The Amazing Variety of Pencils

So many to choose from: woodcase graphite, solid color core, multi-color core, charcoal, pastel, clutch, mechanical...

writing passage written with a Blackwing 24 pencil
Writing a few lines with the Palomino Blackwing 24

The trick is to simply pick one up, jot things down, and let your preferences develop as you try different ones. There's a lot of interest, at least in a niche way, in pencils & pens — fountain, gel, and others. That has allowed companies like Palomino to do these interesting forays into limited editions and subscription models for their products (along with the folks doing notebooks with similar promotion — gotta have a place to use the multiple pencils showing up at your door).

I gravitate toward the slightly harder core for writing purposes and softer core pencils for sketching & drawing — nothing terribly special or unusual in that. 😉

I agree with Brad Dowdy, of the Pen Addict blog & podcast that, even though Blackwing has introduced a new extra-firm graphite in the latest Volumes release, it isn't a lot lighter than the other 3 hardnesses of the Blackwing, 602, & Pearl. They seem to have definitely achieved the goal of having a slightly firmer graphite than the 602 "without sacrificing much in the way of darkness".

As a lefty, the 24 is a great pencil for writing without a lot of smudging. I hook, or over-write and, while that often means that inks dry in plenty of time to avoid smearing, graphite can still smudge as you drag your hand across stuff you have already written. The 24 doesn't seem to be prone to that. A nice feature for a writing tool for a lefty.

I do have to disagree with comments people are making that it's the embodiment a "blackout" pencil. Granted, the ferrule, eraser and finish are all black, but it's still clearly a typical woodcase pencil at the tip. If blackout is what you are after, you should really take a look at the Caran d' Ache Black Wood or the Faber-Castell Grip  2001 Black HB. These pencils are closer to blackout, though sans eraser, and taking into account the imprints, the Grip is probably the closest to true blackout.

4 black pencils and example of how they perform
Faber-Castell 2001 Grip HB, Caran d' Ache Black Wood HB, Blackwing 24, and Tombow MONO 100 3H

While it doesn't seem to be available directly from Caran d' Ache anymore (at least not via their U.S. online boutique via a very quick search) there are a variety of retailers, including eBay sellers, who still have the Black Wood at a not too horrible price. It can be had for as low as $2.97 per pencil. At least one vendor, if you are a savvy shopper who tends to save up a wishlist for other pencils, a few notebooks, and maybe some ink as well, would allow you nick off the shipping cost, snagging a Black Wood for a hair under $3 in a larger order.

The Black Wood is also a "mini" jumbo, so slightly thicker in diameter than any of the Blackwings, the Grip or the Tombow. This is a great bonus for anyone who has trouble with the thinner pencils (I'm thinking of a specific need for, say, someone with arthritis in his thumb). It's also a very smooth HB, on the softer side of HB, actually. So it doesn't take a lot of pressure to write with it.

C.W Pencil Enterprise is a place you can buy all of these pencils from one source if you are inclined to give them a try. They have the Black Wood for $3.50, as of this post, and the Faber-Castell Grip for $1.75. Of course the Blackwing 24 is a Volumes release so it's a box of 12. There are even more that fall in to the mostly black category. Wandering around C.W. will turn up a variety of them (like the Tombow  MONO 100's that I'm becoming addicted to).

writing sample from 4 pencils
Writing comparison - 4 pencils, mostly black in appearance

Of the four, the Black Wood loses it's point the quickest. I probably should have compared an H, instead of 3H, Tombow. I don't have one sharpened and tend to give the softer cores to Dan to try. I decided to throw it in there anyway for the overall "these are black pencils" comparison.

It's clear that this particular topic —the amazing variety of pencils — will be revisited with some frequency in connection with handwriting. There is just such vast territory to be covered.

What others have to say:

Faber-Castell 2001 Grip Pencils:
The Blackwing 24 Pencil (Lots of pictures, not a lot of reviews yet - March 2016, just released):
Tombow MONO 100 pencils:
Caran d' Ache Black Wood (not a lot out there about this one):
  • The Gentleman Stationer - reviews a selection of Caran d' Ache pencils, including the Black Wood.

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