I spent yesterday propping up my title of ‘Eraser Queen of North America’. I went to pick up a lovely 60lb box of specialty erasers and lo and behold the company makes TWO more erasers – so of COURSE I have to have them too . . . nothing exceeds like excess.
As a rule general surface cleaning of overall discoloration and dirt makes a substantial improvement in appearance of a book. After removing specific marks like writing and smudges, cleaning an entire surface can be off-putting, as too much work for not enough return.
I never had much use for the lowly art gum eraser until now. There are many different types of erasing powders out there, but one of the best and cheapest ones, is simply ground up gum eraser. In 1984 Cathleen A. Baker wrote a bit on grating your own art gum erasers using a vegetable grater, instead of buying it from specialty vendors, you can control the grain size and you needn’t ever worry about running out.
The issue with grinding your own document cleaning powder is to find a balance in the size of the grains: too small and it will become embedded in the paper grain, too large and it doesn’t do the job properly. From the bookseller’s point of view, laziness is all – buying the product in a container or more likely in a cotton bag, is usually the first choice. But not having to buy it at all?
I have begun keeping an art gum eraser and a mini food grater in a dish on my desk . . . .this eliminates the entire chore of bulk grinding, as well as cleaning up AFTER the bulk grinding.
Pretend there is a spiffy video here showing me grating an art gum eraser with a mini-grater and then cleaning a vintage map. The first time I shot it, one of the kittens kept trying to come in the room, the second time, there was a car outside the bindery, the third time it was out of focus and the fourth time I was babbling so much, I couldn’t edit it properly. So the hell with it, you get the idea.