Multi-Tools: A Multi-Purpose Multiple Choice

It was time to buy a new best friend, a friend I can rely upon on a daily basis but I’m not referring to the human kind. Since the term ‘multi-tool‘ was first coined, there are now several companies manufacturing multi-purpose pocket tools, some good, some bad and plenty of indifferent quality…so which one to choose and why is the question?

Background & History

The first multi-tool I ever owned (and still use) was the Leatherman™ PST® (see below). I received it as a gift back in the late 1980’s. A friend got her sister, who was stationed in the USA with the British Army at the time, to bring it back to the UK. At the time the term ‘multi-tool’ was little used and the Leatherman™ brand was still also relatively unknown, except to a few.

From that day my Leatherman™ multi-tool has been a constant companion. My ubiquitous every day carry, throughout the majority of my time as a police officer on and off duty. Long before I’d even heard of that now common term EDC, it quickly became something I feel undressed without.

And all before having to consider any TSA rules, or the multitude of world-wide transport security guidelines. But to be fair, even after the mostly anti-terrorist developed rules and regulations applicable today, it is still mostly acceptable to carry so-called ‘prohibited’ items. Just so long as they are carried as ‘checked-in’ luggage. (i.e. transported in your baggage stored within the aircraft hold.)

Enough of the background to my old faithful friend, what about the selection process for a replacement? Which multi-tool should I purchase? Probably more importantly, if I’m to arrive at a sensible choice, what do I want it for and what uses will I be expecting it to perform?

Availability & Range

Tim Leatherman’s original concept of a compact multi-purpose pocket tool, one that is convenient for every day carry, has in many respects moved on a pace. This can be evidenced by the vast range of multi-tools which are now produced by his company (see here) and others (see below). Tools of varying different sizes for a multitude of differing tasks, in differing environments.

Today’s range of multi-tools fit broadly into one or other of three main but distinct categories; (1) key-chain, (2) pocket and (3) full size (or over-size). For the purpose of my selection I won’t consider any lesser known brands and have decided to stick with Leatherman, ignoring the other popular manufactures. Companies like Gerber® and Victorinox or Wenger of Swiss Army Knife fame, the original and first makers of what we now call multi-tools.

I’ve rapidly come to the conclusion, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the world of multi-tools today. With that in mind I’m going to select one tool from each of the distinct groups (above), whether or not I’ll end up purchasing all three is another matter.

Useful BunchKey-Chain (Small):

Squirt® PS4 – Includes pliers, scissors and “a pocketful of other features” that will be ideal for clipping to my car/house keys. Or maybe even inclusion on my little bunch full of usefulness (right). The sort of thing I can actually carry at any time under almost any circumstances. Something that will enhance the capabilities of duties currently carried out by my small blue Swiss Army Knife.

Pocket (Medium):

Juice® Xe6 – the largest in the Juice line but “still good for smaller hands”, which isn’t something I’m really concerned about, given the size of my hands. It does however have a good range of tools which includes a corkscrew and a saw. On the website they ask “is there anything it can’t do?” With what this multi-tool includes for its size, there’s probably not much it can’t do for such a compact tool.

Full/Over-Size (Large):

Wave® – the most popular (and international best-seller) in the Leatherman range. Includes their now famous outside-accessible blades which are deployable one-handed. Updated in 2004, it now has stronger pliers and larger ‘all-locking’ blades. A handy safety factor but one which impacts upon carrying it in public legally, within the UK (see here). As Leatherman say, it’s probably one of the most useful multi-tools “for any job, adventure, or everyday task.”

An Old & Faithful Friend

Leatherman_pstThe Leatherman™ PST® (see specifications) was the first production ‘multi-tool’ manufactured by Leatherman Tool Group Inc. It is also considered to be the ‘original American’ multi-tool, forerunner to all subsequent young pretenders to the crown of the multi-tool world and remained in production until 2004.

Tim Leatherman built his first multi-purpose pocket tool back in the early 1980s. His original invention was the seed that spawned his Company’s extensive range of differing tools, used for various applications in a multitude of different activities. This is the one I have owned and used extensively since the mid 1980’s.

The Winner

The eventual replacement for/ addition to the Leatherman PST was a ‘Wave’ a full size sturdy tool that will carry out all the tasks I’ve asked of any multi-tool in the past… and some!

Web Resources

  • Leatherman (USA): the original American multi-tools with a 25-year, no-questions-asked warranty.
  • Leatherman (UK): Find the newest Leatherman multi-tools, knives and lights on the official Leatherman Tool Group site in the UK.
  • Amazon UK: search for and purchase Leatherman™ products.

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