Viarco ArtGraf artist pencils

Viarco ArtGraf artist pencils

Viarco, a small traditional pencil manufacturer in Portugal, continues to innovate.

The ArtGraf pencils are a pair of 22cm black and white pencils. The matte black finished “Soft Black” is a carbon based pencil, while the glossy white finished “Water-Soluble” is, as the name states, a water soluble pencil.

The format and presentation are unique and compelling, yet modest. Pencils of this dimension are truly unusual (a standard pencil is about 17.5cm) , and the combination of the two artist specialty formulas results in a very nice product.

Viarco ArtGraf artist pencils
Viarco ArtGraf artist pencils

The specific formulas may be a matter of prefence (I found the Caran d’Ache water soluble pencils easier to use as a beginner), but it is hard to imagine than anyone who likes graphite based artistic media would not be impressed by a gift of ArtGraf pencils.

Viarco ArtGraf artist pencils

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

The Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil is supposed to be something special. The graphite is claimed to benefit from some important and noteworthy quality advances.

The line was announced in 2008, and started with mechanical pencils refills; woodcase pencils were introduced a couple of years later. The features of note include strength and density.

Now considering this matter, I’ve been wondering just how a major pencil manufacturer introduces product improvements. Paint or wood improvements are probably simple enough to introduce, and won’t likely disrupt the user base, but a change to a graphite formula could cause problems. A key differentiator of the top global pencil lines – the Hi-Uni, the Mono 100, the Castell 9000, or the Mars Lumograph 100 – is that they remain the same high quality product, and perform the same way, year after year, decade after decade. That they remain absolutely reliable and stable as tools for artists is a main selling point over readily available and less expensive alternatives.

So how then, does an improvement get introduced? Well, perhaps it depends on what the feature is – if the strength of a lead core can be improved without changing other pencil characteristics, then that feature could possibly be integrated with the main pencil line. But any feature that changes the feel of the lead on paper, or the blackness or luminescence of the line, or the known chemistry between the graphite and paper, probably has to be directed elsewhere. And perhaps even making the lead stronger might be seen as too much change to a formula.

So if Mitsubishi did find a way to make a graphite core denser and smoother, one can see that they may have had a problem on the matter of what to do with their discovery. An established line can’t just be altered. So the features went into a new product – the NanoDia.

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

NanoDia? Nanoscopic diamonds? Well, graphite molecules are no doubt the cousins of diamonds in the carbon family.

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

The pencils look like (and are labelled as) a product for children. So what about the scientific advances said to be in the formula? Shouldn’t this be a product in Mitsubishi’s premier Uni range? Here I am lost – if the product is what it claims to be, why is it priced and packaged as a lower end item?

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

So regarding the pencils – they come in B and 2B grades, and a choice of green, pink, or blue finishes. They are hexagonal with unfinished ends. I bought a box of the 2B with the blue finish.

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

The pencil does leave a notably dense, rich, black line. I like it, but am undecided about the appearance.

turn it

Viarco turn it pencil top.

turn it is a wooden top whose axis is a woodcase pencil.

Viarco turn it pencil top.

The packaging tells me that the design is by Miguel Soeiro and was produced by ESAD.CR and Viarco.

Viarco turn it pencil top.

This is a short video showing the top in action. Depending on your browser, it will open inline in a new window, or download as an .mp4 file:

Viarco turn it pencil top.

That was with minimal spin. You can get much more “air time” with practice, and the patterns left by the pencil also become quite intriguing:

Viarco turn it pencil top.

I’m sure a crafty person could build something like this on their own. Do you like it?

Very tiny pencils (II)

Longtime readers may recall a 2010 post mentioning some very tiny pencils.

Matthias of Bleistift also received a few of these from Sean, and seeing my post, took pity on me and kindly redirected a few spares my way.

More recently, I learned of the limited edition (I have box no. 296) World Press Cartoon pencil.

Here they are:

very tiny pencils

The blue pencil is meant to fill out J. C. Penney surveys, and the purple (and hexagonal) pencil is a souvenir from an international cartoonist conference, and was made by Viarco of Portugal.

With a regular pencil for contrast:

very tiny pencils

I remain amazed that pencils can be manufactured at this scale. Have you encountered pencils like this?