Mechanical evolution

I lost my old Leatherman Wave years back, and recently found it again in the box of nuts and nails and strangely-shaped flange brackets that lurks in the garage of every household. In the meantime I’d re-equipped with a new Charge. And it’s interesting to see how a decade of listening to customers has evolved the Oregon company’s designs.

Looking at the Wave first. It was the first multitool to use outside-edge blades that folded out on the opposite side to the pliers; at the time this was exotic, but it’s now become standard across many Leatherman tools and a fair few other brands. It worked for customers, so they rolled it out. But the original Wave had an issue: all those hinges made it flex too much when using the pliers, so the hinge end on my new Charge is much beefier. All four main blades are slightly wider, longer, and more strongly anchored in the frame, too.

Locking the four big blades in place while open was a useful part of the Wave; on the Charge, they’ve applied this to pretty much everything, with all the bits and pieces needing a solid click or press to fold them back in. The blades have evolved in subtle ways, too: there’s a hook on the bonesaw and the smooth edge has a much bigger nailnick for one-handed opening. Little useful bits that make it better.

The scissors – probably the most common tool I use: I travel with this thing a lot – are stronger on the Charge; perhaps other people use them a lot, too.

The big innovation has been in screwdrivers. Instead of five separate screwdriver tips on the Wave, the Charge has two drillbit-style slots into which a range of bits can be inserted – and you can close the tool with bits in place, so you can always carry around a basic foursome of eyeglass tools, crosshead and flathead. (There’s a box of bits available.)

Lastly, the silly little lanyard (a ‘blade’ that’s a small metal loop for attaching the Wave to stuff) has been dumped, and a gap on the frame used for connecting a separate, larger ring. This is more useful, because I can keep that ring hooked to my keyring all the time, and just connect the tool to the ring when travelling so I’ve got a single bunch of ‘metal stuff’ to stow away from laptops and phone. Sensible and functional.

Of course, my only complaint about Leatherman persists: no corkscrew. But I can live without being able to open corked bottles, as long as it’s not for too many days.

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