Friday, July 30, 2010

Nelson Riddle on the Blackwing pencil

Composer and arranger Nelson Riddle liked the Blackwing:

Pencils should be of very soft lead, so that a minimum of pressure is needed to convey the marks to the paper, but the lead should be dense enough to be able to carry a sharp point, since clarity is essential. My favorite pencil is the Blackwing #602, by Eberhard Faber, but there may be many brands equal or superior to the Blackwing. Another important feature of a pencil is its eraser. It should be firm, though not dry, and since soft lead is quite easily blurred, it should be an eraser that makes a clean sweep. Some arrangers prefer a mechanical pencil with a refillable reservoir for lead, but I find that the lead in these pencils is quite often brittle, and the eraser wears out after a couple of packets of lead have been expended.

Nelson Riddle, Arranged by Nelson Riddle (Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Music Publishing, 1985).
Here’s a photograph of Nelson Riddle holding a pencil that shows the distinctive Blackwing ferrule. (Squint.)

Related posts
Blackwing 2: The Return
The new Blackwing pencil
Proust’s supplies
Stephen Sondheim on pencils, paper
John Steinbeck on the Blackwing pencil

comments: 7

Adair said...

The Blackwing 602 will be making a return, perhaps as soon as fall of 2010. CalCedar, the makers of the wonderful Palomino pencil, purchased the rights to the discontinued Blackwing from Sanford (or Papermate or whoever the current corporate owner is). It will be marvelous to have this great pencil available again---an American treasure restored! I recommend the new blog, The Blackwing Pages. It contains several photos of famous writers, artists and composers using the Blackwing.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Adair. Can we hope for the return of the Blackwing ferrule?

Adair said...

No-one can say. CalCedar is keeping a tight lid on "Operation Blackwing." While I certainly hope that the original ferrule is kept, I've heard that the crimping of this ferrule is the most expensive part of the pencil, apparently 75% of the manufacturing cost. The new Blackwing, if it keeps the unique ferrule, will not be cheap, but certainly cheaper than the $40 per pencil that you must now pay for the vintage Blackwings on ebay. I hope that this will prove a successful venture and that the Blackwing will return to its place as an essential tool of American creativity. (Just yesterday I passed the Hotel Chelsea in NYC, where Thomas Wolfe, an obsessive Blackwing user, lived for years.) said...

Adair and Michael,
I work for California Cedar Products and we appreciate your passion for the Blackwing Pencil. It is true that we are re-making it, that is all the information that I can give out right now. Check out our Facebook (The Pencil Page), Twitter (pencilscom), and Blogger ( pages for future updates about the Blackwing and our other great products!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the info, Cal Cedar. I look forward to following Blackwing 2: The Return.

Adair said...

Thank you, Cal Cedar. You are doing so many artists, writers and composers an important service by bringing back this legendary pencil. said...

We are proud to bring back such a coveted artistic item...stay posted on Facebook and Twitter for new and interesting updates, products, and promotions!