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Reviews > Knives > Multi-tools > Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool > Test Report by joe schaffer

Leatherman Signal

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT - June 17, 2019
FIELD REPORT - August 16, 2019
LONG TERM REPORT - October 15, 2019
NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 71

HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

     I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

Product: Signal Multi-Toolhand

Manufacturer:  Leatherman Tool
Group, Inc.

   Features (excerpted from mfr. website)
    19 tools: Needlenose pliers,  regular  pliers, replaceable wire cutters, replaceable hard wire cutters, wire stripper, knife, saw, hammer, awl with thread loop, can opener, bottle opener, 1/4 in (6mm
) hex bit driver, bit driver, 1/4 in (6 mm) box wrench, carabiner, 3/16 in (5 mm) box wrench, whistle, ferrocerium rod, diamond-coated sharpener.
    420HC stainless steel
    DLC coating
    Nylon sheath
    Locking features
    Replaceable pocket clip
    Outside-accessible features
    One-hand operable features.

Tech Specs:
    Weight: 7.5 oz (212.6 g)
    Closed length: 4.5 in (11.43 cm)

    Blade length: 2.73 in (6.93 cm)

Colors: Aqua (tested), stainless steel, black, gray, coyote tan, cobalt, crimson. Black sheath.

Guarantee: 25 years, with exclusions and limitations

MSRP: $119.95 US
My Specs:
    Weight: 7 1/2  oz (214 g)
     Sheath: 1 1/8 oz (33 g)           
     Sheath dimension: 5 x 1 3/4 x 1 in (12.7 x 4.5 x 2.5 cm)

Received: June 15, 2019

Included: Package, tool, sheath, directions.

My Description:
    This tool has so many intricate things wrapped into it I will spend the next outing trying to find them all. (I still use a dumb phone, so not kidding.) It doesn't look very smooth, having lots of contours, cut-outs and gadgets. The chassis is essentially two main pieces that fold
--trademark Leatherman--and lock together. Tools then reside in and on the handles. The tool locks closed with a sliding catch, which when released allows the handles to be swiveled apart. This action presents and prepares the pliers. With pliers extended, the tool's wicked-sharp blade is locked closed. The half-serrated blade also locks open, released by pushing aside the spring lever lock. With handles folded, the blade does not lock closed. The saw blade does not lock closed, but does lock open in the same fashion as the blade. The ferro rod (fire starter) resides inside the tool though it sticks up out of the handle, and can be removed to strike it with the tool, or left in place for contact with an alternate strike tool. The sharpener rests on the outside of the tool, with a releasable lock. One handle-end incorporates a carabiner, bottle opener, hammer and the box wrenches, one on each side. The inside of the other handle houses the awl and bit drivers. I find a sibladesngle Phillips bit on one end of the removable driver and a slot bit on the other end. These tools lever-lock/release when extended. A belt clip is built into the hinge, though it does not swivel. The tool locks closed with a manually operated lock. There is no spring-loading, though the handles seem to 'cam-lock' in place when fully opened. There is no stupid cork screw. (Mad Dog has a cap, after all.)
I may have to read the included directions, but that can wait. The first thing I overcame all on my own was how to open the tool. I managed this without having to seek help from the website. The tool looks gangly to me, but actually feels pretty good in hand. It's a palmful; and handle edges are well-rounded with enough flat surface to allow pain-free exertion.

    What I don't see in this very creatively innovative tool is scissors. At nearly a half-pound (214 g) I'm thinking this must be an oversight. I use scissors more than any other device in a multi-tool, including blade. I would appeal to the design crew to switch out the saw for scissors. I also don't like stuff in my pockets, and I can't hang stuff on my belt when I backpack, so I'd be happy to give up the belt clip, too.

    The main reason to carry a multi-tool for me is to have pliers and scissors. The vendor claims two pliers. I couldn't find anything that looked like a second pair of pliers, so I did break down and view the website video, which didn't help me find the second pair. Alas, curiosity drove me into the directions, where the second pair is shown as the ridged opening behind the needle nose and in front of the wire cutter. I'm not thinking that's two pair, but OK. So of course I had to find the second set of wire cutters, and that evidently will require further investigation; as will the effort to locate a second Phillips bit. On the plus side, being able to replace the cutters strikes me as a big benefit. I once damaged built-in cutters fashioning a propeller shear pin from a bungee cord S-hook, rendering that part of that tool pretty much not useful and not repairable. So, kudos on that point. I hope the bit driver is also replaceable, along with the ferro rod and sharpener, all subject to free-falling into the black hole.

    Tools operate smoothly and so far I've no torn fingernails.

Field Conditions:
1. Jun 18-21, 2019. Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, USA. 3 nights backpacking, 35 lb (15 kg) leave weight, 3 1/2 mi (6 km), 2 camps, 85-38 F (29-3 C), sunny, 5,400-5,900 ft (1600-1800 m).
2. Jun 30-Jul 5: Emigrant-Yosemite Wilderness, California. 5 nights backpacking, 41 lb (19 kg) leave weight, 12 mi (19 km) trail + 3 mi (5 km) cross-country = 15 mi (24 km), 4 camps, 80-38 F (27-3 C), sunny, 7,200-8,400 ft (2,200-2,600 m).
   3. Jul 10-19: Yosemite Wilderness, California. 9 nights backpacking, 41 lb (19 kg) leave weight, 17 mi (27 km) trail + 13 mi (21 km) cross-country = 30 mi (48 km), 8 camps, 85-40 F (29-4 C), sunny, 4,900-8,100 ft (1,500-2,500 m).
   4. Jul 27-28: Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon. 1 night car camp.
. Jul 30-Aug 2: Waldo Lake, Oregon. 3 nights backpacking, 50 lb (23 kg) leave weight, 1 1/2 mi (2.5 km) cross country, 2 camps, 80-38 F (27-3 C), sunny, 5,400 ft (1,600 m).
6. Aug 12-16: Yosemite Wilderness. 4 nights backpacking, 34 lb (15 kg) leave weight, 18 mi (30 km) trail, 3 camps, 85-40 F (29-4 C), sunny, 7,000-9,400 ft (2,100-2,900 m).


    1. Shasta-Trinity:  The bear can I was using required some minor adjustment necessitating a firm pliers grip. The needle nose pliers worked great to flatten out an internal star washer that had cupped and wouldn't stay on the screw. The slot bit driver also worked quite well in turning the can's screws.

    A smaller/lighter tool would of course handle either of the above tasks, and I'm given to the impression this tool is more than I need to carry. I'm thinking it unlikely to pry me loose from my preference for a lighter Leatherman. I see it having a permanent place in the trunk of my car, where such a robust set of pliers is more likely to come in handy. It seems a working man's tool to me; and where such might present itself I retire to the comforts of my chair.

    The sheath has a tight loop through which can be threaded a backpack compression strap. The snap holding the sheath shut retains the closure quite firmly, such that I have no fear of toting the tool outside the pack where it can be readily accessible.

    A drop or two of excess oil applied by the manufacturer offended my prissy need to keep fingers nose-picking clean; and has smudged the aqua brightness of the color. Furthermore, I tore a fingernail in some type of endeavor (unrelated to operation of the Signal) and lamented the lack of scissors to address the matter.
    I can make spark with the ferro rod, but my fat little arthritic fingers struggle to make much of it. I can't come anywhere close to the shower of sparks shown on the website. The whistle I blew with all my might and nobody came.
I'd say it puts out pretty good racket for how tiny it is, but either no one was around or I couldn't raise the decibels to the level of cacophony necessary to muster attention. I discovered that it is necessary to hold onto the whistle when blowing lest it be spit to the wind. Nervous describes how I felt about putting the 'loose' pieces--three of them--on the ground. I managed to remember them, but at great expenditure of mental energy very uncommon to my nature.

    2. Yosemite: Much as I maligned the saw, it did come in handy. Suitable tent pads in the cliffs do not present themselves in great number. I found shade, reasonably flat and almost level. But sticking up smack in the middle was a green root stob about the thickness of a pencil. It wouldn't stay pressed into the dirt and I couldn't pull it out. It probably would have yielded to a knife, but the saw made quick and easy work of it.

    3. Yosemite: A durned nasty callus on my bunion area grows like a dandelion. I keep it sanded down at home, but after a week in the woods it was so thick again it split. I tried 'sanding' it with the side of the saw, but that gripped too much skin. The blade actually worked quite well in shaving the hard skin down to the bottom of the fracture. I didn't even cut myself doing it. On another task, the mustache had grown out to a bothersome degree and the blade worked fine to whack the whiskers back to keep them out of my teeth. On this endeavor, however, avoidance of cutting anything else was not as successful.

    4. Siuslaw: The slot screwdriver was useful in working the lid screws on a bear can.

    5. Waldo:Twice I tried sparking Spanish Moss to flame, without success. At night the flashes were so bright as to be blinding, but no evidence of any kind of ignition. I didn't count the number of tries, but the ferro rod shows heavy wear. I find it hard to use because the rod and its handle are both too short. I couldn't urge a hint of combustion in stuff that was dry enough almost to explode when presented a Bic lighter.

Field Conditions:
6. Aug 12-16: Yosemite Wilderness. 4 nights backpacking, 34 lb (15 kg) leave weight, 18 mi (30 km) trail, 3 camps, 85-40 F (29-4 C), sunny, 7,000-9,400 ft (2,100-2,900 m).
    7. Aug 27-Sep 4, 2019. Kibbie Ridge, Emigrant-Yosemite Wilderness, California. 6 nights, 22 mi (35 k) backpacking; leave weight 41 lb (19 kg); 50-85 F (10-29 C), mostly sunny. 5,100-8,000 ft (1,600-2,400 m). 4 camps.
    8. Sep 8-12, 2019. Emigrant Wilderness, 4 nights, 21 mi (34 km); leave weight 31 lb (14 kg); 32-70 F (0-21 C), mostly sunny. 7,200-8,900 ft (2,200-2,700 m). 4 camps.
    9. Sep 14-20, 2019. Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, California. 6 nights, 13 mi (20 km); leave weight 45 lb (20 kg); 30-60 F (-1 to 16 C), mostly sunny.
8,200-10,000 ft (2,500-3,000 m). 5 camps.
    10. Sep 23-26: Emigrant Wilderness, California. 3 nights. 14 mi (22 km); leave weight 33 lb (15 kg); 40-75 F (4-24 C), sunny. 7,000-7,500 ft (2,100-2,300 m). 3 camps.
11. Oct 3-9, 2019. Emigrant Wilderness, California. 6 nights. 23 mi (37 km) trail and cross country hiking, 19 hours; leave weight 41 lb (19 kg); 30-70 F (-1 to 21 C), sunny; 7,000-8,000 ft (2,100-2,400 m); 5 camps.

Nights out with Signal: 54.

    The Signal offers a lot of versatility in a full handful of frame. The key feature is the pliers, which are very strong and the smooth handles allow all the pressure I can apply without hurting. The blade is so sharp it will cut anything I've tried, so far, including skin, hair, paper and cord.
The blade has never come open on its own, but I'd probably rather it lock closed, too, which I particularly like on this tool. The wire cutter works great. Very often wire cutters simply bind the wire between the cutting edges instead of cutting through. I haven't found much that I can hammer. I can't light a fire with the ferro rod. I would never use the belt clip. For the strength of this tool, the screwdriver bits do not seem impressive, though the locking feature certainly merits note.

    Signal's a great addition for the car, but I'll stick with a lighter Leatherman for the pack.

Quick shots:
    a) strong frame
    b) smooth operation
    c) sharp blade
    d) no scissors
    e) 'loose' pieces
Thank you Leatherman Tool Group, Inc., and for the opportunity to test this multi-tool. Test reporting is complete.

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Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Knives > Multi-tools > Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool > Test Report by joe schaffer

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