wanted to try some, just to say I did. And I finally broke down and bought a box.
At 19.99 a dozen, they are very pricey as pencils go, though less than comparable high-end Japanese brands: a dozen Tombow Mono 100s will set you back $28(!!). I'm scared to even try those! My Blackwings arrived at the end of last week, and I spent part of the weekend putting one through its paces and comparing to other pencils. ( I finished the rough draft of a short story--woot!)
I have to say, they are awful nice. Sooo smooth, and they manage to write a pretty dark line without needing a ton of sharpening, just as the reviews say, and without much pressure. There is something to be said for a pencil that requires almost as little pressure as a fountain pen. And because they're so smooth, they take longer to get to that draggy stage you eventually hit with a less-than-sharp pencil. Also, they're gorgeous: glossy, metallic charcoal grey, the distinctive gold ferrule and flat eraser, and with that famous (if a bit goofy) slogan down one side and the model name down the other in gold lettering. From what I've read, there was a certain amount of brouhaha over the choice of using a black eraser (the original had a pink eraser), but since I never used the original, I don't really have strong feelings either way. I think the pink eraser might be a cool-looking contrast, but the black eraser looks sharp and works well.
My problems with them are mostly just that--my problems. If I had unlimited funds, maybe I'd use nothing but Blackwings forever. But I don't. And they're twenty bucks a dozen. I can just about buy a gross of California Republic Golden Bears for the same price as a dozen Blackwings. Do I really like the Blackwings enough to justify that much of a price difference? I doubt it.
Also, I'm intimidated by them, partly because of their price, partly because of their beautiful glossy metallic finish. I've gotten accustomed to the lonnnnng points my Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener produces, but it does leave marks on the pencils. At first I just sharpened a Blackwing with the hand-held Kum wedge, but I missed the long point terribly, and finally broke down and used the big sharpener. It left marks, of course, which hurts. I spent a certain amount of time this weekend explaining to myself that pretty though they are, these pencils are tools, and I should feel OK with treating them as such, but...
Still, I'm glad I get to experience them!
And now I really, really need to not buy any more pencils. Like...ever. I came across an interesting acronym among yarn craft folks the other day: SABLE. It stands for "Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy." I have a fairly optimistic view of my own life expectancy, but...well...sometimes I veer dangerously close to SABLE status when it comes to paper and ink and pencils.