What to look for when choosing a multi tool for your boat – 2 essential tips

Leatherman Charge Multi-Tool TTiYou have your toolbox, and you love it or you just like to show it off, I get that.

Any avid boatsman will have a toolbox that can I visualize right now: wrenches, screwdrivers, fuses, scissors, lubricants and grease, nuts and bolts, spare bearing and hubs, electrical tape and duct tape, tyre pumps, d-shackles, a volt-meter…

Here’s a fun fact – no matter how much of a Sean-Connerish (yeah, I like making up words) feeling you have with your toolbox in your hands, especially with lady friends around, it soon gets old.

If you are a newbie boatsman, you will soon realize that going to your toolbox for every little job is an overkill, for two reasons:

  1. most of the jobs will be small things like tightening a bolt or cutting rope
  2. you’ll awake to the harsh fact of what a boat life and salt does to tools and that investing heavily into 10 different screwdrivers is not the best idea

What about this – a heavy-duty multi tool that can replace half of your toolbox?

And when I say replace I don’t mean literally, you can still have all your toys and gadgets in your toolbox for heavier tasks, but a multi tool on a boat is one of those things that, once you get, you won’t believe there was a time before it…

Let’s get down to business, let’s get some clarity on what to look for in a multi tool for your boat:

TIP 1: We are looking for stainless steel + titanium

Let me burst a bubble here – out on the sea, all your steel tools will corrode over time, but some will last for years maybe ever decades and still be usable as on their first day, and some will be in your trash within months.

Titanium sounds great, doesn’t it? And intuitively one would think that a tool made entirely of titanium would be a super tool. Not really the case – “by size” steel is stronger than most forms of titanium.

On the other hand, titanium will withstand the influence of the salt water with ease.

So, we are looking for 420 or 154CM stainless steel for any of our bits (pliers, screwdrivers..) that will be doing the work and titanium for handles and other bits.

What’s so special about 420-grade steel?

This grade of steel has minimum chromium content of 12% and highest hardness of 50HRC within that range.

I will not be getting into the nitty-gritty here about percentages and what is HRC and all that stuff, just believe me, it’s the best thing you can get for your multitool?

And if the blades are 154Cm, they will hold edge 3 times as long.

Why do we want titanium for the handles?

Gerber 22-41545 Black Diesel Multi-Plier with Sheath 1It will not corrode, salt or no salt, period.

Now, with some pieces you will see a stainless steel with titanium nitride oxide finish. Oh, it will look all nice and shiny, and you will be dazzled, but snap out of it and remember these lines:

“It’s not worth it”

The mechanical damage and the salt will soon wash away the thin finish, and you will be left with a regular steel (420 grade if you’re lucky) and a nice dent to your pocket since these tools will cost a lot more.

It’s makeup guys, don’t fall for it. We want full titanium in our tool.

Just rinse your tool with fresh water if you can every time it’s exposed to salt and spray anti-corroding agent and you’re golden.

TIP 2: We are looking for that sweet spot of versatility

Are you the kind of guy that will use the toothpick from his multi tool after a meal.

Again, my point here is – don’t fall for makeup, glitter and one of those zillion-in-one tools. You’ll never use most of them.

For your boat, you want an old-school set of tools. You want a solid set of blades, regular and serrated, sturdy pliers and a few types of screwdrivers. If you have a multi tool, you know what I am talking about – these are the pieces that you will do 90% of your work with.

Let’s take a step back here – as I said, a multi tool will not replace your toolbox and there are jobs where good old standalone tools are irreplaceable.

What we are looking for is a multi tool that features as many pieces as possible that are as close as possible in strength as standalone ones.

You might wan to read that last sentence again.

A good example here are the scissors – can you imagine doing serious work with the flimsy pair of scissors that most of these multi tools include. Hm, not really.

Getting specific

I know that if I just left you here with all these facts you will likely still be confused about what multi tool to go with for your boat. I don’t have a boat but a have a buddy who practically lives on one and my advice to him was to get a Leatherman Charge TTi and a Leatherman Raptor emergency medical tool.

Leatherman Raptor

Final thoughts

Let me leave you with a few thoughts that will hopefully stick:

  • a good multi tool is a great sidekick and will make your boating life much easier, but will not replace your toolbox
  • play your cards right, and you’ll get a great bang for your buck and a piece that will be with you for years
  • do not leave your multi tool next to your magnetic-steering-compass, the iron in it has significant magnetic signature and it might interfere

I hope I gave you some clarity about the paramount facts, but in the end it sill comes to your needs and taste.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how to get the balance between the two just right.

Stay safe!


Comments (2)
  1. warren

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