Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

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Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Sorry for recent website outages – some rough weather was playing havoc with local power on the weekend.

Today, let’s reach way back in the pencil cupboard and pull out a vintage multipencil. This particular one has four colours. Thanks to leadholder.com’s archives, I can see that this pencil appeared on page 47 of Faber-Castell’s 1957 catalogue. Silver-plated, it originally sold for 11.50 DM. A sterling version was 18 DM.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Thank goodness this pencil came with a manual!

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

The first thing I learned is that the cap can be depressed/released to reveal bands indicating the colour of choice. Twist the cap to align the color band with the clip, and the colour is changed.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

I was pleasantly surprised that these perhaps fifty year old leads write so richly.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

The manual revealed another surprise: There is a spare lead set under the cap.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

So how do you advance the lead? Here’s where modern pencils show an advantage – you have to extend the mechanism with one hand, and grasp the lead clutch with the other – and twist the clutch clockwise to extend the lead. I kept looking at the manual and the pencil and saying to myself, “this can’t be right”, but, it worked and that’s how the lead is ejected:

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

How would you replace a lead? Essentially, by performing the reverse of the lead advance, screwing in the replacement lead with counter-clockwise twisting. I haven’t done this, and good grief, don’t look forward to trying it. Colour leads are typically brittle, and I suspect that this would be very challenging.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

One other interesting aspect – this pencil uses indelible (copying) lead that contains aniline dye, so the required manual manipulation of the lead is definitely undesirable from a safety perspective.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

While it has many charms, for me, the operation is too problematic for this to become a daily use pencil.

3 Replies to “Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil”

  1. Pretty neat vintage product post. Considering how brittle color leads tend to be, it might be a more effective approach to get several leadholders with different color leads each rather than a multiple model where the colored leads are more likely to jam a single multi-pencil barrel.

  2. I’ve got a couple of these twist tip pencils and as you say they are not the most convenient. I haven’t got any instructions with mine, I think I’ll have to dig them out and check, maybe they are multi-colour pencils and I haven’t realised it before.

  3. Four colour pencil mechanisms are reliable, often being found in good condition after 50-60 years. The mechanism is propel-only. The lead has to be pushed in slowly after twisting the tube in the direction opposite to that for propelling, till it can be turned no further.
    The colour leads, sadly, are brittle and tend to stick in the lead tube. Some single-lead pencils have a method for pushing out the stuck lead from the rear with a fine pin or needle. Not so the four colour pencils. Stuck leads have to be gouged out, sometimes damaging the tube. This is the only real drawback with these pencils.

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