I'm not a regular user of the Blackwing pencils, but I've been impressed with each of the ones I've had the opportunity to try. And the Volumes Vol. 344 Series, a tribute to Dorothea Lange and her iconic photograph "Migrant Mother", is quite frankly the best pencil I've ever used. It hits all the high points for me.
On the purely practical side of things, this is a really nice lead. It takes a sharp point that doesn't shatter. It lays down a super smooth dark line, but the tip lasts for ages and doesn't wear nearly as fast as you'd think. The lead doesn't smear excessively, either. Any lead smudges a little, but this one stayed put nicely, even when I carried my sketches around. It erases well--leaving just a shadow behind. The eraser does wear down a bit quickly, but it can be replaced if needed. It's a very well-balanced compromise between dark and hard. I've often been frustrated looking for that balance. I think this nails it.
It's a good size in the hand, with a rounded hexagonal barrel. The coated wood is comfortable--smooth but easy to grip. The red foil ferrule keeps the black eraser secure. Everything about it feels solid and well-constructed. The wood smells good when you sharpen it and the shavings are gorgeous. And, maybe my favorite part--it's a creative tribute to a talented woman who highlighted important social issues.
This pencil is beautiful. The colors are meant to mimic what a pencil would look like under the red lights in a photographer's dark room. It's difficult to capture the deep red of the body color--it's a rich burgundy that almost looks like it's glowing from within. The bright red ferrule and black eraser set it off beautifully. They're very passionate colors, which I think are an excellent choice for Dorothea's passion--and compassion--for her photo subjects.
Her documentation of the working poor during the great depression led to intervention, and her photographs of the Japanese interment camps in California during WWII were so stirring that the government locked them away for decades. The red on this pencil doesn't just seem like the red of a darkroom light--there's a fire to it that is truly inspiring. Finally, the volume number, 344, is a nod to where you can locate her photographs in the Library of Congress. That's just so cool.
The reason I haven't used many Blackwing pencils is because they're usually sold by the box--and I just don't need or want that many pencils. Until now. Now I'm looking at my box of pencils and thinking I might need a few backup boxes.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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