I've used these pencils for a very long time, and they are a pretty good bargain at roughly $2 each compared to other pencils. As the other reviewers stated, they are hard. All that is necessary to soften the tip is to hold it above a lighter for a few seconds. I always approach my lower lid slowly to make sure that it's not too hot. It's actually easy to feel the heat before you touch your lid. With a little practice, you figure out the best way to do it. As for the sharpener, there is nothing wrong with it either. You just have to take a couple of swipes starting on the side with the most wood. You're only permitted to make a couple of turns; otherwise, a chunk of the tip will crack right off. You usually can't get a super nice point like a lead pencil. Again, with a little practice, you learn how to best do that too.
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