There really is something kind of romantic and beautiful about waiting for a box full of boxes of pencils to arrive at your doorstep, about to be sent off again to desks across the country.
These Volume 24 Blackwings are a special edition pencil created by Palomino to celebrate author John Steinbeck. As a former English lit student and teacher, I can get on board with these. Writers and their tools could make me swoon: Ernest Hemingway and his typewriter, Neil Gaiman and his TWSBI 580. John Steinbeck used pencils to write his novels, page after page.
John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, worked with Palomino to design this set of pencils to be his father’s perfect pencil.
The story goes that John Steinbeck would sharpen two dozen pencils before he began his day’s writing, and then after he had written to dull the point of all of them, he would sharpen them all again. It’s incredible to hear of these types of rituals that writers and artists and creative people go through before and during their work.
This new Steinbeck-inspired Blackwing is all-black and with a new extra hard graphite core for longer writing and point retention.
There’s something I love about sharpening pencils, the physical and tactile process of sharpening this wooden instrument in front of you. Steinbeck was really onto something about the ritual of preparing pencils before a writing job, although of course mine (doing a few scribbles and writing samples for the blog before going onto my aimless doodles) is a bit less mountain-moving.
The Palomino sharpener is also known as a “long-point” sharpener, and it gets this designation from having two sharpening holes to create a longer graphite tip. While Palomino prides itself on all of its Blackwings graphite cores being strong enough to write with this longer tip without breaking, the extra-firm lead of these new Volume 24s will keep pointier for even longer.
In case you need a refresher on the two-step sharpener: there are two holes, and you use both of them.
Step 1: Sharpen the wood.
The bottom hole (if you’re inserting your pencil on the right) has a numerical 1 beside it. You sharpen your pencil until it physically stops, and if you look closely, you’ll see the lead hit the back of the wall. This sharpens the wood.
Step 2: Sharpen the lead.
Insert your pencil into the top hole (labeled 2) and sharpen the lead.
It truly does get very pointy. Sometimes when I sharpen one for someone in the shop, the customer will comment on its weapon-ness.
However, where it really counts is how the pencil writes.
The standard matte black with gold writing Blackwing is the softest lead. The 602 silver was previously the firmest, and the Pearl is between the two.
Now this special edition Blackwing Volume 24 features extra hard lead, slightly harder than the 602, which enables a pointier tip for a longer writing session.
The thing about real pencil aficionados (I’m not sure if I really count, although I do truly love a nice pencil) is that there’s always the great balance between line darkness and hardness. The darker the line, the softer the lead, and conversely, the harder the lead, the lighter the line. The “perfect” pencil would have beautifully dark line while still staying pointy.
This is a harder lead while still maintaining much of the dark quality that Blackwing leads are known for.
While still being smooth, you can tell that the lead is harder than its companions, although between the 602 and the Vol 24 it’s a bit of a gamble for me. This may be because I personally use the Pearls myself – despite loving the Blackwing the most, the softness really dulls the point very quickly for me.
Having used Palominos basically exclusively for the last few years, it’s hard to go back. There is just something delicious about how these pencils write. The smoothness and richness of the line is hard to find in your classic yellow pencils, although of course I’ve got a soft spot for those in my heart too.
Sometimes people ask if I’ll send Caleb off to school with Blackwings, and I would say probably not, unless he really wants to bring a few. I certainly want him to grow up with an appreciation for high quality writing tools, but I don’t want him to get beat up and robbed on the playground 😉
In other news,we’re keeping busy back here. Caleb’s getting smarter every day, which freaks me out a bit. A little human who knows how to do things! Who hides things and then finds them again! Who knows the schedule and gets ready ahead of me! Who follow instructions! Some of the time.
I also finally got my eyes checked again just today.
I wear glasses, but haven’t had an eye exam in years. I guess it was part self-employed medical insurance (I really did not appreciate good medical insurance when I was a teacher), and part not getting my act together to find the time to book an appointment.
Despite the fact that we’re now across the street from an optometrist, the real reason is that Caleb sat on my glasses one too many times, and now ear piece is hanging on by magic and luck and possibly a bit of tape, so…
The new glasses aren’t exactly what I was thinking I would pick (I basically wanted the exact same pair I already have, which are clear), but I had to choose from the frames available. I had to pick between frosted clear frames and grey/translucent ones. I went with the grey, even though I’m a bit worried they make me look a bit dorkier than I already am to begin with. According to the optician, supposedly it’s the new thing – frames that are larger and rounder and more grandma like.
It’s an interesting thought that in the Walking Dead, a TV show about zombies, no one wears glasses. It’s a bit of a depressing thought that anyone who wears glasses would be at a life-or-death disadvantage in a post-apocalyptic world.
I guess especially in the middle of the night, no one wants to have to feel around for those spectacles when a zombie is leaning over you. I’m too chicken to get laser eye surgery, so I guess I’m crossing my fingers against any zombies.