The great eraser race

NOTE: This was originally posted on my now-defunct PencilThings blog on October 25, 2007. A reader sent me a little generic vinyl eraser he found, and was impressed with its performance. Although I don’t have the original pictures from the post, I recreated them, only without the purple Dixon mentioned below, which I threw away a couple of years ago.

I love our readers. The commenters we get from the pencil community are friendly, opinionated, and intelligent. And I’m not saying that just to butter them up — since I’ve joined the Pencil Things blog, I’ve met other people who genuinely care about office supplies. I thought I was a freak. It’s nice to know there are others like me out there.



The generic-brand eraser from Dollar Tree that Barrel of a Pencil sent me.


One regular commenter and fellow scribomechanica freak, Barrel of a Pencil, dropped me an email the other day. He said he ran across a vinyl eraser at a Dollar Tree in Lakewood, NY. It was sold in a blister pack of 8 for $1. Although it is comically generic, it erasers like a champ. (That’s right, I used “eraser” as a verb. Anyone gonna challenge me on that?)

He wrote me this:

I post comments under the nom de pencil Barrel Of A Pencil.  If possible I would like to send you one of the little generic  white vinyl erasers I wrote about in my comment posted to Pencil Thing’s ruminations on the timeless question Why The Pencil. (Check out the post here. -AW) Ideally, I  would like to see you review this little gem either  on its own  merits or in competition with the usual name brand  suspects  (Staedtler, Pentel, Faber-Castell, etc.). I think its a  whiz-bang  of an eraser and a steal at 12 1/2 cents (8 for a  dollar).

Just so everyone knows, I usually prefer my eraser to be on the end of the pencil. It’s easier to use, and I think the extra weight the eraser and the ferrule adds to the pencil helps me balance it. However, sometimes I just have to use my ferrule-less Palomino. That’s when I want to keep an eraser by my side.

When I received Barrel’s donation to The Cause in the mail, I did a little gleeful dance. Once I settled down, I opened it, and there was this somewhat comically generic little eraser wrapped in plastic cellophane. It said on it, “Erasers Extra Soft & Clean” and then, just in case we had no idea what to do with it, “Home • Office • School.”

Whew! Now I have some direction…

I opened the cellophane, and was pleased by how soft it really was. It was sort of squishy, a little like those stress balls everyone has but never seems to use.


Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. The cream of the consumer-grade crop.


For the review, I pitted it against a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser (95 cents, Product Page), and just to shake things up a bit, an old purple Dixon rubber eraser I found at the bottom of my desk drawer (3 for $1.00 almost anywhere) just for contrast.

Please keep in mind that this is not a test of different eraser types — vinyl vs. rubber vs. moldable, etc. That’s for another review. For the purposes of this post, I tried to keep my subject narrowed to these particular erasers.

Both the Brand X and  the Staedtler Mars came in a cardboard sleeve, which doesn’t really serve any purpose I can gather except to keep the rest of the unit from getting dirty. It’s kind of like the little sleeve they put on ice cream cones. Eventually, you have to take it off when you start to use it up. In the meantime, they do make the erasers look nicer, don’t they?

My test was conducted as follows (see picture below): I wrote on a piece of notebook paper in heavy HB graphite marking, “Erase me!”. Then I erased it with each eraser, drawing the unit over the words exactly five times. I tried to take care to use the same amount of pressure for each. Take a look (and please excuse my crappy lettering and my equally crappy camera):

For 13 cents, I have to tell you and Barrel of a Pencil that the Brand X eraser worked like a charm. He definitely got his money worth. I usually gravitate toward plastic erasers because, unlike rubber erasers which get debris all over the page, plastic/vinyl erasers (which are both the same, aren’t they?) just leave one little scrap, or roll, which can be picked off and thrown away. It was a smooth glide across the paper, and perhaps my only objection is that it is too soft. It did leave a bit of a mark left over, but after another couple swipes across the words (done after I took the picture), they were completely gone.

If price is no object, though the Staedtler 95-cent eraser was the best. Check out the fact that there is almost no mark left over. It was just as smooth as the Brand X, and it was firmer. I wasn’t afraid the eraser would crumble off onto the paper.

The Dixon, as I expected, wasn’t great. I can still almost read “This is a test” left over on the page. To be fair, much of this is due to the fact that the eraser is probably a couple years old, and dirty. I only put it in the test to make a comparison to most of the erasers out there.

To be fair to the Brand X pencil, the Mars is a good one-and-a-half times longer. Even if I were able to buy it smaller,  the eraser-to-price ratio would make it about 63 cents, nearly five times the price of the Brand X.

In a nutshell: If money is no problem, and/or there are no Dollar Trees in your area, get a Staedtler or another quality name-brand. However, pound for pound, Barrel of a Pencil’s little find is worth it. You’re sacrificing a bit of quality, but it erasers very cleanly, and you get all the benefits of a vinyl eraser — no debris!

A note to our readers: Anyone recognize that Brand X eraser? Do you have any manufacturer contact info?

Thanks, Barrel of a Pencil! Anyone have any finds they want to pit against the name brands? Let me know!

Review: the Dahle 50 Fifty Rotary Pencil Sharpener

This is my first attempt at a video review! Apologized for the slightly crooked shot framing.

The Dahle 50 Fifty makes very little waste, so a newly sharpened pencil is almost as long as an unsharpened one.

The website I referred to was here, what seems to be a gallery of Dahle sharpeners, including some really cool midcentury modern cast iron models.

Summing up the video, here are some strengths:

  • Tray fits into the base well
  • Easily removeable blade for replacement
  • Grinder chews up very little wood, to prolong the life of your pencil (see image to the right)
  • Produces a short point, for easier control during writing
  • Unlike a lot of rotary sharpeners, the exposed wood on the point is very smooth. No splinters or rough edges
  • The adjustable barrel holder can hold oversized pencils, and guides them into the grinder, keeping the pencil straight

Some weaknesses:

  • It’s rather awkward to extend the guide, open the hole, and insert the pencil with just two hands
  • The shavings tray is loose, and rattles
  • The whole unit is plastic and feels cheap
  • Mounts to the wall or a table with a Command Strip, which might be knocked loose during sharpening a particularly hearty pencil

Overall, I give this pencil sharpener 4 stars out of 5 — I will enjoy using it because of the great point it creates, with a minimum of waste.

As I said in the video, leave a comment if you find somewhere that sells this model!