How Does A Pencil Work? How Does An Eraser Erase Pencil Marks?

In this age of digital and social media, everything seems to be closely watched. It is popularly said that the Internet never forgets anything; once its on the Internet, it will remain there forever. The Internet also doesn’t forgive; ask any celebrity who has committed a typo or tweeted something controversial. Trolls on internet are just waiting for them to make mistakes, so that they can steal that content, screenshot it, and use it to troll forever! Even if an individual deletes a tweet or picture, the content will never fully be forgotten, because as I said, once its on the Internet, it will be somewhere forever.

mistakeIn the present day, one needs to be very careful about what one says on the Internet and should avoid making any big mistakes. This makes me want to return to my childhood when life was much simpler. Remember when we were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them? Rather than being teased and reminded of our errors forever?

5+7=11. Oops, that’s wrong! What shall I do? No problem, I’ll just make the mistake vanish with my magical eraser.

Although this is a rare sight to see today, I want to tell you the story of pencils and erasers. Perhaps the most obvious questions is, how is the eraser able to erase pencil marks?

How Does a Pencil Work?

Most people believe that pencils are made from lead, but as it turns out, this is a myth. Although we call the black stuff with which we write pencil lead, pencils are actually made from a mineral called graphite, which is composed of carbon. When you write with your pencil, the graphite particle from the central cylinder rubs off and sticks to the fiber of the paper you are writing on. These graphite particles can stick on the paper for a long time (a decade or so), if not disturbed.

pencil and eraser

With an average pencil, you can write about 45,000 words or draw a line roughly 35 miles long.  If you plan on testing this by trying to write a 45,000-word story with a single pencil, chances are that you would make quite a few mistakes along the way. To err is human, so it’s a good thing that you can correct your mistakes without leaving any proof of your errors, provided that you have an eraser, of course!

How Does an Eraser Work?

The functioning of an eraser is based on a common principle that we see in our everyday life: friction. It’s only because of friction we are able to walk on the ground. It is also what causes your hands to heat up when you rub them together. Erasers work as a result of the friction developed between the eraser material and the paper. When an eraser is rubbed against the paper, the resulting friction produces heat, which helps the eraser become sticky enough to “pick up” the graphite particles.


Typically, erasers are made up of synthetic rubber, but more expensive erasers use vinyl and plastic materials. These materials are used because they are even stickier than paper fibers, and are therefore able to lift graphite particles onto them more easily. Essentially, anything stickier than paper fiber can be used as an eraser – it’s that simple!

A Brief History of Erasers

The earliest erasers used by mankind were simply moist breads. The first rubber eraser was invented in the year 1770 by a British engineer Edward Nairne. It is said that the invention of the eraser was actually an accident, Nairne  picked up a piece of rubber while trying to pick up breadcrumbs. He then realized rubber’s erasing property when he was able to erase a pencil mark with it.


Erasers were also called rubbers, as they were made from rubber, and because the process of erasing involved “rubbing out” the pencil mark from the paper – hence, a rubber. That, my friends, was a story about  erasers, which shows you that we shouldn’t be so afraid of making mistakes, as we can only learn by making mistakes and correcting them in the future.


  1. Pencil – Wikipedia
  2. Eraser – Wikipedia
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Ashwin Vinod has a B.Tech in Electronics and Communications from APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Trivandrum (India). He likes to watch movies, reading fiction novels and surf the internet.

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