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.