Introduced by Eberhard Faber in 1934, the Blackwing 602 premium writing pencil was stamped with the words “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed”: Compared to an ordinary pencil, its core contained more graphite, less clay, and wax, so that it wrote like a pencil of 4B hardness but with a unique gliding feel.
It has attracted an impressive roster of creative admirers, including Walt Disney, Stephen Sondheim, Quincy Jones, Vladimir Nabokov, and John Steinbeck, who wrote, “I have found a new kind of pencil — the best I have ever had. Of course it costs three times as much too, but it is black and soft but doesn’t break off. I think I will always use these. They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper.”
Steinbeck would use a Blackwing pencil right down to the ferrule (pencil devotees now call this “Steinbeck stage”) and then pass them on to his son, another writer. “Writing with a Blackwing 602, more than any other pencil, feels like an event — something like a rite of passage for a pencil obsessive,” writes Caroline Weaver in The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon (2017). “When they are sold in my shop I always encourage the customer to sharpen it at least once and to use it for special occasions, because most of the pleasure of owning it comes from knowing what it feels like to write with it as much as it comes from the history.”