For years I thought a multi-tool is a multi-tool as I went through a succession of cheap generic clones, the idea of paying three figures for one being a barrier I wasn't going to cross - and then the Signal arrived for review.
I've had the Signal for 3 or 4 years now, and a Free for 2 or 3 years. The reason I can't quite remember how long is the reason Leatherman multi-tools are so difficult to review; They sit there day in day out, month in month out, unused. £150's worth of hardware doing nothing but simultaneously irreplacable. Once or twice a year, however, there's a job that needs doing and the combined contents of toolbox and garage fails me. That's when the Leatherman comes out.
When I needed to remove links from a watch strap it was the Leatherman Free pliers that could grip the holding pins and withdraw them and when I need to replace tacks holding a drawer base in the van it was the hammerhead on the end of the Signal that came to the rescue. Over the last 4 years I've used them maybe a dozen times, from twisting metal hangers to making fire kindling with the knife blade and popping a beer cap off to running repairs with double headed screwdriver and wire strippers. Each time I've called on the Leatherman it's been a last resort where I've tried the usual tools and failed, and each time it's done its job it gets put away again for a few months. The little job it's just done is nothing to write home about, and certainly not worthy of a review that adds to a basic description of the individual tools on each model. But over time both the Signal and the Free have become irreplacable.
What you get with a Leatherman is quality. You know from the moment it lands in your hand that you're looking at something of substance. It's heavy. It's solid, built to last. There's no need with this level of multi-tool to worry about knife blades getting bent or the pliers loosing grip. Each individual attachment is built to a standard that it would survive as a stand alone tool. Locks hold the blades solidly in place where cheap multi-tools have a danger of folding.
The Free is designed to be used single-handed which gives it a slight edge when you come to the most difficult decision - which model to buy, but there have been times I've been glad of having the Signal as well; the couple of times I've needed the hammer head come to mind. Of course £150 is a hell of a price to pay for a multi-tool but the pair have probably saved me that much money already in repairs I couldn't have made without them. Throw in the build quality and that you're buying a muti-tool that will last for decades and in terms of pure value for money it's an investment you won't regret.
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