Most of the multitools we see on the market are from the big three; Leatherman, SOG and Gerber. There are other companies that produce tools as well but are not what I consider key players. Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) is one of those companies and they seem to wow us with innovative designs but never stay in the limelight long enough. CRKT produces a lot of in house designs but I consider them more of a publisher. They collaborate with a lot of knife designers and as a result they able to give us innovative designs at affordable prices.
CRKT has produced quite a few multitools over the years with quite success. The problem I see is they never stay in production for very long. The Zilla, Guppy and assorted tools they released back in in 2008 were really nice. The company has hit a sort of a dry spell but in 2017 they announced they have collaborated with knife maker Glenn Klecker to produce a new multitool. For those unfamiliar with him, he was the one that designed the now infamous Leatherman Skeletool.
What the company is bringing to the table this year is a tool designed for those in the mechanics field. The Technician is a strong departure from a normal multitool and the implements are trade specific. Most multitools are quite generic and take the everything but the kitchen sink approach when it comes to onboard tools. In theory a tool aimed at mechanics sounds like a sure win, let's see how it fairs.
The Technician comes in at a whopping 11.93oz; that's almost as much as a Leatherman Surge with less than half of the functionally. For me that is like carrying a boat anchor on my side, some individuals may not feel the way I do. The tool comes with a generic style belt sheath and it can be worn vertically or horizontally. Least it makes carrying that bulk around fairly easy. The tool has solid steel liners with no skeletonizing, that makes for a stronger frame but almost increases the weight. On top of that is a fairly grippy black G10 scale. Most companies make tools that are all stainless but in this case its nice to see a departure from the norm. G10 provides a nice grip and texture when you have oil or other solvents on your hands.
The tool in the closed position is 4.375 inches and 6 tools are available on the outside of the tool. Outside opening tools are a major convenience and a lot of companies don't go to lengths to give customers this benefit. On one side of the tool we have a a one hand opening blade that's 2.5 inches in length and made out of a wonderful 5cr15mov. Why don't l sound excited? The blade steel is the Chinese equivalent of 440a. This blade steel will sharpen up rather quickly but dull in short order. For a tool that's being used for various duties that a multitool does I would have like to have seen at least 420hc. A positive note is the blade is slip-joint style; this is great for our folks who live where knife laws are a bit on the tough side.
On the same side as the blade we have a 1/4 inch hex driver. A standard hex driver is good to have a multitool because you can carry additional bits with you. Sadly this uses a double ended bit with a phillips on one side and a flat driver on the other using a ball bearing for retention. One could use a certainly use a bit extension tool to allow it to take standard bits. Overall I feel it's thick and lacks versatility out of the box. A couple of extra bits and a place to keep them in the sheath would have been nice.
Lastly on that same side we have a chisel or as they call it a gasket scraper. Working as a mechanic you often have to take apart seals and older gaskets can get stuck it deteriorate. Having this handy tool with you could help keep some of those extra trips to the tool box from happening. I like that it's not overly sharp like a wood chisel is for instance. That was it doesn't mar or ruin surfaces where tight tolerances are required.
On the flip side of the tool we have a telescoping magnetic bit. Working as a mechanic you occasionally have small screws, bolts or other small pieces fall into places that are hard to the reach. Having a retrieval tool of this kind is quite nice and could come in handy in those situations. I have had a similar magnetic pickup tool before that was about the same size collapsed. It would however extend far past the reach of this one. I would have liked to see a reach of at least twice what this gives in order to make it even better. Being the first of its kind on a multitool I guess I can't complain much.
Another tool that very unique to certain trades is a feeler gauge. When this tool was announced I had to look up what the heck a feeler gauge was. I personally don't have any use for such a tool; however I have show this to a few tradesman that come into my work and they said it was limited in its design. Most feeler gauges come on a ring or are riveted together and have an assortment of gauges. Fanned out they kind of look like rulers. To use a feeler you place the end of the gauge in between two tight surfaces and it will allow you to find out the width of that gap. The one provided on the Technician is a little odd because it's a single tool that is ramped. It starts very thin and goes thicker forwards the base. Due to it's design and limited length I feel it's a bit short and it's a nice try on implementing something crucial for mechanics.
Lastly on the outside we have a metal file which also works as a bottle opener and a wire stripper/line cutter. The metal file is not aggressive at all and is about as useful as some of those found on SOG's tools. The bottle opener seems as an extra thrown in item, happens a lot when folks are trying to add more "features" to a multitool. The wire stripper or line cutter is not very sharp and could be sharpened with a small diamond rod to fix it. Having this tool not be better designed hurts the functionality to this tool considering how few implements there are.
It's worth mentioning, while this tool is closed it has a funny shape to it. It may appear ergonomic but it doesn't offer anything to make it comfortable in the handle. I'm sure the designer, like many was looking to add some creative flair to it and make it cool. I feel it would probably be more comfortable with the standard straight edges. I appreciate the effort though.
Unfolding the handles in a butterfly fashion gives you quite a hefty set of pliers. Pliers like this are pretty standard, featuring a head that's a hybrid of both needle and regular style pliers. This hybrid is the preferred kind among users because it can handle a variety of tasks with little compromise. The pliers are also standard investment cast stainless. I would have liked to see something drop forged perhaps with a tool steel used. CRKT likely made this decision as well as other to keep manufacturing cost down. The pliers also incorporate a set of wire cutters that are both regular and hard wire. The cutters performed well in tests and handled up to coat hanger wire quite well.
All in all the Technician is in interesting tool and I would expect nothing less from the folks at Columbia River. This tool may seem right at home with most folks in the mechanics trade but for general use it would fall short. The tool sounds great on paper but I feel it comes up short in a lot of areas.