Are Nataraj 621 Plasto erasers good for drawing? Or are they just for cleaning out your pencil mistakes? From sandstone, crustless bread and gum elastic to natural and synthetic rubbers – erasing mistakes has never been easier than it is today! But with the Nataraj 621 Plasto Erasers, erasing mistakes is cheap too. These are the most economical “rubbers” and graphite erasers we have ever come across. So how are they SO good? We test them to find out, exploring drawing with an eraser along the way. And we talk about whether they are better than Apsara erasers and Muji erasers.
Reviewing the Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser
Samir: Welcome to Stationery Test Drive with Inky Memo. Today we are going to be talking about the Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser. I am Samir.
Vishal: I’m Vishal.
Minjal: I’m Minjal.
Samir: Now this is a very simple, very inexpensive little eraser manufactured by the Hindustan Pencil Company in India and what can I say, its one of my favorite erasers. Vishal what do you have to say about this?
Minjal: Plus two! This eraser is really great!
Vishal: I literally keep these all around the house, there’s one in every room, pretty much. Wherever I’m sitting down I end up with one of these erasers and I think the cheeky little thing that we should maybe just point out at the beginning is that Hindustan Pencils, as much as we love them and as much as we’re going to feature a lot of their stuff, they have a couple of brands and from what I understand, Nataraj is the more economical, price conscious brand.
Vishal: But the Nataraj eraser is the best one they make.
Samir: Definitely. Of all the ones I have tried including their Apsara brand.
Vishal: And I remember telling this to someone in Hindustan Pencils and I don’t know if they were just bemused or horrified or you know tried to swot me away as a crazy person. But it’s true, this is just a nice simple eraser which is very cheap, right?
Samir: This box is Rs. 20 for 20 pieces.
Vishal: Which is 30 or 45 cents for the entire box, of which we’ve used six of them and we had maybe a couple more before when we used to get them just individually. First of all erasers are not like pencils or pens. They’re not for putting down a mark, but for erasing marks.
Minjal, why don’t you show us what you’ve made with an eraser, in this fashion that we’ve put down pencil or pen work and then erased our way to glory. And that is glorious, that is a beautiful, precise sharp pattern. You are a calligrapher, so and it shows through beautifully in there. Can you tell us how you did it?
Eraser Drawing – Abstract Calligraphy with Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser
Minjal: Samir gave me the idea of laying down the background with a pencil and then just erasing the patterns out.
Vishal: So you used the flat of a pencil and put that down, and which eraser did you end up using?
Minjal: I tried the Apsara Matte Magic, I tried the Muji eraser and then I decided to dump all these and what really worked was the Nataraj eraser. You get the cleanest erasures, if that is a word, with this particular one.
Vishal: The good thing about the Nataraj 621 Plasto is that it’s great when you want to just carve it out. And because it’s so cheap you can cut them any way you want, right? Samir, you’ve done that and Minjal you’ve done that too.
Minjal: I cut the edge of the Nataraj 621 eraser with a cutter, a craft knife.
Vishal: And Samir has done more of a wedge.
Samir: I actually had this piece which I’ve been using for a year or something, so I just continued using that. I didn’t pick up a new piece to do this experiment with and I just again cut a little wedge out using a craft knife and that’s what I used for the detailed work, and that’s what I used for the bigger work.
Vishal: Okay, so these small wedges of eraser are a little hard to hold and we’ll at some point we’ll get to an eraser with a holder made for this precision work, but it costs just 25 cents or Rs. 20 for a box of that, and you can afford a box to to experiment, is what we’re saying, they’re available at most stationary stores in India. I believe they’re available in the US as well under a different brand.
Samir: Very likely. I think they might be available under the Casemate brand which is Walmart’s in-house stationery brand. And I know that a lot of the pencils and the erasers that are under the Casement brand are actually manufactured by Hindustan Pencils.
Vishal: Okay, so if you’re in the US please let us know if you’ve used Casemate and what your experience has been. Samir show us your work done with the eraser, which is a bit more elaborate but along the same lines I believe.
Eraser Drawing – Abstract Figure Sketch with Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser
Samir: Mostly done with a little wedge piece of eraser, that’s what I came up with.
Vishal: That is brilliant and yes I think you would have to have that for such a fine wedge.
Samir: And that’s why I made something that was this difficult to hold because at this size you’re just kind of drawing with your fingers rather than having to move the eraser around.
Eraser Drawing – Landscape Sketch with Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser
Vishal: And mine is probably the least easy to tell that any eraser went into it but it honestly would not have been possible without an eraser, I think. It is a landscape. I’m not good at landscapes, I’ve never really tried.
Samir: But those those clouds just would not work without the eraser.
Vishal: And those clouds were gouged out, and then I went in and filled in a bit of pencil here and there. I don’t know if it will show, there’s a very thin line of erased white to make this stand out from the sky, which is actually an illustrator’s trick but it’s also something that sort of happens optically anyway with contrasting things. It’s a function of how light is processed by your brain and your eyes. The edges were done with keeping a metallic ruler and then erasing past it. Again because this is nice and soft you can just like press it into the edge really nicely.
So if you have a set of French curves then you can do curved lines with really sharp edges. And I think we should try that next time if I ever find where my French curves are. Get French curves, they’re really great, every illustrator should have them, every illustrator should just even clumsily learn how to use them and that’s an endorsement that we will make good on at some point.
Samir: But it does take some practice to actually figure out how to apply them to the curves that you’re drawing.
Minjal: I was just thinking, when we were talking about how cheap these erasers are, the only cheaper or maybe as cheap would be bread, which was incidentally used for erasing pencil marks.
Samir: Strangely enough I think the places have flipped when erasers first came to be, bread would have been the cheaper option, but today probably bread costs more than the Rs. 1 that this thing costs.
Vishal and me, as always come at this from an illustration point of view and illustrators use erasers a lot. What about calligraphers? I know that you do a lot of erasing of pencil lines that are guidelines and things, but what was it like to use an eraser as the actual instrument?
Minjal: I’ve actually very recently ordered the Tombow Mechanical Eraser which I use.
Vishal: It kind of looks like a mechanical pencil but there’s a little end with an eraser. So it kind of ends up looking like that, right, but even thinner.
Minjal: For erasing grids and guidelines I use mechanical erasers. I sometimes use the Muji erasers. Now this test drive was a different experience because my medium for drawing actually was not the pen, not the pencil, but the eraser. Which is why I actually used a cutter to shave off the edge, so I could get a broad edge.
Samir: And was it something that you would have to keep sharpening, like you would a pencil? Because we we worked on things which didn’t require precision, we needed sharp edges, but we didn’t need it to be exact.
Minjal: I had to, yes. I had to shave off a couple of layers of the rubber to keep getting the sharp edges.
Vishal: Now there’s no real science to this, every artist kind of comes at it their own way but it’s something that I would encourage anyone who has a an eraser to even either try to work towards, just unconsciously or even like Minjal you did, get a craft knife and start making those wedges. You can start like Samir did, you can just take off a piece and it eventually becomes like an artist signature because of the way you hold it and erase stuff with it.
Erasers are wonderful and pencils are wonderful. Have we always had erasers or were we always using bread before?
The Mesoamerican Ballgame and History of Erasers
Samir: I think the history of erasers as we now know, has to start with graphite because before then the mediums were different. When we were using inks and pigments there were all sorts of materials used to rub things out, including things like milk, milk from parchment.
People tried to come up with all sorts of natural materials that would remove ink or pigment from a surface including in some cases in the days of parchment they would literally just take a knife and scrape out the surface.
Vishal: And in the case of vellum or any of those almost like leather things you could literally scrape it off like a skin.
Samir: Exactly. So the idea of an eraser in the modern way started with graphite which was somewhere in the 1500s we discovered graphite, and initially the thing that people did use, as Minjal mentioned before was the white part of wheat bread because you could think of it like a kneaded eraser today. So you could kind of knead it into a little pulp and that would pick out, not as well as what we have today, but it would pick out let’s say most of the graphite of the pieces of paper.
Vishal: The paper stocks were I guess a lot hardier as well.
Samir: The paper stocks were harder and the graphite itself was more pure graphite and less clay, so therefore it was easier to remove. When rubber was imported into Europe from South America initially, it was quite an accidental discovery that pieces of raw rubber also acted like the bread. It was literally someone picking up a piece of rubber on the floor instead of the bread and finding that it worked almost as well.
Minjal: Incidentally this someone was the same person who discovered oxygen – Joseph Priestley.
Samir: Wow. He was a busy man!
Vishal: Busy man in a busy time. I think in South America, rubber was most famous for being used in, at least to me as this kind of weird history buff, in the balls that were used in the game, which nobody quite knows what the name of the game is because it was just called the game in the Aztec civilization or the Maya?
Samir: I think it was the Olmecs were probably the ones. The Olmecs were the ones who probably developed a lot of the kind of the traditional technology around rubber and then it was kind of accepted and developed further by the Aztecs. And the interesting thing is that the substance that we call rubber had a South American name to begin with, it didn’t have an English name. The reason it’s called rubber is because people started using it to rub out graphite.
Vishal: Okay, so that’s a wonderfully circuitous mobius strip of a definition, I would say but yeah in the South American cultures they used it extensively, they used it in the game, so rubber balls were used for sport and metaphorically and anecdotally if you lost that game, you were rubbed out, so it’s quite sordid but also very useful history. It’s wonderful how these things go from being venerated to benign. I think we have brought some degree of veneration back to it, to this humble 621 Nataraj Plasto Eraser.
Nataraj 621 Pencils – The Classic
Samir: And by the way, the story behind the 621 is that Nataraj is a brand manufactured by Hindustan Pencils which started in 1958 and the Nataraj 621 pencil is the classic pencil that’s made in India. Just like you have the Blackwings.
Vishal: I don’t actually own a Nataraj 621 pencil right now but they started doing these commemorative pens that have the same colored red and black.
Samir: The Nataraj 621 pencil is a very distinct black and red pencil and pretty much two or three generations of Indians grew up using that as the standard pencil in school.
Vishal: Yeah, I have a box of them from even 20 years ago I think.
Samir: So the Nataraj 621 Plasto is to commemorate that pencil. It’s just to attach it to that pencil.
Vishal: Well I think that the Nataraj 621 Plasto might say that it erases without a trace, but it has left several traces on us! Do we have anything more to add or other than to say that just get this. This is our favorite, hard, technically hard compared to a kneaded eraser.
Samir: No. I think it’s just a perfect mix of what a hard eraser is and what a kneaded eraser can be and I think that’s what I like about it. Maybe that makes it lower quality technically because it’s kind of a soft rubber but considering the low cost of it you can go through them as quickly as you want and not really care and it’s extremely effective.
Vishal: I’ll let you in on a secret. We did not buy this to erase things. Samir is a paper artist, you can find him on papernautic.com. We bought these to be weights!
Samir: So I was doing a workshop for creating automatons, which we’ll put a picture of when we’re sharing this and when making automatons out of cardboard, a lot of the the mechanism needs a certain amount of weight to pull things back down as you wind it around.
Vishal: Using it to counter balance things.
Samir: And we actually initially thought that okay erasers are kind of a cheap weight that we can buy and they’re easy to cut and shape.
Vishal: And they’re very unique and they’re a brick size, so they’re not too unwieldy like rocks or something.
Samir: So initially we got a box of these to give away as weights when I was doing this workshop. We never did give away any of these Nataraj Erasers.
Vishal: Because we started using them and we loved them! As much as I am for a cheap object that you can just use, I think a cheap object that you can use for its intended purpose is the best object of all. So we love this, we love the work we’ve done with it.
Minjal: I just read recently that there are electric erasers as well. Have you’ll used them?
Vishal: Yes, I have used an electric eraser. I’ve used a pretty low power one. I think it was just a cheap dollar store buy from Daiso, which is a Japanese chain like Muji. But the problem with those is they’re a rotary motion. It’s basically like a mechanical pencil, the eraser fits into a mechanized body and it rotates.
Samir: I think it’s kind of like the difference between a technical pen and a flexible nib fountain pen.
Vishal: Yeah, you get a certain degree of play with this. That you have to be very careful, it’s like any kind of beveling work or embossing work, you can’t just drag it along nicely and get an organic line.
Samir: And also I guess if you press even slightly too hard on it.
Vishal: Yeah it just obliterates the paper sometimes, if it’s too powerful or if the battery is too low then it doesn’t actually do anything, it just stops.
Minjal: So then we stick to the Nataraj 621 Plasto erasers?
Vishal: No, I think you should get a mechanical eraser and enjoy them. And, that’s the thing we like to show in Stationery Test Drive, that whether it’s a humble tool or a specialized tool or a expensive one, you can use it to its fullest.
Samir: I think what Vishal is saying and we are trying to promote and communicate through this series is that you can get 90% or 99% there with almost any sort of artistic work with the most basic stationery objects like the Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser. Once you get there, sure you might want the more expensive mechanical erasers, but that’s like the last 1%. You can still do almost everything with cheaper, basic versions!
I think that’s it for now. Follow us on YouTube and also go to our website inkymemo.com Please sign up for our newsletter there, where we go into a lot more stories about the history of things like erasers and pencils and all sorts of other instruments.
Vishal: Well, until then, I’m Vishal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Vishal: And, keep rubbing!
Get the Nataraj 621 Plasto Eraser
- Nataraj 621 – Set of 20 Erasers – https://amzn.to/3tX2HGv