Monday, September 18, 2023

Belated Review: Blackwing Labs 11-25-22 (Soft Eraser)


Ordinary pencil; special eraser

Ten months late, it came to my attention that I had never reviewed the Blackwing Labs limited edition pencil that was released last November. After reviewing Blackwing’s soft handheld eraser at the Well-Appointed Desk, I felt like I had already done the job. I would be remiss, however, if I skipped a review completely because the eraser is handier than most (at least on location). So like a birthday card, let’s just say this review of Lab 11-25-22 is better late than never.

The ferrule eraser is made of the same material
as Blackwing's bar eraser.

Although the Blackwing pencil itself is fine – a dark matte gray barrel, matte gold ferrule and with a “balanced” graphite core – it’s nothing special. What makes this release special is the attached soft eraser, apparently made of the same material as Blackwing’s soft handheld eraser. (Kudos to Blackwing for making this Lab release truly innovative and “experimental” rather than a paint job.)

More valuable than the pencils were the two packs of replacement erasers that came exclusively as part of the limited release.

In addition to each pencil coming with a soft eraser, the Lab release came with 2 packs of replacement erasers.

I had spent a rainy day several years ago hacking up bar erasers to find one that could replace Blackwing’s notoriously mediocre ferrule erasers (full details at the Well-Appointed Desk). Results of my comparison revealed the main issue: Softer erasers are generally more effective than harder ones, but if an eraser is too soft, it will break when supported only by a ferrule. Since then, hack-a-thon winner Tombow Mono Smart has been my eraser of choice for ferrules because it has the right balance between softness and sturdiness. I have spent more rainy days hacking erasers for my general use (I’ve found they make great gifts for fellow pencil aficionados, too).

Erasers compared with the Blackwing soft.

Scoring points as a hardcore pencil geek notwithstanding, the fact remains that I would rather spend my time sketching than cutting up erasers, so my interest was piqued.

I compared the soft eraser with a standard Blackwing eraser (this one was attached to a bright green Lab edition that had come out only a few months prior, so I figured its freshness was about the same), a Tombow Mono Zero and a basic kneadable eraser. The latter two are among my favorites to use with graphite. Swatches were made with the Blackwing balanced core and a Prismacolor colored pencil (I didn’t expect the eraser to do well with colored pencil, but I tested it on principle).

Actually, the standard Blackwing eraser didn’t do as poorly as other (perhaps less fresh) ones I’ve used; it did as well as the Tombow in this test. But the soft Blackwing performed as well as the kneadable eraser on graphite – definitely better than the standard Blackwing – and surprisingly better than the Tombow.

Test swatches made in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

Unfortunately, because it’s so soft, it must be used gently. To test it, I used more vigor and pressure than I normally would in making a small drawing or writing erasure, and a corner chipped off. But that happened only under testing conditions and not normal (somewhat careful), regular use, which I’ve been doing since I got the erasers last November.

When used too vigorously, a corner chipped off.

The biggest benefit to me is portability. When my daily-carry bag was larger, I regularly carried both a kneadable eraser (in a small box to keep it from collecting debris) and a Mono Zero. Since my drastic downsizing to
a smaller bag, however, I’ve scrutinized every item I carry. With a good eraser now on the end of any Blackwing pencil I carry, I’ve been able to eliminate all other erasers.

A big bonus is that the eraser can’t get lost somewhere in the bottom of my bag – I always know exactly where it is. Since my main use of erasers is to put in highlights, and I rarely erase while drawing, an eraser isn’t critical on location, but it’s always good to have one – and a good one is always better than a mediocre one.

When this Lab was released, the pencil community had speculated that Blackwing would eventually offer the soft eraser packs as a standard product (just as it offers replacement erasers in many colors to coordinate with various Volumes releases). It hasn’t happened yet, but I still hope it will – it would be a more useful addition than, say, an overpriced sharpener.


  1. What a great idea to have replaceable erasers. I didn't know they exist.

    1. Blackwings have always had replaceable erasers, but this is the first time the eraser is good! :-)


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