Saturday, 5 May 2012

Leatherman Charge TTi Review

Key Info
  • S30V blade – great edge-retention and corrosion resistance.
  • 19 tools in 1 – see review for full list.
  • Titanium handles.
  • Bit driver – takes Leatherman screwdriver bits – bit kit available separately.
  • Removable pocket clip/lanyard ring.
  • One-hand opening exterior blades.
  • All locking tools.


Leathermans are made in America, and were designed by a man who felt his Swiss Army Knife just wasn't strong enough to cope with many tasks he needed it for (although it is worth noting that the Swisstool – also reviewed here – is more like a Leatherman, and is also a fantastic multitool). The Charge TTi is, in my opinion, one of the best Leathermans. It is very similar to the iconic Leatherman Wave, but has several improved features. The Charge has a one-hand opening, S30V blade, about 2.5mm thick and 3 inches long, which is better than most multitool blades – S30V is just about the best blade steel you can get. The “TTi” is the successor to the “Ti”, which was almost the same, except had no cutting hook or crimpers, and had a 154CM stainless steel blade. It's worth noting that Leathermans also have a 25 year warranty. 

The Charge TTi has 19 tools, which all lock securely open. The exterior tools have liner lock, with a nice thick liner – not a flimsy one like you so often see these days, and the interior tools have a lock that is deactivated by pressing a hinged button on the outside of the handle. I find that the Charge has all the most useful tools, and I've always got the right tool when I need it. Having said this, the charge does lack an awl from new, but to overcome this, I made one out of a piece of hardened steel from a broken screwdriver, which then fitted into the bit driver on the Charge. Someone else online has also done this, and there's a good guide on how to do so if you look around. 

The tools are very strong and precisely made. There is very little to no play/wobble in any of them on my model, although it has to be said that on a newer model I recently saw, there was a surprising amount of play in the outside tools. The blade is S30V stainless steel, which has exceptional corrosion resistance, even in salt water, and excellent hardness of 60-63 HRC. S30V is also very springy, not brittle, so won't snap easily, like some very hard steels. Also, the blade and the serrated blade have a thumb hole, so can be easily opened with one hand.

The Charge has 2 bit drivers:
  • One small one, for a tiny glasses-screwdriver type bit, which allows for extremely easy replacement, should this very thin tool ever be broken.
  • One large one, which accepts all the bits in the Leatherman Bit Kit (available separately), but will not accept standard 1/4" screwdriver bits. 
The bit drivers are very useful indeed, especially while cycling, as, when combined with the Bit Kit (which is a must, really), you have all the Allen keys, screwdrivers etc you're likely to need. This is a great advantage over other multitools, as most will just have a couple of standard screwdrivers. Also, the bit driver allows for easy replacement of screwdriver bits, should they be broken.

However, the bit driver design does have some potential disadvantages, but, luckily, Leatherman have realised this, and put on a standard flathead screwdriver tool, which can be used for everything that the bit driver can't, like prying the lid off paint tins etc.

Other notable tools on the Charge include the strong pliers, which can be used for everything from undoing a bolt to, at a push, removing a splinter, as well as the the cutting hook on the back of the serrated blade, which can be used to free yourself from your seatbelt in a crash, the scissors – also strong enough to cut seatbelts, the excellent saw, which rips its way through wood like butter, and the diamond-coated file, which is by far the best file on any multitool at this time, and is perfect for sharpening axes or knives (or as a nail file!). 

The handle on the Charge is very comfortable. It is constructed entirely from Titanium and is pretty thick and very strong. It is also light, and a steel handle of equivalent thickness would significantly increase weight. The handle also has a nice feature, whereby a pocket clip or lanyard ring can be attached to it by engaging it in a special slot under the interior tools' lock, allowing for very easy removal/attachment. There is also a fixed lanyard ring, which is something of a secret and very well hidden, but is in the bottom end of one of the handles, tucked inside, and can be slid out with a small screwdriver or other implement. One other handy hidden feature is that when you open up the handle to reveal the pliers and interior tools, a small pin slides into the thumb hole on the exterior blades, preventing them from accidentally opening and cutting you.  

The quality of the Charge, at least in my experience, is very good. Every part is built to last, out of great materials, to a high degree of precision and all the tools perform their intended function very well. 

Having said this though, I have seen a few newer Leatherman tools lately, and the quality does seem to be slipping somewhat. My Charge is excellent, but one I saw recently was certainly inferior, with a large degree of blade-play on the exterior tools. Now, this may just be a one-off, but I have read similar stories online, so it does appear that as Leatherman grows as a company, quality may suffering. 

Another negative point I must mention is regarding the 25-year warranty. I have heard fantastic stories of this from the USA, with Leatherman operating a no-questions-asked policy, and I'm sure it's brilliant over there, however, in the UK, my experience of Leatherman's warranty service, which is handled by a third party over here, has been very poor, with substandard repairs being made to one of my tools that had a defect. 

Despite the negative points above, the Charge TTi remains one of the best multitools available. The Swisstool and SOG Powerlock are also great quality contenders, but from a usability perspective, the Charge definitely has the top spot. 

You can buy the Charge from

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