Leatherman Wave: A High-end Experience at a Reasonable Price
When enthusiasts think of multi-tools, Leatherman is probably the first name in their minds. A great thing about Leatherman is that it doesn't exclusively provide only premium products but also less inexpensive yet reliable products like the Wave series.
In fact, this is also one of the most popular models of Leatherman.
So, what is so great about them? We will find out shortly in our Leatherman Wave review, but before that, let's talk about how to figure the right multi-tool for you first.
Things to Consider Before Buying a multi-tool
Why Do We Need A multi-tool?
Even if you don't consider yourself a handy person, having a reliable, quality multi-tool all the time could still provide many benefits. Below are a couple of reasons you should start looking for a multi-tool if you don't already have one:
It makes you ready for everything
With a multi-tool, you always have a tool to rely on in a wide range of situations, from home repairs or even survival circumstances.
Daily emergencies such as opening a beer are the best examples. And though this may sound a cliché from a survival movie, when you ever found yourself lonely stranded somewhere, it would literally be a lifesaver.
A multi-tool can be adapted for multiple purposes
What a multi-tool could do for you is limited to just repairs or survival. Even a basic model can enable a host of applications, especially ones that are not really intended by the manufacturers but come up by you when issues arise.
When you have a multi-tool in your pocket or bag, you might be amazed at how creative you are in finding solutions.
A typical multi-tool is super portable and compact to carry with you every day. It's so convenient that most of the time, you won't notice there is a tool in your pocket unless you need it. There is no need for any special storage or preparation – just get it out.
Types of multi-tools
There is no universal way of dividing multi-tools into different categories. But based on the basic design and purpose, we can at least put them into three types:
This is probably the one you see when searching for a multi-tool as most products on the market fall into this category.
A typical multi-tool Via: Amazon.com
They can deal with more tasks you throw at them than the keychain-style type below. With a bigger build, the general-purpose multi-tool can also withstand more heavy-duty use.
There are different products with different features, costs, carry methods, and construction quality.
You can think of products of this style as a significantly downsized version so that users can fit them undoubtedly in a keychain. And by that, we mean you couldn't tell the difference until you need something from it.
A keychain-style multi-tool Via: Amazon.com
They are smaller, and this size affects their function directly. This may force the manufacturers to cut down the number of features, but in return, you can have a ready-to-use tool for your daily tasks.
And the best part is you don’t have to remember to carry anything at the start of the day (as long as you have your keychain).
This design may be a little confusing. Yes, they are basically a multi-tool, but they also have some specific applications as their biggest selling points.
A multi-tool focused on screw driving Via: Amazon.com
Essentially, manufacturers focus on one of some features (for example, drivers, blades, and pliers) and then add some other tools to make it useful for general purposes as well.
Models of this style are often targeted towards electricians, explosive technicians, gun owners, construction workers, and others.
How to Get The Right multi-tool for Yourself
You don't need us to tell you there are dozens of brands and models on the market these days, each with its own set of tools and design. But these are some questions you can think over before making a choice.
Which tools do you need?
When it comes to multi-tools, it is important to ensure that you don't buy more or less than what you need. So, the thing you should always need to figure out first is what you're going to do with a multi-tool and what situations you imagine that a multi-tool is going to help you with.
Some models offer a vast number of built-in tools, but from our experience, you need only around three or four of them. The others may become handy sometimes, but most of the time, they are just ...there.
Rather than trying to win the contest of scoring the highest number of tools and ending up paying through your nose, you should pay attention to a few tools that would serve you the most.
Do you need real functionality?
Though multi-tools are the best in terms of versatility, their functionality is usually limited when compared to a specialized, full-sized tool. This drawback is big enough to notice in certain tasks where a multi-tool can't replace a traditional tool.
The first solution is trying models in the specialized multi-tools category above, where manufacturers choose to strengthen the function of one of the tools to match heavier tasks.
And you can always go for a combination of multi-tools and specialized tools and get them to do the job your multi-tool couldn't handle.
How do you plan to carry it?
Some people prefer their multi-tools being mounted on their belt so that they can get them out or put them back easily. But others are totally okay with placing them in their bag or pocket.
This is important since it determines how heavy your model can be or whether you need a clipping mechanism.
If you require your multi-tool constantly in your job, you will be better off putting it in an accessible position. But when you are on a hiking trip, for example, a pocket of your pants or backpack is an okay place to store it.
And when you don't have much space for your multi-tool, there are always ultra-portable and more compact models. But keep in mind that they often come with fewer features compared to larger multi-tools.
Brand and quality
There are not just a few, but several companies producing multi-tools with many of them not meeting our expectations. While a high-quality multi-tool can do a lot of things, a shoddy model isn't very helpful.
Our recommendation is always going for a reputable brand if it's within your means. SOG, Leatherman, Gerber, and Victorinox are some brands which have a proven track record with their great products and warranties.
Overview of the Leatherman Wave
We have received a lot of questions from readers about a good multi-tool that doesn't cost a fortune, and the Leatherman Wave is always our first answer.
Leatherman Wave Multi-tool Via: Amazon.com
This model is one of the bestselling products of Leatherman, even though this company has some higher-end multi-tools in its catalog. So, what's the reason behind the success of the Leatherman Wave?
This full-sized multi-tool has almost the same features of the Charge TTI - the top-of-the-line model of Leatherman. Most differences come from the materials (which result in a less flashy look), the accessories (the Wave has only minimal tools), and one different blade.
There is no one who can't benefit from a tool like the Leatherman Wave. Of course, it's better when you can afford the Charge TTI, but the Wave is such a handy product given its price. It's a reliable companion for DIYers, hobbyists, technicians, office workers, hikers, tradesmen, and all kinds of professional users.
Note: A revision is also available under the name of “Leatherman New Wave multi-tool,” which you can find at the official Amazon website as well. The Leatherman Wave+, on the other hand, is the newer, upgraded version of this model.
● Reasonable price
● Strong and rigid
● Various tools
● Many aftermarket carry and accessories options
● Well-made tools
● Fine-tuning pivots
● Proprietary Leatherman bit driver
● No pocket clip
Leatherman Wave Review
1. Pliers and wire cutters
The needle-nose pliers have fine teeth while the midsection has coarser teeth and a large opening. Though not the most spectacular pliers, they are still handy for quick tasks.
There is a small triangle that points to the hard-wire blades to prevent you from accidentally ruining the soft-wire cutter. These cutting blades are on opposite sides, just like in a pair of scissors. You can't expect a really clean cut from them, but these wire cutters can still get the job done.
Stains are a common issue that customers have with pliers. But don't worry – the Leatherman Wave pliers are pretty easy to clean, even when you forget about them after cutting tree branches. Just a few wipes with a cleaning cloth are enough.
Overall, while the wire cutters and pliers are not the strongest tools you can find, you will be pleased with them if you don't need to deal with something hard constantly.
2. Knife blades
This plain-edged blade is fairly sharp. Even if you hone it lightly multiple times, the grind marks will still be there.
On the other hand, the serrated blade may have fewer applications compared to the plain-edged blade. But for cutting cloth, rope, and other such materials, it may still be an acceptable tool.
You can easily deploy both of these knives with a single hand. There is even no need to open the entire tool first, just fold them out and cut whatever you want. This is an extremely important feature in many scenarios when you need a quicker operation and less fumbling.
In addition to that, the liner looks are super secure, allowing you to close them singlehandedly as well.
While the material used to make these Leatherman Wave blades (420HC) is not as sturdy as the 154 cm and the S30V steel used on the premium Charge ALX and Charge TTi, it's still harder than the plain 420 stainless-steel.
3. Wood-cutting saw
The Leatherman Wave has a multi-tool saw, which is a nice design. But it may be hard for you to deploy if your fingernails are short.
You may find some sawdust in the teeth after cutting. In theory, you can sharpen the blade, but if woodcutting is something you frequently do, the Leatherman Surge is a better choice. It comes with a T-shank holder to make this task less painful for you.
4. Diamond and Wood/Metal files
Though most multi-tools feature at least a file, most of us may have never used it even after carrying it by our side for years. But it's still better to have one.
The files on the Wave are well-crafted. The diamond-coated one is useful for sharpening tasks in the field while the wood-metal file may be handy in small construction tweakers, beveling, smoothing, and fine file work.
The scissors are not something remarkable but still work well. Compared to the scissors on entry-level models, this is a significant upgrade.
6. Plain screwdriver
You can use the medium slotted screwdriver for light prying or opening compartments. But be careful in heavier tasks since you can damage it.
7. Mini screwdriver
The mini screwdriver looks and is fragile, so be careful not to use it the wrong way. But don't worry too much about breaking it. You can always find replacement parts from the official store at a small cost.
Leatherman even provides a slot for the replacement in the bit kit holder so you can bring it along as well.
8. Bit holder
The bit holder of the Leatherman Wave is intended to hold the 1/4 inch hex bits. When you need other bit styles and sizes, you can always buy the extra adapter extension or a screwdriver bit assortment.
9. Bottle opener and Wire stripper
This opener is always a friend for those who often host a party or go camping.
There is a V-notch in this bottle opener when you look closely, which Leatherman calls the wire stripper. But from our experience, it's not really a helpful tool. It works fine, but for the types we usually encounter, scissors often do a better job.
10. Optional accessories
Leatherman also has some extra accessories to extend the capability of the Wave, which you can get directly from Amazon.
For example, the lanyard loop and belt clip are fairly cheap if you love to have another option besides carrying your multi-tool in a sheath all the time. They work together with the built-in tool lock, not impeding the use of any functions or tools.
While this multi-tool from Leatherman is quite heavy and large, clipping it to your pocket should not be too uncomfortable. In fact, thanks to its size, it can fit standard belts easily.
The additional lanyard ring above is tougher than the default one, which enables you to use a carabiner, beefy keyrings, or a Paracord survival bracelet. When used with the optional belt clip, it is easy-to-release, which just needs a squeeze of the lever.
When you buy the Leatherman Wave, you have two options of sheaths, depending on the specific set you purchase. The default nylon sheath provides three accessory slots and pockets while the newer leather one has just one side pocket.
If you want more than those options, you can always buy other sheaths from Leatherman, such as Skinth shields, the Maxpedition sheath, and the Universal sheath.
Leatherman 939906 Premium Leather Sheath Via: Amazon.com
Every tool, except the files, saw, and knives, are locked into place if you fully fold it out. To unlock a tool, just squeeze the spring-loaded lever.
● Build Quality
Though not a model with the premium status, the Leatherman Wave multi-tool has great build quality. Most customers should have no issues with it as the stiff overall build with tight pivots makes it a sturdy tool to deal with all kinds of tasks.
Leatherman has treated the Wave series just like their other higher-end products. It has used threaded fasteners to assemble it instead of rivets and provides proper friction in the hinges.
This reasonably-priced multi-tool succeeds in finding a balance between design, portability, weight, and size. You could also find these ergonomic aspects in the more-expensive Charge lineup.
This is actually challenging for all manufacturers since while you can benefit more if some tools were larger, others may see a drop in functionality. That is why we think Leatherman deserves its praise, at least in terms of design.
If you prefer the black Leatherman Wave, you can try the upgrade version, Wave+, which now also adds replaceable wire cutters. You can find more details in our separate Leatherman Wave plus review.
As we have mentioned, when a Leatherman Wave is shipped to you, it comes with a simple nylon sheath. But you can upgrade it with an extra lanyard loop and a pocket clip.
It has a weight of 8.5 ounces – not the most lightweight of models but still acceptable for a full-sized multi-tool. Once fully closed, the Leatherman Wave has a clean and smooth external profile, preventing itself from getting stuck in your pocket.
This is probably the best part about the Leatherman Wave: you have all the functionality, reliability, and durability at a reasonable price. It's not the cheapest multi-tool around, but you will have a hard time finding an alternative with the same features within the same price range.
You can buy a cheaper multi-tool with fewer features or have a higher-quality material if you can spend more, but at this price, the Leatherman Wave has virtually no match.
If you have other needs that Leatherman Wave can't provide, have a look at these alternative multi-tools below.
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X - A Product within The Same Price Range
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X Via: Amazon.com
Victorinox is one of the rare multi-tool manufacturers in the industry that are comparable with Leatherman when it comes to quality. And the Spirit X is the answer of this Swiss company to the Leatherman Wave.
This is a polished model, reminiscent of both the plier-based multi-tools and the iconic Swiss Army knives. Even though it doesn't offer many extra bit options, it's still a solid choice with top-of-the-world durability.
Leatherman Charge TTI - A Higher-end Choice
Leatherman Charge TTI Via: Amazon.com
If you like the Wave series but don't mind spending even more for a similar product, we're confident you will be happy with the Leatherman Charge TTI.
This premium-tier model offers 19 tools with impressive materials. The titanium frame helps reduce the overall weight while its blades are the best in the business.
But for a flagship product, you must pay a flagship price. It's by no means a model for beginners or those who don't know for sure yet what they want from a multi-tool.
Leatherman Wingman - An Inexpensive Alternative
Leatherman Wingman Via: Amazon.com
When you love the balance between functionality and durability of the Leatherman Wave but you have a limited budget, our recommendation is the Wingman series. It's one of the most popular multi-tools in Amazon, and with good reason.
This product is where Leatherman brings all the great choice of functions, convenient design, quality craftsmanship, and its long pedigree into an affordable product.
Keep in mind that to make that possible, Leatherman also needs to cut some corners. For example, the mid-grade steel blade has only a hybrid plain/serrated edge, which also needs regular sharpening.
However, all things considered, the Leatherman Wingman is still one of the greatest multi-tools to give you value for your money.
As repeatedly stated in our Leatherman Wave review, this model is simply the best high-end product you can find without breaking the bank, and also one of the best multi tools overall. It's nearly perfect in most aspects while the next-in-line products cost way more.
While there are plenty of cheaper (and more expensive) products, this multi-tool is a sweet deal that most technicians and hobbyists can all benefit greatly from.
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