Graf von Faber-Castell No. V Pocket Pencils

In the period that this blog was inactive, Faber-Castell introduced two fantastic additions to their Perfect Pencil line – first, a No. V refill in grey guilloche, and later, a beautiful midnight blue edition.

They were quick additions to my daily arsenal – in fact they seem like the same quality as the fluted pencils, but in a more casual yet elegant design. The leads may be just a bit darker – a reaction to customer feedback?

Graf von Faber-Castell No. V Pocket Pencils

The refinement!

Graf von Faber-Castell No. V Pocket Pencils

They are fantastic, amazing pencils. Is there a competitor at this level?

Graf von Faber-Castell No. V Pocket Pencils

Related Posts:

Graf von Faber-Castell Guilloche pencils

Faber-Castell – 21st century pencil manufacturer

Caran d’Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

2015 was the 100th anniversary of famed pencil maker Caran d’Ache. We’re a little late noting this, but belatedly wish them congratulations! For the anniversary, a few commemorative items were offered, including a special version of their famed Fixpencil.

The Fixpencil, which we looked at in 2008, is arguably one of the most iconic writing instruments around, having been recognized in a Swiss stamp.

Some of the other items (e.g. fancy fountain pens) weren’t really my cup of tea, and the pencil commemoration (for the Technograph) just seemed to be four standard pencils in a cardboard box. Fortunately, this special Fixpencil seemed appealing, and came without an outrageous price.

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

The pencil is a standard 2mm Fixpencil, but with a special design – silver colouring, a 10cm ruler, and colour leads:

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

Of special interest is a multilingual brochure that outlines the stories of Caran d’Ache products. The text is light on facts, but the illustrations are great!

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

Did you buy any of the Caran d’Ache 100th anniversary products?

Lamy Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

Lamy has many fans in the stationery world, and justifiably so. Their products are associated with reliability, good value, and a commitment to good design.

Here is a Lamy Safari you’re not going to find in any stationery store: a 2.0mm mechanical pencil. The one pictured is a custom modification by isu, the author of both the uncomfortable chair, and the uncomfortable chair 2. Why two blogs? I am not sure. Maybe there are even more.

In a great confluence of events, Stationery Magazine issue 10 just arrived from Japan. We took a brief look at the first issue almost a decade ago. Although I do not read or speak Japanese, the annual magazine has such great photography that it is still worth picking up if you’re someone who reads blogs like this one.

Guess who is featured in issue 10? The master modifier himself!

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

Thank you isu for the great pencil!

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

I wonder if Lamy could be persuaded to add 2.0mm to their lineup?

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

A custom Pentel Kerry pencil and a surprise from Clairefontaine

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

Sometimes familiar stationery items aren’t what they seem. Here is a Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil – but unlike any most of us have ever seen. It is paired with a Clairefontaine pocket notebook.

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

This pencil – a classic – is a custom modification by isu of the uncomfortable chair, turning the pencil into a 2.0mm version! It continues to fully function as a mechanical pencil. Look at the quality of the finish – it appears as if it came from the factory.

Thank you isu for such a wonderful gift!

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

As to the the second surprise – let me mention some context. Many of us were very surprised to learn that Tombow has moved (at least some) production of their iconic Mono 100, one of the world’s best pencils, to Vietnam. There is a great account at Lexikaliker. The news so far isn’t good – unfortunately, the Vietnamese version appears diminished in finish quality, even if retaining the same lead core.

So what a surprise to find a notebook the same week from Clairefontaine, which like sibling brands Rhodia and Exacompta, strongly associates itself with “Made in France”, that is made in Morocco. Yes, “design” and “paper” from France. Fortunately, I find the notebook to be excellent, with creamy 90 g/m2 paper (presumably the same as the “Rhodia R” series) and a pocket format. I’ll note a particular pencil advantage – this thick paper takes well to traditional rubber erasers, such as the round Graf von Faber-Castell.

The Viarco Vintage Collection

From Viarco of Portugal, pencil talk is pleased to present an amazing new limited edition pencil collection. Further, we are privileged to feature an interview with Viarco’s José Vieira.

Viarco Vintage Collection

The set was a surprise to me – six historical recreations of pencils and packaging, offered as a set. I’m not sure where the set is being offered – I found it at a US retailer, but not on Viarco’s website.

The six pencil boxes are housed in a black cardboard presentation box, so the set has 72 (a half gross) pencils in total, similar to many vintage boxes we’ve seen over the years.

Viarco Vintage Collection

The box has a cellophane wrapper with a sticker that notes:

This limited edition collection is wholly designed in Portugal using long-established production methods.

There is a bar code and these notations: REF. HRSETCX12 5601470505979

The box itself is matte black with a simple glossy graphic – “Vintage Collection Viarco Since 1907”.

Viarco Vintage Collection

Opening the outer box is a treat, as we see the individual pencil boxes:

1. The 1951 Super Desenho – these are beautiful hexagonal pencils in green, purple, red, black, purple, and marigold, with white pinstripes. The marigold is the only one to feature a contrasting cap – yellow. The box is sliding, and blue.

2. The 3500, red hexagonal with white pinstripes. These have unfinished caps. They have a red sliding box.

3. The 1950 Desenho is yellow, uncapped, and hexagonal. The box is green with a folding closure.

Now we get to the second row!

4. The 272D Copia Violeta Duro is a round purple copying pencil that we looked at in 2008 as part of a larger article on copying pencils:

The hidden life of copying pencils

These are the only unsharpened pencils. They come in a colorful green/grey sliding box.

5. The 3000 – a round light metallic finished pencil in violet, turqoise, pink, red, yellow, and green. They have a yellow finished cap. The box is grey slider.

6. The 5000 – basically, an hexagonal version of the 3000. An orange sliding box houses the pencils.

Viarco Vintage Collection

The box also has an insert (Portuguese/English) discussing the set.

I love that there is a variety of pencil types, of packaging, of graphics, and with beautiful typefaces and historical themes.

Viarco Vintage Collection

This post has a special treat. A decade ago, online commerce was not as advanced, and this blog may have been Viarco’s first online customer. It was done in a way that would be hard to imagine now – back and forth correspondence, a bank draft, frequent communication. I was very impressed at what this company were willing to do for a single overseas customer.

The best aspect of this is that I’ve been able to keep in touch with Viarco over the years – and in particular with José Vieira, whose title is General Manager of Viarco – Fábrica Portuguesa de Lápis, though he likes to think of himself as just a pencil worker.

Viarco was founded in 1907, but found itself in financial trouble in 2011. José started working there in 1999, and is the fourth generation of his family to work at Viarco. In 2011 he and his wife Ana bought Viarco to ensure the company’s continuance. Here are a few questions for José.

pencil talk: What was the inspiration for the Viarco Vintage Collection?

José: The existence of original pencils and packaging, and the opportunity to make them again.

We have a friend that is a designer, and he chose Viarco to make a study of the design inside a PhD that he is doing in the university.

As you know we started to use some vintage packaging ten years ago, at first to sell them in Portugal where there exists a generation which has affection for them; now we would like to know if they could exist just by themselves in other countries and cultures outside of Portugal.

I think you know that Viarco produces several innovative materials and that we are very, very, very interested in what it can be in the future, but our roots are in the pencil factory. The project is to keep this ancient industrial installation working.

So it’s not a retro trend, it’s not a commercial goal, not even an academic project but once again the result of several people with different interests and needs working together to keep the knowledge and the memories available for those who like to dream of a different kind of society.

pencil talk: How were the six varieties in the set chosen? Are there other pencils you regret that you were unable to feature?

José: We chose those six because they represent a coherent language of a time period when Portugal was closed to the outside world due to the dictatorship and for that reason something that could be an authentic example of Portuguese design. And of course because they work well as a set.

There are several packaging types that would like to make again … Some of them we tried, but unfortunately there is a no one able to make the boxes, or we have already lost the tools to produce the pencil.

There are some limitations about what we can do and what our suppliers are able to produce. In the past when everything was done manually, and the cost of this kind of labour wasn’t a problem, they could make things that now seem impossible to reproduce, companies don’t know how to do it, don’t have a commercial interest in it, or even because it’s too expensive and for that reason unaffordable for this kind of material.

pencil talk: The Vintage Collection is not the first nostalgic or historically packaged item from Viarco. Is it correct that the modern Viarco has a special relationship with the company’s heritage?

José: … Answer nº1, plus as I told you before we are much more interested in the future than in the past, however here in the factory everything is from the past except the mindset of the people that work here and the people that we receive.

So its quite natural that the heritage influences everything that we do, and we try to respect it every time that we develop new products and packaging because this is a important part of our identity and authenticity.

pencil talk: What pencil is on your desk right now?

José: Dozens of damaged pencils that I take from production to try :-)

During the different processes of the pencil production all the damaged pencils start to being separated. Normally I take one or two of those to sharpen and try to see what happened.

So in my desk normally I have damaged pencils that, from time to time, I need to send the endless drawer because some are so nice that I want to keep them for future memory.


My sincere thanks to José Vieira for his great generosity in taking the time to answer these questions. It was tremendously enjoyable to learn about his passion for Viarco.

The outdoor photos were taken in front of the Toronto Carpet Factory and the former Central Prison Paint Shop, 19th century buildings in Toronto.

Other Viarco posts at pencil talk: Link

Les Crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 6

Caran d’Ache has continued their “crayons de la maison” series with a sixth edition. The pencils are a visual delight, and a bit of a construction mystery.

Les Crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 6

The appeal is obvious – rich, amazing wood patterns from exotic species. They echo the 1990s Colleen Woods Pencils that are quite admired.

This set is somewhat monotone and features:

Western Hemlock
White Oak
Silver Teak
White Ash

Les Crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 6

I wish the individual pencils had a small numeral or marking to note which pencil is which.

The pencils come in a sliding cardboard box, and an external sticker indicates:

Caran d’Ache 0361 414
Bar Code: 7 630002 334990
Made in Switzerland
FSC Mix wood from responsible sources FSC C005365

We can look up the FSC number. Nothing too interesting here. Sometimes we can discover a manufacturer or subcontractor’s name by looking up this code.

Les Crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 6

A second sticker says, “Crayons Parfumés Par Mizensir”. In other words, these are scented pencils.

The scent is strong! In contrast with Viarco’s scented pencils, which require me to approach them closely before any olfactory warnings start signalling, I can detect the Mizensir scent from several feet away. Fortunately, it does seem to dissipate with time. (Mizensir is a Geneva perfumer.)

Since last featured, we know much more about this pencil series, and the vendor’s own description has been updated. Particularly informative are the comments at a 2014 post at Lexikaliker.

The pencil box notes that these pencils are made from “reconstituted wood” which they also call “essences”. ALPI is the manufacturer, and are a specialty firm in wood tasks such as creating an oak look from the woodchips of another species.

Les Crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 6

The pencils are not made from the represented exotic woods. I think even using the word “essence” is going too far – ALPI is clear that they use Poplar, Limewood, or Ayous. There is no Hemlock, Oak, Teak, or Ash in these pencils. And they weren’t made from glued together pencil slats. It is some other process, perhaps extrusion, that constructed the pencils.

Yet, they’re nice, they are innovative, and they distinguish themselves quite well from ordinary pencils. It is also quite amazing that Caran d’Ache has continued the series over three years – there is obviously a market for innovation in pencils.

See also:

Les crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache

Les crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 2