Did I Really Want One of Those? 18. The E-Z Tracer

If an enlarged picture paints a thousand words

10 January 2014: Just realised how useless my drawing abilities were when my youngest child wanted me to draw an elephant.

In real life, I can draw elephants, though I’m in the Europa League compared with David Shepherd. Supposing you couldn’t draw elephants as stated in our fictitious scenario, you could always copy from a photograph. In the late 1960s, K-Tel introduced a tool which enabled to trace objects, either to exact size, twice the size or half the size.

The E-Z Tracer

The E-Z Tracer wasn’t really that original. It is based on an artist’s pantograph, though at a reduced price and of all-plastic construction. A tracing pointer would guide the line which he or she is tracing from, with the pen or pencil at one end and the pointed bit at the other. The latter would be guided by its user, leaving the pen or pencil to do its worst.

Each pivot was numbered. For same size tracing, the pencil would be placed in Part 1 with the tracing pointer in Part 3. To reduce the original, your pen or pencil was placed in Part 2, again with the tracing pointer in Part 3. Expanding on the original, our tracing pointer would be placed in Part 2 with the pen or pencil in Part 3.

E-Z Tracer also came with drawing paper and colouring pencils. It was aimed at artists and schoolchildren. Their 1974 advert demonstrated its ease of use, though my past experience was quite the opposite. I had one from the (long closed) Piccadilly Gardens branch of OXFAM in 1988 and couldn’t quite get it to work. 23 years after, I bought a grown-up fully-fledged pantograph from Fred Aldous. I’ve yet to use it properly myself, having tried with difficulty to copy G. Noel Hill’s plan for Wythenshawe.

Just to confuse things a little, there’s another product on the market known as the EZ Tracer. One subtle difference is the lack of hyphen between E and Z. Instead of being a pantograph, it is actually a projector which resembles the progeny of a steel B.R. Railway Torch and a Bosch drill.

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1974 price: $2.99 (inclusive of drawing paper and colouring pencils).

2013 price: from £7.30 – £24.36 (secondhand from eBay.com and Etsy.com, checked on the 06 December 2013).

S.V., 17 December 2013.

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