Leatherman are one of the top manufacturers of multi-tools and the company has been operating in Portland, Oregon, since 1983. We haven’t done many multi-tool reviews at http://bestpocketknifeadvice.com/, but I have been proud owners of the original Leatherman Wave, which was first released in 1998. The original Wave was one of the top selling multi-tools on the market and was considered to be a very high quality tool. It was retired in 2004 and replaced with the New Wave. I have owned both of these tools since this time and I thought it was about time that I posted a review. Let’s find out if the New Wave compares and builds upon the success of the original.
Important Specifications and Features
Closed length: 4 inches (10.2 cm)
Thickness: 0.69 in (17.4 cm)
Weight: 8.5 (241 g)
Blade length: 2.94 in (7.67 cm) – plain edge and 2.81 inches (7.14 cm) – serrated edge
Blade material: 420HC stainless steel
Approximate Price: Under $60
Tools: 17 tools including pliers, wire cutters, scissors, plain and serrated edge blades, saw, file, drivers (large and small), screwdriver, ruler, bottle and can opener, wire striper.
My Impressions and Review
There are a number of changes between the original and New Wave, but anyone who owns the old version will instantly recognize the new model. The blades, file and saw all open from the exterior of the tool and are locked with liner locks (the manufacturer claims it offers double the strength). The remaining tools open from the interior and also lock in place, which is a great improvement from the original. The lock release is a level lock system and it is easy to operate with one hand (although you will need to be right handed to do this). The locking mechanism is solid and you would not expect it to fail (we haven’t had one failure in years of ownership).
The blades pivots have been upgraded and bronze brushings have been added. This ensures smooth and consistent opening for the external tools. We have noticed that this has improved the durability of this multi-tool and after almost 10 years of use it remains as smooth as the day it came out of the box! Spacers have also been added between the internal tools and, while this has slightly increased the width of the tool, it allows each tool to rotate by itself (no more “clumping” of tools). Each tool has a nail tab for ease of opening.
One of the main complaints about the original was the amount of handle wobble in the tool when closed. This didn’t seem to effect performance, but many users were put off by this negative. The new version has virtually removed this problem, although some play is still evident.
The blades are made out of 420HC stainless steel and this is probably the most disappointing aspect of the New Wave. This blade material is certainly adequate, but for a tool of this quality I would have liked to see 154CM stainless steel. The 420HC stainless steel will need regular sharpening, especially with regular use. The best improvement to the blade is the larger opening holes, which make opening the blade so much easier, especially with slippery hands or when wearing gloves. Opening the blade is a pleasure and the one handed operation is a significant advantage over other multi-tools.
The other tools are top quality and see only minor improvements and changes over the original. The main letdown of the new tools is the scissors, which have shorter blades. This means that you will have to make more cuts. The New Wave also features bit holders instead of screwdrivers, which can be seen as a positive or negative.
There is room for both a lanyard and pocket clip on the Leatherman New Wave and there are also many custom sheaths available. The pocket clip is stainless steel and works very well. It is non reversible and is in a tip up orientation. It is very secure in the pocket and it has never spontaneously opened in my pockets over the years.
The Leatherman New Wave is a quality multi-tool, but the downside is the blade. You are going to need a separate pocket knife for any serious cutting tasks. That being said the blade is perfectly acceptable in an emergency situation or when basic cutting is all that is required. The New Wave features a number of tools that make it the perfect knife and tool combo for everyday use.
The New Wave is available for about $55 and at that price it is really a bargain. There are certainly some features that could be improved, but you get a quality multi-tool for your money!
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Conclusion and Rating
The Good: Construction quality, good set of tools and mid range price.
The Bad: Knife blade steel, scissors, slight increase in weight from the original.
Wrap up: A good multi-tool that just misses out of being great. It should definitely be on your short list if you are working to a budget.