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Pen Review: Diplomat Magnum Soft Touch

This is my first pen review. I'll cover what I've experienced as best as I can.

Diplomat pens seem to be in the "other" category when you discuss German fountain pens. Everyone knows Pelikan and Lamy, but Diplomat? It turns out they have a decent history. They've been in business as a mom-and-pop, family-owned shop in Germany since 1922. There aren't a whole lot of reviews out there for the pens, but every one seems to be pretty good.

I entered a phase where I wanted a couple of cheap pens that I can throw in my bag without having to worry about them being scratched up too badly. I ordered this pen as one of them because the reviews of the company were good and I found what I thought was a good-enough price point on this one.

Price: I bought it as a BIN item from pensboutique on eBay for $25 shipped. They're easy to find; search for "Diplomat fountain pen" and plenty of pens will come up with this seller. The seller has excellent reviews on eBay and they answered my questions in a timely manner. They have fine, medium and broad; I picked up a fine nib.

Packaging: The pen arrived in a nicely-done plastic box. However, it became apparent to me that I wasn't getting the experience that their more expensive pens deliver. For a $25 pen I'm perfectly okay with this. I would be livid if this was their packaging for one of their $80 pens based on other reviews, unless it was specifically marked OEM or something similar.

Pen Materials/appearance: ABS Plastic (I think), except a light coated metal for the nib, the clip, and perhaps the band holding the clip to the cap. There is a hard clear plastic piece that allows you to see "Diplomat Made in Germany" on the cap end. My pen is a matte black color.

Unlike the Lamy Safari, this pen does not have interchangeable nibs. You're stuck with the nib that came with it, and I'm not sure that you can swap out any nib into this pen. I don't mind this for an inexpensive pen. The nib looks to be a #5 size if you are interested.

The pen has a pair of ink windows that are just cut-out sections of the pen body; they're well done but you can definitely put things in the window. There is no issue with the writing experience as the windows are on the top and bottom of the body as you write.

Ink/Converter: The pen takes international cartridges and the standard international converter. I used the one from my Edison Beaumont to test fit, and it works perfectly. The pen does not come with a converter (so add $5 or so if you need one), but a single cartridge (international short) is included within the pen. It looks to me like the ink cartridge is J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir, which if that's the case is a pretty decent ink. The eBay vendor sells a Diplomat-branded 30ml bottle of ink for $10, but they didn't know who makes the ink. I'm assuming that the ink is a private-label situation.

Dimensions: About 5-1/4" capped, 4-7/8" uncapped, nearly 6" posted. The pen cap weighs about 7 grams and the pen with the included cartridge and without the cap weighs 6 grams. The pen appears to be a smidgen narrower than the Pilot 78G but a hair thicker than the B&B Essential Pen, especially in the section.

Pen feel in the hand: There's no doubt about it; most people will think this is a competitor to the Lamy Safari. The section is shaped like the Lamy Safari with flat sections, but they are much narrower. While I was slightly annoyed by the Safari's section shape, I didn't mind how Diplomat proceeded with this one because the section is narrower and the flat surfaces are narrower as well. I only saw one place where the plastic moulding process was evident, but it's a single dot at the back-end of the pen; nobody's going to notice that unless you're intentionally looking for it or if you're an engineer. I can see where the clip body was attached to the ring, but again that's not going to be something completely distracting especially for the pen price.

This pen feels back-heavy when posted. Un-posted the pen feels okay but it is very light. The pen doesn't feel as cheap as a Pilot 78G; I'd probably say it's closer to a matte Safari. The cap fits onto the pen with a secure if light "click". The clip is moderately sturdy, but I wouldn't go about playing with it too much.

Generally speaking, the build quality is appropriate and commiserate with a mostly plastic $25 pen.

Writing Experience: Given that it's a light pen, it writes pretty well. The nib puts down a good line of ink using the included cartridge. I would classify it as being slightly dry but with a good German fine nib width. I'm not sure if this is a pen to write really fast with, since it does write dry, but the feed had no issues keeping up with my writing speed.

I've left the pen capped for a week or more and it started right up when I needed it to.

My only complaint is that the nib has an area where it writes scratchy; perhaps I need to take a paper bag to it to smooth the nib out. I would expect that to smoothen out over time, but if not I think any standard way to adjust the nib would be fine as long as you are mindful about the process.

Overall: Not a bad pen for the price. If people have issues (design or otherwise) with the Safari and want to try a similarly priced pen without requiring interchangeable nibs, I don't think you'll go wrong by suggesting this one. It'll be in the bag for traveling or with me when I don't want to take an expensive pen. For $25 shipped I feel pretty happy with this, though I wish it was packaged with a converter.

As utilitarian and "boring" this pen (and brand) might be to some, it has me thinking about picking up another pen in the Diplomat line sometime in the future. I do wish the brand was more accessible in the US to try out.

Pics and writing sample to come shortly.
 
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I have some iPhone photos that I'll need to review on a larger screen before I post them; hoping for later this evening. Sorry about the delay.
 
Review update:

These are now more readily available in the US, Goulet Pens carries them, and at a $20 price point instead of the $25 they were back when the initial review was written. The packaging was also updated, and they now include the cartridge converter to use bottled inks with. The deal at Goulet I picked up included a free bottle of Montverde ink with the purchase of one of these, effectively dropping the pen's price to $5, if you are looking for a bottle of ink already anyways.

I went with the broad nib on mine. The writing experience is about as smooth a feel as I've ever felt for a nib on paper. The broad nib writes medium wet, and just glides over the paper with no effort, and almost no tooth/feedback to it.

My take on the pros and cons...

Pros: I like the looks of the pen, basic and utilitarian. The nib is pretty great for writing, tho I expected a bit more line variation on the broad nib than it gives. Converter is now included, so a better deal than the initial review.

Pro and Con: The grip section is shaped like the Lamy Safari/Al-Star, just smaller around. For some, that shape is a pro, others it's a con. Even others may not like it on the Lamy, where it's a bit large, but like it here where it's scaled way down and thinner.

Cons: It is a bit top heavy when posted, but the body is long enough to use the pen un-posted without any real issue. The biggest con for me is that the pen just feels cheap. The plastic used feels cheap and lightweight, when the cap is posted, it's very wiggly and not really solid feeling on the body, so the fit of the cap posting feels cheap.

Overall: While I like a lot how it writes, it just feels over all a bit too cheap in the hand for the pricepoint, in my opinion. With a free bottle of ink that costs almost as much as the pen alone, it's a good deal. Had I just bought the pen for $20, I would have been a bit disappointed in it. If the cap posted more securely and the pen had another say 5 grams of weight in the body so posting didn't make it top heavy, those would go a long way in getting this pen up to feeling solid for the price. As it stands, however, there are too many entry level pens either lower in price, the same price, or just a couple dollars more that feel a lot more solid and quality in the hand.
 
Thank you for the review update. This pen has always intrigued me but some some reason the Lamy Safari is further up my list of pens that I would rather pick up around that price point.
 

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
Nice review. Pen Chalet has these on sale for $12.50 currently, if anyone is in the market. One of the better deals on a German-made FP, I presume. I’m tempted to grab one, but don’t really need another pen right now.
 
I bought my wife one with a M nib. It was a good writer and a nice looking pen. At this price point($12.50), I can afford to give one to someone for their service.
 

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
You always need another pen, Jon!
LOL, I like your style! I guess it might be more accurate to say that I just don't have a use for a another steel-nib workhorse pen at the moment. I've pretty well got that covered. I prefer to buy things to fill a need, not just collect more stuff. I might add that while I think the design looks fine and well executed, it doesn't knock my socks off. Even though its cheap, I'd rather spend the money on a bottle of ink. But it is a German-made pen for twelve bucks... Like I said, its tempting.
 
Surprised to see that Diplomat is still selling them. I still have mine, though the only ink that it seems to like with my writing style is Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black. Not the best ink color-wise but it works.

I did pick up a Balance B when they were on sale and I love it, though it is a heavy pen. Wrote butter-smooth right out of the box, just like the Soft Touch. I just wish they didn’t make such heavy pens.
 
Just bought two of them from Pen Chalet for $12.50 a piece. The are the most underwhelming of my recent acquisitions. One is definitely relegated to the truck The other spare status of Mr Nemosine's and Pilot Metro aren't available. They kinda remind me of the uni ball pens.
 
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