‘PENCIL SHAVINGS MAKE ERASER’: Myth busted, Lesson learnt

It was one of the most popular myths of our childhood, that when pencil shavings (waste) are mixed with milk and boiled, it gets converted into an eraser when cooled!
I never knew that this long-held belief will teach me an incredible lesson years later.


‘Pencil Shavings Make Eraser Rubber’: A flashback to Childhood Belief

I couldn’t spend much time with my niece & nephews, with none of them. When they were toddlers, I was miles away to be with them and still I am miles away. I wish I could be there to see them laugh at my silly antics. The gap can’t be filled perhaps. The only thing that connects us now is making drawings. Sometimes they send to me their doodles. Sometime I draw for them. Nowadays they are making me write story too with the drawing.


That day when I finished making drawing for them, I thought to sharpen all my color-pencils. Well, it’s quite funny that pencils that work a lot do not look sharp while those who have not worked at all look sharp. It’s not any less ironic too that every sharp pencil becomes blunt with work. At the same time, you have to keep sharpening them to get the work done beautiful.

Aah! So, many life lessons in pencils. You can learn even some more here.
Well, none of them driven out by me. I just read them.
Anyways. Back to my story.

I took all of the pencils out from the stand to sharpen them. Like feathers the pencil scraps strewed all around. I stockpiled all of them in my fist to let them go down in the bin.
Then, suddenly I wavered.

As I opened my clenched fist, I found my beautiful childhood sneaking a look through pencil scraps. Instead of throwing them in bind I put them gently on the paper. Dawdling my finger through them I started wandering in the lanes of childhood.

I thought about the long summer noon when in downtime I used to keep sharpening my pencils. Not to sharpen them actually but just to get the scraps, a lot of them. I used to amass pencil scraps like all other girls in the class to make the eraser-rubber from them.

“You can make eraser rubber with pencil-shavings when you cook them in milk”, all of them used to say. And, all of them used to believe. None of them wanted to dash this long-held childhood belief. So much so that everyone of them lied about succeeding in finally getting an eraser out of pencil waste. Meanwhile all of them kept trying to get one secretly.

I believed too. And, just like everyone else I tried too. Not to say just to be disappointed at last. There was no eraser inside the milk even after cooking it for hours with pencil scraps.

But I was not ready to accept it. As if I still needed to live with that lie a little longer. I just comforted myself saying, “Maybe I don’t know how to make”.

“Maybe it just needed to be on the flame for a little longer.”
“Perhaps next time”
All girls in class must have thought something similar.

That pure and loyal is a child’s belief. And, perhaps it’s necessary. It signifies a developmental need for a child to believe in something beyond the human spectrum.

And, I was not an exception too. I kept holding this belief tenderly that pencil scraps make eraser-rubber until I was ready to accept this lie. To accept lies is not easy. It has never been easy, neither in childhood nor now. However, there comes a stage when you be ready to face the truth. When you should let them fly in the face of logic.

The long-held belief that was a ‘lie’ started loosening its grip when I stepped in the world of logic. And I had been matured enough to confront it; to see lie as lie and to refute it; to see truth as truth and to embrace it.


“Simply boil milk in a pan, add pencil shavings (waste), keep stirring, keep stirring, keep stirring and, then leave it for two hours to cool down. Voila! Eraser There.”

This was the method told to me by my friend (who was told by her friend) to turn pencil waste into an eraser.
Needless to say, “no eraser I ever got”.
Neither my friend got one nor her friend.

Its because erasers are mostly made of rubber which is made up of a polymer called isoprene. Milk contains fat, lactose, amino acids, minerals, etc. Pencil is graphite, clay binders and wood. And, a simple endothermic chemical reaction (heating with milk) can not synthesize a polymer chain. Tried and Tested. See here.

However, I kept thinking what made this belief so widespread, this lie so promising.

I realised that you get gum from the tree barks.
That gum is used to make eraser-rubbers.
Tree barks also give wood that make pencils.

This was the logical explanation of that childhood lie that really had the grain of truth. The truth was just distorted; one piece from here, one from there, to create this lie ‘pencil scraps make eraser-rubber’.

An Incredible Life Lesson From the long-held childhood belief

I realised that the best lies are often spoken with the grain of truth in them.

I do not regret the years I kept believing this just like any other child. Why should I?
A child’s capacity for belief transcends to greater unknowns that are with us for life.


Having said that I was not stubborn when I could finally see the truth. I didn’t allow myself to defend the belief I held for years. I welcomed the maturity that carried me across that great divide from make-believe into the world of truth.  And, I think we all should.

When readiness to face the truth arrives, please face it.
When you can finally see the truth as truth, do not accept anything else. No matter how logical the lie appears, no matter how many patches of truth you see in the lie, do not accept it as it is not truth. The greatest lie is the one with the grain of truth inside.

We are not ‘child’ anymore. We cannot afford holding false notions anymore. Sometimes we see our claims flying in the face of logic but we keep defending them. And, sometimes we simply lack vision; we can’t see truth as truth and lie as lie.

Learn to differentiate between truth and falsehood; the haqq and the baatil.
Ask Allaah Subhanahu Ta’ala.

للهم ارنا الحق حقاً وارزقنا اتباعه وارنا الباطل باطلا وارزقنا اجتنابه

O Allah! show us the truth as truth, and inspire us to follow it.
Show us falsehood as falsehood, and inspire us to abstain from it.

Being truthful means speaking the truth and also saying things that reflect reality. And, for that one must learn to differentiate between ‘truth’ and ‘falsehood’.

If you are wondering what is the importance of being truthful in Islam, read here.

May Allaah Subhanahu Ta’ala grant us the vision that sees nothing but ‘truth’. Aameen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s