A while back I reviewed my Leatherman Surge multi-tool. I am a big fan of the Surge and there have been many times when I have been glad to have it with me (holiday in Cornwall, overseas work trips). However, as noted in my review of the Surge, the locking blades mean that the Surge is in a bit of a legal grey area; when carrying the Surge I need to have a “good reason” to do so if I wish to stay on the right side of our purposefully vague laws on such things. Similar laws also prevented me from taking the Surge on a work trip to Japan a few months ago. Because of this, at the end of last year I decided to supplement my Surge with a swiss army knife, as the relatively small, non-locking blades mean that I can enjoy the benefits of having it with me at all times without the requirement to have a “good reason.”
A few years ago I read about a swiss army knife designed specifically for people who work with PCs, which included a small bit driver for the various small phillips and torx screws used on motherboards and in laptops. When I started thinking about getting a swiss army knife, I remembered this and I was pleased to find that not only does it still exist, there are a few different versions available in the Victorinox Cybertool range. The bit driver is also available in some of the larger Swisschamp models too (XLT, XXLT, XAVT).
For me the Cybertool 34 (CT34) offered the best range of tools within the size range I wanted, without having too much redundant overlap with the Surge. Both the CT34 and Surge have bot drivers, with some overlap in the supplied bits, but I would be much happier using the CT34 above the likes of a delivate motherboard than the Surge. Similarly, I prefer the Surge when working on things at a larger scale. The CT34 is available with translucent red or blue scales. I damaged the scales on mine (and never really liked the translucent scales either) so I decided to replace them with black.
The CT34 buts are 4mm hex, with a ball bearing on one side of the bit to retain them in the driver/holder. The holder only makes contact with the bits on two sides, so it is important to ensure one of these sides make contact with the ball bearing to prevent the bits falling out of the holder and the bit driver will also act as a 4/5mm nut spinner when empty. The bit selection includes #8, #10 and #15 Torx drivers, #0, #1 and #2 philips drivers (will also double for Pozi drivers in a pinch), 4mm hex driver and 4mm flat-head. In a pinch, the #8, #10 and #15 Torx drivers will also happily double up as 2, 2.5 and 3 mm (respectively) hex drivers too. The bit driver is what really makes this tool, and brings the whole Swiss Army Knife concept into the 21st century. I believe that the special bits are made by Facom and compatible alternative bits can be found in their catalogue.
The CT34 has a few features which the Surge lacks; the scales contain a surprisingly useful pressurised ballpoint pen, tweezers, toothpick and a pin, in addition to an eyeglass screwdriver which lives wound into the corkscrew. I wouldn’t want to write a lot with the pen, but it does often come in useful for writing down a quick note or marking something up. The toothpick is great, and it is possible to buy replacements once it gets to the point where you want to retire it.
Other tools unique to the CT34 are the corkscrew and hook. The corkscrew is not really that useful unless you tend to drink a lot of wine outside. The hook is rated for to almost 100 kg, which opens up some possibilities (zip-line, anyone?).
Like the Surge, the CT34 also has two blades and pliers. Unlike the Surge, the blades are both non-locking and neither are serrated (the Surge has one straight and one serrated). The blades hold an edge very well, but because if this they require a bit more work during their (admittedly less frequent) sharpenings.
The pliers are sprung and much smaller than the Surge pliers; they are ideal for small detail work which makes them a good compliment to the Surge pliers, rather than redundant. They also include wire cutters (only really good for small gauge wire) in the jaw of the pliers and a crimper in the arms.
The remaining tools are duplicates of the tool selection available on the Surge, and include the following: A can opener (with a useful small flat head driver) and a bottle opener (with large flat head driver/scraper/pryer & wire bending notch).
Very good sprung scissors.
Sharp awl with eye for thread. I like this awl better than the Surge awl, and I have made some holes in wood with it when there was no drill available.
The tools in Swiss Army Knives are held in place using back-spings. These keep the tools folded away when not in use and give the tools a satisfying “snap” when opening/closing. The main disadvantage of the back-spring mechanism over the Leatherman is that most of the tools require fairly long and substantial nails (or some sort of substitute) to get at, whereas the tools on the (admittedly less sleek) Leatherman are easily accessible without using nails. I get around this by using the tweezers from the scales to open the tools which have nail nicks, and the use of nail nicks does make for a much smaller overall package when compared to the likes of a Leatherman. At the time of writing I am in South China and I have managed to grow my nails a bit due to the fact that I have stopped biting them whilst I have been here due to the generally less hygienic conditions here (e.g. public toilets with no hand washing facilities, non-drinkable tap water etc.) and the nail nicks are working just fine for me at the moment.
Much like the Klean Kanteen bottle and Leatherman Surge I have reviewed previously, I have become rather attached to the Cybertool 34. I think part of this is due to having these things with me so much of the time and enjoying the various benefits they bring. This is especially true for the things I have with me when I’m travelling abroad on my own. Whilst it is smaller and therefore less capable than the Surge, after nearly eight months of carrying it with me most of the time I am very happy with the CT34. Paired with the Surge there are not many jobs which cannot be tackled. The CT34 is also a very capable tool in its own right, without being too bulky to carry around all/most of the time (although if you are going to have just one tool of this sort, the Cybertool 41, with the addition of a wood saw, metal saw, file and chisel may be a better option).