2020 April 24      Tools


In a recent article, we looked at a cheap leather punch, and why it may not be such a bargain.

This time, we look at a cheap multi-tool kit...

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In This Article

The Multi-Tool

What's Good About It

What's Bad About It


The Multi-Tool

Today, multi-tools are sold practically everywhere.  Most of us know the basic design:  it has pliers, a knife, flat and Phillips screwdriver bits, maybe a small file, and perhaps a couple other tools.

The multi-tool, in some ways, is better than a Swiss Army knife.  The Swiss Army knife, while fantastic, doesn't have the leverage or size to include an effective pair of pliers.  That could be why Victorinox started making a multi-tool, which (not surprisingly) is one of the better ones on the market.

So anyway, I'm reviewing a cheap, box-store multi-tool.  Now...

...What's Good About It?

It's like having a cheap tool kit that you can wear on your belt, carry in your coat pocket, or keep in your glove compartment.  The set includes both a multi-tool and a utility knife.

The wire cutters line up pretty well.  This used to be a big weak point of cheap multi-tools when they first appeared on the market. 

The pliers seem fairly well-made, even if the handles have more plastic than metal.  (Durability is another question, though.)

The saw will actually saw through twigs and small branches. 

The quality, overall, seems quite a bit better than the cheap multi-tools of ten years ago. 

Table of Contents

What's Bad About It

The Phillips screwdriver tip is off-center and seems to fit poorly.  It's probably going to ruin fasteners, making you wish you'd brought a regular Phillips screwdriver instead.  This is still a common problem with low-cost multi-tools;  no idea why.

The file grooves are not all the same depth.  This is another multi-tool component that's often problematic.

The included nylon sheath did not last very long.  At all.

This looks like the same material they use to make cheap waist packs.  A couple months of moderate use, and it was already fraying.

Once the sheath frays, there goes the multi-tool. 

It's possible to make a good sheath out of nylon, but it has to be the real heavy-duty material, like they use for professional tool belts.  That's more like what you'll find in a genuine Leatherman sheath. 

Table of Contents


Today's $20 multi-tools are actually pretty good, for what they are.  The main drawback:  certain components, such as the file or the Phillips screwdriver bit, may not work that well.  Cheap multi-tool knives can also be difficult to sharpen, and they may not hold an edge.

If you can carry only one multi-tool, would it be a $20 one?  It depends on what you need it for.  I doubt the pliers, or most of the other tools, would handle serious "heavy duty" use, the way a Leatherman would.

Overall, this reminded me of why I should have gotten one of these instead. 


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