Thursday, November 03, 2011

Miscellany: Leatherman Skeletool review - Five Ounce Fixer-Upper

I used to rate multitools solely on how many different tools they had onboard. The point of a multitool is to do as many things as possible, I reasoned, so more tools were better than fewer tools. Sure, I might not need a wood saw, metal file, or can opener on a day-to-day basis, but the more the merrier, right?

Eventually, I realized that even the most feature-laden multitool is worthless if you don't have it with you. Today's post reviews a multitool that's small enough to be carried almost anywhere - the Leatherman Skeletool:

The Skeletool is one of the smaller tools in the Leatherman lineup, and the only one that includes an integrated pocket clip. It carries well in a front or rear pocket, and I find this method of carry to be more practical than clipping it onto something with the carabiner. My only quibble is that the clip is not repositionable.

For the testing, I ran the Skeletool through some common home improvement tasks - changing out a sprinkler timer and installing a ceiling fan. For these kinds of chores, most home owners would have to break out their toolbox, so I thought it'd be interesting to see whether the Skeletool could really tackle these jobs.

Right away, I found that the most easily accessible tool was the knife blade; I flicked it open and carved out the plastic on the sprinkler timer box with no problems. The knife held its edge surprisingly well (on the standard Skeletools, the blades made of 420HC stainless, on the deluxe CX models, it's 154 CM). I did find the Skeletool's knife to be a tad short for everyday carry.

In contrast, the screwdriver is the most awkward thing on the Skeletool. You have to use the driver with the Skeletool opened partway, since it can't be extended in the closed position, and that makes spinning the tool around a chore. It worked well enough for simple driving tasks, like attaching the fan blades to the ceiling fan, but it was quite difficult to screw in the sprinkler timer box to the wall because of the additional bulk of the multitool (we ended up using a regular screwdriver).

On the plus side, the driver slot accepts Leatherman's interchangeable bit system, allowing you to tailor what bits you carry depending on your needs. The spare bit is kept inside the Skeletool via a flexible metal tab:

Like most Leathermans, the star of the Skeletool is its set of pliers. I didn't have problems using them to strip and pull apart wires during the sprinkler installation, and I didn't notice too much flex when bearing down on them with moderate pressure. Obviously, they're not super heavy-duty pliers or wire cutters, but, considering the size, they work great.

If you can deal with the limited toolset (especially the omission of common items like scissors and a can opener), the Skeletool is a decent choice for a pocket multitool. I'm not sure it replaces my standard everyday carry combo (a Kershaw Skyline plus a Victorinox Tinker), but it's a good alternative, at least.


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