Palomino Blackwing Setting Design Trends

Recently we’ve received a few great examples of how some forward thinking customers have been using our Palomino Blackwing pencils as an integral part of their promotional efforts in their own businesses. As you’ll see our Blackwings can make a great design and quality statement as a corporate gift in combination with a unique story or gift.

The first item is a “Trend Alert” sent out recently by one of our pencil slat customers Schwan-Stabilo Cosmetics, who is the largest supplier of cosmetic pencils to major brands worldwide. Schwan’s Trend Alerts are sent out monthly to over 800 of buyers and decision makers in the fashion and cosmetics industry. The card includes two pencils and has very nice copy section entitled OBJECTS OF DESIRE which briefly introduces the story of the new Palomino Blackwing and CalCedar’s renewal of this graphite pencil with it’s exceptionally dark line. It goes on to introduces a brand new formulation eyeliner pencil they’ve created stating:

We are pairing it [Palomino Blackwing] with the new generation in our wood-clenched eyeliner-pencil formulas. The absolute must have for the eye make-up aficionados. Schwan’s BLACKWING has a never-before-felt satiny, extremely soft and gliding application, laying down an exceptionally intense line that doesn’t smear and lasts all day (and all night).

This idea developed during a meeting I had with Schwan management this past winter in Germany when I was describing to them the launch of our Blackwing pencil. A very nice job particularly of integrating the drawing of the eyes along with the language highlighting the extremely dark and soft drawing performance of our graphite with the story of their new formulation with complementary performance characteristics as an eyeliner. These eyeliner pencils with the Schwan Cosmetics logo and Blackwing imprint are simply design and product samples and are not available for sale under the Schwan brand as their customers purchase products customized with their own brands. The pencil does leave a very dark luxurious mark and I hope it will be a big winner for them this season.

The Second example is from Elixir Design, a San Francisco based Brand Strategy firm who’s approach is deeply linked to great design. Last fall they purchased our Blackwing pencils after the launch to be used as part of this creative premium gift to their clients. The elegantly designed gift box holds a single pencil and is embossed with the quote “Luck Favors the Prepared” 2011 and a simple card internally with quote attribution to Louis Pasteur and a simple note of Best Wishes from all of us at Elixir”. Another interesting touch is the inclusion of a small wax paper envelope which contains shavings from the pencil being sharpened.

Ode to Blackwing

This post is in celebration of the launch of the new Palomino Blackwing 602 we release for sale at midnight tonight and as a fun way to share my own poetic creativity this month given our contest themes. Thus I’ve written my own “Ode to Blackwing” shared here below. Not a great literary effort, but I had fun writing it anyway. A more detailed account of this pencil’s history can be found here or here. Anyway I hope it will inspire you to check out and participate in our Drawing and Writing Contests this month to win free Palomino Blackwing and Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils.

Ode to Blackwing
Written by Charles “WoodChuck” Berolzheimer

There once was a pencil, it was really the thing.
Went by the name of Eberhard-Faber Blackwing
Produced a graphite line so smooth and clean
No pencil could rival it’s metallic lacquer sheen.

It felt like butter as it slid across the page
had an extendable flat eraser, though that tended to age.
They called it the 602, said it wrote with half the pressure, twice the speed
Some really thought this pencil fit their special need.

Was favored by writers, musicians, artists and more.
From whom creative juices would never cease to pour
Steinbeck, Thomas Wolfe and the poet MacLeish
Their creative energies were really unleashed.

Musical numbers from Overton, Sondheim and Riddle
To them other pencils were just second fiddle.
Animations galore from Chuck Jones and his ilk,
with flowing lines that went down smooth as silk.

The old Faber factory sold to one, then another
That special graphite formula maybe lost forever
When the corporation saw no profit in fixin’ a machine
The Blackwing days were bound to get a little lean

The Boston Athenaeum, it’s scholars and librarian
Bought up the old stock and started a hoardin’
Selling Blackwings by the pencil for 20, 30, 40 bucks a pop!
And a legend began to grow, the 602 was headed over the top

Then along came the Palomino with it’s deep, rich graphite feel
The bloggers all said that for a buck a pencil that’s quite a deal
The mighty orange pony kept a trotting slow and steady
Building up a stable of riders until the time was a ready

And one by one the old Blackwing fans kept asking
Won’t you please bring back that extending eraser thing
Our 602s are getting scarce and even more costly
To be used only when the muses strike us hotly

So Woodchuck toiled and tinkered, thinking how can it be done?
There’s just not enough volume, it’ll cost a ton.
But he finally got the nerve up to take the big risk
Ordered the eraser tooling and prayed business would be brisk

He designed the new pencils to be dark, soft and smooth
With a black lacquer finish he thought would really groove
He worried some small gold flecks were a bit too profuse
So sought feedback from bloggers, and all hell broke loose.

Where’s that gray, metallic finish? What about my pink eraser?
No 602? And why did you drop that slogan, Half the Pressure?
Yes, it’s super smooth and darker than the Eberhard Faber
But boy we sharpen so often, it really takes some labor.

Still they came, they bought and the Palomino Blackwing was born
Better than an iPad? asked the Globe as they tooted the horn
So Pegasus came down on Mt. Helicon from the heavens
Thus creating the spring, where gathered the muses, seven

So writers, artists, musicians and pencil fans
Were pleased to have Blackwings back in their hands
Their pencil creativity unleashed once again
Putting pencil to paper, smooth as gel pen

But, upon Woodchuck his mind still did nag
That he did not yet have success in the bag
So back to the drawing board to work on version two
To refine this pencil for those he wished still to woo.

A new formulation of graphite so firm and smooth
It lasts one-third longer and that is the truth
Back came the slogan Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed
As his customer’s notions he wished to heed

A shiny new finish to match the old Faber
With polished brilliance of a brand new sabre
So sure to cure those long and weary blues
Of those who mourn Eberhard-Faber 602s

I’ve got the Blackwing Blues.
Sick of paying 30 bucks for my 602’s.
Can’t Draw! Can’t Write!
But everything’s gonna be alright
Cause the Palomino’s comin’ out tonight!

Reviving the Blacking: The All New Palomino Blackwing 602

Well folks I have some exciting things to share with you in this update. We’ve recently received the first small production batch of the new Palomino Blackwing 602 model. This is just 5000 pencils with the next 25,000 schedule for arrival early in June. But more about the availability of this pencil in just a bit, for now let me tell you about this new product.

First, we are very pleased with the new 602’s lacquer finish which reflects the traditional blue-grey grey finish of the Eberhard Faber product during its later years of production, but with an even more distinctive gunmetal grey brilliance. The earliest production of Eberhard Faber product dating to the 1930s actually sported a darker black finish more similar to our existing Palomino Blackwing product. In response to feedback of many 602 fans we have revived the famous slogan “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed” and finished off the design by topping our pencil with a black eraser giving the overall design a simple elegance. Understandably this is a departure from the pink eraser of the Eberhard Faber product that some would prefer, but we have provided this option among our eraser replacement pack options. Sorry I’ve not had time to get decent quality photos shot of the pencils before getting this post out.

Even more exciting is our specially formulated graphite core which has been developed to provide the Blackwing’s well known smooth glide while offering a significant improvement in wear rate vs. both or Palomino Blackwing and the Original Eberhard Faber product. One of the key concerns expressed by those customers doing extensive hand writing with our initial Palomino Blackwing pencil was that despite the extremely soft and smooth feel some customers would like to see an improvement in the wear rate to reduce sharpening frequency. The challenge has been to improve the hardness and reduce the wear rate without sacrificing much in smoothness and as little blackness as possible. We were looking for a firm and smooth formulation to complement the soft and creamy smooth performance of our existing product.

During our formulation and evaluation process with our Japanese graphite producer we performed a set of technical bench tests to develop objective measurements of the wear rates as determined by the length of line drawn per millimeter of wear under constant pressure. This is a mechanical testing device used routinely by our supplier to assure production batches meet established standards for each graphite grade. Our results indicated that the new PB 602 graphite core provided at least 25-35% more extended life vs. our existing Palomino Blackwing and approximately 15-25% greater line length than the original Eberhard Faber 602. So we have improved wear rate substantially versus both items. Of course we give up something in darkness by creating a harder, firmer lead, but the new product compares favorably with the original.

As indicated in my Timberlines post last Fall about graphite performance we’ve found no objective, scientific test that measures smoothness of lead. Each person has their own writing angles and forces reflecting their own writing and drawing style and posture. Based on the more subjective personal testing a number of us involved in the development of this pencil have completed it’s our assessment that the our new 602 model has only a slight loss of smoothness versus our existing Palomino Blackwing pencil and has comparable to slightly improved smoothness vs. the original Eberhard Faber 602. Clearly in the end you all will have to be your own judge on the smoothness characteristic as with your overall assessment of these pencils.

We’ll be officially introducing the new PB 602 model along with a fully redesigned lined of retail packaging for our entire range of Palomino and Palomino Blackwing pencil products the marketplace at the National Stationery Show in New York In just a few days. Our goal is to make our products more widely available by focusing on developing a retail dealer network that appreciates the fine quality and performance of our growing range of. If you have a favorite local stationery shop, artist supply store, bookstore or other gift or specialty retailer you think would be ideal for this product please let them know to drop by our Pencils.com booth if they happen to be visiting the show next week. At the show we’ll also be introducing a line of luxury notebooks and sketchbooks under the Palomino and Blackwing labels as well as FSC Certified notebooks under our ForestChoice brand. But more about these developments in a later post.

As to launching on Pencils.com and actual initial shipments we expect the final packaging production to be complete in the next week and will begin packing pencils as soon as we receive the packaging. This is a photos of our packaging production proofs just received this morning in time four use at the Stationery Show. We have not yet determined if we’ll drop the existing gift box or continue to offer that option on Pencils.com. We expect to initiate Pencils.com sales of the PB602 on or about June 1st providing all goes to current plan. To be notified about when the new Palomino Blackwing 602 goes on sale on Pencils.com make sure to register on our site here.

Finally, we are thrilled to see that our efforts at Reviving the Blackwing have now been covered in the latest issue of Fortune Magazine now on the newsstand. We’re hoping we’ll see increasing press coverage as a result of our launch at the Stationery show this next week.

Pencils.com Helps Japanese Disaster Victims

We were greatly disturbed to see the tragic events and human suffering resulting from the earthquake and tsunami last week in Japan. The devastation caused by one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded is quite simply staggering. To do our part we will be donating 5% of Pencils.com revenues for the Months of March and April to the Red Cross for Japanese Tsunami and Earthquske aid.

Pencils.com and particularly it’s parent organization California Cedar Products Company has a long history of business relationships in Japan over the past 50 to 60 years. This spans from supplying cedar and basswood pencil slats to all the Japanese industry participants to the more recent development and production of our Palomino and Palomino Blackwing pencils. As a multi-generational family business these relationships often extend to personal relationships with principle business owners and management in these companies. We were very happy to learn all of our dear friends and associates in Japan came through last weeks terrible events safely.

Certainly there are and will be many challenges for the pencil industry and the country as a whole facing both the tragic loss of so many countrymen, the potential threat of radiation exposure and the inconveniences of transportation and power supply disruptions and of the overall rebuilding process. Economic conditions are bound to deteriorate in the near term and this will certainly have tremendous impact on the lives of many Japanese citizens. As a company with strong long term trading ties to Japan we are committed to supporting our customer and supplier relationships to our best ability and helping them rebuild their economy as best we can through our ongoing relationships.

Reviving the Blackwing: March Update

Okay Blackwing fans we have a few new developments to bring you up to date about.

First, based on feedback received on my last post and elsewhere we’ve decided to drop the term “Classic” from the upcomming release of our next Blackwing pencil model. So the new model will simply be named the Palomio Blackwing 602 and will complement our existing Palomino Blackwing pencil. Several people have properly pointed out that it’s a bit redundant to use the term classic when we’re designing a pencil that more closely replicates the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602.

Next as you can see from our photo we’ve received some initial samples of two new colors of erasers for the Palomino Blackwing. We’re planning on adding pink and black options to our existing white eraser. All three colors will eventually be available in 10 packs as an so you can choose your favorite color and accessorize your Blackwings. All have the same quality performance. These packs will be available for sale sometime in June as they are being produced and packed as part of our larger replenishment order for our next production run on the new and existing Blackwing pencil models.

After reviewing these sample erasers and considering the overall design for our new Blackwing 602 model we’ve determined that the black eraser is just going to look much better than the the pink on this. Thus the new 602 model will be tipped with a black eraser, but for those who really prefer pink the replacement packs will allow you to customize. We’re a few weeks away yet from having our first lacquer finished samples for approval before we go into our production run starts. So I can’t provide an actual photo yet. As soon as we have an approved lacquer finish on a few sample pencils we’ll get these shots taken and share them with you. Probably about the first of April.
If all goes well we expect to receive the first small release of the Blackwing 602 model in Mid May, just in time for our debut at the National Stationery Show in New York May 15-18. We’re also working hard on wrapping up our new retail packaging to make this available for the show as we’ll be introducing our Palomino, Palomino Blackwing and ForestChoice product ranges to the Retail trade. This will kick of our first real effort to make any of our products available at the retail level after primarily distributing through Pencils.com and a few other on line sellers until now. It’s an exciting time here and working hard towards these goals to do a good job with this launch.

Finally, just in case any of you missed it Boing Boing posted a video interview Thursday with Wired Magazine and New York Times Magazine writer Clive Thompson featuring our Palomino-KUM Long Point Pencil Sharpener. Thanks to Mark and Clive for thier support.

Reviving the Blackwing: February Update

It’s been almost three full months since my November update so I thought it was about time to bring our fans up to date with a number of interesting and exciting developments with our Palomino Blackwing pencil as well as other Palomino and Pencils.com news.

We’ve made steady progress and have sold through a little under one-half of our initial production run of the Palomino Blackwing to date. One interesting statistic is that we’ve now had purchases from customers in at least 27 countries. We’re very encouraged by the many great responses that we get back from our customers about the smooth and dark writing and drawing performance. We’ve even had positive feedback from Eberhard (Tim) Faber IV who likes our pencil very much and stated that he was happy to learn of the revival of the Blackwing brand which he considered to be one of his favorite products in the entire Eberhard Faber range which he sold to Faber-Castell USA back in the mid to late 1980s.

We’ve been very fortunate to recieve continued publicity through various blog reviews and other print media, most recently a very nice post at Gear Patrol. This was suprisingly well timed with the launch of our current February Palomino Stampede Month Promotion. If you haven’t checked out our special Month long savings and our Weekly Just Because offers we’ve got some interesting deals on Palomino and Palomino Blackwing items this month, plus a drawing contest with a variety of great prizes.
Also we’ve now completed our planning process for our next production run. This included evaluation of what changes and further product range addditions we will be making for the Palomino and Palomino Blackwing products for 2011. Relative to potential changes in the Palomino Blackwing the most common feedback we’ve had to date has been that for those people who are doing more writing vs. sketching, drawing or music notation they would prefer a bit harder graphite grade than presently used. This is also a somewhat common response from fans of the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 product, a topic I covered in an earlier post.

Given lots of postive feedback also from those who really like the new Blackwing’s softer, richer core and stylish black finish, we’ve frankly been in a bit of a conundrum as to how to proceed. Given the added preference from traditional fans of old Eberhard Faber 602s for a finish and styling of the “original” design we’ve now come to a resolution we think will be a great solution for Blackwing fans old and new. The new Palomino Blackwing 602 Classic model!

The “602 Classic” will revive a replica styling of the original Blackwing graphite grey finish as shown above complete with the pink eraser and “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed” slogan. The new pencil will also feature a graphite core that will be closer to our Palomino HB performance providing for improved wear rates for those doing extensive writing. Of course, we will continue to offer the existing Palomino Blackwing with the same graphite core and finish characteristics and only a couple minor finish changes. Thus the dark matt black finish of the Palomino Blackwing will corresond to the rich, smooth and dark performance of the current pencil and the lighter grey finish of the “602 Classic” to a smooth writing somewhat lighter mark more closely matching the original Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602.

However, you’ll have to hold on to your Palominos here as with our lead times for production of our specialized ferrule and eraser set along with our need to work down our current stock a bit further it will be a few more months before the 602 Classic is available for sale. Beyond this new product extension we are also now working on completing retail packaging for these and other Palomino pencils in our range. Furthermore we expect to add a few more exciting complementary products for both brands later this year.

Finally, for those looking for even a darker, softer core than our existing Palomino Blackwing and Palomino 2B items we have just introduced our Palomino 4B and 6B pencils to extend the range. We also have announced plans for introducing Palomino Quality private label customized pencils (i.e. Japanese produced high quality). I’ll be sharing more on this exciting new project in a later post as we get further along the development path for this program.

Re-Creating a Lead Legend

Our hometown paper The Stockton Record published a front page article this morning titled Re-Creating a Lead Legend. The article includes an interview with me as well as comments from Doug Martin of the American Pencil Collectors Society and John Gamber of Pencil Revolution blog.

Palomino Blackwing: Special Edition Gift Set

I am pleased to announce that we have received just in time for the holidays our new Palomino Blackwing Special Edition Gift Set, now available exclusively on Pencils.com. This is a beautiful new desktop set which includes a gorgeous natural wood grain box with the Palomino Blackwing brand embossed in a black leather trim, 24 Palomino Blackwing pencils and one of our KUM-Palomino Long Point sharpeners. At this point we have had just 200 of these box sets produced for the 2010 Holidays. 50 of these have been pre-reserved for our own internal company gift needs. This means there are just 150 sets available for sale in this Special Edition. At our normal Pencils.com margins this product represents a $130 value, however we have elected to offer this price at a price just under $100 per set in support of our loyal Palomino Blackwing fans.The box itself is an absolute gem produced in the Alsace Region of France featuring true artisan craftsmanship in the integration of the arts of woodworking and the production of fine quality CUIR de TERRE leather by our supplier Atelier de la Forêt. The Alsace is known as a land of winemakers & tanners and for the Vosages foothills, rivers and forests. The region is known for its environmentally friendly and sustainable method of selective harvest of the forest down to the individual tree level and for it’s craft woodworking. In former times the Alsace had a thriving tanning industry and today the names of streets, neighborhoods, families and business bear witness to this rich past. The family business owners of Atelier de la Forêt, located near the village of Zittersheim, continue these long held traditions of fine quality craftsmanship.The wood species used in this box is Sorbus Torminalis and is known commonly as the Wild Service Tree. Not knowing much about this particular species I took some time recently to investigate. Amazingly I found the interesting blog, Rowans, Whitbeams & Service Trees, maintained by Dr. Patrick Roper in the UK. Patrick is apparently a specialist in this group of trees and posts specifically about their history, use and preservation. One of the most interesting uses has been that of fermenting the berry’s for various beers as a substitute for hops and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike. The tree was even known to Martin Luther for these qualities. The blog also provided this helpful link addressing the the genetic conservation and use of this species.The leather trim on this box is just one fine example of the beautiful leather desk accessories produced by Atelier de la Foret and it is my hope we can collaborate on further special editions within the Palomino and Palomino Blackwing family of products in the future. The company’s marketing literature on their fine leather work is as poetic as the words that can be written with the Palomino Blackwings themselves.

Selecting a great leather is like choosing a great wine… The CUIR de TERRE leather comes from the finest calf-skin and it is transformed by formulae written down in notebooks and loving guarded, in a place, a land, a knowledge that has been passed down in secret, within the family. … the skins delicately catch the light for the pleasure of sight and touch, reminiscent of a sturdy old Armagnac or an aged Port.With this beautiful new gift set we bring together a truly global combination of fine quality craftsmanship of several companies, high quality raw materials and several countries.. The Blackwing pencils start with our superior quality Japanese produced graphite core so paramount to the writing pleasure are then incased in our Genuine Incense Cedar wood from the forests of California, transformed into high quality wood slats in our Tianjin, China factory before final pencil production by our Japanese woodworking and finishing partners. These are paired with the finest German produced carbon steel blade hand sharpeners from KUM. All packaged lovingly in a true work of art from France.

Reviving the Blackwing: November Update

Unfortunately, I’ve been rather quiet lately on our progress with the Palomino Blackwing. Now that I’ve had a chance to catch up following my recent international travels I felt today would be a good time for a quick update on our progress for our fans.

We’ve had the new Palomino Blackwing pencil available to customers now at Pencils.com for just over 45 days now. I have been quite pleased with the positive response and we have certainly benefited from some helpful press exposure, including Alex Beam’s Boston Globe video post “Better than an iPad?” and others. October was a busy month as we needed to step up our back office operations to support packing and shipping pencils at a new higher rate that started of with a bang when we received 300 orders alone on the very first day of sales on October 1st and another 150 or so over the next 3 days or so. To date we have sold through approximately one-quarter of our initial production run (nearly our full volume of 2 air express shipments) to over 1000 different customers. I feel like we are making good intial progress with the challenges of initial fulfilment . I want to thank each of our customers for being so patient and appreciative. Our overseas shipment should be arriving within the next 2 weeks after allowing for customs clearance so we hope to be able to add our new Palomino orange end dip 4B and 6B pencils to our sales offerings early in December.

We have been making some slow progress towards finalizing the design and production details on the retail packaging schemes for Palomino Blackwing and the rest of the Palomino pencil range. Part of this has been tied to assessing what final design changes may be made if any to the future production of the pencils. Other aspects have been tied to vendor and materials evaluation. We continue to plan availability of retail packaging for early 2011.

I have just completed a recent trip to China and Japan and hope to offer some more interesting and detailed posts down the road on various aspects of that trip to supplement the initial post on our visit to Beijing FILA Dixon pencil operations. While in Japan we visited many of our pencil slat customers but also had several meetings with the companies involved in the production of the Palomino Blackwing. This included visits to each of the graphite lead production, wood working and finishing subcontractor operations. At these meetings we reviewed a number of technical issues related to product design changes now under consideration as well as to production planning concerns. We currently expect our next production run will occur sometime around February or March 2011 depending on sales trends and lead time issues. A few more details are still being worked out and then I’ll be covering more on that topic in a future post once we finalize all our decisions within the next month.

Finally, tomorrow we will launching sales of our Palomino Blackwing Special Edition Gift Set which will be fully described in a separate post, but will include 24 Palomino Blackwings and a Palomino-KUM long point sharpener in a beatiful natural wood grain and leather trimmed box with the Palomino Blackwing logo embossed in the leather. This is a limited run of just 200 boxes of which just 150 will be offered for sale. The video accompanying this post shows the presentation of one of these gift sets to our Palomino Blackwing finishing subcontractor. His wife came in right after this and liked it so much she said she may have to take it from him, remove the pencils and use it for her sewing supplies.

Reviving the Blackwing: First Day Sales Update

First of all I want to express my personal appreciation to all of you who have shown interest in the new Palomino Blackwing thus far and are now supporting us with your orders on our first day of this new product sales on Pencils.com. We also received a nice bit of publicity today from the Boston Globe, in the multiple forms of an article as well as a video post from Globe Columnist Alex Beam.

The sweet music to our ears is that we are well ahead of the inital projections I had made for the opening 24-48 hours. At this point we essentially met my initial forecast for that period within the first 12 hours of sales. Our small Pencils.com team in our home office is busy focusing on completing and shipping as many of these orders as we can accomplish today since we want to do our best to maintain our normally high standard of prompt shipments. I appreciate the patience of some of you who will have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for our shipments to go out as we just won’t be able to get all the orders out today.

I need to especially thank our core Pencils.com team Paula, Dave, Joey and Philip for all thier hard work in preparing for the Palomino Blackwing launch. As well as Vincent for his assistance on the supply side with both our Japanese producer and our sales agent team in Tokyo. Without this groups dedicated and collective commitment we would never have been able to experience such a strong initial launch today.

I fully expect the initial rush of orders to taper off after a day or so. However, it’s clear we’ll be needing to make an additional expedited airshipment from the balance of our intial production run presently being completed in Japan. Otherwise we will not make it through the approximate 45-60 days from now we’ll have to wait for the main portion of the shipment to come over the water as we’re probably 2-3 weeks away from a ship date from Japan on the balance of the production. Should we end up short of product for a few days to a week we will be notifying any of those with backorders of a projected ship date. Note that we have limited order sizes through the initial lauch period to try to spread around what we have to as many new customers as possible.

Thanks again for everyone’s support. I very much hope you enjoy your new Palomino Blackwings and this day will become a bellwether of good things to come for the future of the the Blackwing.