It’s widely known that John Steinbeck loved pencils, and that he had a special affinity for Blackwing 602’s. As a tribute to the Nobel Prize winning author, Blackwing worked with John’s son Thom to design what Thom felt would have been his father’s perfect pencil.

Thom was adamant that his father would want it to be black, from barrel to eraser. “My father despised yellow pencils,” Thom said. “It would be black. The whole thing. Top to bottom.” In an effort to avoid distraction, John Steinbeck chose pencils that were dark in color and, therefore, less eye-catching. Thom went on to describe the ideal graphite as “the hardest point you can find that still maintains some darkness.” “My father’s pencils had a firm, sharp point,” noted Thom. “They were surgically sharp. You could dissect a mouse [with his pencils].”

John Steinbeck saw sharpening as another unnecessary, and unacceptable distraction. So every day, before putting graphite to paper, he would sharpen 24 pencils and place them point up in the first of two identical wood boxes. Each pencil lasted just long enough to dull its point – usually four or five lines – before being placed in the second box, point down. After all 24 pencils had progressed from one box to the other, John would resharpen each pencil, and begin the process anew. According to Thom, some days he would use over 100 pencils. But every day started with 24 pencils and the sound of the pencil sharpener.

The Blackwing 24 features a new extra-firm graphite great for extended writing. You won’t find this graphite in any of our other Blackwing models. It’s slightly firmer than the graphite found in the Blackwing 602, without sacrificing much in the way of darkness. It also features a distraction-free black barrel, black imprint, black ferrule and black eraser.