Multiplication table pencils

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There are a few novelty pencil genres that seem persistent. Though ballpoint pens are always encroaching, the pencil still seems to be a choice at many museum gift shops, at hotels, and a select few other places.

One of these persistent genres seems to be the “multiplication pencil” – a pencil for children with a printed multiplication table.

Multiplication table pencils

The three in the photos are of particular interest, as they bear the marks of the pencil companies that made them – Lyra, Musgrave, and Viarco.

I would say the Lyra, the sole triangular pencil, is the nicest writer. It appears to use jelutong wood.

Multiplication table pencils

Do you have recollections of seeing or using pencils like these?

Viarco ArtGraf

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Viarco ArtGraf

ArtGraf is a tablet of watersoluble graphite in a tin.

While there are a few watersoluble graphite pencils and crayons on the market, this is the first larger format offering aimed at brush users that I’m aware of.

Viarco ArtGraf

Viarco, a small Portuguese pencil company that we’ve mentioned once before, introduced ArtGraf last year.

Viarco ArtGraf

The product extends watersoluble graphite possibilities, and truly allows painting in graphite. A wet brush is applied to the tablet. Varying the brush wetness and tablet contact result in varying graphite densities.

Viarco ArtGraf

I truly think this is a great product.

Further reading:

Reuters article on ArtGraf

Official product page (in Portuguese)

Red and Blue pencils IV – Viarco

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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.

Viarco 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.

Viarco Red and Blue pencils

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.

Viarco Red and Blue pencils

Both the Comercial and Olimpico sharpened easily. I don’t know what wood they use, but it looks like cedar to me.

Viarco Red and Blue pencils

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.

Viarco Red and Blue 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.

Viarco Red and Blue pencils

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:

From penciltalk.org:
Red and Blue pencils
Red and Blue pencils II
Television! (The Conté Television 649 red and blue pencil)

From stdk.de:
Rot-Blau-Stifte