“You can never be sure exactly what collection of problems you’re going to face…. That’s why you need your whole toolbox in front of you.”
– Donald Kettl
Though carrying a full-sized toolbox is probably not possible for most men, nearly everyone can carry a multitool that includes most of the common tools used in normal life.
Choosing a multitool, especially for the first time, can be a difficult endeavor. With hundreds of different tools and features, the options can seem overwhelming.
Surprisingly, however, the list of truly essential components is rather short and simple.
These tools are listed in the order of priority.
#1 Knife (or knives)
To be really useful, every multitool must include at least one knife.
My multitool has two knives: a straight edge pointed knife and a serrated “sheepsfoot” knife. The straight edge knife is most useful, but the serrated blade can also be very handy.
Look for knives with these features:
- One-hand Opening
- Locking Mechanism
The one hand opening will save you time, and the locking mechanism will increase your safety.
I use the knives on my multitool to…
- Open boxes and letters
- Cut string
- Loosen wedged objects (such as pencil lead stuck in sharpeners)
- Cut apple slices
The pair of pliers on my multitool gets nearly as much use as my knives.
Try to find pliers that have…
- Needle-nose Ends
- Regular Pliers
- Wire Cutters
Some multitools even combine all three of these functions in one pair of pliers.
I have used my pliers to…
- Remove nails and tacks
- Tighten bolts
- Loosen bolts
- Bend wires
- Hold things in place
- Cut wires
Although they are normally too small to do much, these scissors can still come in handy.
When you are considering a multitool, look for scissors with these features:
- Durable Spring
- Easy Opening
- Clean Cut
I have had trouble with the springs on past multitools wearing out over time, and that can make it difficult to cut quickly.
Another major frustration I have had with past scissors is a gradual loosening of the joint. As this happens, the scissors lose their cutting ability and begin to tear rather than cut.
Read some reviews and ask around before you buy to avoid these two difficulties.
Scissors can help to…
- Trim fingernails
- Sever string
- Cut Paper
Nearly all multitools include at least one flat-head screwdriver. However, the better tools will also include a Phillips screwdriver as well.
Although you can normally survive with only a flat-head, getting a multitool with both types of drivers will save you time and help you do the job better.
One nifty feature that I have enjoyed in the Leatherman Wave is their reversible bit screwdriver. One side has a regular screwdriver head and the other has a Phillips head. By flipping the bit, you can instantly change the type of screw driver!
Screw drivers should only be used to…
- Tighten screws
- Loosen screws
Using them for other purposes is a risky endeavor.
This is also a handy feature to include in a multitool. Although you will probably not use it nearly as often as you will use the pliers and knives, a saw can come in handy.
I have used mine primarily for small crafts and detailed projects, but I generally switch to a normal saw for larger projects.
These mini saws can be used to…
- Cut small tree branches
- Accomplish small crafts
- Complete detail work
- Help survive in emergencies
Although they are not likely to be used every day, files will be used occasionally.
Look for a file that includes both…
- Wood abilities (usually the rougher side)
- Metal qualifications (often a diamond surface)
With both these capacities, your file should fulfill most of your needs in this area.
Files can help…
- Complete small sanding projects
- Smooth sharp edges
My first multitool (a Swiss Army Knife) had a pair of tweezers, but I was disappointed that my second did not.
Although I do not use them very often, tweezers can be very helpful in splinter removal. Whenever anyone gets a splinter in my family, my old multitool is pulled out of storage to meet the need.
Tweezers have only one use:
- Splinter removal
Although very few knives have all of these features, you will be able to find many that have the majority of these components.
What multitool function do you use most?