Palomino Blackwing Pencils and Sharpener

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Next up in my leaving work goody bag is a lovely box of Palomino Blackwing pencils and a long point sharpener. As the box came with twelve pencils, I would like to give one (plus some other goodies) to a lucky reader. Keep on reading to find out how you could win.

Believe it or not, but the Blackwing is a controversial pencil. From 1934 to 1998, the Eberhard Faber Company manufactured the Blackwing. When these pencils were introduced, long before ballpoint and other cheap pens were available, pencils were in their heyday. They were used daily by professionals such as draftsmen, engineers, and journalists, as well as students, so people noticed quality and found it in the Blackwing. They were known to write smoothly and keep their point. Their attractive hexagonal design with the clamp-like ferrule and matte black paint probably added to their appeal. Author John Steinbeck, animator Chuck Jones, composer Stephen Sondheim, and jazz musicians Duke Ellington and Wynton Marsalis are just a few of the well-known users of the original Blackwing pencils. So when the California Cedar Products Company acquired the Blackwing trademark and began manufacturing pencils modeled after the originals in 2010, some pencil aficionados that had stockpiled supplies of the originals cried foul. This kind of controversy is not unheard of in the stationery world. For example, moleskine notebooks were originally not a brand-name but a kind of traditional oilcloth binding for notebooks. This type of notebook was also very popular with famous artists and authors but couldn’t compete with cheaper, mass-produced notebooks. A company called Modo & Modo began producing Moleskine branded notebooks in 1997 but advertised them as if they were the same as those used by the greats. Of course, stationery products are not the only ones to try to capitalize on nostalgia. The Indian motorcycle brand is another one where a new company has branded their product with an old name.

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I don’t have an original Blackwing to compare with so I am just judging it on how it works for me. This pencil does write smoothly however the large metal ferrule and eraser made it a bit top heavy, especially when I tried writing with it for a few pages in my journal. The pencil is longer than average (20 cm, including the eraser) so maybe as it gets shorter, and pencils always do, it will feel more balanced. The eraser did a fairly good job of erasing but I found the black crumb residue a bit messy. I think a regular white vinyl eraser would do a better and neater job. Interestingly, you can get replacement erasers in a variety of colours for the pencil if you use up pencil erasers faster than the pencil.

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Along with the pencils, I got a special Palomino-KUM long point pencil sharpener. This pencil sharpener has two holes, not for different sizes of pencils, but to maximize the point. The first hole sharpens the wood and the smaller hole sharpens the graphite.

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It came with two small replacement blades tucked into the end for when the blades become dulled. I like the opportunity to extend the life of the sharpener.

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If this pencil was a person, it would be a celebrity, complete with idiosyncrasies and a fan club. Taller than average, they always wear black with some bling so you never mistake them for someone just as competent but with less fame.

Now for the prize. Personally, I love giveaways so I am offering one of my own. As well as a Palomino Blackwing pencil, I am giving away an assortment sample papers to try it out on including some Rhodia and Canson papers, Kyougi, Japanese stationery, and a penguin paperclip. To win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog before June 10. I will make a draw and contact the winner to get your address. Good luck!

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Midori Soft Pen Case

20180508_caseAnother of the items I was recently given by colleagues was a light blue Midori soft pen case. Midori is a great Japanese stationery company whose products combine fun with practicality. I have discussed Midori penguin paper clips and the Midori Mini Cleaner before. This two-part pen case is made of nice soft silicone rubber that is slightly translucent with this message written on it in white “Soft case – The case with a soft feeling. Please use in any way you like.” Like many of the messages on Asian stationery, it has a slightly odd but endearing sound to it.

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The pen case is fairly small – 176 cm (6.5″) long, 43 cm (1.4″) wide, and 22 mm (.75″) deep. This small size, and its light weight, makes it good for taking on-the-go, but not to store much in it. I found I could put in about five or six pens but there are many things that do not fit in it at all, such as full-sized pencils. No doubt this is why it is called a pen case, not a pencil case. I found that the top stays on nicely even though there is no fastener. I expect that it should last for a long time as silicone rubber has a great reputation for being stable, even in extreme temperatures.

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If this pen case were a person, they would be short and softly rounded but don’t call them flabby. This person loves to travel in minimalist fashion so no checked-in luggage for this passenger!

Papelote

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When I recently resigned from my job, my colleagues thoughtfully gave me a going away present of a variety of stationery items, many of which I was not familiar. One company new to me was Papelote. Papelote is a Czech stationery company with a focus on environmentally conscious design. The Czech Republic has a long history of pencil making, in particular Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth, and I’ve even had some very nice Avon eyeliner pencils that were made there. Perhaps it is not surprising then that the founders of this company wanted to, in their lofty words “revive the forgotten beauty of stationery and paper itself and to point out its role in our history, culture and in the present” (www.papelote.eu/pages/pribeh-papelote/).

20180508_papelote1The Papelote products I have are the pencil crayons and the pen holder/notebook strap. I’ll start with the pencil crayons. There are only five colours available, pink, yellow, green, blue, and purple. They are aesthetically very pleasing with exposed linden wood at the pointy end and half-dipped in the colour of the lead at the bottom. At the end of each pencil is a symbol to represent the colour; a heart for pink, an asterisk type sun for yellow, an arrow (go or grow?) for green, rain drops for blue, and a wiggly wave-length for purple. The colours are all pastel and student grade rather than artist grade. So, design-wise, I give them top marks but functionally not as high. They came with no packaging so they get bonus points for that.

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The pen holder/notebook strap is a simple blue elastic band that fits the pencil crayons perfectly, snug but still easy to put the pencils in and out. The strap is designed to fit a A5 notebook (21.0 cm x 14.8 cm or 5 ½ inches x 8 inches), so it is a little tight for my Hebdo planner but is just right for the Stalogy notebook I was also given (stay tuned for a future blog). With this product, Papelote again stays true to their environmentally conscious ethic by keeping the packaging to a minimum. It will be interesting to see over time how the elastic holds up.

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If Papelote products were people, they would be young and stylish with an idealistic bent but have not yet been tested by rigours of life.

Sheaffer Calligraphy Pens

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A long time ago I was given a red Sheaffer calligraphy pen. I can’t remember if I asked my parents for it or if I was surprised but I suppose it started my interest in calligraphy. Later, I found a whole Sheaffer “No-Nonsense” calligraphy kit at a garage sale. The kit contained a pen with three nibs, ink cartridges, a practice pad, and an instructional booklet.

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The side of the box says Sheaffer Eaton, Division of Textron Canada Limited, Goderich, Ontario so that dates it from some time after 1976 and before 1997. The instruction booklet is copyrighted 1982 which narrows down its age even more. Sheaffer began as an American company founded in 1913 in Iowa by Mr. Walter A. Sheaffer, a jeweler who invented a pen filling system. His initiative paid off and Sheaffer became a well-know name in pens.

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Like so many pen companies, the Sheaffer Pen Corporation has been bought and sold a few times. In 1966 it was bought by Textron (at that time they owned a such odd collection of companies the Wall Street Journal in 1967 called Textron “the conglomerate king”). They then merged Sheaffer with Eaton but later Textron sold it to focus on what appears to be mainly military gear. BIC bought Sheaffer in 1997 and then in 2014 it was sold again, this time to the A.T. Cross Company.

I have experimented with these pens over the years but not with enough discipline to become really good. The pens use ink cartridges rather than an ink filling system. Although the ink cartridges are not really fun to use, they are easy and mess-free.

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The red pen came with a medium stainless-steel nib but the kit has fine, medium, and broad nibs, marked F, M, and B. Because these are italic nibs for calligraphy, they are wider than standard fountain pen nibs. The nibs puncture the ink cartridge when they are inserted so once you start a cartridge you have to stick with it. This is where having more than one pen comes in handy as the ink cartridges come in a variety of colours but once a cartridge is puncture you have to stick with it. It seems the cartridges have not changed much over the years because I have never had any problem finding replacements.

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I wrote “bold” but it is the broad nib. 

If Sheaffer calligraphy pens were people they wouldn’t be particularly sophisticated but they would be helpful and accommodating.