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An eraser, also called rubber in Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK, from the material first used, is an article of stationery that is used for removing writing from paper. Erasers have a rubbery consistency and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Some pencils have an eraser on one end. Typical erasers are made from synthetic rubber, but more expensive or specialized erasers are vinyl, plastic, or gum-like materials. Cheaper erasers can be made out of synthetic soy-based gum.
Before rubber erasers, tablets of rubber or wax were used to erase lead or charcoal marks from paper. Bits of rough stone such as sandstone or pumice were used to remove small errors from parchment or papyrus documents written in ink. Crustless bread was used as an eraser in the past; a Meiji-era (1868-1912) Tokyo student said: "Bread erasers were used in place of rubber erasers, and so they would give them to us with no restriction on amount. So we thought nothing of taking these and eating a firm part to at least slightly satisfy our hunger."
In 1770 English engineer Edward Nairne is reported to have developed the first widely-marketed rubber eraser, for an inventions competition. Until that time the material was known as gum elastic or by its native American name (via French) caoutchouc. Nairne sold natural rubber erasers for the high price of three shillings per half-inch cube. According to Nairne, he inadvertently picked up a piece of rubber instead of breadcrumbs, discovered rubber's erasing properties, and began selling rubber erasers. The invention was described by Joseph Priestley on April 15, 1770, in a footnote: "I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the mark of black-lead-pencil. ... It is sold by Mr. Nairne, Mathematical Instrument-Maker, opposite the Royal-Exchange." In 1770 the word rubber was in general use for any object used for rubbing; the word became attached to the new material sometime between 1770 and 1778.
However, raw rubber shared the same inconveniences as bread, since it was perishable. In 1839 Charles Goodyear discovered the process of vulcanization, a method that would cure rubber, making it durable. Rubber erasers became common with the advent of vulcanization.
On March 30, 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia, USA, received the first patent for attaching an eraser to the end of a pencil. It was later invalidated because it was determined to be simply a composite of two devices rather than an entirely new product.
Erasers may be free-standing blocks (block and wedge eraser), or conical caps that can slip onto the end of a pencil (cap eraser). A barrel or click eraser is a device shaped like a pencil, but instead of being filled with pencil lead, its barrel contains a retractable cylinder of eraser material (most commonly soft vinyl). Many, but not all, wooden pencils are made with attached erasers. Novelty erasers made in shapes intended to be amusing are often made of hard vinyl, which tends to smear heavy markings when used as an eraser.
Art gum erasers
An eraser type that is popular with artists is the art gum eraser, made of soft, coarse rubber. It is especially suited to removing large areas, and it does not damage paper. However, they are imprecise. Gum erasers tend to crumble as they are used, so this type leaves a lot of eraser residue. This residue must then be brushed away with care, as the eraser particles can leave marks on the paper. Many artists use a broad brush to sweep away the loose eraser residue. Art gum erasers are commonly tan or brown, but sometimes are sold in blue.
Kneaded erasers are common to most artists' standard toolkit. They can be pulled into a point for erasing small areas and tight detail erasing, molded into a textured surface and used like a reverse stamp to give texture, or used in a "blotting" manner to lighten lines or shading without completely erasing them. They gradually lose their efficacy and resilience as they become infused with particles picked up from erasing and from their environment. They are not suited to erasing large areas, as they deform under vigorous erasing.
Commonly sold in retail outlets with school supplies and home improvement products, this soft, malleable putty appears in many colors and under numerous brand names. Intended to adhere posters and prints to walls without damaging the underlying paint, poster putty works much the same as traditional kneaded erasers, but with a greater tack or lifting strength. Poster putty does not erase so much as lighten by lifting graphite, charcoal or pastel off a drawing. In this regard, it does not smudge or damage work in progress. Repeatedly touching the putty to a drawing pulls ever more medium free, gradually lightening the work in a controlled fashion. Poster putty can be shaped into fine points or knife edges, making it ideal for detailed or painstaking work. It can be rolled across a surface to create visual textures. Poster putty loses its efficacy with use, becoming less tacky as the material grows polluted with debris and oils from the user's skin.
The electric eraser has a knob on a short thin rod attached to a motor. The eraser knob turns at a uniform speed, achieving a smooth and fast erase with a minimum of paper damage.
Soft vinyl erasers
Soft vinyl has plastic texture and erases cleaner than standard erasers. They are softer and non-abrasive, making them less likely to damage canvas or paper. They are prone to cause smearing when erasing large areas or dark marks, so these erasers are used to erase light marks and for precision erasing. Engineers favor this type of eraser for work on technical drawings due to their gentleness on paper.
A fibreglass eraser, a bundle of very fine glass fibres, can be used for erasing and other tasks requiring abrasion. Typically the eraser is a pen-shaped device with a replaceable insert with glass fibres, which wear down in use. The fibres are very hard; in addition to removing pencil and pen markings, such erasers are used for cleaning traces on electronic circuit boards to facilitate soldering, removing rust, and many other applications. As an example of an unusual use, a fibreglass eraser was used for preparing an archaeological fossil embedded in a very hard and massive limestone.
Felt chalkboard erasers or blackboard dusters are used to erase chalk markings on a chalkboard. Chalk writing leaves light-coloured particles weakly adhering to a dark surface (e.g., white on black, or yellow on green); it can be rubbed off with a soft material, such as a rag. Erasers for chalkboards are made, with a block of plastic or wood, much larger than an eraser for pen or pencil, with a layer of felt on one side. The block is held in the hand and the felt rubbed against the writing, which it easily wipes off. Chalk dust is released, some of which sticks to the eraser until it is cleaned, usually by hitting it against a surface.
Various types of eraser, depending upon the board and the type of ink used, are used to erase a whiteboard.
- Teiyûkai (1926). Kôbu daigakkô mukashibanashi (in Japanese). Tokyo: Teiyûkai. pp. 25–26.
- See the footnote on page xv at the end of the preface to the following: Priestley, Joseph (1770). A Familiar Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Perspective. London: J. John and J. Payne.
- Joseph Priestley (1769). A Familiar Introduction to the Study of Electricity. J. Dodsley; T. Cadell, successor to Mr. Millar; and Johnson and Payne. p. 84.
- R.B. Simpson (ed.), Rubber Basics, iSmithers Rapra Publishing, 2002, ISBN 185957307X, p.46 "Rubber"
- "Reckendorfer v. Faber 92 U.S. 347 (1875)". Justia. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Eraser.html. Missing or empty
- Rendering with Pen and Ink (The Thames & Hudson Manuals), Robert W Gill. 1984, p191-193
- Stecher, Rico (2008). "A new Triassic pterosaur from Switzerland (Central Austroalpine, Grisons), Raeticodactylus filisurensis gen. et sp. nov.". Swiss J. Geosci. (Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel). doi:10.1007/s00015-008-1252-6. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Petroski, Henry (1989). The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance..
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