You can never have enough multitools. I have one in the shed, one in the car, one in my pushbike bag, one in my toolkit, one in my motorbike pannier and yet late at night, when I should have been sleeping, I was scrolling the web for one tool to rule them all.
But can there be a perfect multitool? Surely the perfect multitool is the one you have to hand at the right time? Plus, as its usefulness is dependent on ever changing needs, you need as many features as you are happy to carry.
Your needs will be different to mine but I recommend monitoring how you use your multitool on a daily basis. Then come up with rating system.
I had a think and figured I’d need my tool to be able to:
Cut and bend wire – As an amateur radio operator stripping coax and bending thick copper wire to make aerials is a regular occurrence.
Remove a decking screw – I find that if I have a screwdriver that can rotate and extract a long neglected decking screw, it can remove any screw.
Not get me arrested – We have quite strict knife carry rules here in the UK. Obviously flick, butterfly, gravity and push knives etc are straight up illegal. As a rough rule you can carry any non-locking pocket knife with a blade length up to 3 inches (7.62 cm) without any reason for having it. Anything outside this (like a locking multitool) can be carried in certain places providing you have a reason for use.
After asking a few police officers what they look out for they told me that excessive knife length, single handed opening and general styling are all noticed. This is one of the reasons that I stopped carrying the Leatherman Skeletool. It’s a damn useful tool but with it’s carbon styling, pocket clip and single handed opening It just looks too aggressive. Plus it doesn’t do enough.
Cut Toenails – This is a good test for any small pair of scissors.
Wear on a belt and not look like a roadie – I was a roadie for a few years and got to wear a utility belt both back, above and below stage for the likes of Pink Floyd. But a bulky pouch hanging off the hip is not practical or pretty on a day to day basis.
Tighten a hinge on a pair of glasses – I find if have a driver bit that can do this there are all kinds of other small more electrical items I can fix.
Saw a prison bar – It’s unlikely that I will still have a multitool on me when thrown into a foreign cell, (I didn’t last time) but a hacksaw is a must for me. Even it it’s just to cut down a screw, bolt or spoke.
Saw firewood – If I can saw a gnarly log I can also cut the leg off a chair. Should I need to.
Outlive me – This feature is getting easier the older I get and with some tools having a lifetime guarantee it’s an easy win. A decent, well built multitool is something I can hand down for generations.
So if I use this rating system for the tools I have and mark out of five it looks something like this.
These are all great tools in their own right. I have two Cybertools as I thought I lost one and bought another in 2013 as I could not live without it. I also have two Gerber Dimes as I wore the first one out. At £20 it’s a bargain. You can’t buy the original SAK traveller now without digital features so look for the Climber which is almost the same. [The SAK Climber/Traveller was rated above with the little screwdriver in the corkscrew and the Skeletool was rated with a couple of accessory bits.]
But the clear winner here was my trusty SwissTool X. The shiny silver finish is not for everyone but it makes the metalwork much easier to rinse, clean and oil and therefore less susceptible to corrosion. I’ve had this one over 5 years and it’s as good as new after regular use. Even after multiple dumps in the sea.
So what (in my opinion) can comes close to this?
I have tried out the Leatherman Wave+ in the past, but I much prefer the easier access of the tools on the SwissTool that can be got at without opening the pliers. Leatherman also pride themselves on single handed opening which I now tend to avoid. Also even though the SwissTool is cheaper than the Wave+, it has more features and a lifetime guarantee. Although the 25 year guarantee of a Leatherman will be enough for many.
A version of this post was shared to my weekly email that you can subscribe to here. Documentally.net and this is pretty much where it ended.
I speculated that if I really wanted to improve on my Swiss Tool X, one good option would be to buy the updated Swiss Tool Spirit with the additional ratchet kit and attachable corkscrew.
Then, later that night, after a couple of glasses of wine I ordered this…
Yes. It’s the Swiss Tool Spirit XC Plus. The one with the insanely sharp serrated blade.
Slightly lighter, slightly smaller, 36+ functions including… Combi needle-nosed pliers / wire cutters for thin and soft wires / hard wire cutter / large (but legal) wavy edged blade / Phillips screwdriver: 1/2 / reamer, punch / multi-purpose hook / can opener / 2,4 & 6mm screwdriver: 6 mm / bottle opener / crate opener / wire bender / scissors / wood saw / metal saw / metal file / 7mm chisel / wire stripper / wire scraper / cable cover longitudinal & crossways cutter / plus in the pouch / ratchet (30 Nm) / bit holder / bit Hex 3 / bit Hex 4 / bit Phillips 0 / bit Phillips 3 / bit Torx 10 / bit Torx 15 / mini screwdriver / corkscrew / bit extension.
Now with all this in the pouch it would fail the ‘not look like a roadie test’ but thankfully the smallest inbuilt screwdriver can still adjust tiny screws. So the large leather pouch is not really needed for ‘every day carry’. In fact the Swiss Tool is small and light enough to fit in my pocket.
I would still prefer it on my belt though so until I make something custom I’ve borrowed the thin nylon pouch that came with the Skeletool. Fits perfectly.
This updated Swiss Tool feels much better in the hand and the little ergonomic curve in the handles means no more trapped skin and a much more comfortable grip.
But how does it do in the ratings? With it’s new rounded pocketable size and weight it’s and easy a 40. Perhaps even a 41. The larger pouch and beautiful little ratchet kit will always be close to hand and I’ve already used the bonus tools to remove a number of motorbike panels and small parts. The corkscrew is another lovely bonus and I’ll have fun filling the spaces in the bit holder with additional tools I feel I might need when working round the house, on the road, in the radio shack or out camping.
On its own, or in the kit, this is my new favourite multitool and for the time being, the one tool to rule them all.
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Thanks for reading.