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Saturday, 13 January 2024 22:18

Leatherman Arc Featured

Written by

There are a few players in the multitool market, but only one is synonymous with the product. It's hard to deny the juggernaut that is Leatherman. They just celebrated their 40th anniversary and they have no intention of slowing down. Just before this anniversary, new information emerged about a tool Leatherman was developing. Dubbed the Arc, it had a lot of features we grew to love on the FREE series. What really excited people was the fact that it solved a lot of issues people had with the FREE series and said to have a Magnacut blade.

These rumors and speculations fueled heated discussions, and anticipation of a product that some thought was a pipedream. I can't think of a single tool since I've become a fan that has created this much hype and anticipation. If this tool became a reality, it would fix the shortcomings of the toolset on the FREE series. Also, it would solidify Leatherman as the innovator that it is, a testament to its leadership in the industry. As their anniversary came around, they announced a limited-edition tool, which for all purposes was an Arc with a different coat of paint.

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Not long afterwards, we had leaks about the Arc's release date, and some tools that accidentally got into people's hands because a retailer sold the tool before launch. I think this leak helped the public not only to see this tool in the flesh, but hopefully to put it through some real-world use. It wasn't long before issues started to show in the form of broken wire cutters. Seems sometime recently before the launch of the Arc Leatherman changed the replaceable wire cutters geometry. This change caused the cutters to break when cutting something as simple as a coat hanger wire, an item that has been a hallmark test for many a multitool. Leatherman has since reverted to their previous design, and that fiasco is over with.

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Why have I gone through all this info dumping just to review the Arc? Because it's been such a huge launch for Leatherman, not only in terms of sales numbers but by the marketing hype surrounding it. It's been months since the Arc has launched. How does it stack up? Is it everything it has claimed to be, or does it fall short? Let's dive in and take a look at the Leatherman Arc.

The Arc is the successor to the FREE P2/P4. These tools were groundbreaking with their one hand opening tools, and magnetic architecture. Leatherman has taken that system and improved it by taking some features from other tools in their lineup. The Arc is a medium to heavy duty tool that's 4" closed, weighs 8.6oz, and has a blade length of 2.8". It has an impressive 20 tools onboard and comes with a nylon sheath and a fully loaded bit kit.

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The Arc looks very much like its predecessors, except for the DLC (diamond like coating) that now serves as an accent on the outside of the tool and main blade. From the closed position your able to access four main tools using your thumb, the main blade, scissors, file, and saw. The star of the show is the Magnacut blade, it's the latest super steel on the market. It's heralded as being tough, corrosion resistant, and most importantly, easy to sharpen. People are drawn to newer steels because of their edge holding ability, but unless you have a good sharpening setup, they can be difficult to sharpen. Magnacut was designed to be a blend of the best features in super steels, while maybe easier to sharpen.

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Performance wise, it's impressive. I've been using the knife on the Arc to do things I would use my pocketknife on and have yet to sharpen the blade. The shape of the blade feels like a blend between a drop point and a sheepsfoot. I love this style of blade; it's great for utility. This design is less likely to puncture things accidentally, great when you're putting that blade in between, say, a strap and product. Deploying the knife is done with a thumb stud, which is designed for right-handed use (sorry lefties) and opens smoothly. I have seen videos of people popping the knife out like a pocketknife, but it takes effort on the one I have.

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Across from the knife is the scissors, these are the same that debuted on P2 and P4. They are easy to open one handed and lock into position easily. I love the scissors on tools like the Wave but needing to fold them out was an extra step, and definitely tricky one handed. I appreciate the sizeable area for my thumb pad, and there's plenty of spring action. Scissors came nice and sharp and makes short work of various things I tested them on. I didn't encounter any binding or action that would give the impression that the scissors struggled with anything I tested them on.

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On the opposite side, the other two outside tools are the file and saw. The saw works well, it's one that cuts on the pull stroke. The teeth didn't get clogged with wood during use and produce a clean cut. The file on the Arc is one of those tools that people were excited about. Leatherman produces really great files that have an aggressive crosshatch pattern on one side and a diamond coating on the other. The crosshatch side removes material quickly, while the diamond side is more for smoothing things out. People with Leathermans have been known to use the diamond side to sharpen a fishhook, broad head, or even another knife. The file's underside functions as a saw that you can use on metal pipes and other objects.

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One of the defining features of the FREE series is the ability to open all the tools one handed. Accessing a tool is accomplished by utilizing a thumb roll rather than the traditional nail nicks. Pushing or rolling to get to the tools feels natural but produces clumping like other Leatherman tools. This isn't a problem, and rather it's become the norm when it comes to getting the tools you need.

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On the same side as the file and saw we have a large flat driver, which doubles as a light duty pry bar. A micro driver, similar to that found on the Wave/Charge series. And a leather punch or awl, this would be used to bore a hole in something like wood or leather. The large flat or pry is great for dealing with those screws that are too wide for the standard bits that come with the tool. You could definitely do some prying with this tool, but I won't use it for too big of a task. You can use the lip on the bottom of the driver as a bottle opener. The packaging doesn't list this feature, but it makes a better bottle opener than the one included. The micro driver is equipped with a fine phillips and flat driver, making it an excellent tool for working with delicate screws like those on eyeglasses. The awl is effective for creating holes in wood, and I've even utilized it as a scraper. Unlike other Leatherman tools, is lacks an eyelet, which would be beneficial in backwoods leatherwork.

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In the other handle of the Arc, there is a bit driver and a can opener/bottle opener. The bit driver is something Leatherman users either love or hate, some like the versatility of the driver while others prefer the length of a dedicated driver. I, for one, love the bit driver and it's one of my favorite tools. I often carry a bit kit with me in case there's a screw I need to fasten that doesn't take the traditional phillips or flat. Yes, length can be an issue, especially when getting to those hard-to-reach places. That's why I carry a bit extender with me. The opener on the Arc works decent enough, it's opens cans ok but not as good as those found on previous models like the Wave. I'm not sure why Leatherman didn't opt for a more traditional and proven design. As for opening bottles, total fail. I'm not able to get enough purchase on a cap to pop the top off consistently. Use the lip on the underside of the large flat/pry, it'll serve you better.

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All the tools in the FREE series are held in place by what Leatherman calls magnetic architecture. Inside the handle, under the tools, is a magnet. It's used to hold the tools in place until you're ready to use them. The system also doubles as way to keep the handle closed, but we'll get to that in a min. There's just enough tension from the magnet to the tools from accidentally coming out, where the Arc is closed or open. Most companies use some sort of spring tension to keep the inner tools in place, it's a unique method of achieving the same goal. Some have wondered if this magnetic system would attract metal fillings and such, but after lots of use by consumers, this doesn't seem to be a problem. A simple lever locks all the tools on the Arc in place. This lever is pulled back to release the tools from the locked position. It's a simple system and is easily manipulated with one hand.

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Opening the Arc is done like any other multitool. The only difference is that magnetic architecture is keeping the handles together. Rather than friction being used to hold the arms in the closed position, the magnets have just enough pull to keep them together. It's not too strong of a connection, but just enough to not have them come apart accidentally. I can use my fingers with one hand and break that connection to release the handles. I think the entire system is ingenious, and even though it's been in use for years now, it still impresses me.

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When the magnetic field is broken, and the arms of the Arc swing open and swing freely until locked in place. This makes opening and closing the pliers easy with one hand. Locking the handles into the open position happens with an authoritative snap, which Leatherman calls epic haptics. The company now uses an elastomer bushing rather than a regular pivot. Going from closed to open stretches this bushing slightly before it locks into place. Some have worried about wear, or damage from solvents, but the bushing is similar to that used in the automotive industry and can certainly take the abuse.

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As far as pliers go, there's nothing new coming from the P series of tools. The pliers are robust enough for medium duty, maybe even a little more, depending on the usage. The pivot is smooth, it’s not tight and doesn’t need any kind of break-in like older models. The teeth are well defined, and while grabbing things, they hold well. They are also precise enough to pull something like a sliver from your finger. The wire cutters perform as expected. I'm able to cut heavy gauge wire with no difficulty, and yet they can cut braided wire without binding. Multitool pliers will never replace those that are made for the purpose, though the Arc may prevent as many trips back to the toolbox.

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The Arc is the culmination of 40 years of innovation and design. Leatherman took the best of what they've created over the decades and made what they feel is their magnum opus. It's it perfect, or without flaws? Absolutely not, but it has a lot of features that fans have been wanting in one tool for a while. I feel the Arc is everything it claimed to be, it's a great tool that is a good blend of its other tools and the FREE series.

David Bowen

As Co Founder of Multitool.org David has been a multitool enthusaist since the 90's.  David has always been fascinated with the design inginuity and uselfulness of multitools.

David is always looking forward to what's new in the industry and how the humble multitool continues to evolve as it radically changes and improves the lives of users.

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