Sunday, January 10, 2010
Is That a Multi-Tool in Your Pocket?
I recently got a new Multi Tool and I am not sure that I am happy about it.
I thought I would be, but then the transition has been tough, and I wanted to do a comparison, to help anyone else out who may have gone through a similar experience recently.
This history of the Multi Tool (MT) in my life stretches back to High School.
There were some kids at school that had started to wearing them on their belts, Punks and Skaters, and I admired their ability to produce a plethora of small, awkward tools at a moments notice with just a flick of the wrist.
So I walked to the hardware store by my house and bought my first MT by a company called Gerber.
It felt good to buy something with my own money that I knew would prove useful every day.
It opened with a quick flick, and I remember wishing I had bought one sooner because it would have made opening this first one's thick vacuum sealed package so much easier.
It ended up being a permanent accessory, and I got a lot of use out of it.
It sounds improbable, but I found a way to use this thing on a daily basis, and being in my formative High School years, it soon became a way to identify myself.
I was a prepared individual.
The Gerber lasted about 3 years and then I received a new MT from a friend.
This was made by a company called Buck.
This was an interesting design, and still one of my favorites.
It opened with a swiveling action that came in handy for dramatic purposes.
This was the Transformer of the MT's, and it was very handy.
Unfortunately I lost it one night after a skateboarding injury sent me to the emergency room, and in my pain and haste, I forgot it in the grass by Milwaukee Beach.
I still hold out hope that the person that found that Tool utilizes it as much as it deserves to be utilized.
After I lost the BuckTool, I replaced it with a MT by a company called Leatherman.
This is probably THE MT you think of, if you ever think of a MT, which you probably don't.
I have had 3 Leatherman Multi Tools and they were all the same model, the Wave.
The fact that I had three different Leathermans has nothing to do with their construction.
The first one I used until it just died, probably due to excessive wear and improper use.
The second was surrendered to airport security at Laguardia Airport.
And the third has recently been replaced by my newest MT, which is made by a company called SOG.
This is where the comparisons begin.
Here I have the MT I am used to, have grown used to over the past five years, and now I am trying to get used to a new MT while the old one sits by and watches me fumble around with this new fangled contraption that, while awesome and beautiful in many regards, is just not as intuitive as the old standby.
But I have gripes with both, and here they are:
So the first gripe is I guess my main gripe, on the Leatherman you have 4 blade type tools and they are all accessible to you when the MT is closed. This is incredibly helpful, especially when you compare it to the SOG which you have to open fully and then deal with these "blade covers" that are actually really flimsy. So you basically have to open the MT once, and then AGAIN in order to get to any of the tools inside. This is incredibly frustrating when you are used to the Leatherman. Not to mention the SOG is billed as the MT preferred by the British SAS, so it is a military type tool, but how does this make sense to prefer something that adds time to your job when you are in a line of work where seconds count? I suppose the things I don't know about the military could fill a different blog entirely... it is just an observation I made in the comparison.
I do really like that the pliers for the SOG have this gear driven joint that increases the grip by probably a million. It also has a slightly larger wire cutter surface, and coupled with the gear driven feature, cutting thick gauge wire is incredibly easy and comfortable. In fact, the opening and closing of the MT is incredibly smooth and easy, unlike the Leatherman Wave which brings me to my main gripe with that MT.
The Leatherman has this dual sided screwdriver, it has a bit you can flip around to switch from slot headed driver, or phillips headed driver. It is great, but unless you close the MT in a very specific fashion, you end up jamming the plier head in between the screwdriver assembly, and it jams the whole thing up. It feels HORRIBLE! The first time I did it I thought I broke the whole thing, and every time since it reminds me of biting on tinfoil. I am so used to it happening that I find myself closing the SOG very gingerly to avoid the Leatherman issue.
I suppose you could make the case that for either MT, speed is not of the essence, but I don't think that it is about speed.
It is about ease of use, I think ideally you want something that you don't have to think about. Having to open the SOG twice to get at my tools is silly. Not being able to close the Leatherman casually and with one hand is equally silly.
I am a believer in a tool being dedicated to it's purpose, and I am weary when one thing promises to do numerous tasks for you under the guise of saving you time. But I entered into the MT world a long time ago, and I view the MT as it's own entity in the world of tools.
I don't want to carry a tool box around. So I can't complain if the MT screwdriver is too flimsy, or the wire cutter gets crimped when I am trying to cut through a fence. Chances are that I am trying to push the MT beyond it's capability, but the issues I have with these two tools here are design issues that I think should have been corrected before they ever got into the public and onto my belt. Are they issues that make me want to swear off the MT forever? Of course not, but the in order to correct a problem you first need to address what the problem is.
I think that the Multi Tool is an amazing invention, and I think it is a valuable tool that everyone should consider investing in. It is my dream to some day hand one over to my son in a moment of need and have him jimmy me out of my handcuffs, stab our zombie captors in the back of their rotten skulls and make a break for wherever the resistance is strongest.
I hope that this helped shape your view on what to look for if you do.
I will probably have new issues down the road and maybe I will document those as well.