Must a successful pencil manufacturing business be part of a multinational conglomerate? Is there any room for smaller firms in the current marketplace?
Many of us may not have heard of Viarco. They are a 94 year old pencil company from João da Madeira, Portugal, who produce a wide range of pencils – writing pencils, drawing pencils, carpenter’s pencils, and yes, even copying pencils and red and blue pencils – with a staff of twenty-eight!
Their website is a breath of fresh air compared to many pencil industry sites, revealing considerable pride in their history, as well as many details about the pencil manufacturing process. Sample fact – graphite cores are baked at 1020ºC.
I was really happy when Gunther kindly sent me a couple of Viarco’s red and blue pencils.
The pencils are the 289 Viarco Comercial (regular size, hexagonal) and 293 Viarco Olimpico (oversize, hexagonal).
The lead centering isn’t the best.
My first pleasant surprise was realized while attempting to sharpen the Comercial – it doesn’t fit in some sharpeners! It is the unreformed size of pencils that were made fifty years ago, though the edges are rounded, like modern pencils.
Both the Comercial and Olimpico sharpened easily. I don’t know what wood they use, but it looks like cedar to me.
The second surprise was the rich, vibrant marks they make. The Olimpico in particular is among the best of the red and blue pencils I’ve yet seen. The Comercial’s blue is also good, but the red is more of a red-orange.
If I could buy them locally, I would get a huge stash of the Olimpico. It writes extremely well, and is very easy to use. Some of the other red and blue pencils I’ve seen, like colour pencils in general, have a tendency for the leads to easily break – but not the Viarco pencils.
I’ve tried to email Viarco more than once, and haven’t yet heard from them. That’s okay. With twenty-eight employees, I imagine that their correspondence staff might be busy in the paint booth, or be driving a forklift.
So about our original questions – let’s hope there is still room for great smaller manufacturers like Viarco, who have done a great job with these pencils.
Further on red and blue pencils:
Red and Blue pencils
Red and Blue pencils II
Television! (The Conté Television 649 red and blue pencil)