In search of a multi-tool
I have a few hobbies where a multi tool could be useful, requirements summarised in the table below:
|Knife||safety - cutting sheets / trapeze harness / other emergencies|
|Production||Pliers||lighting bolts, VGA thumb screws etc|
|Allen Key (Hex Wrench)||assembling items eg plasma stands and projection screens|
|Knife||cable ties, tape, carpet (in marquees)|
|Cycling||Allen Key||axels, brakes, seat post|
|Pliers||pulling brake/gear cables|
|Phillips screwdriver||gear range, brake spring adjustment|
So my requirements for a multi-tool are:
- Blade – must be legal for carrying in the uk, sharp enough for cutting 10mm sheets and cable ties
- Pliers – must be sturdy enough for attacking attaching a lighting fixture to a g-clamp
- Allen Keys – must have allen keys or a bit driver with allen key bits available
- Phillips Screwdriver – must have a phillips or a bit driver.
The legal requirements are specifically that the blade must not lock when opened, and must be less than 3 inches long. Quote from gov.uk:
It is illegal to:
- sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under 18
- carry a knife in public without good reason – unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less, eg a Swiss Army knife
- carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife (the list of banned knives is below)
- use any knife in a threatening way (even a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife)
Lock knives (knives with blades that can be locked when unfolded) are not folding knives, and are illegal to carry in public without good reason.
For sailing I could justify a locking knife as a “good reason”, it would be a safety feature for myself and crew, and I wouldn’t be in a public place when using it. However I would like to carry this tool in other situations, so it must be legal without qualification. For example when I am doing production in the middle of london I may need a screwdriver and a small blade for cable ties, that does not provide enough justification for carrying a locking blade.
Starting point – I currently have a victorinox cybertool 34, this does not fulfil the requirements as no allen keys are available for its 4mm bit driver, and the pliers are too small/weak for my use cases. Victorinox do produce the swistool, which is based around pliers, but as far as I can tell, all variations have locking blades.
Sadly the non-locking legal requirements knocks out most of of the leatherman range. Including the leatherman charge which would have been my first choice. It includes all the required tools, even including a hook knife/strap cutter, which would have been useful as a safety knife for dinghy sailing.
The wave, surge, supertool, mutt etc are all knocked out. The skeletool gets a special mention for having all the required tools and only the required tools. The Skeletool also only has one locking blade so it may be possible to modify it to remove the lock – this wouldn’t be feasible on tools with many blades. The following youtube video shows that this modification is possible, however I would like to find a tool I don’t have to modify if possible!
The juice s2 also gets a mention for having non locking blades, however it doesn’t have a bit driver. Leatherman’s removable bit driver claims compatibility with the original juice series, and I’ve yet to find out if it is compatible with the current s2. I’m not keen on the design of the removable bit driver anyway, its a push fit adapter that sits on top of a phillips screw driver. The driver is a standard 1/4 inch socket, which will only loosely hold the flat leatherman bits. Normally I would approve of a standard socket, but the leatherman flat bits look much better for fitting in a pocket. So the problem is that when working with the removable driver its likely that either the driver or the bit will fall off.
Gerber produce various plier style tools, most of which are also excluded by the non-locking requirement. The balance has non locking tools, pliers and a bit driver, but its a proprietary 3/16″ socket, and I haven’t found any other bits for that, so it fails on the allen key requirement.
Sog win some points for having a very well organised website that allowed for fast research, unfortunately they don’t have any tools without locking blades that also have a bit driver. However the powerlock EOD 2.0 v-cutter looks good, as it has a 1/4″ driver and a hook knife, sadly it has locking blades, also I’m not keen on those tool covers that have to be opened before accessing the tools.
The pocket wrench II looks like it would make a great companion for a multi tool based on pliers, mostly for holding the other end of a bolt.
The search continues
I haven’t actually found a legal multi tool that meets my requirements. I do have a couple avenues to explore:
- modifying the leatherman skeletool
- modifying a SOG, as they claim to be designed for user disassembly.
@wherenow_hugh Hi Huge, not that we know of, but we’ll make sure to pass the message along to our designers to take into consideration!
— Leatherman (@leathermanusa) August 18, 2014