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May 23, 2009 Comments (0) Blades & Tools

Leatherman Expanse e55B Review

E55B_FANNEDaI have owned many Leatherman products over the years and for the most part have had very good luck with them. It was the PST model.  One of their first tools, it was a great companion.  Then, I picked up a Sideclip.  Almost the same tool, except it has a pocket clip so, no sheath needed.  A Mini-Tool soon followed and it was really cool.  This was a full sized plier with a few extra tools but it folded up even smaller than normal.  I later purchased a Crunch model because I thought a small vice-grip would be good to have in the Rover to hold something clamped together while I drove home.  Like when the shift lever comes off in your hand.  That’s another story though…By the way, you can see all of these retired tools on their web site.  Leatherman has a great web site that’s easy to navigate and easy to compare different models right next to each other.  On with the story…

When I would need the pliers to fix something, I loved it!  When I had to really bear down on it, the handles would bite into my hand and that limited my useage.  They weren’t covered with the rounded plastic edges like they are now.  The main advantage though was it was always with me, it never failed, and it never broke.

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e55BitStorageaIt looks like they have kept up with their tradition of making bullet proof products with the knives they make as well.  I have here the e55B model.  This is one of about twenty-five different knives that they offer.  First off is the impression this knife makes.  It’s a big handled folder.  This one stands 4.5 inches closed and carries a 3.1 inch blade.  There is a reason this knife feels so natural in the hand, it’s just about the same measurements as the venerable Buck 110 folding hunter.  Now there’s a design that’s been sold since ’62 so they must have got it right!  This one is like your old 110, only better.  This baby comes with a 154CM stainless blade of the drop point variety.   You can buy this exact knife but with a half serrated blade (the e55Bx model) too if desired.  There is a bit driver along side the blade and it comes with an extra bit stored in the handle so you have a Phillips #1 & #2 and a flat 3/16 inch and 1/4 inch screw driver all on the knife.  When the work day is done, and this knife was built to work, there’s even a combo bottle opener/carabiner clip to open your favorite adult beverage.  I had this knife doing everything from making tent stakes to putting holes in drywall and it did it all with no problem.

leatherman012aI always have a folding knife on me–two if you count the blade on the multi-tool I always have as well.  You know, one for me, one to loan to non-knife carriers.  I’m sure most “knife guys” have loaned out their main blade when asked if they have a knife.  And then that same knucklehead drops it, doesn’t know how to close it, and uses it for a pry bar, what ever.  This usually happens once.  I now loan out the blade on the multi-tool.  I love when they point to the main knife in my pocket and say, “What about that one?”  They’re bound to get a snide remark, “If you can lay $450 in my hand then yes, you can use my Sebenza.”  I guess to most people, knives are $10 and nothing special.  This Leatherman isn’t $10 but it’s not $450 either.  At approximately $70, this is well worth the money and your average window licker will probably not hand it back to you pointing the wrong way. When this knife is opened, it kind of “thwacks” into the locked and open position, ready for business.  Being a pretty good sized folder, it isn’t easy for me to open in one swing with the thumb stud unless I choke up about half way out.  I guess I don’t have long thumbs.  I just usually use two hands to open it but the stud would work in a pinch.  I have gotten back into the practice of closing it using the back of my leg after I have pushed in the lock.  I was getting used to the liner lock that’s so popular today that it took a bit to get back to the traditional lockback like this has.


leatherman017aOnce it’s open though, it’s a cutting beast.  It has held up quite well to my usage.  About every other day I touch it up on the JRE Strop Bat but that’s been it.  I love the 154CM blade.  If you look close at the cutting edge, it’s not the same width along the whole blade.  It definitely has more grind bevel as it starts to curve up toward the tip.  This isn’t mentioned on the web page so I’ll assume it’s just they way the machine does it.  What ever is going on there, I think it adds to this being such a great cutter.  As mentioned, I used it for lots of different stuff.  I had it with me at the PWYP gathering where it did my usual folder-in-my-pocket chores.  I had a neck knife on but the Leatherman still got the use.  Back home though, it became my main EDC knife so it has done lots.  We just had a Trek bicycles “Demo Day” over the weekend and I was the one sharpening sticks to make pegs to hold the tents to the ground.  It sharpened sticks like I was using a potato peeler on the bark (Photo to right courtesy of Mike Henninger).  You know when a knife fits your hand like it was custom made for you?  This is the way this knife feels to me.  Of course this depends on the person but, when it jibes like this, you can cut all day.  It’s very secure in the hand and the jimping on the spine really grabs your thumb.  You’ll NEVER slip off that, because of how well it’s designed. I even threw some sparks off the ferro rod with the jimping.  It’s good to know it will do that when needed.

Leatherman001aI use the screwdriver on my multi-tool lots.  Both the flat and the Phillips get a workout.  This being a knife that happens to have a screwdriver, I was a bit skeptical.  But, I found out that it rocks!  It’s easy to deploy, much faster than the multi-tool, and when set at 90 degrees, you get tons of leverage.  The stainless steel reinforced handle helps with the ability to really torque on the screwdriver I’m sure.  (Photo to right courtesy of Mike Henninger) While doing some construction, it was the only tool that could get the old Phillips screws out of the alloy trim panel at the shop.  The bit storage in the handle is great at keeping the bit in and the user totally unaware of it presence, but it’s not too quick in deployment.  I guess that’s the trade off in security.  The carabiner is a nice touch.  Again, it’s very out of the way but comes into play in an instant with a push of the textured thumb slide.  It is spring loaded so you can really snap it onto your gear and know it’ll be there when you get to where you’re going.  And, it’s not bad having a bottle opener with you if you like the hops and barley.  The couple of things I wasn’t too fond of were the slow to deploy bit in the handle, the thumb stud (ok, my short thumb I guess is the REAL fault), and the pocket clip.  It holds the knife secure enough, but the end of it sticks out a bit, and twice it grabbed onto something else and tried jumping out of my pocket.  I had to straighten it back out once but it works fine now.

Would I buy this knife?  Heck yes!  Would I be afraid of breaking it?  Nope.  It holds a good edge, comes back to hair popping sharp with just a strop, and has a 25 year warranty.  I know they stand behind the warranty too.  I bought a Leatherman Wave at the bargain cave in Cabela’s.  It had one screwdriver bit broke off but I wanted a multi-tool with a wood saw and the price was right.  Into a B.O.B. it went.  I found it months later and decide, what the heck, I’ll send it in to have the broken screwdriver tip replaced, how much can that cost?  They didn’t fix it; they replaced it with the new model Wave and gave me a new sheath for it as well. Now there’s a quality company!

Visit: www.leatherman.com

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