Did you know that before erasers were invented, humanity’s preferred way of erasing errant graphite marks relied on de-crusted, moist bread? Tablets of rubber or wax were also used to erase lead or charcoal marks from paper. It’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way!
One of our favorite drawing tools here at Pastimes for a Lifetime is the trusty kneaded eraser. Also referred to as “putty rubber”, the kneaded eraser has a plastic consistency ideal for removing graphite or charcoal from a surface by absorbing it.
Usually made of a grey or white pliable material, it resembles putty or gum. Unlike other erasers, it does not leave behind eraser residue (crumbs and dust). Because of this, kneaded erasers last longer. However, it does lose its resilience due to the fact that particles that it erases stay inside it. What makes this tool differ from typical erasers is its ability to shape into a fine point to erase small details, or flatten into a larger shape to work as a blotter to lighten darker areas. They are commonly used for “subtractive drawing” techniques, which means using the eraser to “draw” by removing the graphite or charcoal.
It wasn’t until 1770 that we discovered that a natural rubber made from plants could be used as an eraser. That year, English engineer Edward Nairne accidentally picked up a piece of rubber instead of breadcrumbs and quickly discovered that rubber could erase pencil markings!
The name “rubber” came from “rubbing”. The name was given to the object somewhere between 1770 and 1778. However, this kind of eraser didn’t work too well. It often crumbled when used, was too sensitive to weather conditions, smelled bad and in time, fell apart.
In 1839, inventor Charles Goodyear solved these problems by inventing a method of curing the rubber known as vulcanization. This process made rubber more durable and allowed for the eraser to become a household item. It is also around the time that the handy kneaded eraser was invented. So, we have Charles Goodyear to thank for the invention of one of our favorite drawing tools!
Product Review covers drawing and painting products and tools used in Pastimes for a Lifetime’s course curriculum.
Interested in learning valuable tips for handling the kneaded eraser? Check out Pastimes’ Drawing Courses!
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