This Week: Eraser Rub Off

Howdy Comic Tools readers! Before I get to today's entry, I thought I'd show you the result of all your generosity, my new large format printer, paid for entirely by donations for all of you!

Check this sweet purring cadillac of a printer out:

It's a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II. Normally it'd sell for $500 new, but I got this one on Ebay for $319 with shipping. It came brand new in box. It is, by far, the most advanced piece of technology I've ever handled. Printers sure have come a long way since I last checked. Before getting this printer, I thought Epsons were about as good as you could get in printers, and man have I re-thought that. Epsons are the Geos to this thing's Mercedes.

Every door opens slowly on it's own after a gentle press, no forcing anything open or clattering, almost-fitting joints. The print head is easily accessed and replaced, should there ever be need of it, with a simple lever. It has 8 individual dye-based ink cartridges:

All of which light up when inserted to indicate their circuitry is functioning:It has a dedicated paper path for large format and thick media, and here you can see my first print going through it!:

I still need o work on sizing to get the dimensions right on the page, but here's some pencil and ink doodling I did to give you an idea of where I'm headed with this process:
Canon ink is lightfast and archival, and the printer uses the least ink per page out of any brand of inkjet. I could not be happier with this thing.

Seriously folks, I was in one of those "I'm totally screwed and there's nothing I can do" tight spots in life, and you totally yanked my ass out. Everyone who gave will be getting a personal response in the mail and a bit of original art used in the making of a Comic Tools entry.

In the meantime, thank you, thank you everybody.

Now, moving on to this week's topic.

Awhile back my friend Joe was lamenting that he was on his last Sakura Eraser:

I'd never heard of the thing. Like many art students I'd been introduced to the Staedtler eraser for all my hard rubber eraser needs and I'd never tried anything else. (for those of you who don't know what a hard rubber eraser is and why it's different, basically there's only 2 kinds of erasers that are worth having around for erasing pencils for scanning. One is a gum rubber eraser, which if you're not a hard-presser and you use robust paper is all you'll need most of the time. The other is the rubber eraser, which you use to really work the pencil out of pencil lines that you drew too hard. Joe draws pretty hard most of the time, and as a result uses a rubber eraser almost exclusively to scrub his art down after inking.)

One day Joe lamented to me that he was about to use up his last Sakura, and he couldn't seem to find any more of them. I asked him to show one to me to compare it to a Staedtler, and the difference was that of night and day. Not only did the Sakura erase better, it created far less of the crumbly "dust" rubber erasers are infamous for, and it damaged the paper less too. I'd say the difference between the Sakura and the Staedtler was as large as the difference between a Staedtler and a pink pencil eraser like you might have used in school before you knew better.

I was saddened by the news that here was this amazing tool that vastly improved on a product I use all the time, that I had never heard of, and evidently it could not be found anymore. "This sounds like a job for Comic Tools blog.", I sid, and I wrote an email to the manufacturer asking about the eraser. a few days later I received this curt reply:

"SJ100 was discontinued and are no longer available. They are working on
a replacement product that is not available yet."

A few weeks later Joe called me into his room to show me some new Japanese erasers he'd bought at Books Kinokuniya, which is the cheapest place in NYC to buy Japanese art supplies. He'd bought two erasers, a Tombo Mono and a Foam eraser. He showed me both, and the differences between them, and I decided then that a good comic tools entry would be to look at all the Japanese erasers you can buy now in the wake of the Sakura's disappearence, and see how they compare. I threw in the Staedtler for good measure. I should say that Joe says the Sakura was better than all of these, and he hopes very much whatever new product they're developing will show up soon. If anybody has a Sakura I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

To prepare for the test I made samples of lettering and art that were drawn far too hard onto the paper, so that no normal gum rubber could erase them. These lines would need a hard rubber eraser to come out. I've adjusted these scans to match the darkness in real life: (to see all of these larger, click on them.)
Next, I inked the drawings and lettering:Next, I did a careful erasing of each, not stopping until I had gotten all the pencil totally gone. If you click to see the image below larger, you'll really see some differences in the scan. The Staedtler could not get all the pencil out, at all. It was too hard to press into the lines, and not sticky enough to grab the pencil lead. This test of the Foam seemed to confirm what Joe had said, which is that the Foam is TOO sticky- it sticks to the ink and starts pulling it from the paper when you use it roughly. You can see that the lettering has been compromised. I also rubbed off a LOT of eraser doing the job. The Tombo Mono, Joe's favorite in his own tests, looks great here, and worked nearly 3 times as fast as any of the others while leaving no ink damage. The pencil was gone out of the deepest gouges in a few passes. The Non-Dust Tombo didn't fare too badly either, although I rubbed off a lot more of the eraser doing the same job as the regular Tombo, which means I'd have to buy more of them.

After the erasing I took photos of the resulting dust. Here's the crumbly Staedtler and it's infamously infuriating messy dust, running like a crap waterfall down my table and off camera onto my lap:

Here's the foam eraser's rather large load of somewhat more manageable "dust,", actually more like rolled melted rubber, which is what it is:Here's the scant and manageable dust left by the Tombo Mono:
And here's the notably long strands of rubber left by the Non-Dust:

For the next step, I scrubbed the middle of the drawing and lettering with all my body weight, ravaging the paper. If I'd been using regular bristol instead of the robust stuff I use I'd have ground the surface into flannel. I also added a lighter stroke of ink underneath and scrubbed it mercilessly too. Doing this, the Staedtler FINALLY did it's job and erased the pencil liall the way, but now my lettering was so rubbed off it didn't scan right anymore. Compare it to the untouched lettering above. That would have been ANY fine line in it's path. The foam did an even worse number on my ink, peeling ink from the lettering AND the drawing. FAR too sticky to be used safely with an ink drawing. The lettering in particular is now ruined. The Tombo did the best, with virtually no degredation and the least loss of material to the eraser. The Non-Dust did second best, although the lettering lightened a little and I lost a lot of eraser material.

Just like in Joe's experience, the Tombo Mono is the clear winner. I'll let you all know if a new Sakura becomes available, and of course I'll test that too.

Next week: So what am I going to do with this printer, anyway?