The gorgeous, bright blue Blackwing 73 is the summer 2017 Volumes pencil from Palomino Brands, a premium US based supplier of high-quality pencils. Blackwing releases a quarterly special edition pencil set, called Volumes, based on their regular Blackwing pencils. These are limited editions and part of Blackwing’s subscription service. Historically, these can have a mixed reception to the public, but popular versions quickly become collector items and command premiums on the secondary markets. This Blackwing 73 will be one of the highly sought after releases as it is already very popular!
Lake Tahoe Inspired
Lake Tahoe inspired the Blackwing 73. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful, clear blue freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It straddles the border between California and Nevada and is the largest alpine lake in North America at 22 miles long by 12 miles wide. Lake Tahoe’s water is crystal clear and both reflects the sky and absorbs red light waves to appear to viewers eyes as a dazzling blue colour.
The Blackwing 73 pencil celebrates the iconic lake and seeks to bring awareness to the current problems that development around the lake is causing. Increased development and land use in the Tahoe Basin reduce the natural filtering systems in the delicate shoreline ecology which can lead to cultural eutrophication - excessive algae growth in the water from excessive nutrient levels - and increased fine sediments in the water are causing the once pristine Lake Tahoe to lose clarity.
This pencil release volume number, 73, represents Lake Tahoe’s last measured Secchi depth of 73 feet. Secchi depth is used to measure water clarity by measuring depth in feet. The last measured visible depth of Lake Tahoe was 73 feet using a Secchi disk for accuracy.
I have never seen Lake Tahoe in person, however, In British Columbia, we have a large, freshwater regional lake that appears to be very clear - Lake Okanagan. I compared the Secchi depth to Lake Tahoe, and visibility was only about half as deep, even at the during the highest clarity levels in Spring! I am sure Lake Tahoe is stunning in person.
The pencil is a standard Blackwing design, with an elongated eraser. The pencil has a bright blue wrap with slightly raised and textured curved white/silver lines along the length of the pencil. These lines represent the lake’s topography and add a wonderful, unique tactile grip to this beautiful pencil. The imprinting of “PALOMINO,” the trademark tree logo and “BLACKWING * 73” are in a slightly recessed white print. The ferrule is silver and contains an elongated Blackwing style white eraser. The pencil has a standard and aromatic cedar wood core.
The raised topography lines are my favourite detail on this pencil - adding subtle, yet definite, tactile experience as you write. The texture also reduces any slippage as you hold the pencil. The lines are subtle and are not uncomfortable or sharp to your fingers as you hold the pencil. The blue is a wrapped finish.
Offsetting the blue of the pencil is the choice of the silver ferrule with the white eraser and the white printing. These trim options are lovely and compliment the pencil colouring. I can't think of a better colour choice to present this pencil in any better manner.
In my opinion, this is one of the best looking Blackwing volumes in some time, and the blue is a stunning colour choice. I love blue writing tools, and this vibrant and bright blue will look great on any desk.
The Blackwing 73 uses the same soft core as the standard Blackwing. Blackwing uses four different cores in their pencils with varying levels of hardness, and this core is the softest they offer. While Palomino does not specify a standard hardness of their cores, the 73 is most similar to a 4B hardness. As you would expect from such a soft pencil, lines are smooth and wonderfully dark.
The downside is that this soft core pencil doesn’t hold the tip well and will require frequent sharpening. Also, because of the soft core, lines are more easily smudged than by more traditional writing hardnesses.
Ideally, this pencil is suited for sketching, rather than desk use. However, it is such an excellent writer and delightful design that I find myself still using it regularly.
Purchasing Blackwing 73
As much as a love most Blackwing pencils, I do not have a subscription to the quarterly Blackwing Volumes collection. As a Canadian, the shipping is too expensive! The subscription is fair value at $99 USD for four boxes of pencils plus some subscriber extras. However, the cross-border shipping is astronomical! A Canadian subscription costs an additional $60 USD for four boxes of pencils!
Luckily, one of my local stationery (and tea!) suppliers, Nikaido Gifts in Steveston, BC carries Blackwing pencils in stock. As a bonus, they sell Blackwings individually, which allows greater and more economical choice, as well as by the full box. Nikaido’s prices are excellent, and they carry a growing and impressive line of quality stationery products. If you are in the Vancouver area, I do recommend visiting them. Of course, one look at the 73 and I purchased a full box! I do not know if they ship product, but they are accommodating on the phone, and I would recommend calling them directly.
There is much to love about the new Blackwing 73 - particularly the design. The only limitation I have is the very soft, black core as I use my pencils for writing rather than for art. However, this pencil is so visually stunning that it has become my daily pencil, despite those limitations.
It is sure to become a collector’s item in a hurry, so I recommend picking up a box while they are still available.