I love pencils. More specifically, I love woodcased1 pencils. When I started getting into analog writing tools, pens were my first passion— gel ink pens in particular. I tried all sorts of different pens, and yes, I eventually got into fountain pens. Pens are fantastic, and my collection continues to grow. I enjoy using all sorts of pens, but there’s just something about woodcased pencils. If I were forced to choose just one writing instrument (curse that day!), it would be a woodcased pencil.
Enter The Palomino Collection Pack
The Palomino Collection Pack, along with a few other items from Pencils.com, is how I started my woodcased pencil journey. I can’t think of a better way to try a variety of pencils from one of the best companies making woodcased pencils today. It was recommended on the first episode of the Erasable podcast, and that endorsement was a game changer. At the time, I had no idea what I was really getting into, and becoming a “pencil guy” is the last thing I ever expected.
I’ve already written about the Palomino Collection Pack in my post about the Palomino Golden Bear. The Palomino Collection Pack contains nine pencils and is a complete set of woodcased pencils made by Palomino. The set is only available from Pencils.com. Just to be clear, I’m not being paid or rewarded in any manner by Pencils.com— I just think the Palomino Collection Pack is the best woodcased pencil sampler pack available.
The nine pencils in the Palomino Collection Pack range in price and quality. Keep in mind that even the least expensive and relatively lowest quality pencil in this collection far exceeds the vast majority of pencils you will find at your local big box store. Don’t get me wrong though. There are some gems you can find locally, if you know what to look for, but the Palomino sampler is the “easy button”. You will have a whole new appreciation for how pencils can differ from one another. The pencils in this sampler pack will completely change your view of woodcased pencils.
What’s Included & Is It a Good Value?
Listed below are the nine Palomino pencils included in the Palomino Collection Pack (as of this post date). I’ve also provided the price to buy the minimum quantity of a box of a dozen, as well as the individual pencil price.
- Natural Prospector #2, $1.95/dozen, ~$0.16/each
- Green Prospector #2, $2.25/dozen, ~$0.19/each
- Blue Golden Bear #2, $2.95/dozen, ~$0.25/each
- Orange Golden Bear #2, $2.95/dozen, ~$0.25/each
- ForestChoice #2, $2.95/dozen, ~$0.25/each
- Orange “Palomino” Premium HB Eraser-Tipped, $12.95/dozen, ~$1.08/each
- Blackwing, $21.95/dozen, ~$1.83/each
- Blackwing Pearl, $21.95/dozen, ~$1.83/each
- Blackwing 602, $21.95/dozen, ~$1.83/each
I included the single pencil price to illustrate the value of the sampler pack. The current price of the Palomino Collection Pack is $10.95. The total of the individual pencil prices is approximately $7.67.
This cost breakdown is somewhat irrelevant since these pencils can’t be purchased as “singles”. I still think it’s worth adding to the discussion. I think the Palomino Collection Pack is a fantastic deal. The markup is minimal considering you’d have to otherwise buy at least a dozen to just try one.
The Prospector, Golden Bear, ForestChoice, “Palomino”, and each of the Blackwings, could have their own full review (and I did one for the Golden Bear). However, I wanted this post to be an overview or introduction to the set, so I’ll write a few thoughts for each pencil.
The Prospector is the entry-level Palomino pencil. My personal preference is the green version. I’m a big fan of the color green, and this pencil looks so good. The natural version is nice too, but I wish there wasn’t a “clear coat” applied to the wood casing. These are great writers, sharpen great, and hold a point for a long time. The Prospector isn’t made with California Incense-cedar (they use basswood), has a nondescript ferrule, and the white eraser is just ok. However, the Palomino Prospector wins the prize for being the ultimate budget pencil. For the low price, this is a great pencil. Buying a couple gross of these for my kids’ school has certainly crossed my mind.
Palomino Golden Bear
I wrote an entire post about the super-awesome Palomino Golden Bear, so I’ll keep this brief. I think this is the best value in the Palomino Collection Pack. The Golden Bear was such a surprise to me. . . I’m amazed at how good this pencil if for the price. It’s one of my favorite pencils, and there will always be at least one (most likely blue) in my pencil case.
The Palomino ForestChoice is an excellent natural-finish pencil made with Incense-cedar. They are the same price as the Golden Bear, and like the Golden Bear, I feel this pencil is a super value. As you can see in the photo above, there are two versions. The latest version is on the bottom, and aesthetically it’s a huge improvement. The ForestChoice is another great writer, has a dark line, sharpens with ease, and has a long-lasting point. The relatively bright pink eraser works well but seems a bit out of place— I’d prefer something a little more subdued (light green?). However, the green ferrule looks awesome, and is a nice touch, considering this is the world’s first FSC-certified pencil.
”Palomino” Premium HB Eraser-Tipped
This is Palomino’s “self-titled” pencil. There is a big jump in quality from the previous pencils with the Palomino HB, but there should be. . . it costs a little over a dollar per pencil. It looks and feels like it was painted in an auto body shop, and the understated branding is perfect. Like the Golden Bear, Palomino makes a blue version of this pencil. It’s a beautiful and classy pencil. Even the white eraser is a good fit, and it does its job well too. The Palomino HB is such a smooth writer, and puts down a dark line. The only minor negative is it’s a touch soft for what I’d consider “HB” graphite. More frequent sharpening is worth it though. . . it’s a superb pencil and deserves its place in the over-a-dollar pencil club.
The Palomino Blackwings
In the woodcased pencil world, the Palomino Blackwings are placed on a high pedestal. This adoration is well deserved. . . All three Palomino Blackwings are amazing pencils. There is much history about the “Blackwing” name and how Palomino resurrected it after the trademark lapsed. I’m not going to go into it here, but it’s an interesting history worth reading.
All the Blackwings are gorgeous. Their paint jobs are perfect. Their unique ferrules look great and are functional. They have rectangular-shaped erasers that can be adjusted by a metal insert as they shorten. Although the ferrule is one among many positives of the Blackwing line, it does serve to highlight its one minor weakness— the eraser isn’t the greatest at erasing. It does its job well enough though, and is way, way overshadowed by the rest of the fabulous pencil. In my opinion, these are some of the finest woodcased pencils being produced today. Below is a little more information about each model.
Palomino just called this one the “Blackwing”. Its black matte paint job is unique among the Blackwings (the other two have a high-gloss exterior) and is so so nice. Its matte finish not only looks great, but it also feels great in the hand.
The “Blackwing’s” graphite is the softest of the three Blackwings, and as you may expect, it’s also the smoothest and darkest. I couldn’t imagine using it to write anything much longer than a short note. Using this pencil for writing anything of length is going to give your sharpener quite the workout. I enjoy using the “Blackwing” for drawing and sketching. In my opinion, its best use is as an art pencil. The “Blackwing” is a joy to use, but the price to pay is lots of sharpening.
The Blackwing Pearl
It’s a tough call, but to me, the Blackwing Pearl may be the best-looking of the Blackwings. The name is appropriate— the color of and feel of this pencil is very pearl-like. The color has a sort iridescent quality that is beautiful. The Pearl stands out because there just aren’t many white pencils out there.
To me, The Pearl’s graphite is a hybrid of the “Blackwing” and Blackwing 602. I would guess this was Palomino’s intent. The Pearl could function as a writer, but somewhat frequent sharpening would be necessary. The pencil is so nice to write with though, the extra sharpening may be worth it for many. For me, the Pearl would be suitable for relatively short writing sessions. Like the “Blackwing”, my favorite use of the Pearl is for drawing, but I also enjoy using it at work for lists and quick notes.
The Blackwing 602
While the Golden Bear is the best “bang-for-the-buck” pencil in the Palomino Collection Pack, cost aside, the Blackwing 602 is my favorite. A box of Blackwing 602s was my first “big” woodcased pencil purchase. This pencil is incredible. It’s a stellar writing pencil. A dark line, great point retention, smooth writing experience— this pencil has it all. The Blackwing 602 is one of my favorite pencils period. I use these all the time, and at work it’s a common conversation starter. This pencil gets looks and questions. This is the pencil you let someone curious about woodcased pencils try to make them realize how awesome woodcased pencils can be. They may not want to give it back. I’ve never tried the original, but I think Palomino knocked this one out of the park. The Blackwing 602 makes me want to get (and proudly wear) a Blackwing t-shirt.
Pencil Starter Kit Enhancements
Besides some sort of pencil sharpener, the Palomino Collection Pack is all you need for an awesome woodcased pencil starter kit. However, while your at Pencils.com, I’m going to recommend a few things to add to your cart. May as well justify the shipping expense right?
Musgrave Test Scoring 100
The first item I recommend you add to your order is a 12-pack of Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencils. I was recommended to get these by Tim Wasem (of The Writing Arsenal and Erasable podcast) when I was placing my (first of many) Pencils.com order for the Palomino Collection Pack. It was a superb suggestion, and I’m passing it along to you.
A 12-pack of Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencils (TS100) is an excellent value, and it’s definitely worth adding for the low price (currently $3.25). As far as I know, it’s only one of two “test scoring” pencils still being produced today (the other is the General’s 580 Test Scoring pencil). The TS100 has what is referred to as an “electro-graphite” core. Its unique graphite composition has a reflective property that is designed to be picked up by test scanning machines2. The graphite core has a larger diameter than a standard woodcased pencil, and looks impressive when sharpened with a long-point sharpener.
The TS100 produces a very dark line and is a smooth writer. Its graphite is on the soft side of the spectrum though, so keep your sharpener on standby. However, considering its graphite qualities, a sharpened point lasts longer that you’d expect. The TS100 is highly regarded (and rightly so) in the world of woodcased pencils and one you at least have to try.
General’s Semi-Hex #2 (HB)
The second product I’d suggest you add to your starter kit order is a box of General’s Semi-Hex #2 (HB) pencils. Although at the current price of $7.20/dozen ($0.60/pencil), this isn’t as easy of an add-on as the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 12-pack. Even with the relatively higher price, I still recommend it.
The General’s Semi-Hex #2 is made with Incense-cedar right here in the USA (Jersey City, New Jersey). It’s a classic-looking pencil that takes me back to an earlier time when a yellow #2 pencil was my primary writing instrument. Even the box has a vintage look.
The General’s Semi-Hex #2 is a super writing pencil. For a #2 (HB) pencil, it provides a line with good darkness, but its point retention is where it excels. I enjoy using these pencils and recommend them because they provide yet another look, feel, and writing experience that is different from the other pencils discussed in this post.
The only negative I’ve experienced with the General’s Semi-Hex is some cosmetic inconsistencies. For the price, I would expect a better level of quality control, but some imperfections in the finish don’t detract at all from the writing experience.
A Pencil Sharpener
You have to have something to get a nice point on your new collection of pencils, so the final thing to add to your order is some sort of pencil sharpener. This isn’t a recommendation. . . You have to have a pencil sharpener. Pencils.com has nice selection of great sharpeners, but I highly recommend the KUM 1-Hole Long Point sharpener. I wrote a review of it, so I’ll just refer you over there. It produces a fantastic long point. For the current price of $1.95, it’s an excellent sharpener. I recommend you pick up more than one.
Proceed With Caution
Since I want to be a responsible blogger, I feel somewhat obligated to tell you the following: The Palomino Collection Pack led me down a deep rabbit hole. If you get bit by the pencil bug like I did, you may find yourself in the not-too-far future trying to figure out how to organize your growing pencil collection. You might also seek out and have an internal debate about spending what may seem now like an outrageous amount of money for one pencil that stopped being produced decades ago. It has a particular composition of graphite you just have to try, or you discover your favorite author used it to write a novel that had a huge impact on you. It’s a slippery slope folks— at least for me it was.
I realize this post comes across as a giant sales pitch for Palomino and Pencils.com. All the products discussed in this post were paid for with my own stationery allowance (yes, I give myself an allowance). I assure you my only (current) affiliation with both companies is as a big fan and happy customer. This won’t be the last time I talk with high praise about a product manufacturer or retailer, but if my relationship ever goes beyond fan or customer, I will be crystal clear about it.
I consider this post my woodcased pencil PSA. All of the pencils discussed in this post are different and will enable you to discover your personal preferences. While I recommend the Musgrave and General’s pencils and think they’re worthwhile additions to your pencil starter set, the Palomino Collection Pack (and a sharpener) is really all you need to get into the wonderful world of woodcased pencils. I don’t know anywhere else where you can get such a diverse set of pencils that covers as wide of a spectrum of price and quality. It made me realize I’d been missing out on some marvelous writing instruments, and started what is now a passion, fantastic hobby and sizable collection.