Multi-Tools and Why I Love Them!
Let's be Scientific and start with a Poll!
Do YOU carry a Multi-Tool?
What is a Multi-Tool?
Some people think of the classic Swiss Army Knife when the term "Multi-Tool" is mentioned. Others may think of the Leatherman - pliers based - tools instead. To begin the discussion, lets go over what types of tools qualify as a "Multi-Tool."
Amazingly, the first Multi-Tools were developed over one thousand years ago. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge England has in its collection a Roman Era multiple utensil eating tool that dates from A.D. 201 - A.D. 300. This tool includes the following implements.
The tools fold up so the unit can be tucked away and easily carried. It is made mostly of Silver except for the knife which is made of iron. I can picture a Roman Soldier carrying one of these during a military campaign or successful merchant on and extended sales trip. Perhaps it was a "going away" gift from a loved one!
From the picture, you can see it can hardly be described as "Stylish" but would certainly fit into the "utilitarian" class of personal accessories. But sometimes fashion follows function and to me this Ancient Multi-Tool is a beautiful work of art.
So, historically, the Multi-Tool could be described as a assemblage of small tools that fold into a compact form. Now that's MY definition or description, not an "official" one.
The two most common types of modern Multi-Tools are the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife and the Leatherman PST. The Swiss Army Knife is built around a fold out knife blade with other tools in layers while the Leatherman PST is based on a set of pliers that fold out with other tools that fold out of the plier's handles.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Knife began in 1891 by Carl Eisener as an "Officer's Knife" but the term we use today came from American Soldier's lack of skill in pronouncing the German "Schweizer Offiziermesser" which is a mouth full!
The Leatherman PST was designed by Tim Leatherman of Oregon, USA and the company was founded in 1983.
There are many other varieties of modern Multi-Tools but these two designs are the "Classics" and have stood the test of time for functionality, quality and compact carry. It is one thing to have a handy tool but another to have one that breaks the first time you use it!
The photos above let you clearly see the difference. The Leatherman is on the top and the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is on the bottom. While they both have been made in many variations over the years, these two examples each have +/- 14 tools.
My Multi-Tool Story
As a young lad, I regularly carried a small pocket knife during the day. Back in the 1960's I could carry it in school! It was just a tool. After I got out into the work-a-day world I sometimes carried a multi-tool, especially when I was doing technical work. For a good many years I preferred a folding knife with a pocket clip as I often had to dig around in something or cut into wallboard.
When I moved into the world of libraries I found I needed something with a small pair of pliers, mostly for fishing bits of torn paper from a copy machine without burning my fingers.
So I started exploring the world of multi-tools and found an incredible user forum called MTO (multitool.org). This "club" if you will, has members from all around the globe and they freely share their knowledge and experiences on multi-tools and other related topics such as regular knives, hatchets and flashlights.
Based on what I learned I began purchasing multi-tools (and pocket knives) over time, both new and used, and now have a variety to choose from on any given day. I rigged up a way to hang the tool in my right pants pocket using a small clip and folded metal piece that slips onto the pocket and lets the tool hang in my pocket. Out of the way, accessible and not at the bottom of the pocket where I would have to dig for it.
Now-a-days my most carried tool is the Leatherman Squirt. Based on pliers it features a small blade for opening boxes (or cutting down boxes), a nail file, small screwdrivers and a small pair of scissors. With the Squirt or any other of my tools I always have what I need to address those frequent "issues" we face in our modern world.
Leatherman Squirt PS4
The Squirt PS4 is built around a small set of pliers that can not only grip round item but pick up tiny objects with ease. It includes Wire Cutters, Knife, Scissors, Medium Screwdriver, Flat/Phillips Screwdriver, Wood/Metal File, Bottle Opener & Key Ring. The Squirt PS4 measures2.25 inches closed and weighs only 2 ounces.
Of the two Squirt models that Leatherman has made over time, the Squirt PS4 is built around a set of needle nose pliers. This tool closes into a compact, key fob sized object ever at the ready to solve life's challenges. If your emergencies include tightening small nuts, retrieving lost items from some dark recess and bending or clipping thin wire, the Squirt PS4 is your Multi-Tool!
Can Multi-Tools be Stylish?
Some might argue that form and function ARE components of style but others want more options. Both Leatherman and Victorinox (and others) offer many models that will appeal to fashion conscious folks but I will offer a few as examples and let you do more research.
Remember that we are not only talking abut Multi-Tools that a man or woman chooses themselves but also gifts for all occasions. What better way to say "You have arrived and can handle yourself" that a capable Multi-Tool that is also a fashion accessory?
In general, a stylish Multi-Tool tends to be one of the smaller models and has a splash of color! Each will still contain several common and handy tools such as screwdrivers, bottle opener, nail file, knife, scissors and/or pliers. These tools have been proven to be the best to have in a pocket or purse to fix various "emergencies" that we encounter in modern life.
So next time you consider a multi-tool, check around for the latest color enhanced models and see if there is one that "calls" to you!
Even a Flashlight and Pen!
With miniaturization common today the modern multi-tool can often contain an LED flashlight! The Victorinox Midnight Manager will come in handy no matter what your job may be at the moment. It is a very small Multi-Tool that includes the standard tools but adds a ball point pen and LED flashlight! Think about how often you need to see in the dark and how handy a small flashlight will be. As well, how often do you beg a pen from some random person next to you in line?
Victorinox Midnight Manager
The Victorinox Midnight Manager is a small tool that has some amazing features you will find handy any time of the day or night! Other than the blade, scissors, nail file/screw driver, bottle opener, Phillips screw driver, wire stripper and key ring it also includes a retractable ball point pen and a LED flashlight!
2.3 in by 0.55 in by 0.77 in (W x H x D), weighs 1.1 oz,
Mid-Size and larger Tools
The tiny Swiss Army Knives are very, well, tiny and they have their uses. But if you go up in size and number of layers you arrive at the mid-size SAK, like the Huntsman Lite. The Huntsman Lite is for those who never know where they might end up. Today it is the mall and shopping but tomorrow it's a hike in the woods! With an added wood saw, LED flashlight, ball point pen, tweezers, and even a straight pin you are ready for just about anything!
Beyond the mid-size multi-tools some large and very large models are made by the big name tool makers. Some are in the "Military" category, including versions used by armies around the world. Some are made for the explorer, hunter and emergency responder who's needs include life and death situations (their own and others) so they must to carry enough to cover a wider variety and heavier duty tasks than yours truly, a humble librarian.
Don't believe me?
I created this article on multi-tools in the hope that it will provide education, entertainment and open your mind(s) to the world of multi-tools! There are dozens of choices today and the tool industry is continually expanding to include models that satisfy the needs of people to solve life's problems every day!
Do remember that you are better served investing in a quality tool by a recognized manufacturer. Not only will you get better (and SAFER) tools but you will usually get a loooong warranty. This recently came up as my Leatherman Squirt PS4 broke and with Leatherman's 25 year warranty all I had to do was fill out and print a simple online form then mail the tool to them. In a few weeks a replacement appeared in my mailbox and I was happy!
So, purchasing a quality tool is truly an investment!
© 2014 Robert Zimmerman