11 Awesome Leatherman Tips, Tricks and Hacks

1. Add a pocket clip to any multi tool

I carry a multi tool nearly all of the time, but like most people I don’t need a heavy-duty Surge with me everyday. Belt sheaths are bulky and I prefer a good pocket clip. Around the house I’ll carry my Charge+ and around town I’ll usually switch to my Skeletool CX, although my FREE P2 has been getting more pocket time. Pocket clips are my preferred carry method and I used to avoid multi tools that didn’t have a pocket clip option.

Then a friend told me about the ClipDraw Universal Low Profile Pocket Clip (available on Amazon) that he uses with his concealed carry. The ClipDraw is designed for handguns and works great on multitools. It seemed strange to trust an adhesive strip but this is not just double sided tape. ClipDraw uses 3M VHB aircraft adhesive to attach the clip and this stuff is no joke with over 30 lbs of holding strength.

VHB adhesive is used in wings of airplanes instead of screws and rivets because it weighs less and holds better. You can put it over different finishes and even serrations or engraving and it provides a permanent hold unless you wish to remove it. The adhesive is impervious to chemicals, oils and sweat.

The best part of the ClipDraw system is you can to get exactly the angle and pocket depth that you want and aligned for left or right pocket carry. The clip only needs an area 3 in long by 1/4 in wide and it comes with six adhesive strips so you can make any adjustments needed.

The adhesive holds strong but it also removes cleanly and easily when needed. To remove simply use a flat blade to ‘break the bond’ between the clip and the multi tool. It will peel off easily and the nice thing is there is zero cleanup. No gunk, junk or residue at all left behind.

Except for the largest heavy-duty tools, using a pocket clip is the easiest and most comfortable way to carry full-size multi tools. Now you can add one to any multi tool and setup so it is comfortable for you.

2. Straighten out your multi tool to get a better, more comfortable handle when using screwdrivers

Gerber made a big deal about their Center-Drive multi tool when in launched in 2016 because it puts the driver tip at the center of rotation. With most multi tools the screwdriver sticks out the end of one handle and if you keep the handles folded you have a big, clunky piece of metal that wants to flop around and pull the driver out of the screw head.

The Center-Drive is a great multi tool overall and one we recommend if driver bits are the primary function used on your multi tool. For everyone else, you can have a better experience by simply opening the multi tool to extend the handles in a line. This creates a more natural screwdriver handle that is easy to rotate and also gets the other handle out of the way so it doesn’t make contact with objects around the screwhead.

3. Learn how to use the fine/coarse file correctly and remove material with the file on the PUSH stroke

Many people think of a grooved file like a piece of sandpaper and simply rub the file back and forth to smooth a surface. You probably noticed that it had more friction in one direction than the other – because the teeth are not symmetrical.

Grooved files are made to cut on the push stroke and applying pressure on a pull stroke will clog the file and round the top of the teeth over time. Disher has an excellent article on hand filing to learn more.

The files on multi tools are usually small, but proper technique is still important – you will have a better experience and get better results.

  • Secure the material you are working on so it doesn’t move – a vise is the best but you can also work in your lap or holding it with your off hand if necessary.
  • Most multi tool files are too short for two hand use, but you still want to support the file from the back. The technique I use the most is to use my index finger on the back of the file and use my other three fingers to grip the multi tool. This also gives good control and has a natural feel to it.
  • Start with the end of the file on the work and do a test push with light pressure. If the file catches on the material and wants to jump, reduce pressure until you can make a smooth pass. You may need to switch to the fine file side (single cut grooves) initially until you can make a smooth pass and then switch back if you still need to remove material.
  • After the push stroke, lift the file up and reset – don’t apply pressure and don’t drag the file back across the work.
  • Leatherman makes great files and most of them also have grooved edges that can cut metal. The temptation is to use them like a saw with a back and forth motion – don’t do it! When cutting metal apply pressure on the push stroke and lift for the return stroke.

Diamond coated files like on the Surge, Wave+ and Charge+ use the embedded diamond edges to cut and work in any direction. The nail files on the Style PS/CS and Micra are just abrasive coatings and can also be used omni-directional.

4. Save your main blade, use the serrated blade to cut cardboard and packaging

Most people think that cardboard and packaging straps are easy to cut and just use whatever is handy to open their latest package delivery. In reality, cardboard especially has a lot of abrasives that will quickly dull a knife. Silicates and clay additives used in cardboard manufacturing are very hard particles that make cardboard more durable and give it its rough surface. Cutting tape will leave adhesive stuck to the blade so it doesn’t slide as well.

Not every multi tool has a serrated blade, but if yours does be sure to use it when opening cardboard and plastic packaging. In the modern era of shopping on demand, using your multi tool to open the latest cardboard package delivery is one of the most common jobs. Serrated blades are designed to bite into the fibers and cut, rather than sliding across them like a straight blade.

Save your main blade and use the serrated blade, that’s why Leatherman included it, or better yet use a snap off utility knife for cardboard duty.

5. Get the Leatherman Bit Kit and Bit Driver Extender

Many accessories are upsells that don’t live up to the hype, but trust us, the bit kit and bit driver extender open a whole new world for compatible Leatherman multi tools. The bit kit by itself gets you a wide selection of Phillips and flat screwdrivers, as well as square drive, Torx, Pozi, and hex bits. Select the bits you use most and combine them into one holder that you carry with your multi tool in the sheath.

Bit Kit (eyeglass screwdriver only compatible with Wave+ and Charge+)
Bit Driver Extender (3.25 in)

With the bit kit you can match just about any common screwhead, but the bit driver extender gives you an additional 3.25 inches of reach needed to turn your Leatherman into an actual bit driver. The extension is also compatible with all standard 1/4 in hex bits so you can use it with the rest of your toolbox. We have a little set that includes a hex to 1/4 in adapter with sockets that we use around the house.

6. Turn any Leatherman into locking pliers

You can use this trick to have the pliers hold something firmly while you have both hands free for other tasks. We always seem to need to hold something in place while tightening a bolt and our multi tool has saved the day many times. Of course if you carry the Crunch you already have locking pliers but this tip works for all the other multi tools out there.

  • First, extend the tools without sharp edges from the handles to get some extra length – the can opener hook works great as long as you avoid the blade section. Screwdrivers and files are also good options.
  • Second, use a length of cord to form a loop that goes around both handles. Don’t make it too big with a lot of slack but it doesn’t need to be taut either.
  • Third, put a short stick through the loop between the handles and twist to take up the slack and tighten.
  • Once you have the right tension, push one end of the stick to the side so it catches on the handle and doesn’t unwind. With the cord holding tension the pliers keep their grip.

This works great when you need a third hand but there is no one around to help. With a strong cord you can also use this technique to multiply your grip strength and apply more force when squeezing or cutting items. This method also works great to prevent fatigue and the multi tool handles don’t dig into your hand for repetitive tasks.

7. Left handed users – learn to open the knife blade with your left hand.

Multi tool manufacturers have decided that left handed users are not a big enough market to warrant their own models. Making the mirror image design is not as simple and just flipping everything during manufacturing, the blade locks and other design elements would require new tooling.

Lefties are used to adapting to a world made for the 90% of us that are right handed so in this article we identified the best multi tools for left handed users. One of the best tips we have is how to open the knife blade for the latest one-hand opening multi tool designs.

8. Custom modify your multi tool

There are active groups of modders that customize their multi tools. Some mods are decorative that increase the cool factor, like changing the spacer colors on the Skeletool or painting the engraved logo area to make it pop. Even cosmetic mods will void the warranty on your Leatherman if you take it apart so consider if the decorations are worth it.

Leatherman also has their own custom shop where you have the blades on your next tool engraved with artwork, text, or patterns. Some models can also have engraving on the handle scales.

Minor modifications take tricks from solid state keychain multi tools and apply them to the folding implements. On multi tools with a bit driver the flathead screwdriver tools are frequent targets for modification. Simply grinding a sharp edge into the corner of a flat screwdriver turns it into a much improved package opener. Sharpening the entire flat edge creates a nice scraper. Modders will also grind hollow areas into tools as ferrocerium rod strikers.

Other mods significantly alter the multi tool to deliver custom functions. These can be as simple as removing the fixed screwdrivers and replacing with a flat bit driver. The blade exchanger on the Surge and models with the Leatherman bit driver socket are favorite targets for modding. Some of the more common mods are swapping knife blades to get upgraded steel and putting heavy-duty pliers into full-size handles.

You can find active modder groups on Reddit and Facebook to accomplish just about anything you can think of, just ask.

9. Use the awl for its intended purpose and save your knife blade

The most common way to damage a multi tool is to break the knife blade tip using it to pry something. This is so common that CRKT specifically excludes broken knife tips from their warranty coverage (see our comparison of warranty coverage and service from all the major brands).

Their stout tips and reamer edge make awls a general purpose tool that are under utilized. Awls are designed for punching holes, twisting, and prying but most people don’t know what they are or what awls can do. Eight Leatherman models include awls including sewing awls on the FREE series, Surge, Rebar, Signal, and Super Tool 300. For some reason Leatherman did not put an awl on the Wave+ but included a medium flat screwdriver.

10. Use ALL the tools and features on your multi tool

This tip is related to the previous tip but more general. Like most people, I will get a new tool and just start using it without reading the instructions. But some of the functions are not obvious at first glance.

I had a Wingman for years before I realized there was a wire stripper on the shank of the bottle opener. If I would have opened the tool fully I would have seen it and recognized it, but what actually happened was I opened the bottle opener enough to see that wasn’t the tool I needed so I folded it closed…and the wire stripper stayed hidden. (Full disclosure I still use a knife blade when stripping solid wire most of the time).

Another example is the Wave+ and Charge+ models include an eyeglass screwdriver that is double ended (just like their flat bits). All you need to do is pull it out and switch ends but because it friction fit it usually is pretty tight.

Wave+ eyeglass screwdriver and lanyard ring

A third example is the lanyard eye ring on the Surge and Wave+ that many users have no idea exists. When you open the saw blade look inside the handle where the tip of the saw blade used to be and you will see the bottom end of the lanyard ring. Use the flat screwdriver bit to push it out of the handle and viola! the lanyard eye appears.

We loop a short length of paracord thru as a wrist strap whenever we use our Leatherman up on a ladder and we don’t want to drop it. Leatherman is good about publishing their user guides on their product webpage (even if they don’t make it look like a link) but for the Surge the lanyard ring isn’t even labeled in the photo.

11. Maintain your multi tool by keeping it lubricated and your knife blade sharp

This is just good practice but one that many people neglect. A smooth operating Leatherman is a joy to use. The snick sound as the tool locks into place tells you it is ready to go to work. If you neglect your tool it will break your thumbnails and frustrate you rather than help and you will probably stop carrying it.

We have a complete guide for how to clean your multi tool and our recommendations for lubrication and protection. We tell you our favorite lubes and surface protectants that give long lasting premium performance but really any 3-in-1 oil or even WD-40 oil will work in a pinch.

A sharp knife blade is not only safer to use but gives you much more control and produces a better result. Even Leathermans standard 420HC can sharpen to a razor edge following our procedure. Many people have never experienced a truly sharp blade and how easy it makes routine jobs.

What are your favorite multi tool tips, tricks and hacks?
Let us know in the comments below!

Dan Sawyer

I'm the guy behind Multi Tool Mountain. I grew up in Wisconsin with a love for the outdoors. I currently live in Texas with my family where DIY home improvement projects keep my and my multi tools busy.

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