November 10, 2017

Writing Re-Use, Not Refuse

What do you do with a couple of pencil nubs too short to hold, and the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss?

When I taught elementary school I discovered that some students (usually boys) are obsessed with using pencils until you can't see them any more.

They would wrap their little fingers around tiny nubs of heavily used pencils, and scratch out their school work. Of course, that work took several times longer than if they had a more extended version of a pencil, and the writing they produced was often illegible.

However, I admired how committed they were to using the pencil, the whole pencil. They loved the challenge.

I decided to challenge myself to see if I could improve on their methods.

You create a functioning pencil.

It so happened that I was also hanging on to the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss. I enjoy finding uses for things that most people don't think twice about before throwing them in the garbage. It must be the little person in me.

I trimmed the ends of the pencil nubs so that they fit in either end of the plastic tube. Voila! A functional pencil utilizing materials rescued from a trip to the landfill. My design also encourages precision - no eraser. Pure business at both ends.

It works! Easy to hold, and uses the pencil nubs till there is nubbin left.

So much of what gets classified as refuse can be re-used, repurposed, and through that, respected. Just think like a kid - "You can't throw that out!" - and take it from there.


  1. Very clever. I am copying this with my kid's stubby pencils.

  2. Anonymous11/11/2017

    It's nice to get tge use out of things. Stuff seems to quickly break these days as the quality is generally poor. Just watched this documentary about Dolly Freed, might be of interest.

    1. Alex,

      Thank you for this link. I have never heard of Dolly Freed before, and her story is remarkable. Now I am looking for her 1970s cult classic book, "Possum Living".

    2. Anonymous11/12/2017

      Interestingly she later became an engineer at NASA. Shows when having the time and space what people can achieve. I think the book was reprinted in 2010.

  3. Anonymous11/12/2017

    Gregg - Awesome suggestion! I have many pencil nubs and will do something like this. My floss comes in a different format, but I have many pens that are empty that I can use the barrel in the same manner. Nice to actually use those pencil nubs and not just "collect" them. -- Mary


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