4/3/12: (A brief update can be found here.)

There is only one part of the Blackwing 602 that hasn’t yet been the subject of a separate post, and that’s due in part to the fact I’m not certain what to call it. Some call it the “small metal piece”, others the “aluminum clip.” I’ve called it the “metal crimp”, but they all refer to the same thing: the small part that saddles the eraser and holds it inside the ferrule.

But even the ferrule wasn’t called such by Eberhard Faber. In catalogs it was referred to as the “tip”, and was distinguished by being gilt or not. Putting it all together, the Blackwing was described as having a “flat clamp eraser with gilt tip.”

“Clamp?” It sounds funny to me calling it a clamp, but, that’s what Eberhard Faber called it and from now on, so will I. However, instead of “tip” I’m going to stick with “extended ferrule”—the former seems too nondescript. I think even before I first tried a Blackwing, it was this ferrule and clamp that sparked my fascination. I mean, who ever heard of a wood-cased pencil with removable parts? Up until that point at least, I hadn’t.

Evolution of the Blackwing 602 Clamp

Just like other aspects of the Blackwing 602’s design, such as its color, length, imprint, and ferrule, the clamp underwent subtle changes as well. Since the same ferrule assembly was used for the Van Dyke and Microtomic, my guess is that they all received the same updates.

Though I haven’t seen any documented reasons for the changes, I think it’s reasonable to presume that cost and efficiency were likely the most influential factors. As a rule, the ferrules and clamps became less substantial over time.

Following the Eras of My Way, from left to right are clamps from early, classic, and late Blackwing pencils. This is by no means a collection of all “versions” of the clamp—it’s just a sampling. I don’t know how many versions there were, and I’m not sure I want to know either. I’m assuming they are made of aluminum, but I’m not certain—perhaps they are some sort of alloy—but they are all very light and malleable. Unfolded, their shape is reminiscent of a butterfly bandage.

The first clamp is the most substantial, and its embossed grooves hold on very tightly to the eraser even when it is over-extended past the ferrule. The curls at the top are well-formed and more or less symmetrical on both sides, and the fold of the clamp is crisp, too, with clear right-angles. The second clamp is much more flimsy and has no embossing at all. The curls at the top aren’t as straight on both sides, but the fold is still well-defined. The third clamp has two embossed points on each side for gripping on to the eraser. The curls have flattened a bit, and the fold is more rounded than angular. I wonder what the machine that makes them looks like.

They all do essentially the same job of course, though the early clamp stands out in its ability to grip the eraser. I’d be very interested to find out what the exact engineering terms are for the things I’ve christened the “curl”, “fold”, and “embossed grooves.” I wonder if at any time during the Blackwing’s lifetime someone noticed these changes and said “boy, they sure don’t make these clamps like they used to.”

I suppose the only thing left to take a look at would be the erasers, but I’m not likely to. Erasers certainly don’t age well but we can’t hold that against the Blackwing. However, it’s interesting to see in some of the historic photos that the erasers are missing; whether they were removed or lost can’t be determined though. But that’s the subject of another post—until then they will just have to be my “gilty pleasure.”