Ever notice how some pencils have erasers and some don’t? Are the eraser-clad pencils designed for writing and the eraser-less ones for art? Or is it something more complex?
The Erasers On Pencils
It’s worth noting that wooden pencils haven’t always had erasers. In the United States you might have grown up and made your way through grade school seeing pencils topped with erasers, but this hasn’t always been the default.
Wikipedia notes that the eraser on pencils was patented in 1858 while wood-encased pencils (that we would recognize as being like today’s pencils) have been in production since at least the late 1600s, possibly even the late 1500s, depending on how open your integration of a pencil is.
Having an eraser on your pencil is very convenient but it honestly isn’t very effective and it doesn’t last very long at all. This sort of eraser is meant for a limited amount of erasing when you are writing or doing mathematics but it’s not nearly enough eraser for artwork or drawing. For those pursuits a typical pencil will need a much larger eraser during its working life.
The Main Reason For Eraserless Pencils
So, the main reason why many pencils lack erasers is that the erasers on pencils aren’t very good. These erasers wear out quickly, are prone to damaging the paper, aren’t comfortable for extended use, and usually aren’t replaceable (except in comes cases, like the Blackwing).
And what doesn’t it mean for an eraser to “not be very good”? Basically, poor erasers…
- will leave pencil marks or stains on the paper
- will damage the paper, removing too much of it while erasing
- are too hard and will crack in half
- are too soft and will shred while being used
You should think of pencil eraser’s are a last resort — the thing to use when there is no other option. So if you are an artist or someone what is doing serious work with their pencil, then you want to use a serious, and usually a large, eraser to do your corrections.
Drawing Pencils Without Erasers
Many people see a pencil without an eraser and therefore consider it to be a “drawing pencil.” The cause-and-effect isn’t as simple as that because while most drawing pencils don’t have erasers, some general use pencils lack them as well. Of course the difference between a “drawing pencil” and a “general-use pencil” might just come down to marketing and the number of hardnesses in which it’s sold, but that’s another issue altogether!
Either way, drawing pencils tend to lack erasers because the expectation is not that artists never erase, but rather when they do erase, artists want control, comfort, and the utmost safety for their medium (be it paper, canvas, or anything else). This is why an artist using charcoal or pencil might use a customizable molded rubber eraser as opposed to something on the back of their pencil.
So it’s not that artists don’t use erasers, but rather that artists need good erasers so they don’t use the ones on pencil and this has evolved into a situation where artist-focused pencils don’t even come with erasers!
And finally, a good related article: Why Do Erasers Suck At Erasing