Pencil Review: Viarco Vintage Collection Box Set

I’d been putting it off for sometime but I couldn’t wait any longer when I realized there was only one Viarco Vintage Collection box set left on the CW Pencil Enterprise web site left. I had to get it. Viarco is a small pencil manufacturer in Portugal that is still producing pencils and has been in business since 1907.

The only difference between the box set and buying the boxes individually is the outer box with the matte black box with the gloss black foil stamp. You can still get all six different varieties of Viarco vintage pencils by the dozen.

The set includes reproductions of Viarco’s pencil varieties made between 1940 and 1960. They have reproduced both the pencils and the packaging to a tee. The pencils are:

  • 1950 #2/HB (all yellow, hex-shaped, unfinished ends)
  • 1951 #2/HB (2 each of six solid colors with pinstripes, hex-shaped coordinating dipped ends)
  • 2000 #2/HB (2 each of six metallic colors, hex-shaped with yellow dipped ends)
  • 272D Violeta Copying Pencil (round, unfinished end)
  • 3000 #2/HB (2 each of six metallic colors, round with yellow dipped ends)
  • 3500 #2/HB (all red with pinstripes, hex-shaped, unfinished ends)

I love the script lettering of their logo type. I’d say 60% of the reason I purchased the pencils was for the design of the packaging. As a designer, I love the look of the vintage packaging. The way that the tail of the V curls around the pencil on the box of the 3500s alone was worth the purchase of the box.

All the boxes have the scores on the inner box so it slides out and can them flip down to more easily access pencils. They may be simple paperboard boxes but they are still nicely engineered to be useful.

I had one or two pencils out of the six dozen that had a bad foil stamping on the pencil, on the 3000 round, I think, but overall the quality of the painting and printing was pretty consistent.

The 272D Violeta had the least amount of paint and shellac and felt the most utilitarian but since these were supposed to be reproductions of pencils made between 1940 and 1960, I suspect that war-era and post-war pencils were probably not super-posh to begin with. Resources were limited then and this pencil probably reflects that specifically.

I took the pencils for a test drive. All the standard graphite pencils came pre-sharpened so I used them as is. All were listed as a standard #2/HB. The 3000, which is the only round barrel in the lot, is definitely a softer lead and darker than the rest.

The 1951 “Super” Desenho does feel like the most premium of all the pencils. It has the most lacquer on the barrel and feels weightier. The lead feels similar to the other hex pencils but the wood and the finish makes it feel “super.”

In terms of writing and hand-feel, the 2000 is pretty similar to the 1951. The metallic finish softens the hex shape a bit but the weight and lead is the same. the lacquer is very smooth.

The 3500, with its unfinished end, is the lightest in the hand. It also felt life it had the least amount of lacquer so the hex-shaped felt most pronounced in the hand. I found myself reaching for the 3500 most often. Its just a clean, true hex pencil.

The 1950 is the Portuguese “yellow pencil”. The color is more yellow-orange than what I normally think of as the Dixon-Ticonderoga yellow and the lacquer and lead quality of the 1950 puts the Viarco way above the modern Ticonderoga by leaps and bounds. Unadorned, its the perfect companion for a kraft Field Notes in a all-business sort of way.

Lastly, is the 272D Violeta Copying pencil which writes is a lovely purple color. It erases but doesn’t smudge terribly and when wet with water it makes a lovely violet color. I tried to transfer the color to another page with no real results so that didn’t quite work. What I did discover is that after the scribbles were wet and dried, they were permanent. I couldn’t erase them. So that’s what the magic is. If you want to write or draw something and make it permanent, spritz it with water and let it dry. It’s not going anywhere.

Each box of Viarco Vintage pencils is available from CW Pencils for $15 per dozen.

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