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May 24, 2010 Comments (0) Blades & Tools, Reviews

SOG Knives PowerAssist Review

PowerAssist10cOwning a SOG multitool is a new experience for me.  I’ve had multi tools since I was 8.  Starting with my first trusty Swiss Army Knife, I’ve run the gamut, using many of the multi tools on the market.  For some strange reason I’ve never gotten my hands on a multi tool made by SOG before this review.  I was sent the SOG PowerAssist for review.   I have to say that I’ve been missing out.

 



An overview and perspectives from David:

PowerAssist03aWhen I first received the SOG I opened the box and there it was, sitting on top of the included belt case.  I thought to myself: “wow, beefy.”  The PowerAssist is on the larger side of the multi tools I’ve owned, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.   The larger, thicker steel construction makes for an incredibly strong tool.  I have serious doubts that your average person (such as myself) could do much with mere hand strength to damage it.  The Compound Leverage ™ mechanism of the pliers really amazed me.  It creates an excellent smoothness of action as well as helping to increase mechanical leverage on the pliers, wire cutting, and crimping tools.  The mechanism being geared also helps maintain a high level of precision alignment between the two halves of the tool.  The handles themselves are nicely rounded, which means even with bare hands and a heavy grip the PowerAssist won’t chew up skin.

PowerAssist06aPowerAssist07aAside from the pliers and wire cutters, the tools are divided amongst the two handles.  The two knife blades are located on one side along with the PowerAssist mechanism.  One of the blades is a plain edge, one serrated.  Both are made of AUS8 steel, have a slight hollow grind, and the serrated blade has a chisel ground edge.   Both lock in the open and closed positions.  The locking mechanism is a very positively engaging slider.  I’ve tried to make it come undone by shaking, dropping, and bouncing it around in a bag with various things.  It doesn’t come unlocked unless you want it to.  Using the assist mechanism is as simple as opening either blade more than about 1/8” and keeping your appendages out of the way.  As with other assisted open designs, the blades can also be opened slowly and without danger provided a firm grip is kept upon the spine and the spring is allowed to uncompress fully.  If you are going to open either knife blade in that manner, please make sure that it locks in the open position.  The locks are designed to engage at full speed and may not lock without a small amount additional pressure to ensure the blade is fully opened.

PowerAssist04aThe other side of the handle houses all the remaining tools.  Every one of them has a separate locking mechanism which positively holds the tool in the extended position.  There is also a cover on the tools that creates a large, rounded area which protects your hand while using the pliers, wire cutters, and crimp tools.  I’m quite glad that SOG added small thoughtful items like this to the PowerAssist.  The tools included in the non blade side of the multi tool are as follows: file, three different types of flat head screwdrivers, a #1 Phillips bit, two bottle openers, a can opener, and a SOG V-Cut.  One of the flat head screwdriver bits is even sized to fit perfectly into a quarter inch socket driver.  I’ve used that feature.  It obviously isn’t as effective as a dedicated socket wrench handle, but in a pinch it works wonderfully.  The only tool so far that may not be immediately apparent in usage would be the V-Cut.  It is a hook shaped draw cut tool composed of two chisel ground razor blades riveted into the handle.   SOG describes the usage as intended for cutting “seat belts, paracord, fishing line, electrical cable sheathing, and much more!”   It works very well for the described intended purposes, and would also work quite well used as a game preparation and skinning tool.  The V-Cut seems to replace the slot that scissors would classically be placed with a multi tool like this one.

PowerAssist11aSOGs5aThe SOG comes with a fairly basic nylon pouch type sheath.  It is constructed in a very hearty manner, with all seams double stitched at the ends, and plenty of overlapping material to prevent tear outs.  The belt clip is rived onto the sheath and is made of a high strength polymer.  It is flexible with a hook to securely attach itself to a belt or strap.  The bottom of the sheath has generous openings to allow any debris to easily fall out, while still retaining the tool.  It is held shut very positively by Velcro patches on the front of the sheath and inside the flap.

PowerAssist09aAs much as I have enjoyed using the PowerAssist for this review, there are a couple features about it that leave something to be desired.  The weight is somewhat bothersome.  With the sheath it tops ten ounces.  If you are trying to go light in the back country and counting every ounce, that is a bit heavy.  For a glove box, bug out bag, house, or car camping tool weight isn’t as much of an issue.  The PowerAssist mechanism itself is a great compliment, and yet a downer.  Because of what must be employed to deploy both blades with a spring assist, it takes up that entire side of the handle.  For the convenience of quick access to one of the knife blades this is a great feature.  For someone that perhaps needs a saw in a multi tool, one of SOG’s other fine tools might be a better option.  The geared pliers allow for incredible mechanical advantage, but prevent the tool from being opened partially for more ergonomic use (think pliers left in one side of the handle with it spread at 180° to take advantage of a smaller cross section for gripping).  Aside from those couple of small issues, the PowerAssist is an excellent tool that I would highly recommend.

I’m sad to say that I haven’t used the SOG in as much of an outdoor manner as I would like.  Since receiving it I’ve purchased a house and most of my time has involved working in and around it as well as moving.  I have used the various flat head and Phillips bits endlessly to disassemble and assemble furniture.  I have used both blades for opening and breaking down an endless supply or cardboard boxes.  I have kept it handy for just about every little odd task that I’ve found recently, and it has performed marvelously.  It has been dropped, scraped, tossed in buckets, and generally abused since I received it.  The tool and sheath both still look new.   For anyone who wants the quality and durability of a SOG multi tool with the addition of assisted opening technology, I’d highly recommend the SOG PowerAssist.

Some perspectives from Luke:

SOGs4aI received the PowerAssist at the same time I scheduled a four day fishing trip to south Louisiana.  I knew that this trip would provide a multitude of testing ground for the power assist, but I just couldn’t wait the month for the trip to put the SOG to use.  The very first thing the PowerAssist was tasked to do was to install and wire up new turn signal lights in an old truck.  The fist tool used was the large, flat screwdriver.  I consider this the most important tool in a multi-tool, behind the pliers.  The largest flat screwdriver in the SOG is beefy.  It is deployed by raising the handle cover, opening the driver, and closing the handle cover.  I quickly found out that I could either leave the handles of the tool open, or close them around the pliers during use.  All of the driver are stout, and secured to the handles well, so putting some serous pressure on the tool to loosen old rusty screw was not a problem.

One particular aspect of the PowerAssist I was glad to see was an incorporated crimper below the jaws of the pliers.  I do a fair amount of wiring, be it automotive or otherwise, and I can appreciate the addition of the crimper.  For standard butt connectors like I used to connect the turn signals, the crimper works well.  It is designed to operate like a dedicated crimper typically found near the electrical tool drawer, as it pinches both sides of the connector at once.  The finished product is a secure connection whether you’re using the smaller red connectors, up to the big yellow connectors.

PowerAssist08aFinally making it to that four day fishing trip provided a real proving ground for the PowerAssist.  When I arrived at our family owned fishing camp, a waterproof receptacle needed to be installed at the end of the pier to provide power for radios, bug zappers, and night time lights.  The underground three strand Romex wire was already run, and my job was to wire up the box over the water while a family member installed the switch back at the camp.  The compound leverage of the PowerAssist cut the thick, heavily insulated Romex wire with ease.  The large cutting edge on the wire cutters provided plenty of room to be able to cut all three strands at once.  The wire stripping was done with the straight edge of the PowerAssist, with no consideration given to preserving the edge.  After everything was prepared for the installation, the edge showed no signs of rolled or dulling.  The Power Assist provided all the drivers, cutting, and splicing that needed to be done.  The receptacle was installed in a few minutes, with me managing not to drop it into the water.

PowerAssist05aThe arrival of ten other friends for three days of fishing pushed the SOG to its limits.  The bottle opener was tested… extensively.  It works well and was often left open for extended periods of time.  Fishing was good, and the PowerAssist removed in the area of thirty hooks from catfish, alligator gar, bream, and assorted other fish.  The solid build of the pliers made the jobs quick and easy, and I never lost grip of anything I was holding on to.  Having the spring assisted blades was especially nice while running trot lines at night back in the south Louisiana swamp.   With just a little practice, I was able to remove the multi tool from its sheath, deploy a blade one handed, all while keeping my other hand and my eyes on the work.  I am also able to open and close the tool one handed, which is especially nice.

SOGs5aThe only down side I was able to find in the PowerAssist had to do with the sheath.  While especially well built, the plastic clip was a bit too ‘slippery’ for me.  One night I wore Carhartt pants with the PowerAssist clipped on a nylon belt.  The sheath had a tendency to move around on my belt quite a bit.  I often found the PowerAssist had found its way around my back and I had to pull it back to my side before I could remove the tool.  The sheath did keep a secure hold of my belt, and I was never worried it would come off.  I see on SOG’s website that there is another sheath available for it that’s MOLLE compatible.  It seems that it will be more likely to stay put on the belt or web gear.  I will be attending an advanced sniper training course in a few months, and I’ll be getting this sheath to try out both a belt and web gear and will let you know how it does.  Clipping the sheath to a backpack, inside the waistband, or in a gear bag pocket proved the standard sheath was more than satisfactory for normal use.

PowerAssist01aSOG’s website shows that the tool selection on the PowerAssist can be customized by the user.  Looking through the online catalog, I found the prices for additional tools to be very reasonable.  One thing I’m looking forward to doing during this year long test it to order the wood saw and see just how easy it is for the end user to customize the PowerAssist.  The wood saw is a staple for Woodsmonkey readers, and I think this will give good testing opportunity on the customizable features together with the functionality of the wood saw.  I’ll let you know how well it works!

This review is designed to be a year long, real world test of the PowerAssist.  Day to day activities, jobs, and the mundane will be documented.  Those strange projects that pop up from time to time will be handled as much as possible with the PowerAssist.  Our initial reviews are impressive, and I doubt that the PowerAssist will let us down over the next year.  We’re both looking forward to pushing the multi tool, and this time next year, we’ll let you know how it goes.

The PowerAssist can be found directly through SOG’s website, or any number of quality retailers.  It is available in a stainless or black oxide finish. SOG’s MSRP for the PowerAssist is $115.00 but the usual web shopping should allow you to snag one for up to $40 less.

Visit: www.SOGknives.com/store/S66.html

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