If it’s good enough for John Steinbeck, it’s good enough for me.

Ah stationery, you are my weakness! Recognising that a penchant for Montblanc fountain pens was a path to certain disappointment, I have instead developed a love for fine pencils, namely the Palomino Blackwing.

I bought a box of Blackwing 602s when Lucy and I started Hard Book Habit, for writing notes in the margins of all the books I’ve been reading. It was love at first mark. To write with a 602 is like stroking velvet. Once tried, there’s no going back.

blackwing 602

Blackwing occasionally release special editions of their cult pencils. There has been an homage  to the Fender Stratocaster – the Blackwing 725 – but the sunburst colourway wasn’t enough to tempt me away from the 602.

palomino blackwing 725


However, the latest edition, the Volume 24 did pique my interest. It was created as a tribute to John Steinbeck, in collaboration with his son Thomas Steinbeck, to most closely resemble what would have been John Steinbeck’s ideal pencil. Without sacrificing the darkness of the lead, the Volume 24 is firmer than the 602, keeping a sharper point for a longer, so that when writing longhand, you need to sharpen less frequently.

As my box of 602s is nearly empty, and I’m about to embark on a writing project which I’ll be roughing out first in longhand, I was helpless to resist.

I was a little disappointed with the look of the Vol. 24, as the uniform glossy black of the pencil didn’t appeal as much as the 602’s graphite and gold. But how would the writing compare? I love the feel of the 602, but despite the claim ‘Half the pressure, twice the speed’ I find that the nibs blunt easily. That’s not a problem for making brief notes in the margins of books, but would be annoying for writing at length. Fortunately, the Vol. 24 does indeed have a much firmer lead, yet there is no squeak or drag. It is just as smooth a writing experience but with less sharpening required. I couldn’t be happier!