Behold a sight of beauty. 7 Faber Janus in one shot! World-premier?
Life’s full of surprises. There are the ones you are planning for yourself and then there are those that simply happen. Most of these surprises in my life are of the second type, because I’m pretty bad at planning and bad at keeping deadlines. I organized most of what’s happening in my small cosmos around the fact that I’m sluggish most of the time. Writing a blog that asks for more than one action to be of interest is in every effect exhausting for a person like me. But my love for drawing, pencils and the internet keep me going and giving input and thoughts into the thriving pencils and pens community. On a side note, I have unfortunately more than one hobby (don’t like that word). My main interest (don’t be shocked) is music. Especially electronic music and more precisely my modular synth. Most of the last two months were spent wiggling (that’s the word that describes the action of making music with your modular). Another really interesting trait of mine is that I get easily bored, so here I’m back again to drawing and reviewing pencils.
Did you want to hear all of this? Is that a good introduction to a pencil review? Yes, as it shows a glimpse of the person behind the drawing, the “pencil-wielder”. So what have I been using lately? The MONGOL. It first appeared on my radar as I was searching through some of those pencil databases. It struck me with its quite unique look: vintage, the kind of vintage you’d buy, as it is kind of timeless. So I got hold of two of the old boxes of “1”‘s and “2”‘s. The boxes alone are a beautiful sight. It’s the kind of graphics and typos you see copied on a lot of modern products that pretend to be vintage.
The pencils I have are not of the very best condition: the lacquer has cracks, the erasers are hard and mostly unusable (but that is unavoidable with old pencils I think) and some (hopefully not more) of the leads are broken, so the pencils might have been dropped at some time. So beside these little problems, how well do they perform?
As I said it is a beautiful pencil. The yellow lacquer, the beautiful mix of black fonts, the bronze ferrule. It is advertised as a the “Business” pencil, so it does not pretend to be a drawing pencil, but is mainly aimed at a writing clientele. Then there is the “diamond star” that refers to the special lead used here. The #1 box says: “Woodclinched Complastic Lead”. This might refer to the use of a synthetic binder. But hey, I have strictly no idea, and am not that eager to dig into the technical part.
It’s always a pleasure to draw with a pencil that has a history. The Mongol certainly is one of the most successful brands throughout the years. As this article (penciltalk) from 2007 suggests they are still being produced today. The ones I have are of the old kind. I’m not sure how old exactly, but as always this is not really interesting in my perspective of things. So my first attempts at sketching were not really conclusive. As a matter of fact I was not feeling creative.
So I made another attempt (yes, another dragon) and I really began to feel the potential of the pencil. Surprisingly the Mongol is not a sketching pencil in my hands, but one of those I prefer using as a detailing pencil. As soon as I try to throw some crosshatching I literally lose the feel for the pencil. It really is a pencil that wants to be controlled, that performs extremely well with delicate handling. It’s not a very dark nor soft. The #2 really feels like a standard HB, but with more finesse. It is difficult to describe, as the word stickiness doesn’t really apply. The Mongol is really light and refuses to produce a too dark line. I have often problems with pencils that are too light as I compensate this lightness with a cramped wrist and that normally ends in pain… The Mongol doesn’t do that and that is another surprise. Somehow the lead has a hint of softness or stickiness that compensates the lightness.
Another thing I have observed is that I have to sharpen it very often, but not because it dulls rapidly, but because I feel most comfortable drawing with it when it has a nice sharp point. It really is a surprising pencil. I was under the impression when I first saw it, that it would be a rude (in a good way), smudgy and prone for sketching pencil, perhaps due to its name or coloring, and it turns out to be a really delicate pencil that needs effort to appreciate. The more I use the Mongol, the more I appreciate its fine-tuning, and we are talking here about a mass produced pencil. Give it a try if you happen to come by a couple of these.
The myth, the legend, the pencil of pencils, the pencil made famous through numerous illustrious people is… well, I think we’ll start at the beginning. So my love for pencils is an old one. This love was a practical love, a love for the medium rather than the product. As I probably said in other posts my first real good pencils were Lumographs and 9000s. Really good pencils, pencils for drawing on different papers, pencils for sketching, pencils for realistic finishes. As I drew less, through shifting goals in my life I lost interest in drawing and into pencils. But this recently changed big time through my job as an art teacher and especially my first assignment to a drawing course. I began to draw again. Through this I delved also deeper into the realm of the pencil as a product and discovered a whole world of nerds and geeks talking about pencils and other things related to these in a pompous and loving way. Here I discovered that there is this one pencil everybody is talking about: the Blackwing 602. So after purchasing some other pencils on the bay, I managed to get hold of some Faber-Castell Blackwings for a somewhat decent price as these had minor faults (the ferrule not in the right position f.ex.).
I really didn’t want to use them seriously. Just keep them for my children or something like that. But as I also started to write this blog, it turned out that there’s no way around a review of the original Blackwing 602. I recently reviewed the Palomino Blackwing Pearl, which I liked, without being stoked. So what do I think about the real thing. It looks good, it looks vintage with its pink eraser, the pale bronze ferrule, the grey lacquer, the fading gold lettering. This look is never outdated, it’s a timeless design classic.
You see I’m not eager to get to the point. This might be the premature end of this blog, because I’m not going to say a lot of good things about the Blackwing 602 as a drawing pencil. The hype surrounding this pencil is clearly overblown. It’s a pencil that’s really smooth, too smooth, extremely soft, too fat, breaks fast as hell and does not really shine in its performance. I had to sharpen often. I used it in the same Canson sketchbook I used for almost all the pencils I reviewed until now, and it behaves a bit like a 4B, maybe 5B. Even the smallest pressure produces a very visible line, putting pressure on the point produces a lot of dust and a nice smeary black line or it breaks.
This happened twice now, and it is not that the lead is broken inside, I know how that feels, no here the lead just snapped, and no I didn’t force it. I used a Palomino Blackwing Automatic Longpoint sharpener. So nothing too spectacular. For the rest of the drawings I tried different angles with my Kutsuwa T’Gaal and it didn’t break anymore, even on the point-iest selection (For those that don’t know the T’Gaal: it’s a sharpener that has a dial on the side where you can decide the point-iness of your pencil). This is the first time I remember that happening to me with a pencil and at that with the legend, the myth, the Blackwing 602. You can imagine my surprise, that was the last thing I was expecting to happen. I’ve also been missing the stickiness, that smooth, graphite leaden stickiness I learned to appreciate with the Palomino Blackwing 602. The lead feels a bit uncontrollable, too fast, not enough grip, but not entirely unpleasant. The sharpened point dulled extremely fast, which I felt as being somewhat unnerving considering the price I payed for it and also strange since the pencil is hailed as long-lasting. I tried the pencil on very smooth paper (Kokuyo Twin Ring Notebook), just to be sure that the Canson paper is perhaps the wrong paper for the BW602, but the result has been exactly the same. Smear resistance is something one would normally not look into with a 4B or 5B pencil, but a pencil that is thought as a writing instrument and smears like the BW602 shouldn’t get the praise it gets in my opinion. It’s a pencil that’s not meant for tidiness, it’s more the dirty kind.
I really wanted to love it. I wanted to cherish it, to hold it in my hands and let Hemingway’s spirit flow out of it onto the paper. But nothing of this happened. Maybe I was expecting too much, maybe the Faber-Castell version of the Blackwing 602 isn’t the same as the Eberhard-Faber one. Maybe the one I tested has been badly storaged, has dried out (if that is even possible). Maybe my writing, my sketching is not adapted to this pencil or vice-verso. I am underwhelmed and also a bit sad. I’m sad that the myth has truly died a bit under my sketching hand. Only the stories remain, reality has taken its toll. I have paid way too much for that pencil…
It has arrived! The whole was very well packaged in a small Swarowski box (yep, pun intended).
Original packaging, almost pristine.
The Janus was wrapped in some paper, that felt waxed or something.
And here behold: the Janus 4048!
And it looks totally unused!!!
The paper it was wrapped in.
And a last shot.
I think I’ll do a video when I’m using it first. Stay tuned!
I said to myself I’d never review the original Blackwing 602. Myths are narrated by a fireplace and not reviewed by some young ignorant. Well lucky for me Palomino set out to copy… erm, revive the legend and give me an opportunity to review a pencil that pretends to be another. I could have chosen to review the Palomino Blackwing 602 first, but by trying the three of them side by side I found more similarities between the Pearl and the original BW 602, than that one to the Palomino BW 602.
But lets start with the appearance. And the Pearl just wins every beauty price a classic pencil could gather. The lacquer is gorgeous, there’s this nacreous tint to it, that just shines. The black font used is smaller than on the Palomino BW 602 and there’s no catch-phrase on the back (good thing). The ferrule is exactly the same as on its brother (the cousin being the orig. BW 602), as is the eraser, both of very nice quality. The lead of the Pearl is a bit thicker between its wood-coffin, the line where the two halves of the wood meet are apparent.
The performance of the Pearl is good. It produces a really dark line, you don’t need a lot of pressure to push it beyond 2B territory. First thing I noticed is that even if a nice point lasts long, sharpened with a CARL Bungu Ryodo, the point easily breaks under the pressure. And the point leaves a lot of dust (as seen in the picture). The lead runs smoothly and lends itself to some really expressive sketching. Due to its fat nature the lead easily smears, but it’s still fine and manageable. I like it.
So I tried the Palomino BW 602 just to get a feeling of the difference and it felt harder, still smooth and left a less darker line, but somehow it felt more at home in my hand than the Pearl. Trying the FaberCastell Blackwing 602 I was surprised to find that the Pearl is much more like the original BW 602, than the wanna-be Palomino BW 602 tries to be. Only difference is the “stickiness” of the lead. The original BW 602 feels more adherent to the paper, where the Pearl has less of that effect. So the original BW 602 stands unrivaled, although Palomino has through their attempts produced some really good pencils, they circle it well, but can’t quite put their thumb on it.
Nevertheless does the Blackwing Pearl’s performance leave a really positive feeling. I will surely use it more often to darken things and areas, but I dont’ see it as a “draw-it-all pencil”, more like a 2B brother to the Palomino Blackwing 602, that one being the HB of that set. But you can’t beat the fashion statement that the Pearl delivers when you draw in public!