The Buck Model 350 "Mini-Buck."
*Although this model is currently discontinued by the manufacturer it still be readily found second-hand at auction sites and internet classified listings.
As neas as I can tell this model was released in late 1998 and discontinued sometime thereafter (@2002?). Searching the archives of popular knife and tool sites I get the general perception that this tool was not very well received by the hobbyist community. Many complaints stem from the fact that the pliers have no wirecutters, nor any circular openings with which to grab larger objects. Many posters also lamented the lack of screwdrivers, limited only to an eyeglass size flathead and similarly sized flat phillips driver.
Now, the Model 350 was not all complaints and moans; there are some truly excellent features in this tiny-tool.
Once held in the hand, the most noticeable is the icons on the sides of the handles. Three icons per side, each on identifying which tool resides on that side of the handles. This may be the most useful thing that can be added to a multi-tool that does not actually fold out and screw things. These icons make identification of where you are at and what you need quick and easy. They keep you from opening the handles, surveying the tool selection on one side, not seeing what you need, sighing, closing the handles and then opening the other side before pulling out that blasted phillips driver. This gets to be a real drag and has such an easy remedy that should be seen on more tools, especially full-size tools.
Now that you have become acquainted with the neat icons the next step is to actually open the tool. Doing so is a unique process that works to provide for both handle comfort and ease of use. Being that the implements are sheltered inside there are no sharp edges on the handles when opening, giving comfort to even this little tool. Once open it becomes clear just how small this tool is, it really disappears on the keychain and is the first tool I plan to actually attach to my keys and EDC.
Before going any further we must dissect those funny looking pliers. These pliers are not going to tear the lock off a Brink's truck nor are they going to close that 3/4inch bolt that is controlling your water pressue currently spewing out of a broken pipe. What these pliers will do is grab and hold small connections to be soldered, they will gently pick up small screws imbeded in the carpet because you decided to work at the desk in your bedroom and not in the darn workshop like you should. These pliers work ok for small-time tasks, things that don't really stress anything on the tool. It would be nice if there were a spring in there somewhere (I love my Squirt.)
Moving along to the implements within the handle we see a pretty good selection of non-locking tools. In one handle there are scissors, tweezers and a small flat phillips driver. The scissors is about the same size as those found on the Victorinox classic. The scissors were tested on a variety of mediums and were found to be small, but very good; cutting thread, monofilament line, paper and single ply cardboard to good effect with no binding. The tweezers do work and are useful for splinter removal and impromptu plucking but they are fairly thick in the handles and become uncomfortable to use after the first few squeezes. The small phillips driver is questionable because I haven't actually used it for anything other than to unscrew a small screw out of the faceplate of my girlfriends new several-hundred dollar digital camera. In this task it was effective but I can't help but feel that a full-head driver would have allowed me to screw the screw back in a little faster and avoid a little bit of yelling (stay single.) This side also features a 2-inch ruler divided into 1/8ths and 1/4ths.
Carrying on our little journey around a little tool we reach the (wait for it,) other side
. This handle features a hollow-ground knife blade, a nail file/cuticle pusher and a combination small flathead screwdriver and bottle opener. The knife blade is interesting because unlike the majority of key chain tools it is ground on both side of the blade, a minor note but important to some (me.) Other than that it is thin and cuts well. The nail file, although short and a little difficult to remove if on some off-chance the blades do not clump
, does work well. As an eyeglass screwdriver the eyeglass screwdriver combination bottle opener also works well. A a bottle opener the eyeglass screwdriver combination bottle opener is untested by me. I didn't have any bottles handy to test it on but compared to the Leatherman Squirt P4 the bottle opener is much smaller overall but features a bigger lip for grabbing up the cap. It may work fine but it is tiny and does no garner confidence. This side also features a 5 centimeter ruler with markings for millimeters.
This is not meant to be a comparison test between the Squirt P4 and the Mini-Buck; being that the only other keychain tool I own is the Squirt it was the only suitable size-buddy for the Mini-Buck. Note the thinness.
Sidenote: I am impressed by the sheer amount of detail in this tool. Going so far as to note which type of ruler is on which handle.
Overall this is an interesting (resisting "cute") tool that is worth adding to one's collection as a show piece for the Buck type opening but is generally outclassed by more modern keychain tools. However, this tool still holds a pretty good amount of respect for being the skinniest "full-size" keychain tool. It may also be the lightest but I don't have a scale nor a selection of other keychain tools with which to test it against. Personally I find this tool is just the right size for me and will actually be placed and carried on my keychain, a role the Squirt P4 and just to large for.
*Thanks to Felinevet for an excellent price on this excellent (I really like it!) tool.