So you are interested in a keychain multi-tool, but unsure of what is out there, or even where to start? I have gathered a good collection of small keychain multi-tools for this little incomplete and by no means conclusive mini guide to keychain multi-tools, that focuses on plier and scissor based models.
Keychain multi-tools encompass quite a few different sub categories. The main defining features however, is that they all are attached to a keychain, and thus are very small.
Keychain Multi-tool categories:
1. One piece tools.
2. Scissor based tools.
3. Plier based tools.
4. Miscellaneous tools like the Leatherman E4, and other odd tools that do not fit into the previous 3 categories.
Since I do not collect one piece tools, I can’t really say much about them other then they are usually a piece of metal shaped in such a fashion to make it multi-useful. Lots of large and small companies make these types of tools. Some examples are Atwood, Raker, Gerber, etc. These types of tools are very compact but limited by their design. I won’t dwell on these any further.
The second and third category of keychain tools are based around scissors and pliers. I guess I do not have to make the distinction, but it is useful nonetheless as it defines the primary function of the multi-tool in question. Leatherman and Gerber are the two large companies that come to mind when I think of these two categories. I am going to focus on these for this little article.
Here is a photo showing the various keychain tools I will be discussing in this mini guide. (Note I have included a Leatherman Style for size comparison only).
Just how thick are these tools anyways?
Let us start off with Leatherman’s offerings. Leatherman Squirt PS4
This is Leatherman’s newest offerings. There is a sister tool called the ES4 (Electrician) out there, but I do not have an example to add to this mini guide. Likewise, I have decided not to include the older E4 due to the focus of this article. The Squirt PS4 has a few improvements over the older Squirt models, namely the scissors, and the textured handle surfaces that give a nice positive grip to the tool…which is always appreciated. Leatherman Squirt S4
This is Leatherman’s scissor based Squirt model that has now just been discontinued. It comes with a nice removable tweezers, a neat and useful touch. A very nice and quality piece.Leatherman Squirt P4
The P stands for Pliers, and this model replaces the tweezers with a mini awl. Discontinued recently.Leatherman Micra
Leatherman’s most popular tool. Probably its longest production tool and definitely the most copied tool out there. I have a drawer full of cheap knockoffs based around the Micra. Leatherman Style CS
Another new for 2010 tool. It is a mini Skeletool that features scissors, a removable tweezers, and a knife blade. Very high on the cute factor, well built and quality thoughout.
Next up are Gerber models that fit into this category.Gerber \ Eclipse
Here is an old scissors based tool that is now discontinued. The handles feature a ball bearing with a matching detent on the opposite handles…so the feel of this tool when you open it up is quite charming. This is a relatively old style multi-tool, and I have a few knockoffs sitting in a drawer that lack the quality that this one has…not to mention, they are plier based.Gerber Solstice
The Solstice is a newer take on the Eclipse, an odd take on it to be honest. The Solstice features a bottle opener and a can opener. These pivot from the handles, just making this tool a bit complex to open and close. Solid flathead and Phillips are offered though, and the tool does not lack in character.Gerber Clutch
Here is the plier based companion to the shortcut which sports scissors. I believe this is a discontinued tool as there is a newer pair of keychain tools from Gerber. Still very common. The Clutch and Shortcut are a bit thick for my liking, but they trade that for solid construction. Very useful assortment of tools makes this a nice keychain addition so long as you don’t mind the extra bulk and weight.Gerber ShortcutGerber Vise
The Gerber Vise and Splice replaced the Clutch and Shortcut models. They are smaller and lighter than the older pair. This makes them a better keychain tool where weight and size are important considerations. Also, a redesigned bottle opener is an improvement.Gerber Splice
Swiss+Tech, purveyors of lots of keychain Multi-tools.Swiss+Tech Micro-Plus EX 9 in 1
The big heady duty keychain multi-tool of the Swiss+Tech line. A little too heavy and large to fit nicely on a keychain. However, if you’re looking for something robust and heavy duty, you can’t go far wrong with this still relatively small tool. Super comfortable handles.Swiss+Tech Micro-Max 19 in 1
This relatively large Swiss+Tech multi-tool packs quite a few features for its form factor. With added features comes width. I found this tool to be a bit awkward to use the pliers, as the handles are quite beefy due to the added tools. Also getting a bit heavy, but it is solid, just like all Swiss+Tech tools in this category.Swiss+Tech Micro-Plus 8 in 1
Next up is the smaller Micro+Plus. The handles on all Swiss+Tech multi-tools pivot around.Swiss+Tech Micro-Tech 6 in 1
The simplest model of this series.Swiss+Tech Micro-Pro 9 in 1
The Micro-Pro and the Micro Pro XL differ only in the LED light/keychain these tools are designed to dock with. Likewise, both offer the same 11 in 1 or 9 in 1 multi-tool. The Micro-Pro Led light is larger than that of the Micro-Pro XL. It also features an on/off slider switch. The smaller Micro-Pro XL only has a pressure sensitive switch.Swiss+Tech Micro-Pro XL 11 in 1
Did I forget to mention that the included LED/MT docking station with attached key ring features a nice bright and useable light? Both the Micro-Pro and Micro-Pro XL’s multi-tool clamp around a docking bar on the LED light and piggy backs on it. Rather ingenious. Other Swiss+Tech multi-tools tend to hold onto a key ring by locking the jaws around it, or by having a special hole below the jaws for the purpose. Either way offers quick disconnect.
Now finished with Swiss+Tech gear, let us take a look at another tool that is very similar to Swiss+Tech, and that is the Serber Tools, or more recently, IDL Tools (New owners I think).IDL T5 Industrial Multi-tool
I am going to have to get my paws on a T7 and T10 version of this nice tool. The T5 is one of the smallest, thinnest keychain multi-tools of its type out there. The concept is similar to what Swiss+Tech produces (was Serber the first or Swiss+Tech?), but differs in how the handles deploy. The T family’s handles pull outwards as opposed to around an axis like the Swiss+Tech gear.
Now time to go into a few other keychain tools that I have examples of. The next oneis a bit rare, and it is long discontinued. However, I include it here as you may still find them out there, and they are a neat addition to any keychain. Buck Minibuck 350
The MiniBuck 350 is an oddity in several ways. The pliers are super thin, allowing you to get into small places like no other keychain tool can. Likewise, the Buck way of opening and closing the tool is novel even to this day. There are some drawbacks though. The handles can be uneven when opened, and that cool thin mini plier may not be much good for anything that requires more than a delicate touch.
Last but not least is the Bear & Son Mini Bear Jaws.Bear & Son Mini Bear Jaws
Bear & Son multi-tools are a bit hard to get. Once you find them though, you will find them to be of high quality and built of heavy gauge stainless steel polished to perfection. The Mini Bear Jaws is no different. Oddly enough, it resembles the Minibuck 350 in many ways, as being a perfect miniature of a larger tool.
Well that concludes this short and incomplete guide to keychain plier and scissor based multi-tools. Hope you will find this helpful.