Wow. I still can't believe how difficult it is to review pencils. Seems completely odd due to their simplicity, but therein lies the trouble. For a novice (like myself), I find myself asking questions like: What am I supposed to be looking for? What is supposed to stand out to me?
With pens, there are some specific characteristics like weight, balance, flow, overall quality of construction; stuff like that. With wooden pencils this is generally what comes to mind: they are made of wood, you sharpen them, they have graphite...and you have to sharpen them more.
Of course, it goes deeper than this. In listening to the The Erasable podcast it is fascinating to hear what stands out to those guys. Core centering (how centered the graphite is in relation to the overall pencil), eraser properties, how rounded/sharp the hex is (on hex pencils of course), the smell, and of course how the graphite feels on the page. Even the finish quality of the paint and lacquer is important.
I feel like their needs to be a series of benchmarks like Poor, Good, Better, Best with corresponding pencil examples. Let's just assume that the Palomino Blackwing is like the cream of the crop "best" based on its popularity. If this is the case, then everything else may fall underneath it in some way, but at what scale? This is how my brain works folks...
The pencil up for review today (or that is sparking this discussion) is also a Palomino brand product and is what I am endearingly referring to as "orange". Pencils.com and Palomino refer to it as the drawing pencil, but "orange" seems more fun. This particular pencil is a B on the hardness scale which means it is slightly softer than your standard HB or #2 pencil.
What stood out to me about "orange" was the beautiful color pattern. This pencil looks great. Simple, vibrant color that transitions into a single white stripe and a glossy black end. I mentioned in my previous pencil musings post that I seem to be attracted to the pencils without an eraser. I think it just looks so classy having the end be crisp and clean. Again, it is probably due to the fact that I never erase anything and don't seem to see a purpose for the eraser at this point. We'll see how things change over time.
When using pencils I do seem to enjoy a softer graphite in the B or 2B range. The darkness of the graphite on the page and the smoothness of writing is the main reason. Granted, a harder lead can last longer during writing/drawing stints, but isn't going to "leave its mark" quite as dramatically. The "B" for the lead hardness is printed in a bright white which contrasts heavily against the black end. For artists, this would be very beneficial when searching for the appropriate hardness.
Being more of a premium brand, the Palomino sharpens really well. I didn't have issues with lead breakage or their being any sharp edges or shards coming from the tip. My least favorite time in writing with a pencil is when the point is at its very sharpest right after sharpening. It ALWAYS breaks off by just a smidge and then it is actually ready for normal writing. Maybe I should scale back on the old pressure a bit? And, being of incense-cedar, it smells fantastic while sharpening.
Using my benchmark of the Palomino Blackwing, the writing experience with the "orange B" is fairly similar and both are enjoyable. I didn't notice a drastic change between the too although the Blackwing may have been slightly smoother? The Blackwing is considered to be an artist's pencil (as is the "orange") which may provide some rationale as to the similarities.
Maybe it is all in my mind, or I am simply an amateur that doesn't know the difference between a ferrule and a collar.
When choosing paper for my pencil writing, I have been using my Doane Paper writing pads or my Idea Journals. The paper is thick, maybe even a little course, which I find holds the graphite really well. Something like Rhodia seems a bit too slick.
These little beauties only run about $1 apiece (in a dozen) from Pencils.com which kind of blows my mind a little considering my price points for things are always in "pen" measurement. Buying a higher end pencil for $1 or even $2 is amazing.