California Cedar, a global pencil slat business, is known online for their pencils.com website, their Palomino pencil line, and now – a type of marketing dishonesty that completely shocks many of us who have admired them for years.
The company has introduced a “Blackwing 602” pencil that takes the name of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil. The new pencil has been marketed with claims of association with Frank Lloyd Wright, Duke Ellington, and John Lennon. Each of these claims has been demolished, in succession, at Orange Crate Art and Blackwing Pages.
There are many historical figures who used the Eberhard Faber Blackwing – Sean has painstakingly researched and documented this over at Blackwing Pages for years now. Claiming the usage by these people as an endorsement of the replica pencil is somewhere between questionable and outrageous (and others would find that statement mild). But fabricating stories about Frank Lloyd Wright, Duke Ellington and John Lennon using (or even favoring) the Blackwing pencil is unbelievable, and I don’t follow or understand.
And that’s just the beginning. Each of these marketing deceits (except for Lennon, as I write this) was withdrawn after being revealed and challenged. It is a sort of “Liar Whac-A-Mole”. New nonsense sprouts up when the old nonsense is debunked.
Even further, this global company seems to have taken their marketing lessons from the Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy movie Bowfinger. To quote the IMDb synopsis, “When a desperate movie producer fails to get a major star for his bargain basement film, he decides to shoot the film secretly around him.” Many of the claims about famous writers, musicians, and artists using the Blackwing are clearly lifted without credit from the Blackwing Pages.
So, California Cedar, what’s going on?
Blackwing posts at Orange Crate Art
California Republic Stationers recently announced some oversized pencils aimed at children: the Mini Jumbo, the Mini Jumbo Triangular, and the Jumbo.
Made in Thailand, the pencils are part of the discount Spangle line.
The pencils are brightly coloured, and have a heavy solid feel. They also have a fairly strong paint aroma. Strong enough that I found myself quickly going to wash my hands after touching them. While CRS states “All Spangle Pencils conform to the ASTM D4236 and are safe and non-toxic”, there can still be a gap between being safe and being pleasant. Maybe it’s just that they are “fresh off the press”.
The Jumbo has a diameter of 9.5mm, and a weight of 11.3g. The Mini Jumbo is 8.4mm/9.4g, and the Triangular Mini Jumbo weighs in at 8.3mm/9.5g. (Numbers approximate.)
Issued in bright primary colours, the pencils scream “fun”.
As oversize basswood pencils, they require quite a bit of effort to manually sharpen. Unfortunately, that effort reveals that the lead is a bit scratchy.
I think the Spangles look great, but the strong paint aroma, sharpening difficulty, and scratchy lead outweigh the initial appeal, at least for me.
The third and final box of pencils that I was able to locate comes from California Republic Stationers. Two years ago on this blog, it was suggested that these pencils deserved a wooden box!
I was pleasantly surprised – the box has a pleasing patina, and seems reasonably sturdy, with a hinged lid. The hinge hardware is pleasant though generic.
The box has six pencils – three red, three blue, produced by California Republic’s unnamed Japanese manufacturer. The last Palominos I bought were factory sharpened, while these are unsharpened. The box looks like it could hold another layer of six pencils. The pencils are seated in a clear plastic tray.
The box I received has some slight blurring/smudging of the graphical imprint, but it doesn’t detract much from the aesthetics.
Overall, it is a very nice box of pencils.