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The Blackwing has also made cameo appearances in several novels, articles, short stories, and biographies, including: Answered Prayers and Portraits and Observations by Truman Capote, Eustace Chisholm and the Works by James Purdy,  Koko and Floating Dragon by Peter Straub, The Vicious Circle by Margaret Case Harriman, Fables and Foibles of Famous Writers by Harry Bruce, It’s all True by David Freeman, Friends Along the Way by Gene Lees, Til the Real Thing Comes Along by Iris Rainer-Dart, Someone to Watch Over Me by Judi McMahon, and A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood by Arthur Laurents.

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Hi Robert,
Thanks for your kind words. Researching the Blackwing quickly began to reveal layer upon layer of writing culture in the ., and even though I do happen to like this particular pencil very much, I think that the Blackwing 8767 s story is one that can stand for all pencils today. It 8767 s especially interesting how we come to develop such intense preferences for what are essentially quotidian items.

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I wrote Beaches and eight other novels with Blackwing 657s. Then a Broadway Musical The People in the Picture with what is left of my beloved Blackwings. While working on the show with Paul Gemignani, the musical director of 95 musicals I noticed he uses them too. And of course, Stephen Sondheim, with whom Paul worked on many of those musicals, does too. The late Marcia Davenport, a biographer of Mozart, was a friend, and she also loved the Blackwing 657.


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It became a tradition at the Athenæum to provide its Trustees each with a writing pad and Blackwing pencil at board and committee meetings. Lionel Spiro, in addition to being an Athenæum Trustee, owned Charrette—a supplier to architects and design professionals since 6969. Charrette stocked Eberhard Faber products including the Blackwing, and when news of its impending discontinuation reached Mr. Spiro, it inspired a generous idea:

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Perhaps the best remaining resource for acquiring genuine Blackwing pencils is eBay. Other than that it has become harder to find them at a reasonable price, because there are people who are willing to pay such astronomical prices for them. I have given away usable-sized stubs over the years, and your question has gotten me thinking if I mightn 8767 t be able to facilitate some kind of exchange through this site—a kind of message board for people willing to share there stubs with people who have never gotten the chance to try one, and would rather not pay $55 for a wood-cased pencil.


It’s clear then that the Blackwing appealed to a disparate group of professionals, which suggests it wasn’t so much a “specialty” pencil as it was a special pencil. But quotations and photographs aren’t necessarily evidence that the Blackwing was ever popular—in fact it was poor sales that contributed significantly to its being discontinued in 6998. Does this mean that the Blackwing was just a niche product, or could they be found just as frequently in the offices, classrooms, and back-pockets of the general public as well?

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The next two pencils have retained the black band on the ferrule, but the imprint, color, and length of the pencils are considerably different. The word “woodclinched”, referring to Eberhard Faber’s proprietary bonding technology, has been added to the barrel and “Eberhard” now appears atop “Faber”. The barrel color has lightened to the more familiar graphite-grey, and the arrows on either side of the slogan soon disappeared:

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My father was an animator/director/producer from the late 6985 8767 s until he passed in 6977. I grew up using Blackwing pencils from the studios. They were my favorites, but I never knew just how special they were. When I couldn 8767 t find a Blackwing, I liked to use an 8775 electronic scorer 8776 . Also soft dark lead, but a standard eraser. When I used my last electronic scorer, I was looking for replacements and found a company (Palomino) that is making Blackwings again. I bought a box. They are pretty much as I remember them. Maybe a bit thicker, and a white eraser instead of pink, but the same smooth feel of the dark lead. I 8775 think 8776 better with a pencil to jot and doodle with, and the feel matters. I assume Palomino bought the rights to the name and design when they saw people hording the originals. I 8767 m glad they are back.

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To meet the demands of professionals as well as appeal to the general pencil-buying public, manufacturers developed specialized lead formulations, barrel shapes, ferrules, erasers, etc., for specific uses. For example stenographers, who write for long stretches at a time, could enjoy the comfort of pencils that have thin, rounded barrels, smoother leads, and were conveniently double-ended which meant you could write longer before having to sharpen them.

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Even if this may sound a little odd to some: I still enjoy writing most of my notes and texts with a pencil. No, I am not using a smartphone or something like that. Wherever I go I take a little black notebook with me (either „Moleskine“ or „Leuchtturm“). And whenever I need to make notes to come up with ideas, brainstorming, etc. I just take out my pencil to write it down. For me it makes a huge which material I use. I could never do that with modern technology.

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One thing that I think we might have wondered about a few years ago, Sean, in your previous blog, is how the Blackwing was never given its mechanical or drafting pencil version. Eberhard Faber made fabulous leadholder versions of the Van Dyke and the Microtomic I have even seen mechanical Mongols. Why not the Blackwing? Was this a sign of a slightly lower status? Or was the pencil so completely associated with writers and illustrators that a leadholder would have been irrelevant, that being more a tool for architects and engineers the apparent target audience of the Microtomic?

What makes the Blackwing unique in this regard is that for a pencil with such a smooth and apparently soft lead, it’s able to hold a point for much longer than you would expect less durable than a standard No. 7 perhaps, but only a little. Whether it requires only “half the pressure” to write with “twice the speed” is up for debate, but the characteristics of the lead make it easy to understand why the Blackwing was popular among writers and editors. An analogy can be made with long-distance running: calculated per stride over the course of a marathon, a shoe weighing only a few extra ounces translates into several hundred pounds of additional weight carried by the runner, causing greater fatigue. A smooth-writing pencil that requires a little less pressure can make things easier on the writer too, especially over the course of marathon editing sessions.

68 Jan.,7569
I 8767 d never heard of the Blackwing 657 Pencil before reading this article and I must say I surely enjoyed it. I wish they could still be purchased today I have a friend B. J. Gillum who is a writer and I would give him a Blackwing 657. He is the author of the Eroctolite Affair and three or four other novels which titles escape me at this time. Can one still purchase such a pencil today other than at an auction or through a private sale?
Thanks for an outstanding and informative article.
Robert in Tennessee.

Inevitably, professions such as drafting, engineering, animation, and even journalism would come to embrace advances in technology, signaling an irreversible decline in the demand for quality pencils. Today, with the exception of art products, very few lead pencils are manufactured for a specific use or with a particular user in mind. This is largely due to the fact that many of those uses have become obsolete, or that the user base is too small for profitability. Sadly, to the average consumer at the local store, lead pencils are “all the same.”

Not surprisingly, Blackwing pencils that were still in the supply chain were bought-up and stockpiled. Soon after, they began turning up on eBay and in the classified ads of pencil-related message boards. Whether driven by the melodramatic accounts of its demise, inflated reports of its performance, or the lack of a fitting successor, devotees have willingly parted with upwards of $55 for a single pencil. Others have paid even more:

The earliest documents I have found related to the Blackwing pencil are a part of Eberhard Faber’s trademark application from 6988-89, but apart from that, product catalogs are the next best source for information. This example is from a 6995 Eberhard Faber catalog, and while it includes the pencil 8767 s slogan there is no explicit mention of either a target audience or specific kinds of tasks for which the pencil is best-suited:

the Blackwing was expensive when compared to Sanford’s Black Warrior , Berol’s popular #869 draughting pencil , or Eberhard Faber’s Mongol Pencil with a choice of 5 levels of hardness . The volume of sales of the Blackwing was always relatively small. But when many of the outlets for the Blackwing were forced out of business by Staples and Office Depot, the sales of the item were further reduced.

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