Leatherman PST vs. Sheffield 1200E
Some months ago, I got a Sheffield 1200E multitool at a pawn shop for $5. It is a virtual clone of the PST from Leatherman. I've wanted to do a decent review on it for a while, but thought I'd be better off waiting until I had an actual PST in hand to compare the two.
I think that ended up being a good decision. There are some minor, and non-minor differences.
Overall: The 1200E is about 1/8 of an inch shorter than the Leatherman. All other external dimensions are about the same, and weight is the same, 5.2 oz (148g). While the PST is held together with bolts that can be taken apart, the 1200E has pins which cannot be removed.
Before we even open the tool, the PST shows several features missing from the 1200E: The PST includes a lanyard, and has a ruler stamped into the metal. If the 1200E had been EXACTLY as long as the PST, it could at least be used for quick measurements in 4-inch increments... but NOOO!
Opening up the tool, the pliers on both are of very similar dimensions, although the PST's comes to a finer needle nose. The pliers on the 1200e are sprung (and I have to say I prefer sprung pliers). Unfortunately, the spring is visible, and there's a potential for loss. I tested the cutting capability of each on 12-gauge wire. The 1200E required 30 lbs of force. The PST required 18 lbs of force. The PST has a hard wire cutter. The 1200E does not. Handle ergonomics are very slightly better on the 1200E due to slight curve of the handle surface. The gauge of metal used for the frame of both tools seems to be the same. Flex in the handles under hard grip seems to be the same.
The tools inside on both are very similar. Both have drop-point blade, 3 sizes of flathead screwdriver, awl, can opener, and phillips. The 1200E includes a cap lifter cut into the largest flathead. Where the PST has a 3-sided file, the 1200E has a fish scaler with ruler stamped on one side and a file on the other.
I don't see the advantage to the 1200E having a cap lifter. It just weakens the large flathead (which is the tool most likely to be used for prying), and the can openers on both work fine as cap lifters. The ruler on the fish scaler is a partial redemption for its absence on the outside of the tool, but is only 2 ½ inches long. I don't think the scaler has undergone any special treatment for use as a file, so I doubt the file on the reverse side would be good for much more than filing wood and such, as opposed to the decent file on the PST.
While neither has locking tools, the PST drivers are designed so that the central line of force applied to them should push them toward the locking side, decreasing the likelihood of them folding in use. The 1200E's drivers are not so cleverly made, and are shaped such that the line of force will likely cause them to fold in use.
With my limited sharpening skills, I brought both blades up to paper-cutting sharpness with about the same amount of effort. Tool retention is about the same on each. In half the cases, the thickness of the metal used in a given tool is the same, but the blade, awl, fish scaler, and small flathead are thinner on the 1200E. I suspect this means a reduced sturdiness in the blade. However, strangely, the can opener on the 1200E works better than the one on the PST.
For light duty, I think the 1200E will mostly hold its ground with the PST. In tougher tasks, the improved design of the drivers (less likely to fold), better file, thicker blade (less likely to break under punishment), and large flathead driver (uncompromised by a cap lifter) for prying tasks will show the greatest distinction between the two. In short, I don't think the PST is so much more likely to succeed at easy tasks as it is to not fail at harder ones.
I think most every tool has a price-point where it's certainly worth it. I paid $5 for the 1200E and something like $15-20 for the PST (it was a swap, so exact figure is hard to come by), both used. I think both were worth what I paid, and I think, understanding its limitations, the 1200E might be worth something closer to $10.
Special shout-out to Captain Spaulding, who gave me a good deal on a used PST. The tool shows signs that it's actually worked for a living, but has stood up well, and is a piece I'm proud to own.