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Leatherman Charge Ti, XTi and Wave

Click on photos for larger image.

Charge Ti, XTi and Wave At the 2004 SHOT Show Leatherman introduced an improved Wave and two versions of a new tool, the Charge Ti and XTi, based in large part on the Wave. We offered our initial impressions in our annual SHOT Show Review. These new tools started shipping in quantity in the third quarter of 2004. This review encompasses all three models as they are so closely related.

The two "Charge" models now lead the Leatherman line-up. The Charge Ti and Charge XTi (both $124 MSRP at time of publication) are nearly identical in most respects. The "Ti" part of their name signifying the new cast and machined titanium handles. The machined surfaces with their recessed areas serve to provide a bit better grip than the smooth stainless handles of the Wave, a feature we appreciated. On the down side, they do add some additional bulk to the tools compared to the Wave. The new Wave ($87 MSRP, $7 less than the original was selling for) is itself somewhat bulkier and heavier than the original, having gained 0.6 oz. (17 g) or about 8% more. On a positive note, that weight gain is a fair tradeoff for some significant improvements.

While the outer handles are titanium on the Charge, the innards remain stainless steel. Because of this, there's only a minor difference in weight between the Wave and the Charge, just 0.1 ounce (2.8 g). So, while we generically tend to consider titanium devices as being lighter weight compared to others, don't make the mistake of thinking of the titanium Charge as being significantly lighter than the Wave; it really isn't.

Original Wave flanked by New Wave and Charge
Original Wave flanked by New Wave and Charge
(All are 4 inches (10.16 cm) in length overall)
Weight of the Charge models is 8.4 and 8.3 ounces (238 and 235 g), Ti and XTi, respectively, the new Wave weighs in at 8.5 ounces (241 g). All are 4 inches (10.16 cm) in length closed. The Wave is 0.687 inch (17.4 mm) thick, a hair thinner than the current model; the Charge is 0.75 inch (19 mm) thick.

These tools retain the familiar Wave format with two blades, file and saw opening from the exterior, equipped with liner locks, and the other tools opening from the interior. The interior tools on both the revised Wave and the new Charge all lock in place, a welcome addition over the original. The lock release is similar to that originally introduced on the Crunch and then added to other models, an easily operated lever, though Leatherman calls it a "button lock."  Leatherman claims this lock is double the strength of the original.

The only real fault we could find with this one-hand operable lock, and a minor one at that, is that it is easy to partially depress the lock when squeezing the handles tightly. However, it is not so easily depressed enough to release the lock, so while a bit disconcerting, it doesn't appear to seriously compromise the locking feature. Still, users should be cognizant of this when using the tool.

Liner Lock - New (top) Old (bottom)The liner locks for the blades, file and saw remain essentially the same, though the area of the lock itself against which you press to release is a bit smaller. This didn't seem to adversely impact ease of use, though as before these tools are available as right-handed only for the one-hand opening blades.

One thing that was immediately noticeable was that the bearing area of the lock on the tool is approximately one-third less than before. This didn't seem to hurt lock-up, which was rock solid. According to Leatherman, although the contact area between a tool and a lock is reduced, the lock was tested to ensure that it still meets the same strength/failure specifications as the original Wave design. This is primarily a function of the different geometry. The lock has changed so that "the load is applied to it more axially." Also, the lock is beefier in that the height dimension has been increased. We experienced no lock failures in our testing.

A ruler is included on the handles, inch on one side, metric on the other. This is on the inner surface when closed. When open and resting on a surface with the pliers pointed up they are on top of the handles, not against the surface. When using the pliers, the inscribed ruler marks provide a very small measure of added grip to the handles against the palm.

RulerWe would prefer that it had the inch and metric scales opposed so that they could be more easily and accurately read with the tool on its side against the object being measured underneath it. As it is, the inch scale is upside down when used in this manner. Nitpicking, in any case, it's a lot better than the original wave which lacked any ruler.

Bronze bushings have been added to the blade pivots on all the external opening blades and tools to ensure smoother and more consistent opening forces. This should be especially helpful as the tool ages and lubrication may not be given all the attention it deserves. Like any folder, a little lube goes a long way toward maintaining smooth opening forces. Stainless steel spacers, all of 0.005 inch (0.1270 mm) thick, between the interior tools now allow them to rotate individually, no more "clumping." This had been a oft heard complaint about the original Wave, though we personally never found it to be such a bothersome issue. In any case, it's an issue no more.

Nail tabs for openingThe interior implements, with the exception of the bottle/can opener, all use a nail tab for opening, similar to the way Gerber has done. This makes opening much easier than previously, though you still better not be a nail-biter if you want to access these tools quickly. For those who are nail-challenged, a common house key tip will open them all.

These tools seem to have a good deal less "handle wobble" when closed than the original Wave. While this never appeared to us to adversely impact use of the tool, many found it very annoying or objectionable and often commented negatively about the Wave for this reason. It's not completely eliminated, there is still a very small amount of play, but it substantially reduced. Only time will tell if the tools retain this improved tightness over time and use. We saw no noticeable change in our months of use.

This improved tightness of the handles doesn't mean that you cannot still readily open the pliers one-handed. This can be done slowly or in much the same manner as a butterfly knife. Either spread the handles apart with your thumb until you can reverse them in your hand and use your thumb to complete the opening sequence or a strong flick opens them far enough to easily complete the opening by just squeezing the handles together. With only a little practice is is easy. For the more conservative user, you can also open the pliers one-handed by spreading them apart slightly and then leveraging them fully open against your leg or body. Closing them one-handed is a bit more difficult and you have to be careful not to pinch your hand in the process, or you can also do it against your body or leg very easily.

View Charge One-Hand Opening Video - Basic Style:      QuickTime icon  QuickTime        Windows Media Player Icon  Windows Media
View Charge One-Hand Opening Video - Flick Style:       QuickTime icon  QuickTime        Windows Media Player Icon  Windows Media

Leatherman continues to use TORX-PLUS® tamper-resistant fasteners to secure the blades and tools on the Wave and Charge. They remain opposed to allowing owners to easily adjust the pivot tension and we have received occasional reports of misadjusted tools which require return to the factory to be fixed or replaced under warranty. We remain opposed to this philosophy, preferring that they'd make it easy for users to adjust this on their own, but that's the way it is. You can, with some effort, expense and a little white lie gain access to the bit required to fit these screws. Of course, doing so voids the warranty. Word to the wise and all that. NOTE: In 2006 Leatherman changed over to standard Torx tamper resistant fasteners which are readily available and there is no impediment to purchase.

The Blades

(top to bottom) Charge, Wave, Original WaveWhile the blades on the new Wave remain 420HC stainless (adequate, but nothing to brag about), the plain edge blade on the Charge is 154CM, a premium high carbon stainless steel alloy which offers a huge improvement in edge holding over 420C. Leatherman claims a three-fold improvement and that wouldn't surprise us. In our tests on rope and cardboard it definitely held its edge better. The blade is laser etched with 154CM up by the opening hole, lest anyone miss that. The serrated blade remains 420HC on the Charge. While passably sharp out of the box, none of the plain edge blades were shaving sharp and all could stand a bit of attention to get the best out of them.

The blades are both more robust, wider and have a larger opening slot allowed by the wider blade. This causes them to protrude a bit more from the body of the tool, but that's a fair tradeoff for much easier and much safer one-hand opening. The added blade width and bigger opening hole reduce the chances you will slice your thumb when opening the blade, a drawback of the original blade design. It also makes it easier to open when wearing heavy gloves compared to the original Wave, another plus.

The opening slot on the Charge 154CM plain edge blade is larger than that of the Wave. This is because the rough Charge blade is laser cut while the Wave blade is fine blanked (stamped out of sheet). The laser cutting allows them to get closer to the edge of the blade.

Liner Lock Comparison - Original Wave flanked by New Wave and ChargeThe larger opening holes generally make it far easier than previously to open the blades while wearing gloves, which could be very difficult. We tested them with a variety of samples and were able to open the blades with all. However, on the Charge the relatively smaller cutout in the handle combined with the smaller hole on the serrated blade (compared to the plain edge blade) and combined with the thicker cast handles can make opening this blade with gloves on a bit more difficult than it is on the new Wave. The degree of added difficulty depends upon the gloves and how well they fit your thumb. With heavy gloves that didn't fit tightly, it was quite a bit more difficult. If this is a consideration, you may want to try it out before purchase.

The overall ease of opening the blades remains one of these tools' significant advantages. While other tools allow you to access the blades without opening the pliers, none have as good a one-hand opening design as these, and many lack this feature altogether. A raised dot on the face of the lock fits a recess in the blade to holds the blades closed. This is critical when carrying the tool in your pocket with the optional pocket clip; more on this later.

View Charge One-Hand Blade Opening Video:      QuickTime icon  QuickTime        Windows Media Player Icon  Windows Media

One minor drawback of the increased blade size is that sticking out further from the handles as they do, with the handles closed and using the inner tools such as the screwdrivers, these tools are somewhat more uncomfortable in the hand than the original Wave. This really only becomes noticeable when exerting considerable torque on a screw as you both grip and twist the handles with considerable force. In any case, it is a matter of degree and it never gets to the point of interfering with your ability to get the job done.

Like all tools that are equipped with blade(s) that open externally, these tools offer the very advantageous benefit of the the blades' working edge lining up with the "bottom" of the body/handle when open. This is a far better and more functional position than those tools where the edge lines up with the middle of the body which can make it very difficult to work with at times, the bulk of the body getting in the way when working close to a flat surface. The blades are also positioned so they are offset on the "inside" of the body/handle, the natural functional position for a right-handed person, again enhancing the utility and ease of use of the knife for most. One word of caution, common to all the multi-tools; with no finger guard care should be taken in use so that you don't injure yourself by your hand sliding forward off the handles onto the blade edge.

Blade Angle Comparison - New (top), Old (bottom)The blade edge is closer to the bottom of the handles than the original Wave, starting out virtually even with the bottom and then rising about 0.187 inch (4.7 mm) before the blade edge turns up. This aligns the handles up away from the blade slightly, which is an advantage. The blade being lower in relationship to the handle along with this angle up makes them much easier to use to cut close to the bottom of something. (see image to right for comparison on new (top) and old (bottom))

The serrated blade has a more angular "blunt" tip than the traditional curved sheepsfoot tip of the original Wave, but still reasonably safe. Perhaps not quite as comfortable sliding along some flesh, but it'll work.  On the XTi, a "cutting hook" has been incorporated into the spine of the serrated blade for use in cutting line or seat belts. It cuts seat belts and parachute cord just fine, though not quite a effortlessly as a razor-edge safety cutter. This hook stick out slightly above the handles, but does not protrude above the top of the lock lever, so you won't catch it on anything. The top of the serrated blade above the opening hole has some ridges to identify it by feel, no need to use a file to add your own as many of us have done to the original Wave.

Serrated Blade - Ti (top), XTi (bottom)Blade length on both is increased slightly to 2.94 inches (76.7 mm) with a 2.75 inches (69.9 mm) sharpened plain edge and 2.812 inches (71.4 mm) serrated edge. On the serrated blade the serrations stop 0.213 inches (5.4 mm) from the tip, with a plain edge from there to the tip. The plain edge blades are actually slightly different in profile between the Charge and Wave. With the false edge and somewhat imprecise and unsymmetrical grinds on our early production units it isn't very obvious. The Charge remains a straight clip point while Leatherman refers to the Wave's blade as a drop point. The top of the Wave's blade is just a wee bit convex. We had to use a straight edge to confirm this ourselves. Both have a long false edge on top.

The additional width of the blade or that wee bit of "drop" in the Wave's blade doesn't make much difference out at the tip which remains very narrow and relatively weak. Still, anyway you look at the new blades, especially the 154CM blade of the Charge, they are a huge improvement.

Also new, an interlock prevents the blades from opening when the handles are not closed. While we never had a problem in this regard with the original Wave, it's a pretty good idea from a safety standpoint.

Saw and File

Saw bladeThe saw and file remain essentially the same as on the original Wave. They are slightly wider, top to bottom, but the same length. Both are also slightly thinner, and thus a bit less rigid, though this didn't seem to make any real differences when using them. A "tab" at the end of these tools facilitate opening using a finger nail. The saw can be opened using a finger tip, but the file just doesn't offer enough purchase to accomplish that. While not designed for one-hand opening with your thumb, like the blades, both can be easily opened with one hand with a little manipulation of the tool (and care not to cut yourself on the saw blade).

The double row wood saw is 2.937 inches (77 mm) long with aggressive teeth for 2.5 inches (64 mm). The blade is thinner at the top than at the cutting edge, which makes it less likely to bind in the cut. This saw works just as well, if not better, as the best from Victorinox and Wenger (Swiss Army) and is very effective on both hard and soft wood with minimal clogging. This is another case where it is a definite advantage to having the cutting edge of the saw aligned with the bottom of the handles when working with it.

File (shows both sides)The diamond coated/crosscut/edge cut file is the same length as the saw with the same working length. The file tapers from 0.5 inch (12.7 mm) wide to 0.375 (9.5 mm) wide at the tip. There is no nail nick in the file area and the cutting surfaces all go to the very end of the file, unlike most others. That can be very handy at times. Both sides of the file are adequate for most appropriate jobs. Over the years, I have come to really appreciate the diamond file compared to a conventional single-cut metal file. It also does a beautiful job on fingernails, upon which it seems to be as often used as anything. The narrower thickness seems to make light metal cuts, such as on aluminum sheet, somewhat easier when using the "hacksaw" edge. However, nobody will ever mistake this for a real hacksaw blade. It also works surprising well cutting square edge notches in dry wood.


New Leatherman Pliers (top) Original Wave Pliers (bottom)These tools incorporate new and improved pliers jaws and wire cutter design (which is now shared throughout the Leatherman line).  The base of the jaws has been beefed up and the area around the pivot joint is now "elliptical," wider, and that pivot is also larger, reportedly resulting in an overall strength increase of 133%.  (see comparison in photo at right of new (top) and old (bottom) style pliers jaws) The attachment of the jaws to the handles has also been beefed up. The pivot is about 20% larger in diameter, adding to the increase in strength. All this was accomplished without noticeably changing the needle nose pliers' excellent geometry on the working end. The still fit into narrow and deep spaces and still have a true needle nose tip for fine work. We remain convinced that true needle nose pliers are better overall, providing the highest utility compared to more blunt plier designs.

The length of the wire cutters, including the hard wire cutter at the throat of the pliers, has been increased 58%, about 0.119 inch (3 mm). This was accomplished by shortening the forward gripping area of the pliers by an equal amount, but we didn't find that created any problem. The jaws are almost parallel to one another almost the full length of the forward portion, which we prefer.

The wire cutters work well and we cut all manner of soft and hard wire, nails and even screws using them with no damage. The longer soft wire cutter edge makes it a bit less annoying to get the wire located prior to cutting. Before, the short edge made that a pain at times. On the other hand, all but the finest wire cut just fine using the hard wire cutter at the base of the jaws. That's an improvement and the simplest way to use them.

Pliers: XTi with crimper (top), Ti (bottom)The XTi model features a crimper incorporated into the forward part of the jaws for crimping blasting caps and split shot. We didn't have any blasting caps to test it on. Unfortunately, it didn't work very well for a function we suspect is far more likely for most users, crimping solderless electrical wiring terminals.

We discovered that you can produce an acceptable crimp on these terminals by improvising using the backs of the serrated blade and the file. The ridges used to identify the serrated blade keep the terminal from slipping out when pressure is applied to the handles squeezing them together. This obviously has some limitations; care must be taken not to damage the wire or the terminal, but it worked reasonably well and will do in a pinch.

The crimper cuts down noticeably on the forward gripping area of the pliers and we'd just as soon do without them. Unless you're planning on shooting off explosives or doing a great deal of fishing, we'd recommend the crimperless pliers of the Wave or Ti.


Bit holder and Flattened Hex BitsThe new Charge and Wave incorporate bit holders instead of conventional screwdrivers (with a single exception). There are two sizes.  The small one holds a miniature double-ended .058" flat driver and a Phillips that Leatherman says is between #00 and #000 for the really small stuff like eyeglasses and electronics. The larger takes a multitude of double-ended hex bits, but not the common 1/4-inch hex bits used virtually universally by others.  These bits have unique 1/4-inch flattened hex bodies, so they are much slimmer.

Bit Comparison Standard 1/4  Hex bit and Leatherman Flattened-Hex Bit (Torx T30 bits shown)While they take up less room for storage, which is convenient, at least for now you'll have to buy different/extra bits from Leatherman, available currently only as part of a set of 11 double-ended bits. Being double-ended, you also get double the drivers per pit, another space savings. As far as offering additional bits in this unique configuration, all Leatherman would say is that they listen to their customers' suggestions and if there is demand, they would likely respond.

Grinding your own bitIf the bit you want is unavailable, or you're being cheap and don't want to buy the whole set, your only current alternative is to file or grind down a standard hex bit to fit the bit holder. I ground my own in order to get a T6 Torx bit to fit the small Torx screws on my RSK Mk1 folder. The smallest Leatherman provides, in the optional bit set, is a T10. WARNING! Grinding your own bits could be dangerous and could result in serious injury. Do so at your own risk and take proper precautions.

A bigger concern is that Leatherman has no mechanism in place to replace individual bits that are lost or damaged. That they would start delivering a design such as this with proprietary bits and then not have in place some means to easily purchase a replacement bit at reasonable cost is, in our opinion, extremely shortsighted and not very consumer friendly. Regardless of the merits, or not, of using these proprietary bits, this lapse represents a notable drawback to these tools. The best Leatherman could offer was that they were working on the issue.

The Gerber MultiPlier used to be the multi-tool that had us complaining about stubby drivers. Now Leatherman shares that dubious distinction. While the interchangeable bits add versatility, any screws recessed very far at all are going to be out of reach.

Leatherman claims the S2 tool steel used in the bits is 35% stronger than stainless. Their point is that they should resist twisting and breakage better than the old style fixed drivers. They are zinc phosphate coated for corrosion protection. Leatherman believes the zinc phosphate coating "is safely characterized as offering a 'high' degree of corrosion protection." We had little difficulty getting them to rust, especially so when scratched after use.

Charge Bit Set with Internal Bits - XTI (top) Ti (bottom)The bits are stored in a black polyurethane plastic carrier having slots for ten bits, plus one for the mini-driver bit, and this is designed to slip into an elastic pocket in the sheath behind the tool. All the bits are double ended, so you also gain there as well. The flat driver bits are double ground "gunsmith" style, not the single-ground Leatherman has always used, which is better. The larger Torx, hex and #2 and #3 Phillips bits are truncated on two sides due to the narrow width of the bits. These still performed adequately in our tests, though I expect their ultimate capability must be diminished somewhat. Unlike the Tool Adapter which accept normal 1/4 drive hex adapters, Leatherman doesn't yet make one of its "flattened-hex" adapters that will allow you to use a conventional 1/4-inch drive socket.

For those who prefer the flexibility of Leatherman's original accommodation for standard interchangeable 1/4-inch hex bits, their Tool Adapter, and don't mind another sheath on their belt, the existing Tol Adapter that fits the Wave ($28 including plastic case with belt clip and 6 bits) is also compatible with the both the new Wave and the Charge tools (a leather or nylon sheath for the tool adapter is extra ($2.50)). Unfortunately, the flattened double-ended hex bits are too long to fit in the Tool Adapter very securely. The retention ring just barely catches the bit and they wobble a fair amount. They will function in most cases, but it isn't pretty and in some cases the combination just wouldn't do the job.

Both the Wave and Charge Ti come with a double ended #1/#2 Phillips on one end, a la the current Leatherman combination Phillips bit, and a 3/16" flat on the other. The Charge XTi has two bit holders, one with a double-ended #1 and #2 Phillips and the other with 1/4" and 3/16" common flat blades.

The Wave and Charge Ti also include a single-ground fixed large flat screwdriver, as of old. We were very disappointed that Leatherman appears to have gone to a finishing process that eases the sharp edges of this driver. One thing we always liked about Leatherman tools has been that they left the edges square and sharp and this makes for a better screwdriver, less likely to slip in the slot if the fit is sloppy or shallow. While this new edge easing isn't as bad as the polished drivers of a typical Swiss Army Knife or the SwissTools, it's still an unwelcome step down in functionality in our opinion.

Mini-driver and bit holderAll three models include a bit holder for the miniature flat and phillips driver. Given we had to search out a reason to use and test these mini-drivers, none presented itself in our months of using the tools, we're not convinced that the space dedicated to this could not be put to more fruitful use and another way found to provide the utility of the miniature drivers, which we admit could be handy for some users.

The 1/4-inch flat-hex bits are retained by way of a flat spring on the bit holder that engages a notch in the bit. This is strong enough to prevent them from falling out, but it's fairly easy to pull the bit out of the bit holder. Like a magnetic bit holder, this means you may separate the bit from the holder if the bit gets stuck. Not a big deal, but something to be aware of lest you lose a bit.

The miniature flat-hex bit is held in place by the friction with the end of the bit engaging a ramp in the bit holder to retain it. Essentially, the bit itself is the spring against the ramp. On our Charge samples, initially we didn't push in hard enough to secure the bit, stopping when we felt what seemed to be the bottom, but once we figured it out it worked fine. In the case of our Wave sample, it wasn't very tightly secured to begin with and with only a few removals and inserts it stopped retaining the bit at all.

One set of 8 or 9 double-ended bits (respectively, including the mini and what's installed in the tool) is included with the Charge Ti and XTi, along with a holder for the extra bits (click for list) The are no extra bits included with the Wave. Leatherman offers a set of 21 double-ended bits in a pair of convenient holders (click for list) ($20) that come with their own nylon sheath. The extra bit set holders can be stored in the elastic pocket in the sheath, though two do make for a bulkier sheath. Unless you need access to all the bits, it probably makes more sense to select the ones you commonly use and just carry one set, saving both weight and bulk.

Bottle/Can Opener and Scissors

Bottle / Can OpenerLeatherman's usual bottle/can opener is included on all the tools. As before, it performs adequately in both roles. A "vee" style wire stripper is included at the base of the opener. It works, but we remain unimpressed. Better than no wire stripper, but don't even think about using it on tougher insulation, beyond simple automotive or household wiring.

The Wave and Charge Ti are equipped with fold-out scissors. The XTi eliminates the scissors, replacing it with that second bit holder. The scissors are a new design that unfold and store in a different manner than before, a bit complicated, but not so bad once you get the hang of it. However, you do have to be careful. There is some potential for minor bloodletting with this new design.

Opening scissors, potential for injuryPortions of the scissors' blade edges are exposed while opening and closing, essentially a single-ground knife blade, albeit is a fairly shallow grind angle so that it isn't likely to easily slice into your finger, but those with thin or easily cut skin may be at greater risk. That wouldn't be much of an issue at all if it didn't seem that for many users the natural impulse when opening them is to use their thumb on this edge to complete the opening. This doesn't present itself as a problem if you use the nail tab to fully open the scissors until they lock in place.

A much more significant problem with much higher potential for minor bloodletting is that when opening the scissors the handle must be rotated to the functional position from its storage alignment even with the blade edge and it's not so very difficult to nick yourself if you're not paying attention. Compared to all those sliced thumbs from the one-hand opening plain edge blade on the original Wave, this isn't much of a worry. Still, a word to the wise, be careful opening the scissors.

Closing the scissors can also present issues. You won't have any problems as long as you remember to rotate the handle to the stowage position before unlocking the tool. Fail to do that first and you either won't be able to close the scissors back into the tool's handle or you will find yourself applying pressure to the blade edge in order to rotate the handle around, with the same limited potential for injury as when opening.

Scissors comparison - New (top) Old (bottom)The new scissors blades are noticeably shorter than those in the original Wave, about 0.593 (19/32) inch (15.06 mm) vs. 0.781 (25/32) inch (19.84 mm), respectively; a 24% reduction. Their functional working length is only a couple millimeters longer than those of the Victorinox Classic and about the same length as those of the Wenger Esquire. Leatherman claims they cut better and retain sharpness longer compared to the Wave's original scissors. They may well retain their sharpness better, we didn't use them enough to tell and we've never felt a need to resharpen those on our original Wave, despite years of use. However, after using these scissors for months and testing them side by side with the original, we're not convinced they cut better.

The shorter blades mean, quite logically, that it takes more cuts to cut any particular length of material. Looking at the raw measurements of the difference in length, you wouldn't think it would make all that big a difference. But, it does. It is worse than that, though. The shorter stroke means that you have to be very careful cutting in order to not cut all the way to the end and then be forced to re-engage the cut again. That gets to be a real bother after a while. In other words, you're back to the same sort of awkwardness found in the small Swiss Army Knives' scissors, a definite step back from the previous design in our opinion. A single millimeter longer might be silly, a few millimeters longer really does make a big difference.

While they cut paper and poster board just fine, keeping the above issues in mind, they wimped out on corrugated cardboard pretty quickly where the original style kept on cutting. Moreover, cutting heavier material requires more pressure on your thumb because of reduced leverage, which can get uncomfortable.

One final minor gripe about the new scissors. The spring bar that opens the scissors blades can pop out from behind the blade under just the right circumstances. That isn't a major issue because the problem self-corrected on the next stroke, but it is annoying. While the original Wave scissors were a bit touchy about being kept well lubricated, as long as they were they always performed without a hitch for us in years of use.

So, just to review, you can click on each tool that follows for photos of the tool opened to show both the external and internal blades and implements:

Lanyard Rings and Pocket Clips

Built-in Lanyard RingThere's a lanyard ring with a decent-sized hole, 0.218 inch (, which is a big improvement over that of the original Wave, which was tiny. It stows more or less out of sight and most we showed or lent the tools to never noticed it. What makes it harder is that this ring cannot be deployed without use of some manner of small object to pry it out, which is a minor inconvenience. After first opening the the saw blade to gain access, a conventional house or car key will work, as will the bit removed for the tool's bit holder.

It doesn't lock in place and the sliding design could conceivably result in the lanyard being cut if it is collapsed in use, more so if it's a thin improvised lanyard as opposed to parachute cord or something similar. We can't see why it couldn't have been designed to lock in place, but... 

The Charge models also come with a pair of accessories (available separately ($5)), a removable pocket clip and a quick-release lanyard ring, quite a bit larger than the built-in one. These will also fit the Wave, but are not included with it.

Removeable Lanyard Ring and Pocket ClipBoth accessories slip into a space next to the bit holder and can/bottle opener on all the tools and both lock in place. One drawback we found is that the lanyard ring can fall out when you unlock and close one of the tools on that side. Leatherman says this "quick release" feature enables you to quickly release the tool from a lanyard and then reattach it, which is one way to think of it. We tend to think of using a wrist lanyard to avoid dropping the tool when retrieval would not be an option. With the built-in lanyard ring you have both options, just be sure to use the approrpiate one for the circumstances.

This isn't a problem with the pocket clip as it is retained by the clip pressing against the side of the tool handle. It works just as well on the Wave as the Charge.

This lanyard ring has a 0.421 inch (10.69 mm) hole, big enough to work with some smaller carabineers. The large hole makes it easy to tie off or loop a lanyard through it. The tools fit in the sheath with this lanyard ring installed with the ring extending through the hole in the bottom of the sheath. The tool does sit at a very slight angle in the sheath as the hole is centred and the ring is off-center. This is less noticeable with the leather than the nylon sheath. There's plenty of room to run an attached lanyard back up into the sheath.

Pocket Clip in useThe non-reversible stainless steel pocket clip works very well for right hand carry. The tools carry with the blade tip up and present the plain edge knife blade for natural one-handed opening. The detent seems adequate to keep the blades safely closed in the pocket; we didn't experience any openings in our pocket during our test period.

There's no question these tools are bulkier and much heavier than the typical pocket knife. There's really no way to tell if you will be comfortable carrying them using the pocket clip unless you try it. Personally, I prefer sheath carry, but then I also prefer having a dedicated pocket knife. Moving that knife over to my left pocket just didn't do it for me. And, leaving it at home left me feeling, if not naked, at least not fully dressed. For me, the blades on a multi-tool serve as back-up only, for survival purposes, or for use in those instances when you have a need to abuse a blade and don't want to risk damaging the blade of an expensive knife, or when you're inevitably asked, "can I borrow your knife?" For many, especially with that 154CM blade, the Charge may be all you require, making a conventional pocket knife redundant. At least a couple associates have gone that route.

There's a slot/pocket behind the Velcro on the body of the nylon sheath to hold the pocket clip if not attached, and while Leatherman says you can use this same slot to hold the lanyard ring, we're not inclined to find that very practical as implemented. It either gets lost down the slot and is difficult to get out or it falls out when you pull out the pocket clip. The leather sheath has no such accommodation.


Sheaths - Charge (left) Wave (right)Sheaths come in both ballistic nylon and leather, both with elastic side pieces. They include two elastic side pockets that can hold small items such as an single AAA-cell flashlight, small adjustable wrench (a nice accompaniment to the tool), etc. There's a little cloth tab at the top of each pocket to pull it open. We used one elastic pocket and that tab to help secure the quick-release lanyard ring, though I can't say it's an ideal solution. Those tabs present a bit of a problem on the leather sheath where they are higher up on the sides just enough to make it difficult to grab the top of the tool from the sides for removal. If one or both side pockets are filled, it can be a quite a bit harder to pull the tool from the sheath, though after some time the elastic gives a little and it becomes somewhat easier.

Without the bit kit installed behind the tool, it can be somewhat loose in the sheath. However, it wasn't bad enough to rattle or create any problems that we noticed, other than you best make sure the flap is closed if you don't want to inadvertently lose the tool when you lean over.

Sheath with open toolThe tools can be inserted into the sheath both closed as well as open with the needle nose pliers sticking out the bottom though the provided hole. This can be handy as a place to hold the tool temporarily while doing something else, but in our view this is just an injury waiting to happen if carried in this fashion.  The belt loop will allow both vertical and horizontal carry, with the usual belt size limitations of such arrangements.

The Charge sheaths have large oval metal logo plaques attached on the flap, which we think is a terrible idea. Two problems arise. One advantage of a well-designed full sheath is that it prevents the metal knife or tool from scratching stuff you scrape against, like your car, for example. These metal plaques with their relatively sharp edges seem to be just a scratch waiting to happen. We received our samples in summer, which around here means it gets rather hot. Imagine our surprise when we inadvertently laid our arm against the sheath and received a burn from the hot logo plaque! Not quite hot enough that day to cause serious injury, but it sure as heck hurt. That did it. We used a pair of heavy duty dykes to snip the rivets off that hold the plaque on—good riddance! By the way, it's not only Leatherman that does this, they are following in the footsteps of others. They just did it more egregiously.

Part of the problem is that this is exacerbated by the increased bulk of the sheathed tool. Between the extra thickness of the Charge and the added bulk of the bits in their carrier behind it, this creates quite a huge mass sticking out from your belt. With the double set of accessory bit holders, it just gets worse. Not as bulky as some tool combination sheaths we've seen, but still quite a bit more bulky than the old Wave by itself.

With the nylon sheath it's difficult to close the flap over an open tool in the sheath if you've filled the side pieces with gear, there's only so much give to that elastic. The leather sheath really does not lend itself to carrying the tool with the pliers open. It must be jammed in further in order to snap the flap closed and this both distorts the bottom and also makes it impossible to carry anything in the elastic side pockets. Okay for holding the tool temporarily while working, but not if you need to secure the flap.

The Wave sheaths come sans the metal plaque, which we prefer. The nylon sheath has a bright yellow Leatherman text logo embroidered into a fabric strip sewn across the flap and an annoying little fabric tag on the body of the sheath with the pictorial logo (that you could easily cut off). The Wave leather sheath has a simple snap closure with a simple domed button.

And, just to go on record about one of our pet peeves -- I don't mind too much being an unpaid walking advertising billboard for companies whose products I use, but I do mind it when it is overly bright and garish. A tip; a couple minutes work with a Sanford Laundry Marking Pen will turn it into stylish subdued tone on tone.

These elastic sheaths were first used by Leatherman with their Juice line of tools, we suspect that those smaller tools don't tend to get used in nearly the same adverse work environment as full-sized tools may. While our sheaths have stood up fairly well during our short test period, only time will tell how well the elastic, both in terms of wear and in retaining its elasticity, holds up under sun, water, mud and all the rest. We did notice that the elastic forming the pocket for the bit set was already wearing in one spot where the tool rubs on it. I expect that there's no way the elastic can be as tough as ballistic nylon or sturdy leather, the real question is just how less tough it will be.

They also don't offer the tool the same degree of protection that a conventional sheath does, being open at the bottom on both sides and center. On balance, we think they are a step up from the standard envelope style nylon sheaths that Leatherman uses for their other full-sized tools. Compared to the the traditional leather sheath, however, we're not so sure.

One final minor gripe. We wish Leatherman would have designatet the revised Wave as the Wave II or Wave 200 (as was done with the SuperTool 200 when it was introduced) or something similar to differentiate it from the original. Not doing this is sure to result in confusion down the road.


154CM Knive Blade Close-upThe new Wave and Charge tools offer some notable advantages over the original Wave. We especially like the better knife blades and even more so the 154CM blade of the Charge, a huge step forward. They make this a tool that could be the sole EDC (every day carry) knife and tool for many light duty urban users. Add the available pocket clip and it's even better in this regard. Just so there is no misunderstanding, however, in our opinion these blades still are no substitute for a robust folder for any serious field work or survival circumstances, nor will they suffice for a sophisticated knife user.

We have mixed feelings about the proprietary flattened-hex bit holders replacing the conventional screwdrivers. The flexibility this offers in a convenient package is a definite plus. The short length is a drawback. The proprietary nature of these bits is a drawback. The lack of any way to either purchase specific bits individually or to replace a bit is a serious and uncharacteristic screw up on the part of Leatherman. Hopefully, they will fix this issue soon. In addition, for Wave purchasers, you will have to purchase the optional bit set to gain any of this flexibility.

The new scissors design definitely wasn't well received here, with numerous problems noted. They are adequate, just, but we prefer the previous design. They're not so bad we'd avoid buying the tool because of them, but they were a disappointment.

We're not convinced that the titanium handles offer much value beyond a slightly better grip. They are bulkier and the weight savings is miniscule.

While these new tools are not perfect, overall the many improvements in the design and robustness of these tools make them a definitely worthwhile upgrade compared to the original Wave.

Which model to get, Wave or Charge, really boils down to your personal needs. For many, the Wave will suffice quite adequately at much lower cost, and we prefer its sheath. If the advantages of the better knife steel appeal to you, the Charge is your tool. As to Ti vs. XTi, my personal choice is the Ti simply because I prefer the availability of the scissors in my multi-tool.

Click here to read the Equipped To Survive Review of the original Leatherman Wave.

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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
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First Published: January 9, 2005
Revision: 01 July 17, 2006
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