gadget review

Helpful advice for young geeks: do not succumb to the temptation of the Gerber Recoil multi-tool. The Leatherman Wave remains the One True Way.

I broke part of the tip off of one of the plier jaws of my Leatherman a couple of years ago, and so I finally went shopping for a new one. I picked up a Recoil instead, because it has the really nice feature that all of the tools lock in place (you have to press a release to fold them back in.) The blades on the Wave lock, but the screwdrivers do not, and more than once I've had them fold up on my fingers while I was bearing down on something, which is no good.

But, it turns out that the Recoil is inferior in a bunch of ways: <LJ-CUT text=" --More--(54%) ">

  • The pliers pop out the front "switchblade" style, which is cute, but it's hard to push them back in: you have to push in on the pointy end of the pliers, which hurts.
  • The pliers don't go in all the way, so it's easy to pinch yourself on them while they're folded up.

  • Worse, using the screwdriver necessitates having the pliers pinch the palm of your hand the whole time.

  • Despite the "lock" on the eject button, it's still really easy to trigger the damned thing while reaching around in your pocket.

  • There's only one flathead screwdriver (the Wave has four, five if you count the saw.) The Recoil screwdriver is the thickness of the Wave's largest, and so far, has been too big for every single thing I've tried to use it on.

  • Because the Recoil doesn't "butterfly" open, you can't make it long-and-thin for hard-to-reach places.

The scissors seem better on the Recoil, but that might just be because they aren't all gummy yet.

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39 Responses:

  1. travisd says:

    Preach it, brother. The Wave is the One True Multitool.

    Just curious, did/are you going to try to get it fixed under warranty?

    • jwz says:

      I didn't try. My assumption is that any warranty that says "does not cover unreasonable use" really means "shrinkwrap must still be intact."

      • travisd says:

        One would think that in the case of pliers that "reasonble" would include "squeezing/grabbing things and holding on tight". Unreasonable would likely be along the lines of "I jammed in in this hole to replace that missing bolt from the 12 Ton hydraulic press".

      • jcheshire says:

        Most people just don't use the Leatherman to its full capabilities. My buddy and I have both had our Leatherman incur some damage due to regular, heavy use. Leatherman replaced it, no problems. Much like Craftsman in their warranty -- minus the "lifetime" part.

        • ivorjawa says:

          A cousin of mine, in Marine bootcamp in San Diego, had a stainless leatherman rust.

          Never seen that happen before.

          • notabouthim says:

            yeah. mine did that too.

            reason is this: there's only one kind of stainless steel which is actually sea water rust proof.. now, luckily for you Wave owners, that happens to be made with the kind of seawater-rust-resistant stainless that you need.

            I, on the other hand, have a regular ol' leatherman.. and it rusted.. while I was at sea.

            • kraig says:

              My Super Tool incurred some rust whilst on my trade training (infantry) in the Reserves. Not from rain or standing water, but from my sweat.

              It cleaned up nicely though, and I'm still using it 8 years later.

      • kfringe says:

        Gerber used to be quite good about warranty repairs. I had a bowie knife that broke in half while using it as a crowbar. Gerber replaced it without so much as a grumble.

        My old Buck knife managed to do the prying without breaking, mind you.

      • suppafly says:

        usually with expensive tools, they just replace it without question, atleast craftsman does.

  2. but my gerber has that nifty plier-slide-out-with-wrist-flick that Impresses All the Ladies(tm)!!!!!

    • eqe says:

      He's the muppet orange wrist flicking plier sliding private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks?

  3. on an unrelated note, re: your music. i didn't know you were a boingo fan. or at least i don't think i did. anyhow, remind me at some point to make you a CD of good stuff they never released, of which there is quite a lot.

    • jwz says:

      I like their older stuff a lot, but have no interest in anything they did post-1985 or so.

      • i will keep that in mind when preparing the CD, although if you like danny elfman's film scores at all, i'd recommend at least giving their final album, from 1994, a second listen.

    • hepkitten says:

      Plz introduce me to this pool of ladies impressed by multitools POST HASTE since I have a multitool I would like to impress them with ;9

      • ckn says:

        I upgraded to a juice from the wave about a year ago and I must say that I'm suitably impressed with the juice as I am the wave as the plier-handle edges are more subtly curved for the hand, and the whole unit is 60% the size of the wave. Yet I agree with you, leatherman > other_multi-tool_contraptions.

      • i think you may be asking the wrong stud here.

        but still:

        heh-heh, "multitool".

        what you need to find yourself is a buncha hi-femmes with long nails and UNOPENED BEER BOTTLES PLZ.

        works every time. ;p

  4. pvck says:

    I've actually been enjoying my SOG Power Pliers for quite some time, long enough that I haven't had the opportunity to try out the Wave. I'm curious, do you have any negative experiences with SOG tools comparable to what you said above about the Recoil? As it is right now if for some reason I break these my plan was just to get another SOG, but if Reasonable Authorities disagree I might go back to the Leatherman (which was where I started, of course.)

    Two Subnotes: One, is this a Holy War? And two, does it strike anyone as odd that probably the most stereotypically masculine of geek toy/tools has a name that sounds like gay porn?

    • tfofurn says:

      a name that sounds like gay porn?

      Yeah, but it's the guy's name! It's not just a company name they invented, although it's not such a bad one.

    • scosol says:

      I bought one of the SOG's when it first came out *years* ago, and it served me well until it was confiscated by LAX just a couple weeks ago.
      (on a *return* flight- San Jose didn't catch it! :/ )

      I'm a little perturbed by your description of "multitools" as "geek toys", but anyway...
      I've also had a Letherman Crunch for a while too- why? Cause Vise Grips can fix *anything*.

  5. enderkeogh says:

    Leatherman is also about to come out with the Charge, which although expensive looks like the perfect tool.

  6. I tried out several kinds of multitool in the store when I was looking for one ages ago, and the Swisstool was the best one I found. The tools like the blade and screwdrivers open out like a pocketknife so you don't have to open the pliers like oldschool Leathermans to use them and the tools lock in place. Also, they don't clump together when you try to get one out. The only problem is although the pliers are needlenose they don't go to a very sharp point. As pliers, they're actually rather comfortable in the hand (the handle has no sharp edges).

    • ts4z says:

      I carried a Swisstool for a few years. I probably didn't subject it to nearly as much abuse as others, but I switched to a Leatherman Juice, which is a superior product in almost every way, except for the lack of a bottle opener. (The lack of a can opener can be forgiven because it sucks anyway.)

      I actually like the Juice (KF4) a lot: getting tools other than the screwdrivers doesn't involve opening the pliers, the grips are decent, and the pliers are reasonable, needle-nose size. The much smaller handles means that the knife grip is actually halfway sane--the Swisstool is just awkward by comparison. Plus it's a lot smaller with almost the same utility. I never regret switching, except when around bottled beer.

      If you only compared the Swisstool to the old-school Leatherman tools, I'd agree with you, but the newer multitools are a big improvement.

      The locks are missing, but I haven't noticed a big problem. The weird way of opening tools on a Leatherman (open all of the tools, then push back the ones you don't want) seems blissfully absent.

      My only real problem with the Juice is the lousy selection of tools on any given model. Mine is the only one with a ruler, and it lacks a bottle opener. The higher-priced model adds a bottle opener and scissors, but loses the ruler and adds a corkscrew.

    • n3nbb says:

      I have to agree - I've tried quite a few of the multitools out there (several Gerbers, Leaterman, a couple from other companies liek SOG, etc.) and all but the Swisstool are cluttering up a drawer. I originally stumbled across it when I was looking to replace a lost Gerber, I saw it in a store and said "what's that". It took about 30 seconds of having it in my hands to decide that they seemed to have got the interface right, and within a week or so I had come to realize that the quality you'd expect from a good Swiss Army knife was there as well.

      I carried that Swisstool for a coupel of years until I spotted a Swisstool RS on sale and decided that I wanted the scissors and rope-cutting blade (it's a forward curving blunt-tipped blade with very coarse serrations that is wonderful for cutting things that would destroy the straight blade), after another couple of years that's what I still carry.

      Every now and then (ok, every time I see a new one) I check out the other options, but I've still yet to see something that would make me want to change again.

  7. kfringe says:

    The Gerber scissors are the best. That shouldn't surprise anyone since Gerber is owned by Fiskars these days.

    I still don't think the leatherman is superior; you mentioned the lack of locks for one thing. Worse is the leatherman's vulnerability to torque. It's pretty easy to wind up twisting one into oblivion.

    My favorite tool has to be the SOG Powerlock. It's tougher than the leatherman, and its tools lock. Also, unlike the Gerber, it doesn't suck. It's the way to go if you can't live without pliers.

  8. charkes says:

    I went with the Leatherman Super Tool 200. Everything locks and it's comfortable to hold.

  9. dmsasser says:

    Check out

    Search for "Leatherman".

    A better Wave (all tools lock, plus other stuff) is on the way.

    (And yes, I, too, am "of the Wave".)

  10. simonb says:

    The idea of a spring loaded Gerber sounds like a marketting person got the hots when seeing an auto-knife (AFAIR a switch blade flicks out in a circular manner, an auto-knife comes straight out); to me it sounds like a bad idea.

    Personally I quite like the Gerber 600 I got a while ago (something like this one, but mine was a "Build your own" where you got a completely customised tool) as its got most of the features I need, including several flathead screw drivers, bottle opener, can opener, decent knife, decent scissors, file (two grades, one on each side) cross-head screwdriver (which takes an adapter so you can use any of the many ¼" hex bits available out there) and so on. This is my second Gerber, the Gerber it replaced still sees good use as a knock-around DIY tool.

  11. 4irborn3 says:

    I spent twenty years in the Army and went through 3 Leathermans before I purchased my first (and last) Gerber. The Leatherman can't stand up to the same abuse as the Gerber. The Leatherman tools would break off one by one (not a good thing when you really need it). I have had my Gerber for almost 15 years now and all the tools are still intact and working. My Gerber has been used in extreme situations on many tactical airborne missions and deployments around the world and has been used in many different climates, out at sea, and used almost daily for those past 15 years. None of the Leathermans lasted for more than a couple months until something broke. Gerbers, for me anyway, are just made better.

    • roninspoon says:

      The Leatherman Wave is a different creature than the original Leatherman tool. I carried an Original Leatherman for several years before loosing it in Saudi Arabia and I would tend to agree that in comparison to modern tools of the same type it is inferior. However, it was the original multitool, created out of necessity to compensate for some of the lacking features of the Swiss Army Knife. A number of years ago I bought the Leatherman Wave and found that it is superior in all fashions to the original Leatherman tool. I use it regularly and have found that it is rarely lacking, even though I abuse it. It was clearly designed, to compensate for the shortcomings of the original tool. My only complaint about The Wave is that the non-serrated blade is a tad difficult to sharpen properly. My Leatherman Wave is an indespensible part of my workday load out and has saved me time and frustration on a number of occasions.

      I've never owned the Gerber tool, but someone in my office used one for a while. Its features were relatively comparable to The Wave, but I did not like the afore mentioned pliers on it and found that it lacked a tool set that I found pleasing.

      To each his own though, my only real point is that a comparison of the newer Gerber tool to the Original Leatherman is unfair as the brand has realeaased several products to make up for the recognized deficencies in that original tool.

    • ladbroke says:

      Yeah, they're a necessity in the Army.

  12. ladbroke says:

    All in all, I've probably spent over $120 in multitools I lost. I'll by the first one that comes with a fucking pager.

    • phenyx says:

      that won't save you from the airport security checkpoint.

      I've lost one Leatherman, and friends/family have lost a couple to the security sweep. "You can mail this to yourself, if you like..." If you like the idea of running all the way down to the boutique level, finding somewhere that sells a) a padded envelope, b) stamps and c) a mailbox, and running all the way back to the checkpoint to stand in line for another 30 minutes - all before your flight leaves.

      I'll fly the first airline that provides a secure bag service for last-minute stowage of sharps and pointys. Last thing onto the aircraft, first thing off. Rather like the "large cabin baggage" cart service for short hops on small aircraft.

    • notabouthim says:


      ok, now -that's- funny..

  13. mendel says:

    The secret to closing the pliers on the Gerber is to not push them in with your hand -- squeeze the little tabs, and push the tips against something nearby -- desk, wall, leg. (I tend towards leg, myself.)

    Those scissors are by Fiskars, so they'll stay good for a while.

  14. codenazi says:

    I was shopping around for such a tool a while back, and finally came across the holy grail of multi-tools: The Gerber Legend. It is much more well made than the recoil, and has what feel like real tools in it. The knife is wonderfully sharp, and doesn't seem to be a piece of sheet-metal that they took to a grind stone, like a lot of the leathermans.

    There is just something about the way this tool is made, that gives it an air of being a "real tool", not a toy like a lot of the other multi-tools around.

    They even rubberized the handles, and rounded the edges you would be holding onto, if you use it in pliers mode, so you don't cut up your hands when trying to use it.

  15. jkonrath says:

    I don't know if they do it anymore or not, but Leatherman used to offer logo customization if you ordered a batch of the same tool. An old company of mine, during the dotcom book when swag was rampant, got a bunch of the original Leatherman tools imprinted with the company logo on the leather case. Now admit it, wouldn't it be cool with a new Charge and the DNA Lounge logo imprinted in the case?