The Stub of It All
Growing up, we filled the kitchen junk drawer with all the usual suspects: rubber bands, used baggies, expired coupons, dried up pens….. and lots and lots of pencil stubs. Whenever my mother blessed us (!) with the opportunity to clean the junk drawer, these pencils and stubs would end up in the garbage can.
These days I try to minimize my carbon footprint, including putting as little into the trash (and therefore landfill) as I can. That definitely includes pencil stubs! As well, colored pencils can be expensive, so I want to maximize how much I can use them (some great tips here) before they get too short to put ina sharpener. And there are some great ways to use colored pencil stubs, including giving them a new purpose in life.
Use a Pencil Extender
When my colored pencils get uncomfortably short – less than 4 inches long – I put them in a pencil extender. A pencil extender is a small, usually inexpensive device that holds pencil stubs and makes them easier to grip.
…and in the form of simple and fun “caps ” that you can also use to protect your pencil tips.
Note that unless you are using an extender that is the same brand as your colored pencils, the extender may not fit your pencil exactly. But don’t worry. If the barrel is too large, you can usually twist the pencil in. And if too loose, wrap a piece of masking tape around it before sliding it into the extender.
Change Your Sharpening Technique
This is an easy-peasy solution if you have a new pencil in the same color of your stub: simply put a dab of super-glue on the flat end of your stub and stick it to the new pencil. Let the pencil dry for at least 12, but ideally 24, hours. You will have a brand new, extra-long pencil, and no wasted stub!
Reuse and Recycle
And what to do when a pencil has reached its absolute end? Reuse!
Make colored pencil jewelry
This works especially well with colored pencils: simply cut the pencils and drill a hole through them to make beads, or glue them together in different shapes to make pins. These baubles would make great gifts for teachers, artists, and pencil aficionados alike.
Turn the stubs into six-sided dice
The next time you open up an old board game to find the dice missing, grab a couple of hexagonal colored pencil stubs and, with a permanent marker, put a number on each of the six sides. You could also use dots instead of numbers.
Clean out your dirty shoe treads
Should you find yourself getting down and dirty in your boots or stepping into something unappealing, go home and clean out your treads with a pencil stub; the point can fit into those fine crevices.
Create some art
And if you thought only your used pencils were multi-taskers, have a look at Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji’s stunning pencil shaving installation.
Batniji’s art is inspired by and often focuses on the social, cultural, and political realities of Palestine, including the limitation of movement. His pencil shaving installation, called Hannoun – “poppy” in English – features scattered red pencil shavings on the ground that resemble a field of poppies. Taysir hopes the installation evokes “notions of memory, erasure, non-being, and destruction/construction or (deconstruction /restitution).” It is more about the act of creation than about the product itself, just like our adult coloring!
If you would like to read more about Taysir Batniji, check out his website .