Pencil Review: Vintage EF Blackwing 602

This post will hopefully answer the question:

Is it worth it to seek out a vintage Blackwing 602?

I have wanted a vintage Blackwing 602 just to try it out, since before this blog was even a twinkle in my eye. At the same time, I’ve never really wanted to spend $100 for an unsharpened vintage pencil. It just seemed silly. So, a couple weeks ago, a friend who was moving house mentioned that he had a big jar of pencils he inherited from his grandparents. I asked if I could see a pic of the jar and if there were any pencils with “a funny looking eraser cap”? He said “YES!” and I asked if he would bring them over so I could look through them. He said he would, if I was interested in them, we could “make a deal.”

So, I bought a large jar of pencils that included one Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 that had been sharpened once, one unsharpened Microtomic and a box of colored pencils (Tina got the colored pencils) for $30. And I got to keep the vintage jar. Most of the pencils were good mid-century pencils ranging from standard #2/HB to softer and harder pencils used by artists. There were a lot of classic yellow-and-black Staedtler Noris pencils and some US-made Ticonderogas.

But, of course, the true treasure was a chance to handle and use a real vintage Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602. I immediately put the pencil to the test next to the modern reproduction Blackwing 602 by Palomino ($27 for a box of 12).

The most notable differences in the exterior of the pencils is the color of the grey paint. The vintage Blackwing 602 is a little bit darker. The feel of the modern Blackwing 602 is smoother, glossier and the hex shape is a bit more rounded off, like the paint is so thick that some of the sharper edges of the hex shape are buried under the paint.

Of course, the vintage eraser is all dried out but I can swap it out with a replacement ($3 per set) from Palomino.

Obviously, the printing on the pencils is different. The “Half the pressure…” text is italicized on the vintage pencil while it’s more upright on the modern 602. The modern 602 is missing the beloved “Woodclinched” text completely. Overall, aesthetically, only the most discerning eye would notice a difference.

But how does it write?

I really wanted to know if I could tell the difference between the writing experience between the two pencils. I wrote with one then the other for at last an hour trying to see if I could notice a difference. And honestly, while I think the lead color is a tiny bit lighter in the vintage Blackwing 602, the difference is honestly negligible. If you prefer a little lighter (harder) graphite color, the Palomino Blackwing Natural which features  Extra Firm graphite might be a good alternative. Palomino really did a great job recreating the 602. If you haven’t tried a modern Blackwing, what are you waiting for. Some things are just as good as the “good ol’ days” and the Blacking 602 is one of those things.

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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Watch that modern eraser too. Mine all dried out and left a black, smudgy mess everywhere. I have replaced all of mine with the white nylon eraser.

  2. What a fortunate find! Coming from a dedicated vintage pencil nerd, I’ll say that there’s a distinct difference between older and newer Eberhard Faber 602 releases. The one you have is the last version in the 90s before the pencil was retired (when it was owned and produced by Faber-Castell in the USA. The graphite formula was altered in certain ways once production was moved between factories. I have two EF 602s – one manufactured during the brief time it was moved to Mexico and the other from the version just before that – and I can tell you there’s a very distinct difference. I wonder if you’d have similar thoughts about the writing experience if when you get the chance to try an older one.

    1. I’d be delighted to do a side by side comparison with an earlier 602 but so far they’ve been out of my budget. I’m just glad I got to try any of them.

  3. Ana – remember the eraser hack? An Xacto knife and a regular size eraser of your preference can be sliced into pieces just the right size for the refillable ferrule. That said, I recently bought the refill pack of purple Blackwing erasers along with the Blackwing Discovery set. So glad you got ownership of an original, be it whatever part of production.

  4. I’m a vintage pencil fan although I do not know why I keep falling in love with pencils they stop making. 😉
    I was taken in by the original Blackwings early on when that fad/obsession began and was so surprised by the difference I haunted eBay until I had a collection. (When I’m long gone, I bet my family will wonder — why does she have all those pencils in bubble wrap?) I think the closest to the original BW is the graphite in the modern version Pearl edition. Close. So close. Glad you got a chance to them out. Regarding that eraser – I never liked how unbalanced the BWs feel so I, even on some of my originals, sawed off the eraser and replaced it with one of those little tent-looking ones from school days. Pencil heresy, I know, but way more comfortable.

    1. not the pink tent eraser!! I had to buy a box of 144 just to get five for my granddaughter, but I much prefer the white vinyl erasers for smudge free erasing. Smudging is a big deal, as a lefty. So can you speak to smudge resistance in the old vs new Blackwings? That is what I look for, the darkest line I can find with minimal smuding.
      Anne HwH

      1. As a fellow lefty I can say that the graphite smudge factor is comparable. My solution to dark lines/ no smudge is black colored pencils. Prismacolor verithin gives a more graphite line retention but any artist quality black colored pencil is all the darkness, none of the smudge!

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