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Sunday, 11 September 2016 13:08

$5 Dollar Challenge Update

Written by

20160911 090432 resized by AVG Image ShrinkerWith six of the ten contenders already arrived, the Fantastic Five Dollar Challenge is in full swing.  I figured that while we waited for the remaining four tools to arrive we might as well recap the initial impressions of what is in already.  I have to say, the results so far have not been overly positive, with what I consider to be three out and out failures, although forum members seem to disagree on one of them.  Of the two I considered worthwhile, well, let's just say they were worth $5, but I'm not sure even a hardcore multitool and gadget junkie like me would spend more than that on them!

I'll start with the obvious one- the copy of the Leatherman Mako Ti.  This is one I reported on a couple of days ago and came in a very convincing20160908 133651 resized by AVG Image Shrinker Leatherman blister pack, although this should in no way be considered a real Leatherman Mako Ti.  The obvious issue being that designation of "Ti" which means "titanium" which is something this tool is not.  It is steel as evidenced by the neodymium magnet that found it very attractive.  But, in it's own right we know it is a decent tool simply because it is a ripoff of a Leatherman model- in fact, it is a ripoff of a model from PocketTool X, a company purchased by Leatherman a few years ago, and PTX was quite famous for their excellent designs.  This ripoff won't be nearly as good as the original, but for less than $5, I might be tempted to purchase it for more than scientific experimentation.  The wrench cutouts aren't perfect, but they seem functional enough, and the rubber inserts are actually surprisingly good for a cheap knockoff.  This one looks to be a winner, although as it is a knockoff I still don't really condone purchasing it.

20160824 153458 resized by AVG Image ShrinkerNext up we have another knockoff of sorts- it was a design first introduced on our forum from a member who posted under the name of Bottle Grenade.  This version is, however, not one of his, but a ripoff marked EDCGear- a name that goes along with many of these cheapo tools and copies, and, in my opinion is probably quite accurate to the original, but I will go into that theory another time.  What we are interested in for this context is how well it works.  To that end, this one appears to be functional enough, provided one has enough clearance all the way around the nut it is being used on- if not then it falls into the virtually useless category, as most nuts are likely to be obscured by something.  I suppose it could function well enough for bike wheels, but then it might not be big enough.  In the end, I am not considering this one a winner either due to it's very limited usefulness.

The next unit is one that caused some controversy among forum members.  On the surface20160823 145615 resized by AVG Image Shrinker it is basically a small razor blade holder with a bottle opener and screwdriver cut into one end.  My example arrived with the installed blade already broken from an impact with the screw that is supposed to hold the two halves of the frame together.  I also noted that while the blade locked in the extended position so it didn't fall out, nothing kept it from pushing back in during use. Additionally the blade drags across the afore mentioned screw when you extend or retract it.  This basically dulls the blade every time you use it.  Add all of this to the fact that the blade almost popped out through what was jokingly designed as a lock mechanism when I tried to use it and this one added up to an all round failure for me.  As I mentioned, several forum members purchased these as well and had better results, but I can't comment on that- you are welcome however to read through the forum posts and either decide for yourself or have your say.

20160907 152456 resized by AVG Image ShrinkerFollowing that controversy is a carabiner tool that I almost instantly considered to be another fail.  After some use I continued to feel the same.  The wrenches are not well cut, the screwdriver end is rounded... it basically sums up all of the problems of cheap manufacturing.  Additionally the key carrying functionality is also quite useless and the screws stick out a bit too far and will likely catch on things.  About the only thing this unit does well is clip onto things- I have to give credit where credit is due, the carabiner function on this is better than a lot of cheapos.  That's not saying much though, as for $5 you could just get a good carabiner and save yourself a lot of extra weight and bulk.  It is also worth noting that this is another ripoff, this time of a design called the KeyBiner, and folks with the real version seem quite fond of it.

One unit was a complete fail from the get go, and I had a feeling it would be from the moment I purchased it.  Upon arrival it was actually worse than20160910 173444 resized by AVG Image Shrinker I thought, which, considering my low opinion of it to start is certainly significant.  This particular piece is based on a folding knife design but has a bottle opener notch cut in the blade and wrench cutouts in the handle.  The pivot point also functions as a carabiner- when you open the blade it opens the carabiner.  It is an interesting concept, but fails in reality- firstly because in order to use the bottle opener or the wrenches the blade needs to be in the open position.  When using a wrench I guess they expect you to grab the blade and use that for leverage, which seems like a very bad idea to me.  The bottle opener would function well enough, but there is nothing to stop the blade from continuing to rotate beyond the 180 degree position, which means if you try to open a bottle the unit will fold backwards on to your hand.  This one was an instant fail on several fronts.

20160831 121258 resized by AVG Image ShrinkerThe last unit that has arrived so far is actually not a knock off, and oddly enough not a poorly designed original- it actually fits in a very small category of being the actual, name branded tool it is supposed to be.  It is the True Utility FIXR, and while True Utility may not be the best known or most highly regarded company out there, they do have some interesting products, and this one does seem quite useful.  It claims to have 20 functions, and most of them seem to actually work well enough, at least in the limited testing I have subjected it to so far.  I imagine the wrench functions tucked inside the carabiner will be fairly useless as with all of the above tools, but the screwdrivers work well, the carabiner has a decent gate on it, the rotator fittings seem secure, the blade cuts well and gets hidden away nicely when not in use.  I'm not saying this is a perfect tool, but it is so far the only clear winner in the Fantastic Five Dollar Challenge.

That's it for now, I will add more as the rest arrive, but in the meantime I invite everyone with any experiences they want to share or questions they may have to join our forum and let us know.  I would also be interested in knowing what Five Dollar scores you have made and any thoughts you might have regarding them.

Grant Lamontagne

As the founder of Multitool.org Grant has been a collector of Swiss Army Knives and multitools for over 25 years, and a user for over 40 years. 

With a day job working in the field, either out in the woods or on industrial sites, Grant uses tools every day for all manner of different purposes.

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