Photography / Hands-on Review

A Leatherman's Tale

I love collecting knives. I have a large collection of them, including some that I’ve had since I was a kid. I collected the bulk of them during the past decade or so, while satisfying my addiction to eBay. But before I bought anything on eBay, I already owned two Leatherman multitools. I was given an original Leatherman tool when I attended a Minolta show many years ago, and I bought a Leatherman Wave about ten years ago.

The Wave is much more comfortable to hold than the original tool. Leatherman has introduced many new models in the years since then, so I decided to take a look at two of them.

Though I’ve never counted, I must own at least 100 knives. They’re mostly folding pocket knives made by Case. But I also have several made by Bulldog, Schatt & Morgan, Queen, Schrade, Fight’n Rooster, Victorinox, Gerber, Boker, Camillus, Colt, Browning, and others. I have different styles with handles made of stag, bone, wood, tiger coral, sea cow ivory, mammoth ivory, and more. But one thing that almost all of my knives have in common is that they’re made in the U.S.A. 

If you expect a knife to ever appreciate, make certain it was made in America, or perhaps Germany. The same can be said for tools. American-made tools are usually higher quality than anything made in China. Of course, Leatherman tools are made right here in the United States, in Oregon. They’re so well made that they’re backed by a 25-year warranty. 

The Charge TTi 

The Leatherman Charge TTi features 19 different tools and eight interchangeable bits. What makes the TTi unique, though, is its comfort-sculpted titanium handles. Titanium resists saltwater corrosion better than stainless steel, and it's much lighter as well. In addition, titanium is cool. Leatherman uses 420HC stainless steel for most of its knife blades, and the Charge TTi does include a 420HC serrated knife blade with an integrated cutting hook. As I mention below, the cutting hook is a safe and easy way to open blister packs as well as cardboard cartons, burlap sacks and other packages, without risking damage to yourself or the contents of whatever you’re opening.

Because the Charge TTi is a top-of-the-line tool, it also features an S30V stainless-steel knife blade, which holds its edge six times as long as regular stainless steel. The blades are hollow-ground and deadly sharp. Note that the knife blades are accessible without having to open the tool, and you can flick the blades open with one hand. All of the tools, including the blades, lock into place for added safety, but you still need to be careful. 

The needlenose pliers have a slim tip, but they’re more like conventional pliers closer to the jaws, so Leatherman considers these to be two separate tools. But it’s truly five tools in one, because the pliers also feature a crimper and hard and soft wire cutters. The Charge TTi also features a combination can opener/bottle opener/wire stripper. I know from past experience that this combination bottle/can opener will sometimes cut a slit in a bottle cap instead of just removing it. I have a Swiss Army knife with separate can and bottle openers which are more effective than this combination tool. Regardless, you can open bottles with the Charge TTi, though maybe not so elegantly. 

Other tools featured on the Charge TTi include a large slot-head screwdriver, scissors, diamond-coated wood and metal files and a saw that resists clogging in wet or sappy conditions. The saw works on the pull stroke rather than the push stroke—like a Japanese saw—in order to resist bending and breaking. I know this is an issue, because my Swiss Army knife with the separate can and bottle openers also has a bent saw blade. The handles of the Charge TTi, when positioned properly, form an 8-inch/19 cm ruler—not big enough to measure a trophy fish, but handy nonetheless. 

One thing that neither of my Leathermans has is a bit driver, but the Charge TTi has two; small and large. The smaller one holds a reversible jeweler’s screwdriver bit with a tiny Phillips head on one end, and a slot head on the other end. It seems like you never have a jeweler’s screwdriver handy when you need one to tighten the screws on a pair of eyeglasses. But the Charge TTi ensures that you’ll never again be unprepared. The larger bit driver holds a reversible standard size Phillips/slotted bit, and a set of six additional bits in a holder is included with the tool. The extra bits include popular hex, torx, square, and slotted drivers, and the bit holder handily fits in a pocket in the Charge TTi’s case. The bits are similar to the ones you would use with a power screwdriver except that they’re flattened to fit the Charge TTi’s low-profile bit holder. Leatherman sells extra sets of bits that will fit this tool, including metric hex bits, torx bits and more. 

Two lanyard rings are included with the Charge TTi. A permanently attached ring slides out of the handle when needed and, if you prefer, a removable one snaps into the handle when needed. A removable pocket clip is also included. The Charge TTi costs $129.85.