The notion of having a single portable tool with a variety of functions goes back hundreds of years. As evidence of this we direct your attention to author Herman Melville who, in his 19th century masterpiece “Moby Dick”, mentioned a tool that had “not only blades of various sizes, but also screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers, nail-filers and countersinkers.” It was also in the 19th century that the Army of Switzerland commissioned the new revolutionary-designed pocket knife, that would enable their soldiers to open canned goods and also disassemble their standard issue rifle. The result was the first Swiss Army Knife. The Swiss Army Knife would go on to become the prototypical multi-tool and set the bar for countless contemporary designers to try and clear.
The Many Ways To Use Your Multi-tool
A recent trend in industrial design has been to revisit long accepted technologies and try to get more out of them using state of the art materials and computer aided design. As a result we now have everything from all-weather tactical pens that can help you defend yourself with these flashlights that act as survival kits. A new generation of multi-tools have also burst onto the scene with such a powerful vibe, it makes them look like the father figure to the child-like Swiss Army Knife. Below we’re going to take a quick look at some of the most effective uses for these incredible new multi-tools.
- For Cutting – There’s no better place to begin than the function that started it all. Before it was the all-purpose work and survival tool it is today the multi-tool was a pocket knife. It’s the one function that has been with the multi-tool from the start and any multi-tool that doesn’t come with an effective blade is starting off behind the 8 ball. Today’s best multi-tools sport blades made of the highest grade stainless steel. They’ll allow you to do everything from cutting loose your malfunctioning parachute to cutting the seat belt holding you in that burning car to letting you easily cut wood for tent stakes. Clean them after staking your tent and you can also use them to scale and gut the fish you caught for dinner. Not to mention all of the uses they have around the house, such as opening the packaging on that brand new shower speaker you’ve ordered, or dividing up that last piece of cake to halt the arguments!
- As Pliers – Many of today’s top multi-tools have the ability to act as a very effective set of pliers. Pliers are indispensable to people in a variety of trades and also come in handy whether you’re a hunter, soldier or mountaineer. Pliers on a multi-tool can help you return bent fishhooks to a usable shape, to tighten or loosen bolts on your trailer hitch, tweak the wings on your RC plane, remove nails from boards so that people don’t get hurt stepping on them, or strip the casing off wiring. Pliers are also great when you just need to grip something tightly, whether that’s a pipe or the end of a wood sliver.
- To Open Cans and Bottles – As we alluded to earlier the original Swiss Army Knife provided soldiers with a crude opener so they could access their field rations which, in the 19th century, were typically provided in cans. Today no self-respecting multi-tool comes without a high quality can and bottle opener. So whether you’re lost in the woods awaiting rescue with just a few cans of vegetables between you and starvation or you arrive at the beach party to find no one remembered to bring a bottle opener you’re always ready when you have your multi-tool in your pocket.
- For Driving and Removing Screws – Virtually every tradesman out there has, in the performance of their duties, encountered a screw that needed to be either driven or removed for one reason or another. Not every craftsman necessarily carries around a standard screwdriver, and drilling the screw would probably be overkill. However which means they either have to go find one or devise some kind of work around. Unless, of course they have a multi-tool in their pocket. While the enterprising carpenter might be able to remove some pain the butt screw using a dime or some other flat object, removing Phillips head screws is another matter altogether. It won’t be a problem however if you have a high-end multi-tool available.
- As a Saw – Whether you’re a plumber, carpenter, electrician, furniture builder, hunter, camper, hiker or all-purpose do-it-yourselfer you’re going to run across instances where you’ll need a saw blade to perform some basic cutting that’s beyond the scope of the knife blade. That may mean cutting PVC pipe or heavy cords or sawing the end off a piece of wood trim that’s just a bit too long. For an outdoorsman it might mean cutting small pieces of wood for kindling or tent stakes.
- As Wire Cutters – Electricians these days have a choice; they can carry around a bunch tools that add weight to their tool belt and make maneuvering in tight spots difficult or they can carry a first-class multi-tool that includes a knife, screwdrivers and wire cutters. The cutters on most of the better multi-tools will allow you to strip wire as well. You might have just finished installing your upgraded TV antenna, you’re just about to connect up the TV cable, when you realise you need to strip the end of protective coating. Here is where those wire cutters come in handy. Any dedicated RV aficionado will also attest to the value of having a pair of wire cutters around to deal with wiring issues that often arise in the vehicle.
- Function – The most basic question when it comes to selecting a multi-tool is which one will best serve your particular interests? To determine that you need to first decide how you intend to use it. Some folks will only need a multi-tool that offers the most basic options like knife blade, bottle opener and maybe a flat head screwdriver. While others will want everything but the kitchen sink.
- Size and Weight – While most all contemporary multi-tools will fit in your pocket some will do so discretely and others will be fairly heavy and bulky in size. For the larger tools it’s probably better to get one with a built in belt clip or hook; although unless you are a tradesman carrying a multi-tool around in this fashion could lead to some awkward moments. The fact is the average person only has so much room to accommodate the things they need to carry in order to be prepared for whatever comes down the pike. You need to decide what’s most important for you and allocate your available space accordingly.
- Materials and Build Quality – How long your multi-tool lasts and the effectiveness of the various attachments will rely almost entirely on the quality of the materials used to make it. There are plenty of multi-tools on the market today that have all the bells and whistles but are constructed from low grade metals and cheap plastic. Such discount multi-tools look good right out of the package but wind up rusting and breaking after only a short time. To a large extent the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies to multi-tools as much as it does to anything else. Don’t expect high-quality for 10 bucks.
The Bottom Line
When shopping for a new multi-tool keep the above considerations in mind and you’re sure to wind up with just the right tool to match your needs. Keep in mind too that multi-tools today come in all different styles so there’s certain to be one that dovetails with both your practical needs and your taste.