Not long ago, in a box containing several items, I received a new multi-tool for testing from Gerber Tools. It is clearly marked "Sales Sample" and isn't due for release until February 2011, but I've already put it through the wringer and thought I'd share the information with you all. The tool is Gerber's new Balance multi-tool and it's a little different from most of the multi-tools I've had experience with. In this multi-tool you can get to everything it offers without having to open it and the Keep It Simple Stupid theory is well applied. Let's take a look.
As you can see from the photo, the tool contains eleven tools:
- Needle nose pliers
- Regular Pliers
- Wire Cutter
- Knife blade (serrated and plain edge sections)
- Small slotted screwdriver
- Medium slotted screwdriver
- Small philips head screwdriver
- Medium philips head screwdriver
- Bottle opener (at the base of the drive arm next to the scissors)
There is a slide lock between the handles that is used to extend the plier jaws and, when closed, to lock the tool shut. With the tool locked shut you can access the screw drivers, the scissors, the knife blade or the tweezers. There are two screw driver drive arms, an interchangeable bit at the end of each. One holds the small drivers and the other holds the medium drivers.
My first impression of the tool in general was everything is rounded. Except for the points or edges of the tools when you open them, nothing on this multi-tool seems sharp - as should be. In your hand or in your pocket, a multi-tool shouldn't present any unnecessary sharp edges to poke you or wear holes in your clothing / pockets. The slide lock is easy to operate with the tool sitting in your palm and using your thumb to slide it either way. As you retract the pliers / lock the tool closed, the slide lock moves easily until you get to the last 1/8 - 3/16" where you encounter some friction. This is intentional and necessary as it insures that the weight of the pliers doesn't cause an accidental opening. Even if it did so, there's no danger of anything untoward happening.
If you hold the Balance in your palm, slide lock up and look down at it, the left side handle has a spring lock in it that locks out whichever tool (on that side) that you fully open. The knife blade is on that side as is a drive arm. I like the security offered in that lock mechanism as I've had many a multi-tool screwdriver collapse under pressure and fold down on my fingers. If that ever happens with a knife blade (and it shouldn't because who really thrusts with a multi-tool knife?) the results could be bad. The drive arm on the other side uses spring action and friction to lock out and is plenty stable / strong, but I think I'll be using that LOCKED out drive arm for most work with the drivers. Call it a peace of mind thing.
I've used the tool over the course of several weeks and the only complaint I can make I have to make about all multi-tools: the scissors are so small they're difficult to use. Space limitations prevent any company from doing much about that so I'll just have to live with my gripe. Truth be told, if this multi-tool pair of scissors is all I have (no office nearby with regular scissors) then I'll use them and not complain because it's what I have when I need it. The knife edge - both serrated and plain - cut cleanly and smoothly in all materials I tested it with: string, twine, nylon webbing, denim. No, I didn't try penetration tests or hack any plastic construction buckets: it's a multi-tool blade so I tried to keep it real.
For its size and weight you might expect more from a multi-tool but I think this one is well thought out and well designed. The size and weight are what's necessary to make it strong and insure the security of the tools available. I'm good with that.
Pre-sales online show prices running anywhere from $40 to $75 and once the tool is released in February 2011 I'm sure those prices will stabilize along usual retail structure: MSRP, distributor pricing, wholesale pricing, consumer pricing based on the retailer's status. I would expect you can find them then for about $40-$45 on a regular basis but even if they are running at $60-$65 it's still a darned good value (in my opinion).
The one I received (remember, it's a sales sample) didn't have any kind of sheath or carrier and although it will fit in many a generic knife / magazine pouch, I hope Gerber plans to provide one; potentially a black nylon (as would be pretty much industry standard).
Be sure to keep this handy tool in mind when February rolls around. Look for it at SHOT Show if you go and put it on your Wish List for your birthday next year. Check out more from Gerber Tools on their website.