How often does the name “Blaisdell” creep into pencil-related blogs? Not as often as Faber-Castell, Staedtler, or Tombow to be sure, yet the Blaisdell Pencil Company of Philadelphia—now a part of Sanford—has a rich and storied history. Known for their Ben Franklin line, they are also purported to have been the first to produce paper-wrapped pencils, such as China markers, as far back as the early 1890s.
I came across one Blaisdell pencil rather by accident. Inside a box of half-broken misfits, chipped and sans ferrules, was a Blaisdell 600 Special Grade Calculator pencil. Even without a ferrule, it looked sharp with its jet-black lacquered finish. It is a round pencil, which suggests it was made for tasks that take a bit of time (such as tests)—its tendency to roll off a desk mitigated by its comfort.
After trying the rest of the pencils—all scratchy and hard—the 600 was remarkably soft and dark, but it didn’t seem to wear in proportion to its darkness, a quality ascribed to the Blackwing 602. However, this pencil does wear more quickly than the 602.
This writing sample compares the 600 to the 602.
I don’t know the dating of this pencil, but the ferrule has a white band that seems to be hand-painted, suggesting a time when this process was not yet automated. The design and striping of ferrules—or of the ends of pencils in general—was once akin to heraldic devices announcing their manufacturers and each particular brand. As it was something easy to duplicate, ‘counterfeiters’ would attract unwary consumers by mimicking the marks and stripes of better-known (and more expensive) brands. You can find A.W. Faber himself imploring the public by way of printed packing materials, to be sure of his brand before purchasing pencils.
Though I’m not looking to replace the Blackwing 602, especially with another pencil that is no longer made, still it’s fun to find something that approximates the experience of writing with a Blackwing, and the Blaisdell 600 does so quite nicely.
I wonder what could be determined by the similarity of their product numbers. Probably coincidence.