Last month I had the opportunity to review Solkoa's fire starting kits. This month I have the good fortune to test out Solkoa's Grip-S which stands for Grip Survival. Solkoa is marketing the Grip-S as a multi-tool capable of utilizing a wide variety of saws, drill bits and other tools which sets it apart from other multi-tools. Solkoa has shown a great deal of innovation with Grip-S and its nearly endless list of options.
Solkoa's Grip-S comes with two machined aluminum handles with an anodized finish that measure 2 3/8 inches long and 5/8 inch in diameter. Secured in the middle of each handle by a small screw is a 28 inch wire saw. On each handle is a recessed hole that will accept rounded or hexagonal bits up to a quarter inch in diameter. These are held in place by the same screws that hold the saw blade in place. The handles have grooves cut into them and four depressions on each handle that help to improve grip as well as to reduce the overall weight. The package includes one hexagonal bit that has a flat head screw driver on one end and a Phillips head on the other. The handles also have a deep slot that will accept jig and reciprocating saw blades. The holes used to secure these blades also use the same screws as mentioned previously. These holes can also serve to hold the lanyards that are included in the Grip-S kit. The final component of the kit is a small anodized washer that can be secured to one of the lanyards. This washer can be used to tighten and loosen the four screws to keep tools secured to the handles.
The primary function of the Grip-S out of the package is a wire saw. I had never used a wire saw before this review and so I was a pretty blank canvas in terms of my expectations. Traditionally, I carry small folding camp saw in my gear that rarely sees any use. So I set out to test the saw on some unruly branches that were hanging low in a drive way. I placed the wire over the branch and grabbed both handles making sure to put my hands through the lanyards on each handle creating an elongated U. I strongly recommend using the lanyards when using the wire saw to make sure the handles are secured to your hand when sawing. I noticed after a couple of seconds of sawing that the wire was already deeply embedded in the branch. I recommend keeping two things in mind while sawing with a wire saw. Be careful touching the wire as the wire saw will heat up very quickly. I also recommend having someone hold the branch steady while you are cutting to avoid pinching. I noticed while using the saw that the branch became heavy toward the end of sawing and it pinched the wire stopping the momentum of the sawing action.
For my second test I took a couple of reciprocating saw blades and secured them to the handle. This is done simply by removing the lanyard on one handle and sliding the saw blade into the groove. It is advisable that you remove the wire saw from each handle before attaching jig or reciprocating saw blades. I carefully placed the screw in the hole and used my trusty P-38 can opener to tighten the blade into place. I then used the hexagonal bit's length to form a core inside both handles and tightened the screws down to lock the entire unit together. This gave me a handle that was almost five inches long. I placed my hand through the lanyard I began sawing. I used a larger reciprocating saw blade for this test and it chewed the piece of wood I was testing it on. Make sure when selecting saw blades for your kit that you include both metal and wood cutting blades. I initially used a metal cutting blade on a piece of wood and it took awhile to get through. Having the right saw blade in your kit is essential. Solkoa's packaging for the Grip-S goes as far to say that you can utilize saw blades that cut plastic and stone.
For my third test I tried out the screwdriver bits included with the Grip-S. I again advise removing the wire saw before using the Grip-S as a screwdriver. To convert it into a screwdriver place the hexagonal bit into the open hole in one end of the handle. Use the provided washer to tighten the bit into place. For testing I had a pack shovel handy and used the Grip-S to tighten the screws that hold the spade to its wooden handle. The included bit has both a flat head and Phillips head of standard size. If you think you need a more diverse selection of screwdriver bits scavenge them from your toolbox or purchase additional ones online or at a local hardware retailer. Overall, I was pleased with the way the Grip-S functioned as a screwdriver. Admittedly, I don't have a lot of equipment in my hiking and camping gear that requires the use of a screwdriver but it is a nice feature and certainly larger than the screwdriver's that are generally available on pocket knives and multi-tools.
The last test of the Grip-S that I conducted was to use the Grip-S as a drill. I took a small drill bit, secured it to one of the handles and attempted to drill a hole in a piece of wood. The short handle length made it difficult to get enough force behind the drill bit to bite deeply into the wood. I thought it would be a good set up for drilling since I have used pin drills extensively. The drill function was disappointing as after a few minutes I had barely penetrated the piece of wood. In my opinion a better use for the Grip-S would be to include and awl in your kit. Awls are great for punching holes in cloth or leather. I would also recommend including a small file in the kit to add further functionality.
What I like most about the Grip-S is its customizable functionality. The wire saw is really useful and easy to manipulate. The ability to attach jig and reciprocating saw blades is a great feature. Keeping both wood and metal cutting blades in your kit offers great versatility over a standard multi-tool. The option to lock the handles together to create a longer handle is a nice feature for someone with a larger grip. The holes for rounded and hexagonal bits is a nice touch as well for almost any kind of screw, file or awl. The overall kit is extremely lightweight and durable in its construction.
There are a few minor issues that I have with the Grip-S. First, the flat head screw driver bit included in the kit cannot be used to secure tools to the handle. At first I used my P-38 can opener when changing the configuration. It wasn't until I played around with the kit more that I realized the purpose of the circular washer in the kit was to assist with this action. There isn't any information on the product or Solkoa's website that details what the washer's purpose was. While in the end it was easy enough to figure out, it seems like a pretty obvious oversight. My second issue is centered around the size and diameter of the handles. I have large hands and would have preferred them to be a bit longer and thicker for comfort. While using the saw to cut branches the small diameter of the handles led to minor cramping in my hands. I realize this is extremely picky, but tools that result in discomfort usually don't earn a permanent spot in my survival gear. Lastly, the screws used to secure tools to the handle are tiny and hard to see if they fall on the ground. I would recommend keeping a small piece of brightly colored material in your kit that you can place under the Grip-S when you are reconfiguring the tool. It would be prudent to keep a small bag of extra screws in your gear in case you lose any during use or configuration of the Grip-S. Currently Solkoa's website doesn't sell replacement screws for the Grip-S. In the future I hope they do.
The Grip-S retails for $34.95 for the basic kit. This might seem expensive when compared to less expensive folding saws or a basic multi-tool, but I believe it is worth the cost in terms of materials as well as design. The ability to pick and choose what tools to include with your Grip-S is a really interesting and unique feature. The Grip-S has a lot of functionality and would be a great addition to a Swiss Army style knife or multi-tool. If your looking for an alternative to a folding camp saw and seek a tool that can compliment other tools in your camping or survival gear then I strongly recommend that you give the Grip-S serious consideration.
For further reading visit: http://fast-fire.com
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