Block eraser comparison: Pentel ZEH-05 vs. Staedtler Mars vs. Target store-brand

2010-07-25 00:25:06 UTC

Being a reader of Dave’s Mechanical Pencils has gotten me interested in block erasers as companions to the pencils themselves. My first mechanical pencil was a Pentel Twist-Erase III (QE515), which I chose for its wide and long built-in eraser, but, thanks to Dave, I have since switched over to a Uni Kuru Toga * for writing and a block eraser for erasing.

But which eraser?

Here in the United States, the most available eraser is the Pentel Hi-Polymer ZEH-10, usually in three- or four-packs. As a fan of the Twist-Erase eraser, I knew Pentel could make a good eraser (even though Dave disagreed about the Twist-Erase), so I wondered how good Pentel’s block erasers were. At the same time, once I started reading Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, I wondered how the Pentel block erasers might compare to Dave’s favorite, the Staedtler Mars.

For years, all I’d ever seen were Paper-Mate erasers, store-brand erasers, and the ZEH-10, which is the larger of Pentel’s two ZEH models. Indeed, that was the only Pentel eraser I knew about until I saw Dave’s review of the ZES-08 (the “Hi-Polymer Soft”, which sounds like it’s a different eraser compound). Then, not long ago, I spotted a three-pack of ZEH-05 (the smaller one) erasers at Stater Bros. for $2, and snapped it up.

Then all that remained was to pick up a Staedtler Mars eraser and compare them. Art Supply Warehouse to the rescue: They sell them individually for 99¢ each. Other stores sell them in four-packs for $3. (If nothing else, Pentel’s ZEH erasers are cheaper: A four-pack of ZEH-10s is currently $2.64 at Target, while ASW sells the ZEH-05 individually for 72¢.)

Prior to my buying either of those, I’d bought a three-pack of store-brand pencil leads at Target for $2. That package included a block eraser. So, since I have it, I might as well include it in the comparison.

For that comparison, I used Pentel Super Hi-Polymer (a.k.a. “Ain”) lead in the HB and 2B grades on a blank store-brand (“Corner Office”) 3″×5″ index card from Walgreens.

Let us begin.

Comparison with HB lead. ZEH-05: Flawless victory. Staedtler Mars: Just a little bit less effective. Target store-brand: Pitiful.

Comparison with 2B lead. ZEH-05: Pretty close to perfect. Staedtler Mars: Well-erased, but with much smearing at the edges. Target store-brand: Not so well-erased; smearing in the middle, perhaps because it's a thinner eraser.

And both comparisons with level adjustments to better show the differences:

Comparison with HB lead. Here, too, Staedtler Mars' inferiority is just barely apparent—it's pretty much a dead heat. Target store-brand, of course, still loses by a wide margin.

Comparison with 2B lead. No real change between the ZEH-05 and Staedtler Mars; Target store-brand's loss is much more apparent now.

For erasing, Pentel’s ZEH-05 wins. It’s evenly matched with Staedtler Mars on the HB test, but erases a bit better with less smearing on the 2B test. And it’s cheaper to boot!

Now let’s look at shots of the erasers after each job and see how dirty they got:

Comparison with HB lead. The ZEH-05 barely got dirty at all; the Staedtler Mars got a bit dirty; the Target store-brand eraser is filthy.

I cleaned the Target eraser (by “erasing” a blank piece of rough cardboard) between tests.

Comparison with 2B lead. The ZEH-05 is dirty in the middle; the Staedtler Mars is about equally dirty over a larger surface; the Target store-brand eraser is about as dirty as before.

As far as dirtiness, it’s pretty much a dead heat between the Pentel and the Staedtler Mars. The ZEH-05 appears dirty over less area because I’d used it more before I began testing, so it has a slightly rounder surface. Over the two erasers’ dirtied areas, the 2B test got them about equally dirty.

The Target store-brand eraser lost badly on all tests. It didn’t do as good a job of erasing, and (perhaps relatedly) the dirtied eraser compound didn’t come off the eraser body. It stuck to it. Reminds me a bit of the Pentel Tri-Eraser, which has the same problem.

In case you’re wondering, I brought the Tri-Eraser into competition after taking the above scans and photos, and found that it is almost but not quite as good as the Staedtler Mars. It doesn’t erase quite as well as the Pentel and Staedtler block erasers, because of that dirty-eraser-compound-sticks-to-the-eraser-core problem. The one advantage it has over the Staedtler Mars is the same as Dave found: Not as much smearing as the Staedtler Mars did.

So, there you have it: The Staedtler Mars does a good job, but the Pentel ZEH erasers (assuming the ZEH-10 and -05 are made of the same stuff) are both slightly better and a bit cheaper.

One Response to “Block eraser comparison: Pentel ZEH-05 vs. Staedtler Mars vs. Target store-brand”

  1. Des Says:

    I am glad to see someone appreciate the awesomeness of the Pentel eraser! I’ve been telling my friends forever that they are better than Staedtler, they are softer and stay soft longer over the years, and erase better, and are cheaper! More people need to know this fact :D I’m a huge fan of their mechanical pencils too, the e-sharp and e-clic that magically don’t waste half the lead like other pencils do.

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