Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Leatherman Style CS, stylish minimalism for your keyring
I feel like the Leatherman Tool Group deserves continued success. Their basic multi-tool concept is likely one of the most copied, faked and counterfeited objects in modern history. Tim Leatherman, the man, is still involved with the company that bears his name, and from both customer and dealer standpoints (having experienced both @ various times) I've never had a single problem with the company. Their stuff is still USA Made, which is refreshing, and fans of their products hail from all walks of life across the globe. There's a Leatherman model for everybody. I personally own four, in addition to my multi-tools made by other manufacturers. A couple of weeks ago I picked up Leatherman number five in my collection. The Leatherman Style CS keychain multi-tool is one of LM's newer products to appear, along with its sisters, the Style series, which boast colored handles, light weight and simple function. The pared down, simplified Style tools seem to be aimed at women in particular, along with anybody who might not normally carry a knife or multi-tool. Judging from Leatherman's site and advertising copy, if the style is geared toward more of a female demographic, then the Style CS is likely to be aimed squarely at those of us who have more experience with knives & tools, collectors, adventurers and professionals (& bloggers!) alike will be drawn to the good looks of the Style CS, and its lightness of weight. It's basically a micro-sized Leatherman Skeletool which also shares some visual DNA with LM's outstanding Freestyle tool.
---This photo is used by retailers of Leatherman's simplified, colored handle Style tools. The product's tagline is "CUTE AND CLEVER ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE", again seemingly marketed toward women, but they do make it in 4 colors including blue & black, and of course there's nothing inherently feminine about the design:---
So, as I was saying, first impressions lead me to believe that LMTG (Leatherman Tool Group) probably assumes that the slightly more hi-tech Style CS is going to appeal to (primarily) men, especially those of us who collect or use knives & tools regularly, just a guess. I fell for it!
Enough waxing thoughtful on intended demographics, I've gotta say, I'm really very happy with the little tool. Those looking for a full featured do-it-all daily carry tool would do better to check out some larger Leatherman models, or Victorinox Swiss Army's outstanding SwissTool series. Even for We Who Have One of Everything though, this tool is still a cool addition to the collection.
---The Style CS with my Fisher Military Space Pen for size reference; the Fisher is just a tad smaller than a generic, everyday ball point pen:---
A quick look @ the basics, straight from the horse's mouth...er, I mean website:
*Tweezers (removable I should mention, unlike the awkward permanently attached tweezers on its predecessor the Micra)
*25-Year Warranty (duh, as good as lifetime in my book)
*Stainless Steel Body (bead blasted gray for looks)
*Glass-filled Nylon Handle Scale (think Zytel, we've gone over this)
*Outside-accessible Tools (yay!)
*Key Ring Attachment
1.6 in | 4.06 cm (blade length)
1.45 oz | 41.1 g
2.98 in | 7.58 cm (closed)
The added fiberglass plastic (OK, 'glass filled nylon) insert on the handle likely cuts weight a bit, instead of using more steel. I think all the little circular cutouts are aesthetically driven, but I'm sure that added up, they too cut a tiny bit of weight from the whole package. I love the fact that the tweezers, like those on Swiss Army knives, can be taken out for fine work. I love the old Micra tool, but those irritating tweezers are joined permanently to the tool. It was clever, but an outdated and awkward solution to the tweezer issue. I'm hoping Leatherman offers tweezer replacements, because although they click into the tool VERY solidly, I'm sure to lose the tweezer at some point.
It's one of my favorite features though, and shows that, as a group of people, engineers etc, Leatherman continues to evolve. Other than the tweezers, we've got a little blade, sufficiently sharp, right out of the package, made of 420 high carbon stainless, a relatively inexpensive and field proven knife steel. It too features the tiny-hole motif, and does its job admirably. Aside from the main-body scissor tool, there's also a screwdriver/file blade which works ok on flat and decently on some Phillips screws. I can't fault Leatherman for their flat "use for Phillips" labeled screwdrivers, we can't ask too much AND convenience, and if you really need a Phillips screwdriver that badly, you'll make it work, or magically pull a Phillips out of thin air (or your ass, or your car's trunk etc).
I told you this tool was sort of a minimalist! The last tool functions are a handy spring-gated carabiner which doubles as a decent bottle opener. If you need a dedicated bottle opener that could stop a fight based on looks alone, check out my review of the Meyerco Besh Wedge® Bottle Rocket, a Dirk Pinkerton/Brent Beshara bottle opener with a wicked knife lean. The Style CS's opener works decently to pry open a cold one, it's a nice feature, but hardly one that's going to make-or-break the tool's sales. But hey, as I mentioned in the Besh Bottle Rocket post, I personally only need a bottle opener when there's not one to be found for an inconvenient radius of several hundred feet, so it may come in handy yet!
I'll say it again, I'm not a cop or soldier or spy or ninja, so I evaluate knives and tools according to my personal blasé-blah daily sort of needs. That being said, I know a fair little bit about fighting, and a bit about knives as well (LOL), and there's no way I could possibly recommend the Style CS as a personal defense item (yes, I'm still chuckling at the unnecessary-ness of this paragraph). I mean, if it were a true, life or death emergency, you might be able to eke a few bloodletting strikes at your attacker from it, but this is a KEYCHAIN multi-tool and a very small one at that, the blade is miniscule and does not lock. Put the thought out of your paranoid head.
That's out of the way, as far as utility goes, the Style CS is like that littlest kid on the block that can kick the butts of the older kids out of sheer determination alone. The CS has the basics. I did open a beer or two with it, opened a couple of UPS boxes, used it to re-purpose a box to mail a knife to a friend, and of course, it's not a review unless I used said item to break down weekly recycling! I know, I'm boring, but I'm not gonna lie, my day to day life is just as boring as most peoples'. Maybe that's why we love things like knives, there's a mysterious fantasy aspect, even in the most practical, real world knife, we still sometimes see what it could be used for, not just what WE use it for.
If I gave "star" type ratings for gear I review based upon my personal uses for such things, I'd give the Style CS "4 green recycle dumpsters up", it works good around the "wheelie bin", as my UK friends might say. Cut tape, cut apart over-sized cardboard etc, for these types of chores, the Style CS is just as useful as an EDC folding knife, but it has the added benefits of being people-friendly (compared to your big black Emerson folder), and it offers you a very sharp little scissor as well that I've found handy for modifying packs and pouches, as well as in craft sort of applications. The dual function carabiner/bottle opener keeps it on a pack or belt loop and enables you quick access to a frosty beer after work or whatever.
I think one of the biggest things the Style CS has going for it, is the simple fact of its pedigree, it's the result of years and years of engineering, customer feedback and product development by the company that quite literally invented the modern multi tool. I like the light weight, I like the carabiner. Just a personal aside, I'd find the Style CS a bit more functional if it sported a small plier instead of the scissor, hopefully (and knowing Leatherman) we probably will see something similar from LM, with a plier option in 2011. I'm talking based on the Style CS platform in a similar price range, (the Squirt PS4 is considered a keychain tool, but has a significantly higher pricetag). If it doesn't happen, I'll eat my words then.
Leatherman's MSRP appears to be, oddly, just over $27 American dollars, and I paid close to that at a local Target store, though it appears, as usual you can get it cheaper online, at about $18.00 USD (before shipping) on better knife retail sites. I don't regret paying near full price, so far I've gotten a ton of use from it, subbing it for my daily folder whenever convenient, and I've gotta say, I find myself using and carrying it far more often than my recently purchased Leatherman Freestyle, which is a great tool in itself.
Leatherman.com is a nicely structured site which showcases the products and actually offers some helpful tips (like putting together a survival kit etc) all in an easy to navigate format. I don't know why I'm feeling so much Leatherman love right now, it's probably just that both the organization and their products have never done me wrong, and they continue to innovate in the category which they created almost 30 years ago.
I believe you can buy stuff through dealers on Leatherman's site, and of course good old standby web retailers like Knifecenter probably have it in stock as well. As I alluded, it looks as if Target stores (at least here in the Pac NW) are starting to carry the Style CS in place of the classic Micra, which I found on sale there for a minuscule $13.95 a few weeks back. The Style CS is a very good next step in the evolution of Micra-sized Leatherman tools, and I'll probably end up getting at least one more for gift giving season @ the end of the year.