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As Sean pointed out yesterday, it’s that time of year again — the time where we start to see tools packaged and targeted at the gift-buying crowd. We ran across the above “set” in a big box the other day, and it strikes us as a great example of the genre. Let’s take a look at it specifically, but more importantly, let’s look at how this particular package exposes some of the tactics you’re likely to see in the marketing deluge that we call “the holiday season” — and what you can do to get the most bang for your gift bucks.

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Ok — have some pity on a relatively new cyclist, if you will. I’ve been writing about tools here for many years, but I just recently got into running, swimming, and (yep) biking. But I quickly realized that while I can easily work on my bike in the garage, I don’t have the garage with me when I’m out riding, and I’m getting to the point where I’d like to ride at times when I can’t easily call someone to come get me if things break. So I’ve begun kitting out the bike with the tools necessary to get it back on the road after basic breakdowns.

Besides tubes and the means to inflate them, my next choice is something that’ll let me deal with other minor adjustments — specifically a multi-tool. What you see above is the ParkTool IB-2, the first tool I’m trying out. It’s small enough to fit in my road bike’s little saddle pouch, but it’s packed with a variety of tools, including 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm hex wrenches — damn, there are a lot of hex nuts on bikes — as well as a T25 and straight-blade screwdriver. Conspicuously missing is any kind of Phillips head driver. I paid $17 for the tool, which seems a buck or two higher than the average street pricing.

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It’s pointless to suggest that multi-tools are occasionally overhyped — of course they are. They’re gimmicks on gimmicks running around, and everybody has one. But no matter how over-the-top the marketing shtick, it does work. Take Gerber’s Bear Grylls Survival Pack. It’s a multitool paired up with a flashlight and a fire-starter wrapped up in a nice case. But for a gimmick, it’s still pretty solid.

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I remember years back when the only people making a vibrating multi-tool was Fein — charging a whopping pretty penny for it, too. Now you can buy similar products from just about every manufacturer in both corded and cordless versions. And Makita’s joined the party, too, with their catchy-named LXMT025, pictured above. This version is cordless, integrated into Makita’s 18V line. Yeah, it’s pretty much like all the others. But nothing drives innovation like competition, and this definitely represents more competition.

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Whether you need to clean out the bar groove or or tighten the chain, carry this chain saw multitool with you or attach it to the tool and you won’t have to go and look for the right tools.

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Milwaukee recently jumped into the oscillating multi-tool fray with a cordless model for their ever-expanding M12 line. At $150, it’s in the middle-priced category, sporting most of the features you’d expect: variable speed (5,000 to 20,000 orbits per minute) and an included universal adapter that allows you to use accessories from most major manufacturers.

The Milwaukee also offers a battery fuel gauge — a feature Toolmongers have mentioned as a positive in the past. Throw in an all-metal gearbox for durability and it sounds like this is a pretty slick tool for its price. Expect to pay around $150 for a two-battery-and-charger kit. Knowing Milwaukee, they’ll offer the bare tool soon. One of the M12 line’s selling points has always been expandability.

M12 Cordless Multi-Tool [Milwaukee]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for cool-looking multi-tools. (I still love my Skeletool.) So it’s not surprising that the Zilla-Tool Jr. caught my attention. It wraps up all the basics — a 2-1/4″, black-oxide-finished blade, a pair of pliers, a wire cutter/stripper, a screwdriver, and (oh yeah, baby) a bottle opener — in a slick, non-reflective package that’ll surely scare the crap out of everyone at the office.

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Take a look at Irwin’s new Universal Handsaw. If you’re like me, the first thing you’ll wonder is, “what the heck is with that hump on the blade?” It turns out Irwin is riding the multi-tool wave. The hump provides clearance from the handle so you can use the top of the blade as a straight-edge. Also, if you butt the handle up to the edge of a board, the slot and top of the blade are perpendicular to the edge and the other side of the hump is 45° to the edge.

Irwin touts several other improvements in this saw. The triple-ground teeth supposedly eliminate binding, and they’ll cut through most materials three times faster then “traditional” hand saws while giving the finished-looking cut of a fine-cutting saw. They mold the handle from lighter-than-wood high density resin, and the 0.85mm thick blade is coated with a water-based lacquer.

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We’ve seen mods where people have modified their keys to fit into a Leatherman-like multi-tool, but yesterday Lifehacker featured the KeyTool Keyring Multi-tool from ThinkGeek, which wraps around an unaltered key.

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It’s like a sickness; I can’t resist posting multi-tools. I know none of the tools usually hold a candle to a stand-alone version, but a well designed multi-tool can save your butt in a situation where you don’t have access to your toolbox. Plus it’s always neat to see the new and unique ways companies pack so many tools into a small package.

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