When I look at the Diplomat I am often reminded of another of my favourite pencils, the Caran d’Ache Ecridor. The hexagonal body, patterned finish, silver colour and tapering front section are all somewhat reminiscent of the Ecridor. After a few wipes with a polishing cloth, the Diplomat really is very shiny. In different lights and at different angles you get all sorts of optical effects from the wave decorative pattern - the colour seems to change a bit, and the pattern varies widely from waves through to a checkerboard sort of look. Very nice. The wave pattern on mine doesn’t appear to be available on current Diplomats. The YOL website only lists plain and barley finish as currently available. Barley is somewhat similar, though larger and coarser, compared to the very fine wave pattern on my old Diplomat.
There is a plain section on one face of the body if you want any personal engraving. Remember that this pencil is made from solid sterling silver so it does slowly tarnish and you need to give it an occasional polish. Overall the weight of the Diplomat is less than I would expect from such an all metal pencil – 23 grams (3/4 oz) vs 32g for YOL Deco 34 and 32g for Cd’A Ecridor. Possibly modern Diplomats are heavier.
I tend to hold my Diplomat where the round conical tapering tip merges into the hexagonal body, so I am getting a sort of feel like a hexagonal pencil, plus a round section as well. I would rate the grip about average, as there aren’t any real grip-enhancing features, but silver pencils never seem to be too slippery. I think I would prefer the pencil to be just a little bit longer, as it’s possibly just a fraction too short for a “big-handed” person. Just going back to the tip for a moment, this is one area where I disagree with YOL’s statement about the Diplomat being unchanged. From website pictures, the tip on modern Diplomats is just normal silver, part of the main body and cone, but on my Diplomat (and other old ones I’ve seen) the last 9mm of the conical tip is a completely separate piece and is made from a light brass or gold coloured metal – not sterling silver. Maybe it’s something like 9 carat gold.
The pocket clip on my Diplomat is a bit “sprung out”. It doesn’t touch the main body so doesn’t really work on thin fabric like a normal business shirt pocket. I assume that it’s become sprung out from use (or abuse?) over the years as the clip on my Deco 34 is a lot closer to the body, and works well except that it is a very stiff clip.
Like all YOL’s the diplomat uses 1.18mm lead. You know, as I’ve used thicker leads over the course of this blog I am becoming more accustomed to them. I bought my Diplomat with a full yard of lead inside it, so I’m still using that. The grade is much lighter than my usual HB. Currently YOL sell B, HB and H grade, but I think its lighter again, something like 2H, unless their scale is quite different to other manufacturers and there is a huge difference between their HB and H. It really is a bit light for me. But there is absolutely no graphite dust when you write, and you don’t have to advance the lead very often at all. The lead advance mechanism is a screw mechanism, activated by winding around the top cap of the pencil. The leads winds in and out, so you can retract it for storage purposes. Twelve 3 inch leads are stored inside the body to give you your yard of lead. Refilling is a bit of a complicated procedure, as shown in my pencil refill instruction posting. Certainly modern mechanisms are far more convenient in this respect.
Photo - Lead advance mechaism and several sticks of refill lead partailly pulled out of body.
- Best Points – The looks and changing effects from the wave pattern.
- Not So Good Points – Perhaps this pencil is just a little short. Lead replacement is a bit of a mission. Offering a thinner lead would also be good. But then again, the thick lead and old fashioned mechanism are part of the tradition and charm of these sorts of pencils. There is no eraser with this pencil - sometimes something is better than nothing. Still waiting for them to invent truly non-tarnish pure silver.
- Price Range – Stratospheric. An awful lot less for a good condition pre-loved one, but you probably won’t get any presentation box, etc like you do with a new one.
Dimensions – Length 118mm, width 8mm across the hex flats. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip.
A little trivia – Yard-O-Led sell Lead refills, not Led refills.