The SOG "Paratool" was the first multi-purpose tool designed expressly to be more easily opened one-handed. It is slightly larger than the Original Leatherman (4 [plus 3/8 inch for the opener lever tab] x 1 1/4 x 17/32, 7 ounces) and the opening mechanism pretty much requires it be carried in its pouch on your belt. It is very uncomfortable in a pant pocket. The pliers rotate out from between the handles by use of a lever "tab" that incorporates a lanyard hole. Once you lever it out and part way up, you have to finish the opening with some assist from your thumb. While a bit awkward to operate, it does work, and it is easier with practice.
Besides a straight point plain edge blade, it includes a serrated sheepsfoot blade (both 2 1/2 inches). There are three slotted screwdrivers, very small (1 1/16 in.), medium (1 3/8 in.), and large (1 1/16 in.) and a Phillips (1 1/2 in.), a can/bottle opener, and a sharp awl/punch.
An optional 2 1/2 inch double tooth saw blade is available and recommended. Note, however, that the saw wasn't as effective as the saws on the Leatherman Super Tool or Victorinox SwissTool when used on live wood, but worked fine on dead, dry wood. Still, it's adequate and much better than nothing.
Another option is a serrated line/seatbelt cutter blade. This is a hook style blade with serrations along the inside edge as well. The standard pouch is nylon, designed to be carried either horizontally or vertically, which we prefer. An optional leather pouch is available.
The pliers can be used at an angle, which can be quite handy at times. Unfortunately, the jaws are not a legitimate needle nose, being virtually twice as wide at the tips compared to the Leatherman's. The Paratool's handles are smooth and comforatble to grip.
SOG also offers its "Power Plier" series featuring the original Power Plier and the somewhat smaller "Pocket Power Plier." The Power Plier is a somewhat heftier tool (4 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 9/16 inches closed, 8.3 oz.) which incorporates compound gears (2:1 ratio) to provide increased leverage for the pliers, reducing hand discomfort. It opens like the Leatherman, not like the Paratool, but is much easier to open one-handed than the Leatherman, a real advantage at times. The gearing allows the user to exert heavy pressure with considerable ease, compensating a lot for the lack of smooth handles.
The primary blade is a 2 7/8 inch drop point style, which is good, but it is a 50/50 serrated and plain edge, not so good. Even worse, it has a chisel grind which is a drawback, especially for someone trying to use using a vee style sharpener on the plain edge.
Besides the usual assortment of tools, fine/course/saw edge file, can/bottle opener, awl, 3 slotted screwdrivers and a #2 Phillips, it includes a double tooth saw (same as on the Paratool option with the same deficiencies), a very small, 1 inch spear point blade, a chisel, and a square drive screwdriver. The former can be useful, I am not so sure about the latter, at least for most. Tool size is comparable to the Paratool and many of the components are interchangeable. The optional blades from the Paratool can replace any of the long tools or the can/bottle opener, if desired.
Its biggest drawback, aside from the blade design, is that the original Power Plier does not have needle nose pliers, rather they are a long blunt nose standard pliers design. This was probably selected for the added strength it imparts, required due to the extra force which can be exerted on them by the compound leverage design. Unfortunately, it reduces the versatility of the pliers somewhat. A needle nose version is now offered, but we haven't yet been able to evaluate them. Due to the size and open gears, the Power Plier will need to be carried in its nylon belt pouch. This is designed so it can be worn vertically or horizontally, a feature we really like.
The Pocket Power Plier is close in size to the original Leatherman (4 1/8 x 1 3/16 x 1/2 inches closed, 5.4 oz.). It is the same configuration as its larger brother with the compound leverage gears (actually, when closed, it is narrower at the gear end, 1 1/16 inch, than at the other end). It is equipped with true needle nose pliers, a plus, though they are a bit oddly configured, flat on one side with all the angle from the other. They seem to work OK, however.
A 2 1/2 inch blade of the same flawed design as the larger tool is accompanied by a file, small and large slotted screwdrivers, #2 Phillips driver, and a can/bottle opener. A "deluxe" version adds a medium screwdriver and the square drive.
While SOG calls it a "pocket" tool, the gears are sharp enough to make pocket carry more than a bit uncomfortable and potentially destructive to the pocket itself. I expect most use the provided leather pouch.
SOG also offers the Power Plier and Pocket Power Plier with a titanium nitride (TiNi) "hardcase" finish on the "wear surfaces" such as the plier jaws and wire cutters, as well as the handles. SOG claims the TiNi coating has a surface hardness of Rc 90. This coating has been extensively used in industrial applications for drill bits and mills to give longer life. Whether or not is makes any sense in this application is debatable, but it sure does look sharp, a bright golden yellow, albeit at about a 45% increase in price.
The SOG reputation for quality is well earned and these tools are no exception with some very nice features. However, lacking, at a minimum, locking blades, these tools just don't quite cut the mustard from our perspective.
SOG has announced and shown prototypes of their "PowerLock" tool which is due to be available in the fourth quarter of 1998. We hope to get our hands on this new SOG entry with locking blade and implements in the near future to perform a full evaluation.
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