Blackwing X TWA Hotel Pencil


This week, I bring you a collaboration none of us saw coming: TWA and Blackwing Pencils. If you think about it, they did exist in the same sphere— both prominent artifacts of the 1950s era. Trans World Airlines (TWA) was formed in the 30s and finally took the name TWA in the 50s. As the decades passed, TWA was known for being an industry leader in innovation: In the 1960s, they introduced in-flight movies and were one of the first airlines to use Doppler radar. The 60s also saw the birth of a brand-new terminal at John F. Kennedy International airport in NYC. TWA was innovative in the sense that they had a keen eye for design and concept— they, along with Delta, were one of the first airlines to introduce the spoke-hub system (this is where airlines had a central hub location and routes were organized in “spokes” around a central hub) which boosted efficiency and allowed for fewer routes and is something every airline does today. In addition to having a handle on productivity, their design of the terminal at JFK was revolutionary and boasted closed-circuit TV, interior passenger jetways, a PA system, baggage carousels, an electric arrival and departure flip-board system, and a robust selection of dining (Dunlap, 1994). All of the things travelers take for granted started with the TWA Flight Center.


More recently, starting in 2016, the TWA Flight Center, dormant since 2001, began its journey to restoration. New York City-based Morse developers collaborated with MCR, a large hotel development company, to re-create the feeling of the early 60s excitement felt in the terminal. They have dubbed their creation TWA Hotel, a 512-room hotel with 45 event rooms and five hospitality suites that host up to 1,600 people. Each of the 512 hotel rooms are furnished with mid-century modern furniture. From retro-fitted rotary phones, walnut martini bars, tambour walls to walls adorned with vintage TWA advertisements, each stay takes one back to what I could consider the Golden Age of commercial airlines. Some rooms have a runway view where you can see planes take off and land (this makes me SUPER excited as I am an airplane enthusiast). In order to negate the LOUD jet engine sounds, all rooms have a 7 pane, 4.5 inch glass window. I WILL be staying here sometime soon. Anyhow, I digress. On to the pencils. In each hotel room there are Musgrave pencils— I just wanted to mention that as they have a pretty cool write-up on their website about them— perhaps a review is in order. We are really here to talk about the TWA Hotel X Blackwing pencil, so let’s go:


First off, pictures do not do this pencil justice. The red is SUPER red, and SUPER glossy and overall fabulous. As someone that is not a fan of red anything, this pencil wins me over. To compliment the nice, bright red, there are two white stripes stamped on one side and Blackwing X TWA HOTEL on the other. I’m a little underwhelmed with the lack of iconography here. I know one side of a pencil is small, but I wish they were able to use the original TWA logo on one of the sides. I’m sure there was good reason to use the design they chose, but it’s kind of meh. The ferrule is a shiny silver with a bright white eraser to go with the print on the barrel. This pencil’s core is “balanced” which means it has a Pearl core. A few things that I wish they did with this pencil— first, the design I griped about earlier— something a bit more flashy would have been cool. Also, I was almost expecting a little paper inside the box with TWA history/facts kind of like how Blackwing does with the limited editions. I am sure it would have increased the price of these, but it would have been a nice touch. Especially since a lot of folks that buy things from a TWA Hotel gift shop will probably be enthusiasts of the brand. Overall, I’d only recommend these pencils if you are a collector. There is nothing different about these other than the finish. They also retail for $29.95— two more dollars than the volumes editions. If you are interested, they can be purchased here.

Blackwing 811


The moment I set my eyes on the 811, I loved it. I’m a fan of bright colors and while it’s not super bright, the 811 certainly stands out among other offerings from Blackwing. Besides the color scheme, I really like the story behind the 811. As an individual that works as a writing tutor for both a high school and a college, I have such a soft spot in my heart for libraries. I miss my childhood where I would search through one of many card catalog drawers and put it on the pull-out table built into the magnificent piece of library furniture— I would flip through and find the call number of the book I needed and transcribe that onto a scrap piece of paper (you NEVER took the actual card with you— that is bad library manners) only to search through the stacks for what I needed. A lot of that is digitized now and when I was in college last year I would request a book online and it would be waiting for me at the front desk. It’s just not the same. I especially like the focus on Maya Angelou. There is not enough focus on women when it comes to stationery limited editions (especially with BW) and especially women of color. While Angelou was not the main focus of the edition (a library lamp was), she does have the honor of representing the 811 on the pencil.


I really like the gradient on this pencil as it fades from a minty green to a darker, emerald-like green. The gold ferrule is spot on as it represents the base and the gold pull chain of those iconic green library lamps. The 811 is coated with phosphorescent paint which makes it glow in the dark— this is super cool, but really just a gimmick as you need a light to write, but it is super cool to see a cupful of these on your desk in the dark. Sadly, the glow doesn’t last very long. I charged these pencils for a few hours in natural sunlight and under a lamp and it fades pretty quickly. Because this is just an aesthetic offering and has no bearing on the performance of the pencil itself, this finding is inconsequential. The eraser is pink and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I mean, white would be too bright and black would just clash with the gold ferrule, so I guess pink it is. I was worried about the finish of this pencil since it is wrapped and not lacquered, but unless you look closely, it appears seamless. My other worries mirrored Johnny Gamber’s comments on his blog Pencil Revolution when it came to hand feel and grip, but I have not had a problem with that at all. The core of this pencil is firm just like the 602 and stays true to the 602’s performance. I am not a big fan of the softness of the 602 as it is very difficult to write small and I find myself sharpening a lot. I am also a very heavy-handed writer, so my experience with point retention might be different than others’.

602 core made it difficult to fill out my D&D character sheets

602 core made it difficult to fill out my D&D character sheets

Overall, I think this pencil is a buy if you like the 602 and/or have a particular affinity for the theme. Based on the community’s response, these may be hard to find in the near future as Blackwing’s website crashed the moment the 811 was released. You can head over to Blackwing’s website to purchase a dozen while they last as they are sold out elsewhere. They retail for $27.95 a dozen now due to Blackwing’s recent price increase.

Blackwing Natural

It has been quite a long time since I have reviewed a Blackwing pencil— I stopped reviewing special editions since I was really only talking about form since function never really changes (besides hardness). This new offering is different though— it is something Blackwing fans have been asking for for a long time— a natural Blackwing. If we remember back to the time of the 211, we remember how loved that edition was (and still is). There was something about a “naked” Blackwing that seemed to please everyone. It is so nice to have an affordable 211 look-a-like, but does it live up to the hype and expectations of the community? Let’s find out:


When opening up the box of the BW Naturals, I am immediately drawn to the beautiful wood grain of the cedar. There are many other natural pencils I have used before, but there is something about this smooth finish on the BW Natural that really makes it pop. The shiny gold ferrule is a perfect mate to the gold imprint on the barrel. The gray eraser on the other hand? Meh. I really think any other color would have worked here— I personally like the pink or the yellow, but there is an easy fix as Blackwing sells replacement erasers in almost every color.


The Blackwing Natural is advertised as “Extra-Firm”, but I did not expect how dark of a line this pencil laid down. To me, it writes like a F which is on the lighter side of grades, but definitely not what I would classify as extra-firm (I’d put extra firm in the 2H/3H category). It erases okay with the provided eraser but even better with a Hinodewashi (my favorite eraser of course). Point retention is great considering how dark the pencil writes— I was pleasantly surprised here. When one factors in the aesthetics of this pencil coupled with its performance, I can see how this would be an EDC for some folks as it definitely is for me. At 21.95 for a box of 12, you really cannot go wrong here. They are so worth it!

Blackwing Volumes No. 1

It's been a while since I have reviewed any Blackwing products and I really wasn't going to do so this limited edition either, but something remarkable happened. I used a round pencil that I did not hate. Yes. You heard that correctly. I have always been a fan of hex or semi-hex pencils and prefer super sharp hex. There is a method to my madness-- I use the edge to rotate my pencil when I notice the point is wearing down at an angle. If I just rotate it ever so slightly to the next "side" it makes the point wear evenly. Needless to say, when I got the latest Volumes edition from Blackwing I first said "meh" and then was extra meh when I found out the pencils were round. As I heard others in the Erasable group talk about their own experiences with the latest edition, I heard a few people say that the finish on the barrel was unique and provided a distinct grip experience. I decided to take the plunge. I figured if I hated them I would just trade them for something else. Well I didn't. Here are my thoughts:

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Let's start with aesthetics. I didn't like this pencil at first visually. I think it was because pictures online really do not capture the right color of the pencil. Same thing with the eraser. In person I will say that they look much better. The matte finish on the barrel is very thin which allows the wood grain of the pencil to show through a bit. It is very reminiscent of furniture that you can buy at IKEA or fancy hardwood flooring. The blue eraser is a nod to Guy Clarke's (the name of the person this pencil was made in tribute to) blue collar of his favorite shirt. The blue is very subtle and at a quick glance one would think that it is more of a grey/black. 


Performance wise this Blackwing edition does not disappoint. The graphite is not scratchy and erases well. The graphite formula used for this edition is the "balanced" formula. This balanced formula is what can be found in the Pearl and Volume 725. I usually prefer to 602 core to the Pearl, but I kinda liked using it this time around. Perhaps it's because I have been solely using Neon Casemates and I am used to that softer, darker core. Not sure, but I'll take it. The eraser performs better than the old formulation but still not up to the standards I like. I have been spoiled by foam erasers and the eraser on the Blackwing is a bit dusty for me and takes way to much effort to erase things cleanly. It's no Hinodewashi but it is not as bad as a Musgrave eraser. 

writing test.jpg

I am not sure I would say that I am in love with this pencil, but I like it. I purchased a dozen and will probably use half of that for trade fodder in the future. Volume 1 does its job, looks decent enough, and comes with the quality one would expect from Palomino. Seriously though, where is the estrogen in these releases? The day you devote a pencil to a woman (and not a woman that happened to use a photo process/style because that felt like an aside) is the day I become a subscriber. 


It's just pencils! Or is it?


After much thought and great discussion over on the Erasable Facebook group, I felt compelled to make a blog posting about the issue of Blackwing Volumes and their seemingly white, male-dominated lineup.  Before I get to the meat of the issue, I am in no way knocking Palomino-- they have done great things with the brand and provide awesome customer service and I am positive there was no intent to have a lack of diversity in the Blackwing Volumes line.  But that's just it.  The seemingly accidental overlooking of amazing people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and other marginalized folks is not so.  Leaving out those groups is not intentional, but it is so deeply seated and natural for the majority to do so, that they do not see that they marginalize.  The only way for the world to change is to have companies or individuals use their power to bring light to these issues and take a stance-- a stance that should be the norm.  When inclusiveness is the norm, things might just be a bit better for the world (and for sales!).  Here are some ideas I have for future Blackwing Volumes: George Washington Carver - 44  George Washington Carver was known as the "Peanut Man" and is known for his research into alternative crops to cotton such as peanuts and sweet potatoes.  His angle was that poor farmers could grow alternative crops to provide food for their families and develop other products to improve quality of life.  Carver also promoted environmentalism and released 44 practical bulletins for farmers with information on recipes for peanuts and peanut products.  From Wikipedia: "In 1921 peanut farmers and industry representatives planned to appear at Congressional hearings to ask for a tariff. Based on the quality of Carver's presentation at their convention, they asked the African-American professor to testify on the tariff issue before the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives. Due to segregation, it was highly unusual for an African American to appear as an expert witness at Congress representing European-American industry and farmers."

A Blackwing Volumes edition for Carver would feature crimson colored pencil with a gold ferrule and tan eraser.  Crimson and gold are Tuskegee's college colors and tan would be representative of peanuts.  It would be stamped with the number 44 as a nod to the 44 bulletins he released for farmers to promote the use of peanuts on their farms.

Susan B. Anthony - 19  Susan B. Anthony was a feminist who was deeply involved in the women's suffrage movement.  At the age of 17, she collected anti-slavery petitions and in 1856, she became the New York agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Anthony also played a critical role in creating the International Council of Women.  One hundred years after her birth, women finally were granted the right to vote on August 18, 1920.

This pencil could be either green with a purple eraser or purple with a green eraser.  Both would have a white painted ferrule.  This is a nod to the symbolic suffrage colors of purple, white, and green used on banners and pins promoting the cause.  The number 19 would be used to represent the 19th amendment to the constitution allowing women to vote.

Stonewall - 1969  The Stonewall riots were a series of demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969.  In the 1950s and 60s, gay Americans faced a very anti-gay legal system and as such, not many establishments welcomed openly gay people.  The Stonewall Inn catered to an assortment of individuals and was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth.  A year later, in 1970, the first Gay Pride would take place in NYC.  The Stonewall National Monument was established a month ago by President Obama and it includes Christoper Park and the Stonewall Inn.

This Volumes edition would be a no brainer-- RAINBOWS!

I hope that those of you who have read this have been inspired.  Those that feel uncomfortable regarding this blog post-- good.  That's what its supposed to do to some.  It's high time we start having those uncomfortable conversations and unpacking difficult topics.  After all, it's just not about pencils.


Mail and Other Musings

So this blog has evolved into a non-weekly endeavor and is not really fulfilling its "weekly pencil" duties.  At the very beginning of this idea a year ago, I had dove into the hobby of collecting and using pencils of all sorts.  I was excited and wanted to share that with the world.  As I made new friends in the Erasable group, I was encouraged to post more and every week I used one pencil and then wrote about my thoughts on said pencil.  The idea seemed simple enough, but what I didn't take into account was the fact that life happens and even the most loved hobbies can fall victim of disinterest and immense obligation.  Let me explain.  I still love pencils.  I will always love pencils, but keeping up with the blog on a weekly basis became a burden when life got in the way.  I became resentful in my new role as "pencil blogger/reviewer" and my posts every Sunday became this awful "thing" I had to do.  My need to stay current began to tarnish my love of pencils and the community that surrounded me.  That is why I took a step back.  I have received comments along the lines of "when are you posting again?  This isn't the weekly pencil anymore?"  I appreciate followers, but I wish some would realize that this is 100 percent funded by myself both monetarily and emotionally.  Besides two items I have reviewed, I have paid for every item out of my own pocket.  I am not complaining about spending money here either.  Hell, I'd be buying pencils anyway, but I wish some would realize that this is not my job.  *Important note here-- I am not calling any individual out here, I just am making broad statements of my general experience with this blog*  I love all of you followers and get super excited when other are enthusiastic in this niche hobby.  Just know that this blog will evolve a bit and include ALL of my passions (pencils, stationery, games, etc.).  I will keep the same URL for now, but the site design and title may change in the future.  Now onto the fun stuff!  MAIL  FROM CW PENCIL ENTERPRISE!!!! Nothing is finer than when you expect a pencil package and you hear the subtle beep of the mail person's scanner and a solid *thunk* on your porch.  I raced downstairs immediately and there it was-- a package from Caroline and her crew:


I always enjoy pencil-related mail, but getting a package from CW Pencil Enterprise is something really special.  From their packaging to their unique and personal attention to detail with every order, you really feel like you are something special.  This was my note:


Not only did I get this adorable note from Caitlin, but there is something about the way they individually wrap everything.  Knowing that Caitlin herself walked around the shop and personally packaged my pencils makes me warm and fuzzy inside.  For at least a few minutes I had a personal pencil shopper.  How much better can pencil buying get?!


Even though I already knew what was inside these lovely yellow wrapped packages I was excited to discover their contents.  I think that pictures will speak for themselves, but if you are interested, here are links to all I ordered: Blackwing Volumes, Camel Pastel HB, Nataraj Joi 2B, and Milan Graphite and Highlighter Pencil.  Now onto my pics:


I plan on doing reviews on all of these products at some point, but I am really itching to try out the Graphite/Highlighter pencil.  Stay tuned for that review sometime in the near future!



Palomino Blackwing 211


This week has been the best pencil week ever!  I had been dying to get my hands on the limited edition Blackwing 211 since it sold out a week after release.  Thankfully, the pencil community came through and my pencil pal Andi sent me a few to review.  Andi has a blog as well and you should definitely check it out!  So now on to the 211: IMG_20151012_153230

One can see the sheer beauty of the 211 as its natural wood-grain contrasts with its gold ferrule and brown eraser.  The barrel of the pencil is nice and smooth and the black stamping is perfect and precise.  I could not wait to sharpen this pencil!  I sharpened the 211 with my usual tool, the Palomino Long Point Sharpener.

2015-10-12 15.39.07

As you can see, I love how sharp the slats appear after sharpening-- this pencil is really a beauty.  All aesthetics aside, let's get to the writing portion of the review.  I had a lot of note-taking this week for my classes and the Blackwing 211 came through.  Point retention is amazing and the pencil writes so velvety smooth that I almost did not want to ever review another pencil again.  I had no trouble with point breakage in the sharpener and by the end of my busy week, I still had so much pencil left to use.  It could be surmised that this pencil would last one for two weeks with pretty consistent writing which makes the price of this pencil worth it.


The above picture is the pencil length after 7 solid days of use.  Not only is the Blackwing 211 photogenic, but she's useful too!  The only way you can come across this pencil is finding an odd retailer that still has some in stock or on Ebay.  Fret not though because I have been told that the graphite is the same as the Blackwing 602, a pencil that is always available.  No, you will not have this gorgeous wood-grain version, but to me a pencil's utility is worth more than what it looks like.  Still, you can't help but marvel in the 211's glory. Overall 10/10!


*For any of you wondering how you can get your hands on these awesome Blackwing limited edition pencils, you can sign up for a Volumes subscription here.