Leatherman Wave

So in my Pocket Organizer post the other week I noted I was looking into carrying “one of the smaller multitools.” When I finally went to a outdoorsy type store to fondle multitools instead of teasing myself with them online, the allure of awesome gadgets overcame my concerns about size and weight, and I’ve been carrying a Leatherman Wave (post 2004 model) for the last few weeks. Readers familiar with multitools, or those looking at the preceding link will note that the Wave is not a “smaller” multitool; it is just under 4” long closed, and weighs a little over 8oz. It is however, very, very cool. Now that I’ve been carrying it for a little while, I’m going to go ahead and post a little review. My product links are just to the most convenient page about the item, not an endorsement of whichever site they happen to be to; the official Leatherman page is bad about deep linking.

My major qualifications were a tool that had a straight knife, pilers with wire cutters/strippers, scissors, and a good variety of screwdrivers. I also stipulated that it NOT have a corkscrew, as they are large and tend to get caught on things. The Wave covers all those requirements, and then has some other stuff thrown in, most of which is reasonably welcome, especially the file. People always talk about how nice Leatherman files are; they aren’t lying. That said, I would happily give up the serrated blade and saw (only have the straight blade and file outside-opening, both on one side) to make it thinner. This is not because the tool is too thick, but because I have little use for the extra blades. There is also the retractable lanyard ring. When closed, it keeps the saw from closing smoothly. When open, it protrudes and is completely useless, because the Wave weighs FAR too much to keep on a keychain or lanyard. I noticed there is a similarly useless lanyard ring on the Juice S2 and several other Leatherman models, someone at Leatherman must envision a use for these things. I’m considering taking apart that section of the handle (the whole tool is put together with torx security bits) and just removing it, theres a gap on the other side that looks just like the gap it would leave if removed.

One of the big selling points for the wave is it’s externally opening, locking blades. You definitely can flick the two main blades open with one hand (although it will hurt you if you put your thumb too flat on the thumb hole… one quickly learns not to do that), and it is a neat feature, and fun to operate, but not necessarily something I need. I could see it being important to people used to carrying a folder. The liner locks are very nice; its comforting to know you can’t accidentally snap a blade closed on your fingers, and once you get the motion down they are easy to close one handed.

The workmanship on the Wave is good but not excellent; there is nothing significantly wrong, and there are many thoughtful design features. The minor problems include some visible machining marks, the two sides of the handle aren’t quite equally tensioned, the saw doesn’t always close smoothly (see “lanyard ring” above), and a small number of minor issues of that nature. There are also a couple spots I might consider filing a chamfer onto, particularly near the hinge on the file and saw to make it more comfortable to hold and operate the outside blades. On the thoughtful end of things, the serrated blade has small ridges next to the thumb hole so you can easily distinguish the blades without looking, the handles are designed so that there is a smooth comfortable profile to grip when using the pliers (a common deficiency in Leatherman-style tools), and there is a nifty mechanism that prevents the outside blades from opening while the pliers are open.

The real gem for me is the screwdrivers. Instead of a few fixed screwdrivers, the wave has a pair of bit drivers, one for eyeglass size bits, and one for full size bits, as well as a single fixed flat bit/pry bar. The tool comes with a phillips/flat double ended bit for the eyeglass driver, and a PH1-2 (supposedly fits either)/3/16” double ended bit for the full size driver. Unfortunately, the bits are nonstandard (thinner than a normal 1/4” bit), but one can get an assortment of others from Leatherman (also includes a replacement eyeglass bit), and with patience it is apparently possible to grind standard bits down to fit. The Leatherman bits come on little plastic cards which hold 10 double ended bits, and one card fits neatly in the back of the standard sheaths, allowing one to carry 24 (10 on a card, one in tool, plus eyeglass driver, all double ended) different screwdriver bits in barely any more space or weight. One minor problem with the bit driver is that it is rather stubby, so it won’t fit down for deeply recessed screws or other tight places, but this is inherent to the design. Apparently both this and the nonstandard bits can be solved by buying an extension/adapter (or DIYing the same from a cheap extension). I went for the bit assortment, but not the extension, and carry one card populated with more likely bits.

I actually have both the standard sheaths for the Wave, I originally bought the nylon sheath with the tool, but found it too noisy after a week, and went shopping. I found somewhere that sold the leather model for $5 shipped, and decided to give it a try. Both sheaths have an internal elastic pouch on the inside back that holds a card of bits, and doubled elastic walls on the sides which could also be used as separate compartments for long, thin things (driver extension, AAA flashlight, etc.) Both sheaths also attach either vertically or horizontally to a belt via loops. I expected horizontal wear to be more comfortable, but have found I prefer vertical, just behind my left side. Both sheaths are also designed so one could stuff the opened tool point-first into it. This is another useless feature; I would prefer the sheath be smaller, lighter, and more formed instead. Some differentiating thoughts on the sheaths:
* Leather:
–The Leather is distressingly stiff, and feels like split leather with some sort of finish on both sides, so I’m a little wary of putting conditioners/oils on it to soften it; this problem should take care of itself with use.
– Related to the stiffness, it is rather difficult to get on/off a belt. I’ve been wearing a 1.25” (synthetic) leather belt lately, and I can just barely force it through in the horizontal position.
– It rides a little high on a belt; the top of the closure is maybe 1.5” above the top of the belt in the vertical position.
–The stupid snap rattles when open. Its silent when closed, and not at all loud open, but since I bought the leather sheath to avoid noise it’s mildly annoying.
* Nylon:
– Sounds like a cat being skinned alive every time you open the Velcro.
– Easier to get the tool in/out of
– Easier to take on/off a belt. Still loops not clips, but much more give to the loops than the leather sheath.
– Marginally lighter.
In summary, both sheaths are flawed, but if noise is an issue the leather sheath is a much better choice.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the Wave. It has worked well for every task I have expected it to since I began carrying it, and feels very satisfying to hold and use. It is a little bigger than I set out to get, but with a little positional trial and error, it’s comfortable enough to wear all the time, which is the point of such a tool. This post is ridiculously long, and if I get inspired I’ll add a couple pictures, but it makes for excellent procrastination.

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