The Leatherman Free T4 is a multitool with the size of a Swiss Army Knife and the novelty that it uses magnets to keep all its tools in its casing. Is it as good as the legendary Leatherman multitool? Read the review or watch the video!
- Weight: 122 grams (with pocket clip)
- Size: 93 X 22 X 17 mm (without clip)
- Price: €79,95/$59,95
This reviews starts at the office of the Leatherman distributer in The Netherlands. I was visiting him to catch up the stuff I do for my channels and the new hardware items he is bringing for next season. We started talking on Leatherman and I realized I totally missed the launch of the Leatherman Free T2 and T4. The difference between the two is the amount of tools incorporated hence the difference in price and weight and the fact that the T4 comes standard with a pocket clip. While talking I played around with a Free T4 that was lying on the table. I soon realized there was something addicting to this small Swiss Army Knife like Leatherman. What is it?
Spring loaded tools
Most pocketknives work with a sort of spring inside the knife to keep the ‘tools’ inside the casing: this is called spring loaded. When you flick a tool open you feel a small resistance; when you close it… the same and in the last moment of closing it flicks itself. This is the spring in the casing. This flicking moment is addictive; if I have a knife in my hand I always start flicking it open and close without even noticing. It is comforting in a strange way. But these springs are not springs in a traditional way. They are small and thin pieces of metal under tension in a casing. According to Leatherman such a spring is a vulnerable part in a knife so Leatherman – keen on innovating designs – thought: let’s loose the spring loaded tools and come up with something new.
Magnets part 1
This ‘something new’ are two magnets in the heart of the Free T2 and T4. From the outside the magnets are not visible, they are incorporated in pieces of plastic. The function of the magnets is fabulous. Every tool has a beautiful flick-back-into-place feeling and sound. And flicking the tools out of its house feels more enjoyable than the spring-loaded knives I have; it is even more addictive.
One hand operation
Next to the addictive part the magnets also make getting the tools out of the casing easier. Getting the tools out of the casing is now a truly one hand operation. To do this every tool has a little knob (see picture!) and by pressing on the knob the tool raises. The only tool where this method does not really work easy is de knifeblade itself. I think this is done out of safety reasons and I couldn’t agree more. To open the knife you need two hands and I think the large opening in the knife blade is a way more comfortable solution than most Swiss Army Knives that use a ‘nail-breaker’ slid in the blade and tools. Now let’s have a closer look at all the Free T4 tools individually.
Free T4 Knife blade
On every pocketknife the main tool is…the knife blade. The T4 blade is made from 420 HC stainless steel. It is 60 mm long and the cutting edge is 52 mm. I mentioned the opening in the knife blade already and the blade has a drop point. Rather special for a pocketknife is how the blade has been grinded: it is concave with a V-grind at the cutting edge. This shape gives an ultra sharp edge and the T4 cuts through Paracord and branches with great easy. The blade – as are the others tools – is locked firm in place and after using I don’t notice any slack on the construction. Getting the blade back in its house you only need one hand but I feel more comfortable using two. The locking mechanism of all the tools is exceptionable well made.
Free T4 scissors
I always like when a pocketknife has a pair of scissors. They are easy when travelling to cut wires, labels and the occasional tiewrap and the T4 does this well. But the most used function of scissors for me is simply cutting nails. In cutting nails the T4 is not that great. I’ve compared the cutting edge to some other pocketknife scissors and the T4 scissor is quite thick making it hard to get to the nail. So… improvement here. What I do like is that the moving scissor arm has a few ridges that provide super grip to the thumb. The moving arm of the scissor is spring loaded by the way…
Free T4 Awl and Extra Small screwdriver
The main function of this combination tool is for sure the awl, in second place comes the extra small screwdriver. Lets start with the last one. The screwdriver is indeed small and I used it on my glasses en some small screws in electrical stuff. It works fine with one limitation: the screws should not be placed to deep. If they are the screwdriver is too wide.
The awl-function… I feel ambiguous about this. An awl should be pointy, sharp and make a hole. The Free T4 awl needs quite some force to get through firm material like a leather belt. If is does, is doesn’t make a hole but a slit. This is logical since the shape of the awl: flat and wide and not to sharp. Prying a small hole is not possible and using it as a sawing machine – that is why the opening is in the awl – is not advisable. I’d rather see a useful awl than the combination like this.
Free T4 Phillips Screwdriver and bottle opener
The combination of a Phillips screwdriver and bottle opener in one tool is a marriage made in heaven. The Phillips screwdriver works with most screws where you would use regular screwdrivers from PH 0.6 to PH 3. Also the bottle opener does its job.
Free T4 Medium Screwdriver and Pry tool and Package opener
To be honest: Leatherman basically gave two names to the same tool. The screwdriver and prytool are the same. The screwdriver has the size of a regular PB 5 and that is the one that I use at home to pry open paint cans. Although I use an old one for this, not my beautiful Swiss Tools one. The screwdriver and the pry tool work well. The same goes for the Package opener. This is a slightly curved and slightly sharp edge on the tool. If you have to open a box this tool is better than the knife since it is almost impossible to damage to goods inside.
Free T4: Tweezers
Incorporated in the handle is a tweezers. To get it out you need your fingernails. The tweezers is of good quality and works fine if you need to get a sliver out of your flesh or pick up a tiny thing like a fish hook.
Free T4 Wood and Metal File and Small Screwdriver
The screwdriver has the size of a regular PB 4 and does the job also. On the function of the wood en metal file I can be short. Filing wood with one side of the file is fine but you should bare in mind that it is a very short tool and that limits the function. The metal file works super if you want to grind a point to a metal spike, sharpen edges roughly etc. But using the metal file is not a good idea. Now let me explain why and also that I don’t get it that almost nobody is talking about this.
Magnets part 2
When I test stuff, I test it in real life. Not on a kitchen table. I have been using the Leatherman Free T4 on a daily basis around the house, in my wonderful DIY shed and outdoors. Regrettably I rather quickly discovered why I would never buy a multitool or pocketknife with magnets in it. When doing some DIY stuff in my shed I put the Leatherman on the workbench. I don’t know about your shed but mine is pretty neat and clean.
When I picked up the T4 I noticed there was a lot of metal particles stuck to the knife and I realized that this is the negative point on a magnetic tool retention system. It took me some effort with compressed air to clean the Leatherman. After this I was shooting a review and used the medium screwdriver of the T4 to attach my camera to the baseplate of my tripod. It dropped. Yes, knives should not be dropped but it happens. When I picked it up also a lot of dirt stuck to the Leatherman. I don’t have to tell you what happened when I tested the metal file…. Putting a metal file on a magnetic multitoolpocketknife is not that clever. Or… maybe the spring loaded knives are not that bad.
I am a knife- slash tool lover and I have a nice collection. I know what knives and tools work on the level of comfort. The Leather Free T4 is not the most comfortable knife. When using it as a knife and applying some force for cutting or just sharpening sticks, the edges feel to hard. The T4 that I have on loan has the pocketclip attached to it. This makes is even more uncomfortable.
Also the fact that the plastic where you place your thumb when cutting is without ridges and therefor a bit slippery, is – in my opinion – not the top notch Leatherman standard I am used to. And finally: getting the tools individually out of the T4 with just one hand… impossible. I always flick them all open and than I have to use two hands anyway or fiddle around with one hand. So there is a difference between the addiction of the flicking at the office table and in real life. The weight of 123 grams (with pocket clip) and the size of 93 X 22 X 17 mm are fine in my pockets by the way.
I started with the addictive habit of opening and closing the Leatherman Free T4 and with the why behind this magnetic system. The magnets do what they need to do: keeping the tools inside and giving us a user-friendly experience when needing them. The tools in the T4 are all well built and the majority performs as you would expect from a Leatherman. Only the scissors are not practical with fingernails and the awl is not round enough. The locking mechanism of the T4 is sublime. The whole Free T4 construction is solid. On the downside I find the edges of the T4 a bit harsh to the hands, especially when applying force. I also find the one hand opening not that easy.
And I don’t get the magnets in a pocketknife. The combination with a metal file makes it even worse; they attract dirt and small metal grinding parts and that is something – addictive or not – I don’t want in any knife. The Leatherman Free T4 retails at €79,95 or $59,95 and I think that is pretty expensive for what you get. Therefore I rate the Leatherman Free T4 at 7,3 out of 10 points total.