It’s been a while since I actually reviewed something on The London Parchment! I’m back to basics today reviewing the Viarco 1951 Super Desenho pencil, part of Viarco’s Vintage Collection.
According to CW Pencils, the Vintage Collection is a reproduction of Viarco’s pencils produced between 1940 and 1960. I was interested in these pencils because of their classic look, and I chose two that match the Wimbledon tennis colours (for no particular reason). There are six colours to choose from altogether. The lacquer colours are lovely – very fitting for a “vintage” collection. The green is fairly bright but does have a couple of minor lacquer imperfections – I think this might just add to the vintage effect though.
These are hexagonal pencils with a fairly sharply-edged barrel. The edges are highlighted in a cream lacquer that meets the pencil cap. Based on the sharpenings, it looks as if the cream has been applied over the main pencil colour. They also do not feature a barcode, as they are normally sold in boxes. They’re also eraserless, which suits me just fine. Instead, they have one of my favourite pencil features: a glossy lacquer cap.
The barrel stamping
The pencils are stamped in silver on one side with a series of relevant information. It’s a long stamp with lots of information on it: 1951 is when it was originally produced, and although these pencils are a reproduction, as CW Pencils note on their website, you can barely tell. The Viarco logo is kept in its original font and it appears to be enclosed in quotation marks. (I have a question for anyone who knows their Portuguese grammar. Are these actually quotation marks in an inverted style similar to the Spanish use of ¡ and !, or are they something else entirely? As far as the internet tells me, the Portuguese language doesn’t use inverted punctuation).”Desenho” is also enclosed in a small box with points at either end, which means “drawing” in English. I’m not sure, but the points at either end of the “Desenho” could be another reference to quotation marks in Portuguese, which can be written like: «». Or, I could be reading too much into the branding. Finally, we have the grade, a number 2 pencil.
The wood has a warm hue that I think really adds to the vintage effect. A pale wood (such as the Ticonderogas or Musgrave Harvest pencils) just would not work.
How they write
I find the Viarco 1951s to be one of the more scratchy pencils that I’ve used, comparable to a Field Notes number 2 pencil. While writing, I find I am very often on a snag which tugs at the paper. It wears down as you carry on writing, but I find that it just gives way to another snag. Sometimes I find that sensation very pleasing, but realistically there are much smoother pencils out there at a similar cost if you are looking for a higher-quality writing experience. On a toothy paper, with pressure, it feels like the soft side of HB. Point retention is fine – I can fill about two Baron Fig Confidant pages (which eats through graphite) before I really want to sharpen (and it does sharpen well, especially with my favourite KUM Masterpiece). Also, I find them to be very noisy! That usual enjoyable sound of graphite sliding onto paper, that seems especially amplified with this pencil.
The Pencil Talk blog posted a great piece on the Viarco Vintage Collection pencils, including an interview with the Jose Vieira, the General Manager of Viarco. It’s a really interesting read – Jose says that there is an affection in Portugal for vintage packaging and the whole collection harks back to a time when Portugal was closed off to the outside world – propagating Portuguese design. I especially liked this quotation in relation to the pencil industry:
“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”.
Doesn’t that just capture part of the beauty of pencils and stationery?
These pencils have a beautiful, classy appearance and I appreciate their story. Writing wise, they’re a pretty standard pencil. Couple one with a toothy paper and you’re in for quite a gritty experience. They may be worth buying if you are a big fan of nostalgic design and are looking for an everyday pencil for short bouts of jotting or occasional writing – I personally prefer something smoother for extended writing periods.
I bought two Viarco 1951 singles at Choosing Keeping in London. CW Pencils sells a box with all 6 vintage colours too.