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Kneaded Erasers : How Do They Work?

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Kneaded Erasers : How Do They Work?
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Magnificent Basturd™
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
Old 2006-09-14, 14:22

Have you art students out there ever wondered how in the hell these things work?

Kneaded erasers are usually resilient pieces of rubber that you use as an eraser/blending tool when working with graphite, pastels and other dusty deposit-laying instruments of art on sheets of paper. If you're using a soft lead the kneaded eraser can quickly become a shiny black lump of coal but then the miracle! You grab the thing and stretch it until it stretches and snaps in half. You jam the two pieces on top of each other and pull them apart with a snap again. Done a few dozen times the kneaded eraser is once again "clean" looking and ready for more action. The tiny particles of graphite have been 'snapped' out into the air during this stretch-snap exercise.

But now, the best part of all: as the eraser gets stretched apart it becomes indescribably soft... and I mean that. It's like the softest thing you've ever held in your hands. You can see the individual stretched tufts of material as they fall apart and away from each other. It's like a billion little atoms have been disassociated in the pulling. The once rubbery material has become soft and friable.

I know that some of you guy are in bio out there, what gives???

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
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Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Old 2006-09-14, 14:31

I had to stop using kneading erasers because I'd always tear off little bits and eat them. I want to know what makes them so delicious.

Can't wait for a real reply, I've always wondered what kind of crazy voodoo is going with these things.
InactionMan is offline   quote
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory.
Old 2006-09-14, 14:34

This is the first time in history that 709 has subscribed to a thread.
709 is offline   quote
I am worthless beyond hope.
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Inner Swabia. If you have to ask twice, don't.
Old 2006-09-14, 15:29

I am not sure that the snapping action releases the graphite into the air as much as the eraser shifts from being a 2 dimentional deposition of graphite to being a solution (three dimentional) of graphite.
billybobsky is offline   quote
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Road Warrior
Old 2006-09-14, 15:33

Back in the day we'd rub our #2 pencil erasers on the rough bungalow carpet, 2 strokes or so and you had a clean eraser. Of course, you wore the eraser down by doing this, but we didn't care. Oh those were the halcyon days, we just didn't care.
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Magnificent Basturd™
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
Old 2006-09-14, 17:51

I never tasted a kneaded eraser.
Until now.
Dude.... it's, like, wait.
There wasn't a taste at first but now I'm getting kind of a spicy aftertaste.
I did NOT eat the thing, it's in the garbage.
but spicay

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
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Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Chicago
Old 2006-09-15, 12:13

So, where can I get one of these things?
DMBand0026 is offline   quote
is the next Chiquita
Join Date: Feb 2005
Old 2006-09-15, 12:15

Someone take away 'shrooms from Drew, please.

DMB, surely a local art store or a college bookstore (assuming the college has an art dept) would have it.
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Senior Member
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Tampa Bay and CNJ
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Old 2006-09-15, 13:22

Their is a Pearl at 225 West Chicago Ave. I know they carry them.
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On twitter: @bwyatt
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Near Indianapolis
Old 2006-09-15, 13:50

Wal-Mart has them in their crafts departments (usually -- although that area is shrinking in the newer stores).
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owner for sale by house
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Charlotte, NC
Old 2006-09-15, 14:07

There are two effects here. As billybobsky pointed out, when you knead the eraser, the graphite gets distributed throughout its volume, so statistically it is much less likely to see the graphite particles on the surfaces. And since the volume is so much larger than the surface, it looks like they disappeared completely. Also, the particles are very small, so you will only see them when there are lots of them in the same spot.

The second thing is the hardness/softness of the eraser. This is simply due to the fact that it consists of very long molecules. These are woven into each other, and cannot react very fast. There is a toy that consists of a very similar material that will bounce around like a rubber ball, but can be shaped by kneading like one of these erasers. If you apply pressure slowly, the molecules will have time to untangle and move, but fast movements will be met by resistance. A higher temperature (from your hands) also helps, because it makes the molecules move around more by themselves. That is why the eraser gets softer the longer you play with it.

As for the taste ... haven't tried that
ghoti is offline   quote
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Old 2006-09-15, 14:20

Oooh! Silly Putty! That shit rules. (I think that's what you're referring to.) If you flatten it out and press it really hard on the a page of the Sunday Comics it'll lift an image of the comic off the page. Doing Silly Putty lifts is almost as fun as the wax paper+spoon comic strip lift.

And in case anyone is wondering, Silly Putty tastes like a delicate mixture of Crayola crayons and old crumbly Play-Doh. Very subtle pallet, very earthy. It's the Cab-Merlot of the non-toxic/semi-edible childrens toy/art supply world.
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Magnificent Basturd™
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
Old 2006-09-15, 14:39

video of kneaded eraser

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