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Leatherman Overhauls Product Line- Six New Leatherman Tools Introduced

Hunting Gear - Leatherman

Leatherman- Portland, Ore. Building on more than 20 years of successfully creating and selling multipurpose tools that seem to be on the wish list of every male in America, Leatherman Tool Group is replacing and upgrading a significant portion of its traditional product offerings.

"Some might view this change as a big risk," said Roger Bjorklund, Leatherman's vice president of marketing. "But we believe the far greater risk would be standing still and watching competitors pass us by."

Company founder and president Tim Leatherman agreed, saying, "It's the right thing to do. We're increasing value to the customer; sales could decline if we don't continue to improve."

With six new models on the way, the company plans to phase out six current styles by the end of the year. Slated to be discontinued are the Mini-Tool, Sideclip, original PST, PST II, Pulse and Wave.

Perhaps most surprising on the list are the PST and the Wave. The PST is essentially the model that Tim Leatherman invented to launch his company and the entire multi-tool category. But nostalgia can be carried only so far, notes Bjorklund. "Ford's not selling the Model T," he says, pointing out that its most direct replacement in the new lineup will offer an improved design and more features at a wholesale price that's 15% lower than the PST.

The Wave is widely regarded as the top multi-tool on the market. Those who have heard an improved Wave is coming have wondered how that could be possible. But the company is promising not only an improved Wave, due for retail release in the fall, but also an all-new model called Charge that will top it in most respects.

With a $124 suggested retail price and premium materials like titanium and 154 CM steel, Charge is expected to establish a new top end in the multi-tool category. Two versions will be released this summer.

Charge Ti features all locking implements, two one-hand-opener knife blades (including a straight-edge clip-point knife of glazed 154 CM stainless steel), titanium handles, interchangeable driver bits, and a removable pocket clip. The Charge XTi offers similar features, but adds a nock/shot crimper to the plier jaws plus a cutting hook suitable for seat belts, linoleum or hide.

For its part, the new Wave adds internal locking blades, larger wire cutters, a ruler, and individually rotating blades for non-clumping access. The one-hand opening knife blades are now larger, with a broader area and bigger thumbhole for easier operation. Bronze bushings make knife access even smoother. These enhancements to a tool that was already Leatherman's best-selling full-size model have the company expecting continued popularity for Wave, especially considering the MSRP for the new model ($87) is actually $7 less than the current version.

"By starting with a clean sheet of paper, we were able to design a series of tools that save costs by sharing components and processes while offering clear choices in features and benefits as you move up the line in price," said Ben Rivera, Leatherman's product design manager. "All six products will have great appeal to our core group of customers, including outdoor enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers," he added.

Joining Wave and the two Charge models in the fall of 2004 will be three tools that owe their basic design to traditional Leatherman offerings but exhibit significant advances in comfort, utility and value. The entry-level tool is called Kick. It shares a new pliers design with its linemates that withstands 133% greater squeezing load. The only non-locking model among the new introductions, it includes wire cutters, knife, ruler, can/bottle opener and three screwdrivers. Suggested retail price is $37; a removable bit driver and a removable pocket clip are available separately.

Next up the line is Fuse. It is perhaps most similar to the original Leatherman PST, except that the PST's file and awl are replaced by scissors and a wire stripper. But the biggest difference is that all blades on this model lock into position; they unlock readily at the push of a button. Also, like Wave, Fuse's internal blades rotate out individually, with no clumping. MSRP is $49; it is compatible with the same removable bit driver as the Kick.

Finally, Blast ($62 MSRP) offers all the features of Fuse plus a saw, a file and a small bit driver that utilizes a double-ended Phillips and flat-tip eyeglasses screwdriver bit. It, too, accepts the aftermarket bit driver, which is sold with five various double-ended bits made from S2 tool steel providing 35% greater strength than stainless. Blast, Fuse and Kick all feature sculpted Zytel handle inserts that are comfortable, durable and slip-resistant.

Oregon-based Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. is the inventor and world's leading manufacturer of compact multi-purpose tools. Owned, run and inspired by its founder, Tim Leatherman, the company has sold more than 30 million of its versatile tools since its inception in 1983.


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