Leatherman is a trademark for a line of multi-function hand tools produced by the Leatherman Tool Group. The tools are usually slightly larger than a Swiss Army knife of similar functionality, each generally includes a knife, pliers, screwdriver and assorted other devices. A primary distinguishing feature between a Leatherman tool and a Swiss Army knife is that the Swiss Army knife is essentially a knife with other tools stored in the handle while a Leatherman tool is essentially a pair of pliers with other tools stored in the handles.
These are generally chosen for the following qualities:
- compact and light (suitable to wear in a belt holster in some applications)
- constructed as a single piece with various moving parts, so one component is not lost while using another (except for the Wave 2004, Surge, Charge Ti, and Charge XTi which all have two-sided removable screwdriver bits)
- when collapsed for storage, relatively smooth and blunt compared to the equivalent discrete tools, thus reducing frequency of damage to items stored along with it.
Some models of the Leatherman brand have a built in safety mechanism that locks selected tools in the open position when fully unfolded. Different models have various methods for unlocking the tools. In some, one of the other tools has to be partly unfolded to release the first one; if all the tools of this model were to be fully unfolded simultaneously, then an external tool might be needed to unlock them. In other models, there is an unlock button that allows the tool to be re-folded.
The method in which the pliers are exposed is similar to that of the butterfly knife.
The Leatherman Tool Group was founded by Timothy S. Leatherman, a 1970 graduate of Oregon State University, who majored in mechanical engineering. According to a December 10 1981 column written by Bill Monroe in the Oregonian, Leatherman came up with the idea of a "Boy Scout knife with pliers" during a 1975 driving tour of Europe with his wife, when he was unable to use his pocket knife to fix his repeatedly malfunctioning car.
Leatherman spent several years perfecting his prototype, getting his first patent in 1980. He also spent those early years refining his sales model. He originally expected that industrial companies with large staffs of technicians would be his target customer, but attempts to sell the tool to companies such as AT&T failed. It was only after following the advice of a contact at the Early Winters catalog company to simplify his product that sales began to grow. It was mail-order catalog companies such as Early Winters and Cabela's that gave Leatherman his first significant sales.
Leatherman formed Leatherman Tool Group to sell his creation in 1983.
- Gerber multitool
- True Utility
- Leatherman Tool Group official website
- Short biography of Timothy S. Leatherman, from an OSU Academy of Distinguished Engineers web page
- History History of Tim Leatherman (an entrepreneur)