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Folding Tools: one more thing you have to hang off your belt.

Folding Tools: one more thing you have to hang off your belt.
I have always been enamored with Batman. That utility belt has to be the coolest accessory ever. Guys all over the world went out looking for gadgets to keep on their belt that would solve all manner of daily problems. But in the late 1980’s I fell in love. I was on Deansgate in Manchester window shopping.

Sitting center-piece was the first Leatherman folding tool I had ever seen, there was almost a halo around it as the sun reflected off the brushed tool steel. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tim Leatherman is the inventor/ entrepeneur whose name brands perhaps the most brilliant folding tool out there. If this were software I have no doubt it would be up there as a killer app.

The basic idea was a needle nosed plier head and handles containing a variety of tools (knives, saws, files). I was never a huge fan of the Swiss Army Knives but one look at this was all it took. I had to have one because I knew .. I could do anything with this tool. At this stage in life I had never heard of MacGyver (we never had it in England growing up, darn BBC and ITV).

I have managed to roam around with one on my belt forever now, doing most of my home projects on the fly, dealing with PC repairs and so on. These really are the last tool you will ever need and there is an offering for everyone. I keep one in my car (my old beaten up Leatherman) and when it came out I purchased the excellent Leatherman Charge. The Charge is a larger, heavier choice with a titanium body and a greater selection of tools folded into the arms but most important, the tools lock when folded out. This is a particularly important safety feature.

Of course, there are competitors in this field and ultimately it comes down to price, personal preference, loyalty and the sort of jobs you have to do with the tool. Swiss Army themself have a folding tool to compete, so too do SOG Knives, Columbia River and several others.

The competition are never happy simply replicating the wheel so there are some clever variations on the basic folding concept by Spyderco, Gerber and several others. All of these are excellent tools but before you buy ask yourself what you are going to do with the tool and try it in your hand for size, fit and comfort. One website to find these on and compare them before buying is http://www.knifecenter.com/.

As with other “technology” I recommend not to buy a cheap, knock-off as you truly get what you pay for and you will stand there in either puzzlement or pain looking at the tool trying to understand just how it broke at that crucial moment. As they say in my hometown,

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Well I have my “Do-everything” Leatherman, I have my “Just-in-case” (in the car) Leatherman now I need to find the ultimate mini-tool that I can travel with (TSA rules permitting of course).

One final reminder, these tools are not toys so think carefully before treating your teenager to this or any other bladed tool as a present.
 
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