Leatherman Surge – A Thoroughly Modern Multi-Tool

Aimed at: Those who need a high quality multi-tool for work or play.

Pros: Usable pliers and it doesn't bust your nails trying to get the blades out.

While some people rabbit on about Health and Safety as though they are bad – I take a different view. Changing rules on Health and Safety often allow us to take a fresh look, and the consequent redesign is usually much better – especially in the area of tools.

The first multi tool I coveted, years ago, was a crude device compared to the slick stainless steel Leatherman Surge that arrived on my desk a few days ago.

In its folded form, the Leatherman Surge is a weighty bit of kit that fits neatly into the palm of the hand. Made almost entirely from different grades of stainless steel, it is very well screwed together and there are no sharp bits sticking out. It feels like it will do the job!

The more I explored the features of the Surge, the more I came to appreciate just how much safer and more useful it is compared to my first multi tool.

Safety-wise it is simply great. All the blades are lockable so will not suddenly release to trap or cut an unwary finger. The big sharp knife blades will not open unless the handles are in the closed position – so basically they are available only when you need them.

Opening up all the tools is now not a job for steel fingernails – they are mostly released via a spring catch and a generous finger niche is provided to help them open out. On the other hand, both the serrated and standard knife blades can be opened with the flick of a thumb – something that I have come to appreciate when I have been been working on site.

There is also a bit of future proofing built in because key things that get blunt, like the wire cutters and reversible screwdriver bit, can be replaced very easily.

What set the original Leatherman apart from others was the inclusion of a pair of pliers that actually worked. The Surge carries on this tradition, but with bells on. The narrownose pliers are revealed by simply opening out the handles. Milled jaws provide a good grip on wire as well as small nuts and bolts and the wire cutters are VERY effective on both electrical wires and small gauge steel wire. Behind the fulcrum are an electrical wire cutter and crimper that work very well too.

Some multi tools claim to have legions of blades, but in my experience, they often don’t all work. This is not true of the Surge – all twenty blades are completely functional and some are ingenious. The scissors, for example, have a brilliant spring mechanism that means they actually work properly - I cut paper, card and hard plastic quite easily.

I was also pleased to see that this Surge came in a leather belt pouch with elasticated nylon sides that not only held the knife securely, but also had some space to accommodate a couple of spares like the diamond and metal file blades.

So, the Leatherman Surge is a really practical, modern and safe multi that would be perfect for campers, travellers and emergency trade use. I like it!

Inova T3R USB Rechargeable Torch-A Solid Performer

Aimed at: Demanding users who need a pure light from good optics and tough body that will take a few knocks.

Pros: The torch has options of low and high power and strobe functions. Very well made alloy body and rechargeable via USB too. 

The choice of products in the torch market is truly overwhelming in my view. We have torches that cost less than £1 and others that are over £200. Relative quality is hard to tell sometimes because the “lumens” (light output) is not always a true measure of how good a torch is. The quality of the optics and the means of focusing the beam have a part to play as well. The general rule that you get what you pay for applies to torches, but there are pockets of good value and high quality to be had for the canny buyer.

With a typical internet retail price of around £65 the T3R is aimed unashamedly at the quality end of the market – typically the consumer who perhaps is a regular torch user – professionally or personally – who needs a reliable and relatively powerful device and who likes the idea of a rechargeable, thus eliminating the need to buy batteries.

The T3R has a reassuring “heft” in the hand. This is because it has a body that has been machined from solid aerospace grade alloy. It also has a US military spec, hard coat, black anodized finish, with a regular deep knurled pattern machined into the body exterior for good grip. The torch has a “made for serious business” feel that will reassure users of its rugged toughness. It is built to withstand a drop of 1 metre onto a hard surface and it also has IPX4 standards of water resistance. These measures indicate a device that is strong enough for tough and sustained use in domestic or outdoor environments. 

Other specs are not too shabby either… The maximum light output is 234 lumens, not a class leader, but as I have said before, the quality of the reflector and the LED are important too. I found that the light was clear and bright. The T3R boasts a nice round halo of light with no dark spots or lines in it with a wider halo of less intense light around the middle. This is an indication of quality optics. The double–sided anti-reflective coated glass lens on the front of the torch must take some credit for the beam quality I guess.

When high beam is not needed the low beam option is a mere 20 lumens, giving enough light for walking down a dark path in the woods for example, but at the same time ensuring that the battery lasts a lot longer.

The specs say that the run time on full beam is two hours and forty-five minutes; while on low beam the run time is 40 hours. A considerable energy saving indeed.

The beam range is given as 152 metres – which because the T3R has a good concentrated beam actually makes sense. In pitch dark from my back window into the fields opposite the centre spot of the beam was clearly visible surrounded by an aura of clear light that was well focused too.

There are rechargeable torches and rechargeable torches – some are easy and flexible, others are more difficult. The T3R provides a lot of options for recharging to suit all the expected needs of the target market. There is a simple charger plug that can fit three different plug types. The UK standard plug is easy to fit on the charger and feels like it is solid enough to be safe and long lasting. Other charging options include a standard USB connection and an in-car adaptor. Optional extra chargers will fit solar panels and computers for an even greater range of charging choices.

The lithium ion battery pack is separate from the torch itself, so it would be possible to replace it or have a spare one if needed. The battery is put into the torch by unscrewing the end cap that includes the integrated switch mechanism. The end cap can be turned half a turn anti-clockwise to lock the switch out so that it is protected from accidental switching during transit, or in a pocket for example.

For initial use, the manufacturers suggest that the battery should be fully charged. This charge takes about 4 hours and is a common thing to do with lithium ion batteries.

After this, it is suggested that the torch is plugged in to recharge after use to keep the battery fully topped up. There is no danger of overcharging. While charging, there is a red indicator light to indicate charging status. In use, the USB charging point on the torch is covered completely. When you need to recharge, simply unscrew the front end of the torch to reveal the USB plug into which the charging lead is plugged.

The multi-purpose press switch on the rear end of the torch controls the various light modes. One firm push means full beam is selected. A slower push selects low beam and a quick then a slow push selects strobe mode. If the switch is pushed only part way in in each mode the light switches off when you release the switch.

Because lithium ion batteries deliver full power until they run out quite suddenly, rather than slowly fading like old batteries did, there is a built-in warning of imminent loss of charge – the light will start to flash quickly before turning off automatically. This should prevent deep discharge, which is the enemy of long life for lithium ion batteries. Time then for a full charge if possible.

There is no doubt that the T3R looks and feels like a quality product and that reflects its quality price tag. The alloy body is good to handle and all the functions work smoothly. There is even a delicate but useful wrist loop that is threaded onto the rear cap. The T3R comes with a limited lifetime warranty covering manufacturing defects.

With its range of charger options, users should never be without a method to top up the battery when needed, so it should suit professional users like paramedics or roadside assistance personnel. 

For more information on Inova Torches and other products from Whitby & Co , please visit www.whitbyandco.co.uk

Leatherman Super Tool 300- A Trade Favourite?

From my observations it seems that many tradespeople now carry multi tools on their belts. This may reflect the larger numbers of higher quality multi tools available, but it could also be that tradespeople like them because they are a very useful “reach for me” tool, particularly when initially investigating a job. It is very often a multi tool that establishes just how far the rot has got into that doorframe, or unscrews the cover that conceals the problem.

Thankfully, we are now past the time where the multi tools were all “multi” and not enough genuine “tools” and the original Leatherman must take some credit for this – it was the first multi tool that included a pair of pliers that actually worked, and provided the stimulus for the competition to develop better products.   Most manufacturers now include only the tools that are genuinely useful, so it is up to end users to explore the options that will suit their needs.

The Leatherman Super Tool 300 is part of a range of other Leatherman tools including the ”Surge” and “Crunch” for example, that are all deliberately different in order to provide a sensible choice for end users. While a tradesperson usually has a box of specialist tools nearby, a multi tool like the Super Tool 300 may be the only tool available for campers, hikers and yachtsmen.

The Leatherman Super Tool 300 feels weighty and solid when you first handle it – it is clear that this tool is a serious one, and it inspires confidence.

Closed, it is just over four inches (115 mm) long and with the handles bent open to reveal the pliers it is still only about seven inches (180 mm) long – enough to give enough leverage in use, but still compact enough to carry in a belt pouch.

As we would expect from a Leatherman, the body is made from solid, folded 420HC stainless steel, with harder 154CM stainless steel used for some blades, where it holds an edge better. The rivets that hold the whole tool together are reassuringly tight, and no doubt will ease slightly with use.

Once opened, the handles lock into place so that the pliers are ready for action. The pliers are forged and ground into a slimmish compromise between needle nosed pliers and standard ones. The finely ridged gripping tips meet precisely and there is no play in the fulcrum, so indeed it is a pair of pliers that give you the confidence that they will work properly. The wider milled opening before the cutting blades serves as a good way of holding a range of smaller sized nuts and bolts.

The pliers offer a number of wire cutting options, the most obvious one being via the removable cutting blades near the fulcrum. Using a hex key, these blades can be removed and then resharpened or replaced as required. I found them very efficient and sharp, even cutting some wire coat hangers.

On the handle side of the fulcrum there are wire cutters for cutting stranded wires and also the electrical crimpers. I was pleased to find that these features worked as intended. Electricians and mechanics take note!

I was slightly intrigued by the ruler function etched into the handles – in cm on one side and inches the other. It is possible to measure up to 23 cm fairly accurately by pushing the handles together so that the flat handle ends meet. Apart from the necessary gap between 9cm and 14cm it will give a pretty accurate result when needed.

Concealed inside the handles are ten other tools. These are actually quite easy to lift into position because they are ether provided with a good-sized fingernail slot or a hook. When fully opened they are locked into place with an efficient spring-loaded bar lock that you can actually hear as it locks. Unlocking the blades is a simple matter of pushing in the spring with one thumb and pushing the blade back into the handle with the other hand.

The Super Tool 300 has two incredibly sharp blades - one serrated and the other a simple drop point. As with any knife, care needs to be taken in use. I found that by folding the handles in to create a good handle, it allows you to cut safely.

The saw has very sharp teeth and is ground to cut on both pull and push strokes and will sever branches and small timber sections quickly. It is clearly aimed at campers and hikers, not joiners, so don’t attempt dovetails with it.

There are also three sizes of flat slotted screwdrivers and a Phillips 2 screwdriver. For general use these are perfectly adequate, but specialist trades should look at other Leatherman options.

There is also a double sided file with a toothed edge that was able to file soft metals quite well – clearly enough of a function to file a key to fit for example, and with enough finesse and accuracy to be useful.

Since I learned how to use combined bottle and can openers on knives when I was a teenager I take great delight in demonstrating them to the uninitiated and the Leatherman version is a gem – sharp and easy to start. No need for fancy ring pull cans with the Leatherman handy.

Finally, there is an optional lanyard ring that provides an extra level of security against accidental loss. Some trade users might attach a lanyard to it when working at height for example, where it is impractical to always replace the tool in its belt holster. The holster is made from strong black nylon with a hook and loop flap to keep the tool in place.

My overall impression of the Leatherman is that it is thoughtfully designed and manufactured well using good quality materials. It is clearly aimed at a discerning audience that appreciates a tool that will really work.

Leatherman is so confident of the quality of their products that they offer a 25 year limited warranty. However as we know, quality doesn’t usually come cheap, and a typical retail price for the Leatherman Super Tool 300 is £89.95.

Aimed at:- campers, hikers, outdoorsy types and a lots of trades as a first option tool.

Pros:- Well-made with useful accessories and an excellent guarantee.

For more information please visit www.leatherman.co.uk/

 

 

Scroll to Top