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-   -   Erasers on pencils (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=788771)

kayT 03-30-2016 07:37 AM

Erasers on pencils
 
Not sure if this is really a GQ but we'll try it here. Today's Writer's Almanac had the following:
On this day in 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the first pencil to have an attached eraser. The eraser-tipped pencil is still something of an American phenomenon; most European pencils are still eraserless.
Can this be true? With an eraser on the pencil being so handy, so logical, could it be the case that Europeans are willing to forego this and instead search all over the house for an eraser? Or do Europeans not make mistakes? EuroDopers, please explain.

Nava 03-30-2016 07:43 AM

Erasers do come in some mechanical pencils (usually imported from cheap sources) but yes, they are rarely found at the end of pencils.

Why? Dunnow, because. I never found American erasers any good anyway, it's one of the small items I used to bring over (don't like the sharpeners either, give me my trusty all-steel one any day). They're very hard and don't erase very well, Milan's work better (I like their miga de pan model). And I "don't search all over the house": when I was in school I had a little bag where my pens, eraser, pencils and sharpener lived, and now the ones at home live in a small vase and those at work in a little bag similar to those I would take to school. Basic model from one of those firms which make marketing items.

jtur88 03-30-2016 08:37 AM

I have found that the material now used for pencil-tip erasers degrades so quickly, that they are no longer useful by the time I buy the pencil at a retail store. Which means a pencil with an eraser is no better than one without. I buy a separate eraser, made of better quality material, and keep it handy.

The alternative is to buy much more expensive pencils, which is less cost-effective than using cheaper pencils and a detached eraser.

TwoCarrotSnowman 03-30-2016 08:43 AM

In the UK, promotional pencils found in attraction gift shops, bearing slogans such as "I Heart World of Cheese" tend to have erasers on the end. Most mechanical pencils I've used do as well - the little plug which stops up the tube where you load the leads tends be an eraser.

Ludovic 03-30-2016 08:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jtur88 (Post 19220318)
I have found that the material now used for pencil-tip erasers degrades so quickly, that they are no longer useful by the time I buy the pencil at a retail store. Which means a pencil with an eraser is no better than one without.

I've found something similar, that pencil erasers do not actually erase these days. Far from being degraded, they are some sort of ultrahard rubber that builds up a layer of graphite on its tip and then smears it all over the paper.

ThelmaLou 03-30-2016 09:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TwoCarrotSnowman (Post 19220326)
In the UK, promotional pencils found in attraction gift shops, bearing slogans such as "I Heart World of Cheese" tend to have erasers on the end. ....

Who else read that and thought, "Those pencils should have a bit of cheese on the end"?

Tim R. Mortiss 03-30-2016 10:30 AM

Yeah, I've always found it ironic that the pencil part of a pencil will last for decades without degrading, but the eraser is usually fossilized long before the first time I try to use it. Too bad all our scientists are wasting their time looking for cures for cancer and such. Nobody is working on the real problems of the world!

racer72 03-30-2016 11:11 AM

Pencils with erasers make better desk top drum sticks than those without.

scr4 03-30-2016 01:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ludovic (Post 19220343)
I've found something similar, that pencil erasers do not actually erase these days. Far from being degraded, they are some sort of ultrahard rubber that builds up a layer of graphite on its tip and then smears it all over the paper.

It's an engineering conundrum. An eraser on the end of the pencil needs to be same (or similar) diameter as the pencil itself, and short enough that it won't break off when you use it. So the size of the eraser is severely limited. If you use a soft eraser, it will erase well, but it'll be used up or broken off long before the pencil is used up. If you use a very hard eraser, it won't erase very well.

I grew up in Japan, and pencils there don't have erasers either. I still carry a good eraser rather (and have several at home and office) than put up with the poor quality one on American pencils.

Mangetout 03-30-2016 01:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ludovic (Post 19220343)
I've found something similar, that pencil erasers do not actually erase these days. Far from being degraded, they are some sort of ultrahard rubber that builds up a layer of graphite on its tip and then smears it all over the paper.

I think that might be what jtur88 actually meant by 'degrade' - the rubber dries out or continues curing after manufacture, or something.

jtur88 03-30-2016 01:30 PM

Before I buy a box of a dozen pencils, now, I open the box and test the eraser for freshness before I buy. Good ones usually perform fairly decently.

An interesting factoid about Rubber. When the material from the tropical tree came back to England as a curiosity, no useful purpose was found for it except to "rub out" pencil marks, so it was called Rubber -- and still is.

CookingWithGas 03-30-2016 01:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jtur88 (Post 19221062)
An interesting factoid about Rubber. When the material from the tropical tree came back to England as a curiosity, no useful purpose was found for it except to "rub out" pencil marks, so it was called Rubber -- and still is.

And erasers are still called "rubbers" in England. When the English visit the U.S. hilarity ensues.

True story: English family visits NYC. They pass by an adult sex toy store. Sign in the window: "We have rubbers of all shapes and sizes." Little girl says, "Oh, I want one in the shape of the Statue of LIberty!"

missred 03-30-2016 01:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nava (Post 19220218)
Erasers do come in some mechanical pencils (usually imported from cheap sources) but yes, they are rarely found at the end of pencils.

Why? Dunnow, because. I never found American erasers any good anyway, it's one of the small items I used to bring over (don't like the sharpeners either, give me my trusty all-steel one any day). They're very hard and don't erase very well, Milan's work better (I like their miga de pan model). And I "don't search all over the house": when I was in school I had a little bag where my pens, eraser, pencils and sharpener lived, and now the ones at home live in a small vase and those at work in a little bag similar to those I would take to school. Basic model from one of those firms which make marketing items.

That's the kind of bag I use for my sketching pencils (with no eraser on the top) and erasers.

It's been a long time since I have purchased anything but mechanical pencils for uses other than sketching. With those, you can buy refillable erasers at the same store where you buy the leads.

Ignotus 03-30-2016 02:07 PM

You can get pencils with erasers in any store in Sweden, but the ones (sparingly) handed out to us kids in elementary school by our teachers 40 years ago didn't have them. Instead, we also got an eraser, about as useful as a piece of brick, and a plastic pencil shaft, so that the pencil could be used down to the last inch.
Pencils must have been really expensive back then...

Mops 03-30-2016 02:27 PM

A small part of pencils that I see sold here in Germany have erasers, and as others have noted the erasers are pretty useless.

Machine Elf 03-30-2016 02:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by scr4 (Post 19221010)
It's an engineering conundrum. An eraser on the end of the pencil needs to be same (or similar) diameter as the pencil itself, and short enough that it won't break off when you use it. So the size of the eraser is severely limited. If you use a soft eraser, it will erase well, but it'll be used up or broken off long before the pencil is used up. If you use a very hard eraser, it won't erase very well.

I grew up in Japan, and pencils there don't have erasers either. I still carry a good eraser rather (and have several at home and office) than put up with the poor quality one on American pencils.

I've always hated conventional graphite-core wooden pencils anyway. I placed a high value on sharp lines and small-but clear writing, and those pencils got too dull too quickly, necessitating frequent sharpening - and each time you broke the tip, you had no choice but to resharpen. In high school (back in the '80s), I switched over to mechanical pencils and never had to worry about sharpening again.

In college, I discovered that there were kickass quality erasers available, like this one. It contains an eraser as long and narrow as a pencil, and exposes just enough to use while providing good solid support for the rest of it so it doesn't flop all over the place. And the compound that made up the eraser was great: it erased well, and wasn't full of the same coarse abrasive as conventional pencil-top pink erasers that tended to shred your paper.

Staedtler is the manufacturer of the eraser I linked to. it may be of interest to note that Staedler is a long-lived German company; on their Wikipedia page, the first image is of conventional wooden pencils - with no eraser on top.

Kropotkin 03-30-2016 07:38 PM

The Blackwing pencils re-introduced by Palomino have replaceable erasers. The pencils come in 3 hardnesses and the erasers come in different colours so you can mix and match.

kayT 03-30-2016 07:42 PM

I appreciate the information. I personally find that as a whole, erasers don't work very well, separate or included, with the exception of that Staedter Machine Elf linked to, and the only one of those I ever had I lost. So I'd rather have a pencil with an eraser, since it may not work well but at least it's handy.

Ignatz 03-30-2016 09:33 PM

Dixon Ticonderoga graphite pencils

"In 1827, Joseph Dixon" (of Marblehead, Mass.) "began his" (pencil factory) "business in Salem, Massachusetts and, with his son, was involved with the Tantiusques graphite mine in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Dixon discovered the merits of graphite as a stove polish and an additive in lubricants, foundry facings, brake linings, oil-less bearings, and non-corrosive paints."

says Wikipedia.


I can't believe that he waited 31 years to attach the eraser (with a green crimper). Maybe he didn't patent it.

lynne-42 03-30-2016 10:56 PM

In Australia we can get both - pencils with or without erasers. I always choose without for the reasons others have commented - the quality of the eraser. As I have a stationery fetish (as do many others, I gather) I carry a variety of pencils, erasers and a sharpener - and a variety of the newest and greatest - erasable pens. They have 'erasers' on the end, but are friction erasers and don't wear out.

Never again will I use a normal pen / biro.

Acsenray 03-30-2016 10:59 PM

I don't use the eraser on the back of the pencil often but it would be too strange for it to be absent.

Bullitt 03-30-2016 11:07 PM

Math major here, many erasures in my day.

Staedtler Mars plastic erasers are by far the best, IME.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machine Elf (Post 19221288)
In college, I discovered that there were kickass quality erasers available, like this one.

Yes I actually carry this with me and my mechanical pencil.

Those, or the little rectangular block ones. https://www.google.com/search?q=stae...plastic+eraser It's the eraser material that counts, not the shape, and these are the best. Other pink erasers can easily wear away the paper, especially with multiple erasures at the same spot.

Oh and I also used an eraser shield to protect my work aroung the mistake. Here are images: https://www.google.com/search?q=eras...w=1024&bih=672. They are very thin metal.

kayT 03-31-2016 08:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lynne-42 (Post 19222501)
In Australia we can get both - pencils with or without erasers. I always choose without for the reasons others have commented - the quality of the eraser. As I have a stationery fetish (as do many others, I gather) I carry a variety of pencils, erasers and a sharpener - and a variety of the newest and greatest - erasable pens. They have 'erasers' on the end, but are friction erasers and don't wear out.

Never again will I use a normal pen / biro.

What's a "friction eraser" and why can't it be used for pencil if it doesn't wear out? Sounds like the answer to a prayer!

SanVito 03-31-2016 08:41 AM

Where is this unified nation of 'Europe' of which you speak?

I am sat here, in my British office, using a pencil with an eraser (rubber) as we debate. And the rubber is, indeed, smudging my sketches.

lynne-42 03-31-2016 08:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kayT (Post 19223108)
What's a "friction eraser" and why can't it be used for pencil if it doesn't wear out? Sounds like the answer to a prayer!

It uses heat and turns the ink into 'invisible' ink - nothing is 'rubbed' out.

http://www.pilotpen.com.au/writing-i...l-erasable-pen

I ought to be paid by their marketing team I've converted so many people to these things, but have no association except parting with my hard-earned cash. Oh, and giving away nearly all my un-erasable pens. I have kept a few for forms and documents which have to be permanently marked.

I am an author and sign books. I always had an overwhelming fear of making a mistake in the name or message on a book a reader has just purchased. These pens are heaven for me.

PatrickLondon 03-31-2016 08:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kayT (Post 19220207)
Can this be true? With an eraser on the pencil being so handy, so logical, could it be the case that Europeans are willing to forego this and instead search all over the house for an eraser? Or do Europeans not make mistakes? EuroDopers, please explain.

I've seen plenty of pencils with (UK usage coming up for your amusement) a rubber on the end. I have one by my notepad at the moment, which came as part of a promotional pack at a sales fair I went to.

On the other hand, pencils are relatively rare nowadays. If you want to write something down - as opposed to typing into a smartphone or computer - you usually expect to find a ballpoint pen.

I have no idea as to the actual statistics. My guess is that pencils aimed at the artist market won't have an eraser on the end, and IME serious archives and some libraries may (a) insist on people using pencils on the premises rather than pens and (b) ban erasers in case the library's own materials are more damaged by them than they are by any marginal notes some fool makes. But pencils in the ordinary stationery shops or in schools and offices are quite likely to have the built-in rubber (hohoho).

Bullitt 03-31-2016 09:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lynne-42 (Post 19223160)
It uses heat and turns the ink into 'invisible' ink - nothing is 'rubbed' out.

http://www.pilotpen.com.au/writing-i...l-erasable-pen

I ought to be paid by their marketing team I've converted so many people to these things, but have no association except parting with my hard-earned cash. Oh, and giving away nearly all my un-erasable pens. I have kept a few for forms and documents which have to be permanently marked.

I am an author and sign books. I always had an overwhelming fear of making a mistake in the name or message on a book a reader has just purchased. These pens are heaven for me.

They also make erasable highlighters?! Never heard of such a thing before.

http://pilotpen.us/categories/frixio...able-ink-pens/

Great. Now I may be wanting one. Of each. Great, that's all I need, more pens / pencils / highlighters to feed my fetish. Gee thanks.

ETA: and with rubbers on them.

puzzlegal 03-31-2016 09:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ignatz (Post 19222351)
Dixon Ticonderoga graphite pencils

"In 1827, Joseph Dixon" (of Marblehead, Mass.) "began his" (pencil factory) "business in Salem, Massachusetts and, with his son, was involved with the Tantiusques graphite mine in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Dixon discovered the merits of graphite as a stove polish and an additive in lubricants, foundry facings, brake linings, oil-less bearings, and non-corrosive paints."

says Wikipedia.


I can't believe that he waited 31 years to attach the eraser (with a green crimper). Maybe he didn't patent it.

And Dixon Ticonderoga pencils still come with good, usable erasers on the end. Most cheap brands (like CVS, or the promotional ones) don't -- the erasers are often worse than useless, just smearing the graphite around.

Dixon Ticonderoga pencils also work very well as pencils, with smooth lead of perfectly even hardness, that doesn't break too easily. They are my preferred brand.

I like traditional pencils over mechanical ones. The very fine mechanical pencil leads seem to break too easily and too often. I can sharpen a good wooden pencil to be sharper than a fine-tip lead, and still write with it. and I can instantly change the angle of the pencil and get a slightly heavier line, or shade in lightly with a much wider writing surface, and then change the angle back and instantly get a fine writing tip again. A good traditional wooden pencil is a thing of beauty and a joy to use.

iceiso 03-31-2016 10:19 AM

Erasers? You mean, shock absorbers for when the pencil rolls off the desk?

troub 03-31-2016 10:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machine Elf (Post 19221288)
it may be of interest to note that Staedler is a long-lived German company; on their Wikipedia page, the first image is of conventional wooden pencils - with no eraser on top.

...but a fake one painted on!

suranyi 03-31-2016 03:34 PM

I use pencils with erasers on the end all the time when working on crossword puzzles. Very convenient. Sure the erasers aren't the best, but they get the job done when I make a mistake. It's only for my amusement anyway and it beats having to get up from my recliner and look for a real eraser.

lynne-42 03-31-2016 07:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bullitt (Post 19223195)
They also make erasable highlighters?! Never heard of such a thing before.

http://pilotpen.us/categories/frixio...able-ink-pens/

Great. Now I may be wanting one. Of each. Great, that's all I need, more pens / pencils / highlighters to feed my fetish. Gee thanks.

My pleasure. Lovely to meet a fellow stationery fetisher (no idea what the correct word is). I'd forgotten the highlighters. They're wonderful too.

Only one of each? Tut. Tut. I have them in my study, handbag, next to the lounge chair where I read ...

Bullitt 03-31-2016 07:39 PM

stop it!! Stop it!!

lynne-42 03-31-2016 07:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bullitt (Post 19225015)
stop it!! Stop it!!

No! :)

Nava 04-01-2016 01:38 AM

Don't open this...

SPOILER:
Caran D'Ache



Hey, I've been good and not posted a link!

lynne-42 04-01-2016 01:58 AM

Interesting reference to fancy pens, Nava. I'd be interested to know if the others with stationery fetishes are willing to pay those prices (took me a while to actually see the numbers). My fetish doesn't worry about the actual brand. I just want pencils and pens and erasers and sharpeners and fresh clean paper in a whole variety of forms, especially 5 mm grid. I can't work on anything other than 5 mm grid for daily work. Then lovely blank books and ...

Francis Vaughan 04-01-2016 02:07 AM

Heh, I have a Caran D'Ache fountain pen. It is lovely. It is my main writing implement.

I an surprised no-one has mentioned Henry Petroski's seminal work The Pencil.

Everyone should read at least one of his books. To Engineer is Human is perhaps the key one, but The Pencil is a wonderful read. Probably answers the OP's question. (My copy is at home, I might try to find it in the mire later.)

lynne-42 04-01-2016 02:44 AM

Now, a very nice fountain pen - ah that's tempting. Very tempting. I might have to leave this conversation before the budget dissolves. And a book all about pencils. Oh dear. KayT, you've really caused problems now with your OP. :)

Nava 04-01-2016 04:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lynne-42 (Post 19225676)
Interesting reference to fancy pens, Nava. I'd be interested to know if the others with stationery fetishes are willing to pay those prices (took me a while to actually see the numbers). My fetish doesn't worry about the actual brand. I just want pencils and pens and erasers and sharpeners and fresh clean paper in a whole variety of forms, especially 5 mm grid. I can't work on anything other than 5 mm grid for daily work. Then lovely blank books and ...

Oh, it's not a matter of brand... The pencils those guys are most famous for are watercolors. You can use them dry (and they behave like any other color pencil) or wet (and they behave like a watercolor thin-to-medium brush depending on angle and pressure). I find that paintbrushes tend to be too thin for my fingers (and that's with tiny hands!), these pencils are very nice to hold.

I gave myself a box a couple of years ago as a self-present, after decades of carefully not drooling over them in stores. One of the Spanish expressions for utter happiness is "as happy as an idiot with a box of Alpinos": I don't know if I'm an idiot, but I love all those colored sticks... is it bad, if you'd rather get colored sticks than flowers?

PatrickLondon 04-01-2016 06:34 AM

Enthusiasts should not miss:

http://www.pencilmuseum.co.uk/

Francis Vaughan 04-01-2016 10:36 AM

Petroski does indeed touch on the difference in US and European use of erasers on the end of pencils. However he doesn't provide much additional information but to note the difference. He does provide a few quotes from earlier times discussing the merits and otherwise of the eraser equipped pencil. The design was not universally liked, and was often associated with cheap pencils.

Interestingly the patents for an eraser on a pencil were soon thrown out by the supreme court, as the union of the pencil and eraser didn't create a new device - one with new capability, merely union of two existing things - something that can't be patented.

One thing he notes - the ferrule became something of a branding device for US made pencils, whereas in Europe the finishing of the pencil with paint, with a rounded end was the vehicle for much branding.

Personally, I still like and use pencils, and have always had a dislike of erasers on the end.

lynne-42 04-01-2016 10:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nava (Post 19225750)
Oh, it's not a matter of brand... The pencils those guys are most famous for are watercolors. You can use them dry (and they behave like any other color pencil) or wet (and they behave like a watercolor thin-to-medium brush depending on angle and pressure). I find that paintbrushes tend to be too thin for my fingers (and that's with tiny hands!), these pencils are very nice to hold.

I gave myself a box a couple of years ago as a self-present, after decades of carefully not drooling over them in stores. One of the Spanish expressions for utter happiness is "as happy as an idiot with a box of Alpinos": I don't know if I'm an idiot, but I love all those colored sticks... is it bad, if you'd rather get colored sticks than flowers?

Oh dear. The budget just gave up, and walked out the door crying. I shall investigate further (the pencils, not the budget).

lynne-42 04-01-2016 10:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PatrickLondon (Post 19225839)
Enthusiasts should not miss:

http://www.pencilmuseum.co.uk/

And then there are pencil sculptures:

http://www.visualnews.com/2012/10/30/pencil-sculptures/

Siam Sam 04-02-2016 01:54 AM

Who would name their kid Hymen?

Green Bean 04-02-2016 09:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lynne-42 (Post 19225700)
Now, a very nice fountain pen - ah that's tempting. Very tempting. I might have to leave this conversation before the budget dissolves. And a book all about pencils. Oh dear. KayT, you've really caused problems now with your OP. :)

Pssh. You don't need pay that much to get a nice fountain pen. Get yourself a Pilot Metropolitan. 15 bucks, and behaves like somethng much more expensive.

(Which is not to say rhe expensive ones aren't worth it too!)


Seconding the recommendations for Henry Petroski, Dixon Ticonderogas, and whie plasticky erasers. One can use both types, you know!

UncleFred 04-02-2016 09:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan (Post 19225685)
Heh, I have a Caran D'Ache fountain pen. It is lovely. It is my main writing implement.

I an surprised no-one has mentioned Henry Petroski's seminal work The Pencil.

Everyone should read at least one of his books. To Engineer is Human is perhaps the key one, but The Pencil is a wonderful read. Probably answers the OP's question. (My copy is at home, I might try to find it in the mire later.)

I have maybe a half-dozen of his books, including "The Pencil". He has an amazing ability to take an obscure but mildly interesting topic and make it truly dull. Really. You've got to struggle through his writing style to get the satisfaction of the content. Still, I did buy all those books, which is what probably counts.

UncleFred 04-02-2016 09:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lynne-42 (Post 19224930)
My pleasure. Lovely to meet a fellow stationery fetisher (no idea what the correct word is). I'd forgotten the highlighters. They're wonderful too.

Only one of each? Tut. Tut. I have them in my study, handbag, next to the lounge chair where I read ...

Stationery Fetishists - You may wish to checkout the books of James Ward (Motto - "I like boring things") including "Adventures in Stationery", "The Perfection of the Paperclip" and more at his blog

http://iamjamesward.com/

UncleFred 04-02-2016 09:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kayT (Post 19220207)
Not sure if this is really a GQ but we'll try it here. Today's Writer's Almanac had the following:
On this day in 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the first pencil to have an attached eraser. The eraser-tipped pencil is still something of an American phenomenon; most European pencils are still eraserless.
eraser? Or do Europeans not make mistakes? EuroDopers, please explain.

Coming at this from a different angle, I am amazed that he was able to get a patent. I've been involved with patents for years (got 6 of them) and one rule is something like "You can't patent sticking two existing things together unless it introduce some new feature or function (other than the convenience of having them in the same place.) The oft-given example is "You can't patent sticking an eraser on a pencil" although that would seem to be untrue. Perhaps the rules for patent were more lenient back then.

Francis Vaughan 04-02-2016 10:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by UncleFred (Post 19228684)
...The oft-given example is "You can't patent sticking an eraser on a pencil" although that would seem to be untrue. Perhaps the rules for patent were more lenient back then.

As I noted above, the patent was overturned for just this reason a couple of years later.

It seems that the laxness of the patent office has never changed, and unpatentable things are allowed patents all the time, and remain so patented until a legal challenge points a spotlight on them.

lynne-42 04-02-2016 10:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by UncleFred (Post 19228677)
Stationery Fetishists - You may wish to checkout the books of James Ward (Motto - "I like boring things") including "Adventures in Stationery", "The Perfection of the Paperclip" and more at his blog

http://iamjamesward.com/

Thank you. How intriguing - I've only looked at "Adventures in Stationery" so far. So don't Americans use the term "stationery" or use pencil cases? Just the blog ad for it has been illuminating.


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