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The Decline of Leatherman Quality with Budget Offerings

Discussion in 'MultiTools and Other Pocket Tools' started by T.H.Cone, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. T.H.Cone

    T.H.Cone I am senor Fluffy, hear me roar

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    Before I get to the meat of this, I'll say that I have a Wave, a Supertool 300, and a couple of old PSTs from back in the day that I actually paid money for. I have 16 or so Fuse, Kick, Sidekick, and Wingmans that I have mostly gotten for free.

    Why so many budget MTs and why free?

    Well, for many years now, I've purchased my workwear and PPE from a place called Gempler's that will give stuff away with orders that meet a certain price point. SAKs, MTs, knives, flashlights, socks, rain coats, gloves... what they give away varies, but there are usually options and I almost always go for the MT or the SAK. Over time, stuff piles up.

    Now, I've carried the same free Wingman for years. I have often made the claim on this forum that the Wingman or Sidekick is all the MT you really need and for the price (everyone can pick them up cheap during the holidays) they are unbeatable.

    Here it is with the rest of my normal carry.

    [​IMG]

    My kids and wife have their own Sidekicks. All the trucks have some sort of LM in the glove box. Kitchen junk drawer and my dest drawer have budget LMs. The school project/craft box has one and so to does the tote with all the paracord project supplies.

    When the Sidekicks went on sale at a big orange box store this past CHRISTmas for $18, I picked up ten more that I didn't need (including one Wingman that I also got for $18) with the intent of gifting them at some point. Some have been sold to forum members who don't live near a HD.

    Fast forward to today, and I get a bug up my but about putting a plan edge on a Wingman to, in my mind, make it perfect. I figure since I have some new ones, why not use them?

    Open up a Sidekick and a Wingman and...

    I CAN NOT BELIEVE HOW BAD THE FIT AND FINISH IS ON BOTH OF THEM.

    I was truly shocked.

    The plier heads are ridiculously loose. I can, with zero pressure, move one half of the plier head 50% of the way past the other. They are that loose. On the one I use everyday, the plier head has hardly any lateral movement in the pliers after years of use.

    Pick an old one up by the one handle while it is open, shake it, and your hear nothing. Do the same thing with either of the new ones I opened today and there is considerable noise. I dare say that with a little practice that I could play the 1812 Overture with a new one. It's that bad.

    Why the huge difference in quality?

    Curious, I gathered up a few of the other Sidekicks and Wingmans already in service (and not from a big box store) and they are all fine or very close to perfect.

    That apparent decline in quality is not good.

    Here is a shot of the LMs that came from the orange home improvement center with some users (lower left) and the two I opened today (far right).

    [​IMG]

    This begs the following questions. Has Leatherman given up caring about QC on these budget offerings? You see this a lot in the budget flashlight world; awesome product out of the gate followed by haphazard efforts because it is easier and cheaper to rest on their laurels/reputation.

    It could also be that the retailer is able to get cheap Leathermans once a year because they are a special batch that are just slapped together willy nilly without the labor intensive- and expensive- QC. It is well documented that this practice goes on with the power tools they sell; a screw gun from them is very different on the inside than the same screw gun purchased from a tool store.

    You see this too at WallyWorld when the sell WallyWorld versions of knives that have been cheapened up.

    Anyway, what are we to make with this data? It will be interesting if my next order from Gempler's scores me a tight Wingman or Sidekick. That would be very telling.

    Of course, if I get one as bad as the ones I've gotten from big orange, that will even be worse, since it will confirm, in my mind at least, that LM has lost it's way.

    For sure, I can't recommend buying these with the vigor I used to. Which is too bad because they used to represent the very best VALUE in multitools.
     
  2. kertap75

    kertap75 EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    If it is the case that these are from a "special" batch I would be very disappointed in LM. I think it's despicable that companies are putting out 2 (or more) versions of a product with the same name but vastly different qualities. In my opinion it comes as close to fraud as you can get without actually crossing that line. Hopefully it's just a glitch. Maybe this would be a good time to test their supposedly very good customer service and warranty.
     
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  3. No Agenda
    • In Omnia Paratus

    No Agenda Loaded Pockets

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    It could also be that Leatherman was having a difficult time fulfilling orders for the holiday season and relaxed quality control to get them out the door and into the stores that ordered them.

    Also "special batches" for the holidays are usually a slightly different model and /or have different included accessories and carry a different UPC number than the similar item stocked year round.
     
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  4. 0dBm

    0dBm Loaded Pockets

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    In manufacturing circles, there are aesthetic "seconds;" those that are considered "blems." This may be that circumstance. Specific-lot, contracted manufacturing runs are a separate story. The work may be completed by another supplier with the OEM's blessing. One has to wonder if Leatherman did a spot inspection of a sample lot and deemed the entire manufacturing run as acceptable. I also surmise that the orange home improvement center (OHIC) may have demanded the entire manufacturing run by a deadline to fulfill orders. This demand would have hastened the manufacturing process at the cost of diminished quality.

    Overall, this does not bode well for Leatherman, Inc. I see their recent marketing strategies as those reminiscent of Gerber's. I've have been eager to try the Wingman as I see it as the evolution to the original model. This thread may have convinced me to avoid that portion of their product line altogether.

    I gave up on using all Leatherman products a few years ago and switched to the Vic Swisstool RX and the Evowood S557 just a few days ago.
     
  5. Brtsmpsn
    • GITD Manix 2XL Owner
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    Brtsmpsn Oh, Canada!

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    The only newer Leatherman I have have purchased was a Style PS for Air travlel and a CS for my wife for everyday use. The finish were great on both of them and still are. My old Kick, Wave, and PST are still running strong. It would be a shame if their QC was going downhill.
     
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  6. MillsHere

    MillsHere Loaded Pockets

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    I recently purchased a Wingman from the store mentioned above. Right out of the package I was not impressed with the finish and also discovered more play in the pliers than I would like.

    This happens to be my first Leatherman or tool similar to it so I can't compare but I was expecting better quality from a brand I know is #1 in that field.
     
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  7. CSM-101
    • GITD Manix 2XL Owner
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    CSM-101 EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    Hm, I received a blister-carded Rebar for Christmas that was bought at the blue home improvement store and the fit and finish on it seems fine. I did notice that the saw and file are a bit thinner than the ones on the Wave, but the Rebar is a cheaper model after all.
     
  8. ManVsLawn

    ManVsLawn EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    I bought both a leatherman sidekick and a wingman. The wingman went to my gal. The sidekick is mine.

    THe wingman is nice and tight, both closed and open. A few of the tools are nail breakers.

    My sidekick has a lot of wobble when tool is in 'closed' position, but very tight when open. Most of the tools open just fine.

    Both rust waaaay too easily for 'stainless'.

    I had a SuperTool and it was very nice, very strong. The tools looked almost 'fake' they were so well done. But it was heavy and it got sold.

    I find that, at least for the Wingman and the Sidekick, bought from different vendors on fleabay, vary greatly in quality. Maybe, as a few posters have mentioned, different batches are worse or better, depending on demand, holidays, etc.

    I dunno if that helps; I'm guessing LM is going the way of most big companies, which is, produce more products at lower cost. Because most people buy something, use it once, and leave it in a drawer.

    Same goes for most flowe's and dome hepot 'power' equipment. A 400$ pressure washer is useless due to a cheap plastic nozzle, that no one carries a replacement for..... Because most people will buy said 'cheap' product, and use it for a weekend, then leave it for the rust to take down to the seventh level...
     
  9. Lou_G

    Lou_G Banned

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    It might be worth shooting an email to Leatherman and voice your concerns. My daughter's friend no longer works at the factory, otherwise I'd have a chat.
     
  10. Sachmo

    Sachmo EDC Junkie!!!

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    Funny you should bring this up, I too bought a couple of sidekicks from the afore mentioned retailer this past CHRISTmas because of the irresistible price. I finally got around to opening one a couple of weeks ago.
    It felt off from the get go and Its been bugging me ever since.
    I bought two of the Wingman style last year and both have been great.
    I hope this is not the future of leatherman.....very disappointing
     
  11. 0dBm

    0dBm Loaded Pockets

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    This unfortunate development is reflective of the disposable nature of our society. There are so many choices that consumers get bored with one design and jump to the newest thing. Makers realize that and go for the quick sale quarter-to-quarter. The Wingman, Sidekick, and Rev may just be Leatherman's answer to Gerber's Gear Bryllis offerings. Afterall, Gerber's bottom line has improved in recent years. I'll bet a few pesos that Leatherman marketeers have studied Gerber's recent successes with partnering with a famous name. If Maglight's lights are all over the front counters of big box home improvement centers the last decade, might as well "do as the Romans."
     
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  12. ManVsLawn

    ManVsLawn EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    +1 to this... In almost everything I see...... Reminds me of 1984. 'Don't mend; Spend!"
     
  13. 0dBm

    0dBm Loaded Pockets

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    George Orwell was correct!
     
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  14. survivorman
    • In Omnia Paratus

    survivorman Loaded Pockets

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    I cant say much about LM because i am a big fan of Victorinox MTs but your story totally reminds me of Bosch. Bosch is a german manufacturer of electrical tools and car supplies with a pretty good reputation.
    I got a Bosch dril 28 years ago from my granddad. It was my first electrical tool and it was used and tortured for 28 years.
    I lately wanted to replace it with a new Bosch and i was absolutely shocked of what they offer nowadays. Their cheaper home tools (green line) are ridiculously flimsy and of horrible build quality. Evern their pro tools (blue line) dont meet the standard of my very old (and back then rather cheap) drill.
    So i ended up with a Metabo which offers the old Bosch quality, but at a much higher price. And that's just one example of a couple of experiences i had with brands who seem to live of their reputation. German/US brand and name is what you pay for, China quality is what you get. I dont like that trend at all. :stomp:
     
  15. Wishoot

    Wishoot Loaded Pockets

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    Such a shame.

    One of the most well built tools I ever owned (and still own) is a Leatherman Supertool made in the mid-1990's I believe. While heavy and clunky, it works as well today as it did when I first bought it.

    I'm not a huge multi-tool collector, but I have yet to find anything that matches the quality of that Leatherman.

    Quality craftsmanship has been replaced by a quick buck.
     
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  16. Wishoot

    Wishoot Loaded Pockets

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    There's probably better ones out there, but not much that's built better than this beauty.
    [​IMG]
     
  17. JonSidneyB
    • Administrator

    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    I don't look anymore but there used to be Leatherman IP addresses in the forum almost every day ever since the second year this forum existed. I am pretty sure they still are and are aware of this thread.

    I am going to toss a message to them I hope they see.

    I would still like to someday be able to buy products from you directly.
     
    Last edited by JonSidneyB, Mar 19, 2015
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  18. Ryan McKenzie

    Ryan McKenzie Loaded Pockets

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    That might be a good thing if they see many people having the same issues. I haven't had issues with my Surge (For the price I would hope not to), and a friend of mine got a Sidekick around the same time as TH Cone from the same home improvement store but in Canada and hasn't had any of the issues he has mentioned.
     
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  19. JonSidneyB
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    JonSidneyB Uber Prepared
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    I am pretty sure they have already see this thread. What I really want is for them to sell to me.
     
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  20. Nick4305
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    Nick4305 EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    I hope so.