Leatherman is well-known for their sturdy US made multi-tools, and especially the Wave, or the "New Wave" which it was named in 2004 after several improvements such as larger blades, stronger pliers, all-locking blades & tools, etc. The regular New Wave is made of stainless steel, but they do also have a model with a black oxide finish, the same type of finish that are on rifle barrels, which prevents them from rusting. The Leatherman Wave is the best-selling Leatherman tool and it has 17 different tools in one. It is this multi-tool we bought and are going to review. So if you're looking for a good, sturdy multi-tool to use in survival situations, as an everyday carry or just simply as a handy little tool for work-related use, keep reading!
When we first received the package in mail, we were surprised at how heavy it was. First we thought there was more in the package than just the Leatherman Wave we ordered and its nylon molle sheath, but when we opened the package and held it in our hands, we quickly realized why the package was so heavy - The multi-tool itself is made of 100% steel, measures 4 inches closed and weighs 12 ounces. Now that's a little bit more than the Swiss army knives. And since the whole multi-tool is made of steel without any plastic parts, you can throw it in a campfire without damaging the multi-tool! Something else we discovered was that the black oxide finish on the tool DOES NOT come off on your hands as many other reviewers claims, it is oil from the production... We solved this by cleaning it with a napkin and some olive oil and we never expereinced this "problem" again. And why do Leatherman advertise this black oxide version of the Wave as "made of stainless steel"? The steel used to make the black oxide version is NOT stainless. Because the black oxide finish IS actually rust to protect the steel from further corrosion.
The nylon molle sheath is made in Taiwan and feels pretty decent. There are some extra space inside the pouch so you can fit, for example, a Swedish firesteel inside it in addition to the Wave itself.
Ok, now let's review each of the multitool's tools':
The main knife blade - The 3 inch long straight edge drop point knife blade comes very sharp from the factory. It's located on the outside of the construction so you don't need to open the whole tool to access the blade. You can open it with one hand and it locks securly into place when unfolded thanks to the locking mechanism all the tools on the Leatherman Wave have. It dulls quicker than many other knives, but on the other hand, it's really easy to resharpen. So that isn't a con at all. All in all, the straight edge knife blade is a very good blade and better than many of the blades on the Swiss army knives. It cuts wood very well and in a survival situation where whe had to do some bushcrafting, we would prefer this blade rather than the blade on, for example, the Victorinox SwissChamp.
The serrated knife blade - This is the knife blade that impressed us the most. It's extremely well designed and the serrated teeth cuts through material such as rope, paracord, rubber hoses, etc. as a hot knife through butter. And what's weird is that the blade seems to get sharper and sharper the more you cut with it. We have no idea why, but maybe it has something to do with the teeths' design? The serrated knife blade's tip is blunt, which means that you can use it to cut away a person's shirt or pants without piercing his skin. That is a big plus if you need to give someone first aid. Also this lock-blade is located on the outside of the construction and can be opened with one hand. The blade's length is the same as on the straight edge knife, which is 3 inches.
The saw - This is the only tool on the Leatherman Wave we don't like. It's teeth are sharp and cut through wood very well, but it bends easily and catches on the internals when closed, just as on this picture:
It's not a major problem because you can get the saw into place if you push it towards the outside of the construction when you close it, but we wish they had used a thicker saw blade more like the ones on the Swiss army knives. The saw blade does also measure 3 inches in length.
The wood/metal file/diamond-coated file - This is the last tool that is located on the outside of the Wave's construction, and also the file measures 3 inches in length, just as the blades and the saw. We've tried to file brass, copper, plastic and wood with the wood/metal file, and it works very well. But we've only tried to file our fingernails with the diamond-coated side of the file, and for that purpose it works excellent. The file also has a metal saw on its bottom end, which works well on brass and copper, but not on steel.
The needlenose/regular pliers - The pliers are actually pretty good. When we first ordered the Wave, we were concerned that the construction would bend when we used force and squeezed the pliers hard together, but we were wrong, the pliers can actually withstand some quite high forces. For instance, a 180-pound heavy guy at our office actually stood on one of the handles and the construction was not bent or damaged in any way! So the pliers are very tough. The pliers are also well-aligned and centered, and has two wire cutters - one for hard wires, and one for regular wires.
The can/bottle opener - The combined can & bottle opener works surprisingly well. We've never used a manual can opener before that works so well as the one on the Wave. You can open a can of beans in like 7-8 seconds. And the bottle opener? Well, it DOES open the bottles. The can/bottle opener also has a handy little wire stripper at the bottom.
The spring-action scissors - These small pair of scissors works surprisingly well, even if they are very small. They are well aligned with each other and we've tested them on paper, cord and to trim our mustache, and they work well. But you shouldn't cut any heavier material with them such as cardboard or paracord. They are not designed to do that. And the spring-action feature makes them easy to use with only one hand.
The large bit driver - The large bit driver is a great feature the Leatherman multi-tools' has. And since you can remove the bit from the socket/holder and replace it with another bit, you can use various types of Leatherman bits and use your Wave to tighten or loosen most types of screws. The magnetic bit holder is actually pretty sturdy and can withstand some momentum even if it looks kinda fragile. The large bit driver uses Leatherman's own bits, which are flatter than ordinary bits and it comes with one double-ended bit (phillips and flat), but you can of course expand your Wave's capabilities with bit kits and bit driver extension.
The small bit driver - If you wear eyeglasses, this tool will be very useful. It allows you to easily tighten the screws on your glasses. And because of that, it is worth it's weight in gold if you wear glasses.
The flat screwdriver - The flat screwdriver is great. It's a solid piece of steel (not a bit), and can be used for much more than to just tighten and loosen slotted screws. It can also be used to, for example, open paint buckets and to strike firesteels.
The Ruler - It also has a engraved 8 inch/19 cm ruler on the outside of the handles. But it is quite difficult to see it because of the black oxide finish. We would recommend you to take a thin nail or something and scrape away the black oxide finish in the engravings so it gets easier to see the ruler.
Now let's take a look at the pros and the cons:
- Made of 100% steel.
- The black oxide finish gives the steel protection from corrosion and the elements at the same time as it makes the multi-tool less reflective in the sun.
- Very sharp blades and easy to sharpen.
- All-locking blades & tools.
- The blades, the file and the saw are accessible from the outside of the Wave, which means that you don't need to open the multi-tool to access them.
- The pliers and the scissors are well-aligned.
- The construction won't bend if you squeeze the pliers hard together.
- It comes with a sheath/pouch.
- The saw blade is kinda thin and bends easily and catches on the internals when closed.
- Not made of "stainless steel" as advertised.
- The non-serrated knife dulls quickly.
- The black oxide finish seems to create a lot of friction in the beginning, so it needs a lot of lubrication the first weeks.
- If you want a pocket clip, you need to buy it separately.
All in all, the Leatherman Wave Black Oxide is a sturdy multi-tool that's best suited for the handyman, the construction worker, the electrician and for urban/suburban/dessert survival. If it would have had a better saw, we would also recommend it for wilderness survival. If you're looking for a pocket knife/multi-tool for wilderness survival, we would rather recommend the Victorinox WorkChamp.
If you're interested in buying the Leatherman Wave with the black oxide finish and the nylon molle sheath, they have a great deal at Amazon right now: Leatherman Wave Black Oxide Finish Multi Tool with Nylon MOLLE Sheath