The Background and Design Behind Vol. 725

The Background

When Andrew Combs was in town last summer, he was talking about a recent tour up the east coast that ended at the Newport Folk Festival®. He raved about the experience and the festival itself. He said, among other things, that Newport was full of friendly people that had a passion for great music. He summed it up by saying, it has a “real Blackwing kind of vibe”. 

I was immediately inspired to find a way to collaborate with Newport. When we finally came up with the idea for the Volumes program, the first call we made was to the folks at the festival. After one conversation, we realized the synergy was ripe for a partnership.

When going through the rich history of Newport that included epic performances from some of the greatest artists of all time, we discovered that this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 festival, an event that is embedded in the very fibers of folk music. Bob Dylan, a mainstay folk musician at previous festivals, came to town just a few weeks removed from the writing and recording of “Like a Rolling Stone”. When he took the stage with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the first electric set in the festival’s history send reverberations from Newport that were felt throughout the rest of the music landscape. You can read more about it here.

In looking forward to the 2015 lineup, it’s flush with some of our favorite modern day writers and musicians. People like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson continue the tradition of using the Newport Folk Festival as a platform for pushing music forward. When we talk about insurgent artists, these guys, along with the likes of Nikki Lane, Traveler (a supergroup that includes faves Robert Ellis and Johnny Fritz), Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, epitomize it.

When we realized that the date of Dylan’s historic performance and the upcoming 2015 Saturday night showcase was the same (07/25), the Blackwing 725 was born.

The Design

Next, came the fun part. We started researching fliers, photos, videos and everything else we could get our hands on. The sunburst Fender Stratocaster is an iconic instrument, and one that was central to the ’65 festival, so we decided on that as our inspiration. 

Nailing the finish was tricky. The easy answer was to create a wrapped pencil using a sunburst design, but we wanted to do something new. After several attempts and prototypes, we were able to identify a process that would allow us to create a gradient lacquer that stood up to our Blackwing quality standards. The result is a seamless (literally) gradient, from the black eraser to the tip of the unsharpened pencil. 


The white imprint is designed to mimic the guitar’s pickguard, while the balanced graphite was chosen to reflect the breadth of musical genres represented at the Newport Folk Festival.

This pencil was a blast to design, but it’s just a small glimpse of what the Volumes program has in store. A big thank you to everyone who has already subscribed (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?). We’re already hard at work on our next edition, and we can’t wait to share it with all of you!