I bought my first Palomino Blackwing pencils at a Renegade Craft market a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly thinking about how soft the lead was I was more interested in the fact they looked SO GOOD! A reason I have for purchasing a lot of stationery to be honest!
Turned out the Blackwing original and the 602 were as different as Brie is to Parmesan (I may compare all things to different cheeses from now on) The Original has a nice soft lead which I like for drawing and sketching, comparable to a 4B I’ve read. That’s a bit of a surprise as I tend to like a 2B which is more like the hardness of the 602. It’s not about numbers though is it? It’s about feelings.
Later on I purchased a Pearl, out of curiosity, which is niiiice and somewhere between the Original and the 602 in terms of hardness but I was still in love with my trusty black Original for my sketching needs.
Most recently I bought a Jade 205 and a Lake Tahoe 73 both from editions known as “Volumes”. Palomino bring these out a few times a year and you can usually only buy them in boxes of 12 but Papersmiths were selling them individually which I was very happy about. I love these special editions as they are themed and honour cultural icons and events.
The number 205 references the molecular weight of Jadeite and celebrates the Silk Road and the belief that Jade protects its owner and encourages creativity and mental agility.
The Lake Tahoe 73 pencil commemorates the creative influence the lake has had on artists, writers and musicians and its signature blue colour. So that explains the colour of the pencil, the raised lines reflect the topography of the lake and the 73 is its most recent Secchi number which indicates the lake’s clarity which affects its colour.
In terms of my thoughts on their hardness I would say the Jade is similar to the Pearl and the Lake Tahoe is softer again. Both are softer than the 602 which is good news for me!
When it comes down to it these are some good looking pencils, but style isn’t the only thing these pencils have going for them. They are a comfortable weight, they have an eraser that actually works and you can refill them (the eraser not the pencil, that would be innovative!).
They sharpen beautifully and they dont snap and even when you’ve given them the sharpest point known to man it does not break as you draw.
Yes they are more expensive than a Staedtler Noris or a Derwent sketching pencil (each about £1.50) but you will get what you pay for. These will serve you well AND you will enjoy using them.
To protect those beautifully sharpened points I have these nifty little metal point protectors I bought from CW Pencil Enterprise but if you’re not in the USA go to trusty Cult Pens. They have a slit down the side and come with strips of sticky paper. They’re like labels but I don’t know what you would label, so I think they are to tighten the protector thingys so they fit the pencil better. They’re Japanese so I can’t read the packaging. Anyway, I use Washi tape as it looks nicer and easy to replace.
I would say, go and try a couple, they are such a pleasure to use you won’t regret it.