To round out the first year of the Blackwing Volumes program, we wanted to pay tribute to one of our personal heroes, John Steinbeck. Designed under the guidance of his son, accomplished author Thomas Steinbeck, we’ve attempted to create what would have been John Steinbeck’s ideal pencil.
We met with Thom late last year to discuss the particulars of the pencil. Thom – and the stories he told us about his father – left us inspired. We came away with a very specific design and Volume number pulled directly from those stories.
When asked about its design, Thom was adamant that his father would want it to be black, from barrel to eraser. “My father despised yellow pencils,” Thom said. “It would be black. The whole thing. Top to bottom.” In an effort to avoid distraction, John Steinbeck chose pencils that were dark in color and, therefore, less eye-catching. Thom went on to describe the ideal graphite as “the hardest point you can find that still maintains some darkness.” “My father’s pencils had a firm, sharp point,” noted Thom. “They were surgically sharp. You could dissect a mouse [with his pencils].”
John Steinbeck saw sharpening as another unnecessary, and unacceptable distraction. So every day, before putting graphite to paper, he would sharpen 24 pencils and place them point up in the first of two identical wood boxes. Each pencil lasted just long enough to dull its point – usually four or five lines – before being placed in the second box, point down. After all 24 pencils had progressed from one box to the other, John would resharpen each pencil, and begin the process anew. According to Thom, some days he would use over 100 pencils. But every day started with 24 pencils and the sound of the pencil sharpener.
We had our Volume number and our design. All that was left was to put them together. The result is the Blackwing 24.
The Blackwing 24 features a new extra-firm graphite great for extended writing. You won’t find this graphite in any of our other Blackwing models. It’s slightly firmer than the graphite found in the Blackwing 602, without sacrificing much in the way of darkness. It also features a distraction-free black barrel, black imprint, black ferrule and black eraser.
As has become a bit of a tradition, subscribers will find a little something extra in their subscription boxes. We’ll go into a bit more detail about that in a later post.