Most pencils are compressed mixtures of graphite and clay which vary in hardness according to manipulations of the mixture. The softest pencils have little or no clay allowing more graphite particles to adhere to the paper’s surface. Pencils are marked with a number using the H and B systems to indicate the lead's hardness. Medium to hard pencils are marked with levels of the H system. 10H is the hardest and the lead’s softness increases as the numbers decrease to 2H and H. Within the B system, the leads increase in softness as the numbers increase.

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