The Gerber Multi-Plier 800 "Legend" from Gerber Legendary Blades (a division of Fiskars Consumer Products, Inc.) represents a new tack for the company. Heretofore, with a single ignoble exception, their multi-function tools have traveled down a unique design road, offering some unique features and advantages that appealed to many. Millions of users still get a kick out of pulling out their Multi-Pliers and flicking the jaws out of the fore end of the tool in one deft motion. The previous models of the Multi-Plier were, and still are, quite different than the Leatherman tools and their clones and direct comparisons were not always appropriate; they each had very different appeal.
With the Legend, Gerber has taken another stab at producing a better Leatherman tool. It opens in the same manner, the handles unfolding out and back from the jaws. In terms of features, it most closely compares to the Leatherman Wave. It's a huge step up from their old MPT, Military Provisional Tool, more or less a clone of the original Leatherman Pocket Survival Tool, but with improved handles, which we have previously reviewed and found wanting.
Compared to the Wave, the Legend is somewhat bulky and not particularly lightweight, despite what Gerber may claim in their advertising. Weighing in at a hefty 8.8 ounces (249.5 grams), over half a pound and an ounce (28.4 grams) more than the Wave, it is 4 1/4 inches (108 mm) long, 1 9/16 inches (39.7 mm) wide and 7/8 inch (22.2 mm) thick, not including the one-hand opening studs and locking slides which stick out from the sides. These dimensions all exceed that of the Wave, 4 x 1 1/8 x 3/4 inches (1016 x 29 x 19 mm), respectively. Compared to the standard Gerber Multi-Plier it weighs about 1 ounce (28 grams) more (depending upon the Multi-Plier selected), but is 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) thicker and and inch (2.54 cm) shorter
Some of this bulk is directly attributable to the use of cast aluminum handles that are 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) thick. The aluminum is electrolysis nickel plated for added corrosion protection and has a fine textured matte silver finish with a somewhat brownish/yellowish tinge. Inset into the handles is the tool retention and lock mechanism which is stainless steel.
Inlaid into the side of each handle are a pair of "Gator TEX" rubber inserts that protrude ever so slightly above the handle surface, supposedly to provide better grip. The textured shiny surface wasn't all that grippy to the touch, nothing like the grippiness of the Kraton rubber handles we've seen on so many Gerber knives, though Gerber told us they were supposed to be gripier. Could have fooled us. We found that some testers liked the inserts, believing it provided a marginal improvement in grip when using the tool with the handles closed; others found they seem to get slippery when wet or sweaty and didn't much like them. They don't really come into play when using the pliers.
There are spring steel leaves that serve to provide a noticeable detent for the handles when open or closed. This tends to keep them in that position, with much the same force as the Victorinox SwissTool, as compared to the Wave where the force is much less.
The tool pivot pins (or what they call "axles") have Torx heads and are easily adjustable, allowing you to re-tension the tools as desired. That compares to the ones used on the Wave, for example, that use a proprietary driver, making adjustment impossible in the field. We had two Legends with which to play, one arrived with the tension set so tight on one handle that it was almost impossible to open the knife blade and you could forget about the Philips screwdriver. A quick adjustment fixed that.
The Gerber instruction sheet says these are #8 Torx and they provide a #8 Torx L-wrench with the tool. We found the #8 wrench fit rather sloppily into the head, making using it more difficult than necessary and raising concerns about stripping the head. A #9 Torx wrench fit precisely into the head. Gerber couldn't offer an explanation for this. They promised to look into it, but never got back to us.
One of the features we came to generally appreciate when using the pliers was the spring loaded handles. A coil spring is hidden inside a recess between the pliers jaws around the pivot joint. It is not accessible and cannot be field repaired. How long this spring will last before breaking is a question that will take a while to answer. We've never yet seen a coil spring that doesn't eventually fail. Given Gerber's limited lifetime warranty and the fact that failure won't prevent normal use of the pliers, we're not terribly concerned.
The handles present a smooth surface to the hand for the most part, but the slide locks protruding from the sides can be slightly uncomfortable when squeezing the pliers tightly, digging in into the palm of the hand to a degree. This is not nearly as painful as the original style Leatherman Tool with its biting edges, but it can be annoying and the net result is that the handles aren't quite as comfortable as the unencumbered Wave or SwissTool.
Those with smaller hands found the Legend's pliers a
handful, literally. Between the thicker handles and added spread of the handles
when the jaws are both open and closed, those with small hands found it much
more difficult to grip and, even more so, to squeeze tightly.
The needle nose pliers jaws present a unique geometry. They are the same thickness as those of the Wave and overall functional depth is about the same. The tips are 7/64 inches (2.8 mm) wide, almost double that of the Wave, but nearly half that of the SwissTool. Still plenty small to consider a real needle nose.
Fully open, the jaws spread only 1 inch (25.4 mm) wide at the tips (the Wave and SwissTool measurements are 1 9/16 (39.7 mm) and 1 7/16 (36.5 mm) respectively). The limitation appears to be internal within the spring-loaded mechanism as there is added room for them to open further from all external appearances. This has the potential to somewhat affect their utility.
The aggressive portion of the gripping surfaces extend 15/32 inches (11.9 mm) and unlike the competition, forms a complete oval, a better design for most gripping uses. The opening limitation, however, limits what it can grip. This leaves 5/8 inches (15.9 mm) for the fine gripping surfaces out to the tips, about the same as the SwissTool, a full 1/4-inch (6.4 mm) less than the Wave.
Somewhat oddly, compared to all other needle nose pliers we are familiar with, the fine gripping surface ridges stop before the end of the tips, leaving about a 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) flat surface where the tip mate. We didn't notice any adverse effects due to this design oddity and we suspect is may be a minor advantage in some circumstances, such as when using the pliers as tweezers to pull fine stickers and such, as sometimes occurs. This design feature also results in the fine gripping areas of the jaws being parallel when closed. This would likely be a minor advantage gripping thin things, perhaps a slight disadvantage when gripping thicker stuff.
The most noticeable difference in pliers design is
the highly angular shape of the jaws themselves. Instead of the shallow angle
of most needle node pliers, these have a fairly steep angle back from the
tips. The result is greater strength at
the tips, but also much more limited ability to reach into narrow places, one
of the attributes we like most about traditional needle nose pliers. The angle
isn't far off that of the SwissTool, but quite a bit more than the Wave. For example, by way of comparison, the fully
closed jaws of a Wave extended 3/4 inch (19.1 mm) through a 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) hole in a drafting
template. The SwissTool extended 1/2 inch (12.7 mm), the Legend only 7/16 inch (11.1 mm). This is
exacerbated because the Legend jaws are 1 3/16 inches (30.2 mm) deep, top to bottom, overall when closed
compared to 13/16 inch (20.6 mm) for the others, this added depth further restricting
access to confined places.
The wire cutters on these multi-function tools have always been a weak point. Leatherman addressed the issue with the hard wire cutter slot, beefing up the shearing surfaces so the sharpened surfaces weren't damaged as is easily done if cutting harder wire. Gerber has taken another direction with the Legend, but maintains the basic two-part cutter concept. A pair of tungsten carbide "blades" is set into the jaws. Each triangular shaped insert incorporates three identical cutting surfaces. They are held in place with a Torx screw (same #8/#9 size as the others) and if one cutting edge is damaged, you can rotate another into position. The carbide cutter edges are approximately 3/16 inches (4.8 mm) long with a semicircular notch for hard wire.
Gerber claims the cutters will "cut through #2 hard carbon steel fishhooks, 1/16" piano wire, and 278lb stainless steel offshore fishing leader." We can confirm the first two. On the other hand, we were also able to cut them with the Wave without a problem (we wouldn't even try with the SwissTool).
We did damage the carbide cutters slightly, however,
when we weren't so careful placing .048 piano wire into the hard wire notch. We
inadvertently located it fully at the aft-most position of the jaw opening
where the eased corner of the carbide inserts form a notch of sorts. When we squeezed down on the wire, a piece
of the corner of one carbide insert broke off with a loud crunch, which brought
us up short. This didn't seem to adversely affect the use of the cutters, but
it is something you'd need to be careful of.
Do that a bunch and you might really damage something. We found having
to be extra careful with wire placement only a minor annoyance.
The Legend's knife blade and all implements are accessible with the handles in the closed position, a feature we like a lot. All tools lock in place, another excellent feature we prefer. The lock is essentially the same as used on the Gerber Multi-Lite tools and similar in function to the slide lock system used on previous Gerber Multi-Pliers tools. All of the mechanism is internal with just thin metal slides protruding through slots in each side of the handles. The slides, which are pulled rearward to unlock the implements, ramp out to the rear and have ridges to improve grip.
The spring-loaded slide locks are relatively easy to operate, though the spring is pretty strong and as noted earlier they do detract slightly from the comfort of using the pliers. Also, two of our testers found the thin metal slides dug into their fingers uncomfortably when operating them. The slide locks cannot be operated with one finger, unlike the previous Multi-Pliers; you need two, normally your thumb and index finger. They also aren't as comfortable to operate. The external plastic cap of earlier models provided lots of surface area with no hard edges.
One of our evaluation Legends had a malfunctioning lock, the same one with the difficult to open knife blade. The saw would not lock at all and the Phillips screwdriver and knife blade just barely locked. After adjusting the "axel" tension, all implements locked in place, but the lock did not engage fully, as did the locks in the other handle or other Legend.
The implements are reputed to open independently, though there are hitches in that concept. Gerber continues with their same "nail hook" design for opening many of the tools, as on previous Multi-Pliers. In fact, for the most part the tools are identical. Those with no nails or weak nails need not apply. The opening design is compromised compared to the previous design Multi-Pliers because in those the top of the tools with the nail hook are exposed above the handle side pieces, but in the Legend they are all below the top of the side pieces. Aside from the one-hand opening implements, only the saw proved easy to rotate out.
In one handle there are a one-hand opening drop
point blade, #2 Phillips driver compatible with Gerber's tool bit coupler, and
Gerber's unique replaceable blade saw with a RemGrit blade. The other handle
contains one-hand opening scissors, three sizes of slotted screwdrivers, one
combined with a bottle opener, and a double-sided file. All the implements have typical Gerber matte
The one-hand opening drop point blade is 2 3/4 inches (69.9 mm) long with a 2 3/8 inch (60.3 mm) sharpened edge. While we prefer a drop point blade, the rear 50% of the edge is serrated, not a feature we particularly like. Given a choice of a single blade, we prefer a plain edge, not a compromise. We should note that there are those who prefer this style, we're just not one of them.
The blade locks open with the edge about 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) above the plane of the bottom of the handle, more relief than we'd like to see, given our druthers. The higher above the plane the edge is, the more limiting it may be under some circumstances. Most knives and other multi-purpose tools with outward opening blades, such as the Wave and SwissTool, are within a 1/16-inch (1.6 mm) or so. In fact, the Legend's blade relief is above point of the SwissTool's blade
For these two reasons, we're hesitant to suggest it as a potential replacement for a regular folding knife as your sole cutting tool.
A triangular shaped sloped stud is pinned permanently to the blade and protrudes slightly from the side of the handles through a like shaped notch. The protruding stud with its three ridges makes it extremely easy to operate one-handed and there's no risk of inadvertently slicing your thumb on the blade as with the Wave's narrow clip point blade and its thumb slot. It is set up for right-handed use only.
The blade retained its edge reasonably well, given
the middling 420HC steel used (same as many multi-purpose tool manufacturers), and sharpened easily.
The "Fiskars" scissors (remember that Fiskars, who is renowned for their scissors, owns Gerber) are also equipped with the same one-hand opening stud, making it a cinch to deploy. Once flipped out you then rotate one of the blade pairs back around to gain a functioning tool. That part is a little awkward to accomplish one handed.
The one moving handle is spring loaded via an external stiff wire spring. We discovered that you can inadvertently over-rotate this blade when preparing to stow the scissors, which is then very difficult to get back where it belongs. In the end we damaged the spring in doing so, it never did rest fully against the blade after that, though it still worked.
The end of the handle where your thumb rests is curved, but the relatively thin edge can cause some discomfort if you do a lot of cutting with it, particularly of harder materials requiring more effort.
The scissors have a relatively short 7/8-inch (22.2 mm)
throat, so it takes more strokes to cut something than with larger scissors,
such as those on the Wave. The short blades do serve to add strength, resisting
warping that might occur with longer narrow blades. They cut everything we threw at them.
We did get frustrated cutting many stiff materials, particularly sheets of paper or cardboard, probably the most common things they will likely be used upon. The stiff material initially catches on the square cut shoulder ahead of the pivot point where the offset blade edge meets the body of the handle at almost a right angle. The stiffer and thicker the material, the more of a problem this was to deal with until it became a lot more than just an annoyance, it impacted usability. Given Fiskars' experience with scissors, this anomaly is a real puzzle. In a conventional scissors design, including those produced by Fiskars that we own, the edges extend beyond the pivot point, so there's nothing to catch on.
Combine this very annoying problem with our less than stellar experience with the spring opening mechanism and the uncomfortable handle and you have to really wonder where all that Fiskars expertise went. If we were Fiskars, I think we'd be embarrassed.
Gerber stuck with the unique "saw coupler" from their other Multi-Plier models. With it's nail hook riding higher in the handle, it opened easily. A 2 7/8-inch (73 mm) RemGrit GL-4 medium grit tungsten carbide grit blade is included. It has a 2 3/16 inch (55.6 mm) long cutting edge.
The coupler theoretically allows the use of "any" jig saw blade with a "1/4 in. universal shank," or any "standard 2 3/4" jig saw blade" according to Gerber literature. That's not quite true. The term "universal" is a misleading misnomer; it isn't even close to universal. Nor did all the "universal" blades we found or tried even fit. Some had no hole for the lock to engage, but were still labeled as "universal." On some the shank was too short, so that you couldn't slide the blade far enough in to lock it in place. On others the shanks were too thick to work. We thought it might have been the paint and even filed the paint off, but the blades were just too thick for the slot. Even when we found blades, some styles and sizes were thicker than others within the same manufacturer's product line. We recommend trying out the fit of the blade in the slot before leaving the store.
While fine tooth, hacksaw style, metal cutting blades are fairly common in 2 3/4 inch (69.9 mm) size, wood-cutting blades that size are very difficult to find in our experience. The most likely candidate is the relatively more common 14 TPI (teeth per inch) blade that is usually labeled for use on metal and "nail embedded wood." You'll also likely have some difficulty finding a replacement RemGrit blade, they aren't all that common either.
You can use longer jig saw blades, which are easier to use because the added length gives you a longer stroke, but you cannot fold the saw back into the handle without removing the blade. Finding longer blades is also difficult since they tend to be thicker and then don't fit the slot.
Exchanging a blade is quick and easy, just push the spring steel keeper aside and slip the saw blades in or out as needed.
The provided RemGrit blade works moderately well for metals, hard plastic, fiberglass and even dry wood. Cutting green wood it very quickly clogged, becoming pretty much useless at that point. Unlike a toothed blade, it's very difficult to clean up the wood pulp clogging the grit, making it all the worse.
Virtually all of the "wood cutting" blades we tried worked surprisingly well on green wood, including that 14 TPI model. One nuisance we discovered was that all the full size wood blades we found cut only on the pull stroke. Typical multi-purpose tool and Swiss Army saws cut on both strokes. Given the size of the saw, every little bit helps.
The fine-toothed metal cutting blades worked well, one place where the concept really stood out. Other manufacturers' multi-purpose tools all lose out when it comes to cutting metal. While some have a cutting edge of sorts on the file, the Leatherman tools for example, it is marginal at best.
Given the extraordinary difficulty finding blades that work, we spent hours driving around looking, it seems to us that it would be reasonable to expect Gerber to offer some suitable blades that fit their products or an assortment of some sort. Perhaps in years past these blades were easier to find, but that's certainly not the case anymore.
Finally, while having interchangeable saw blades may
be a great concept, even though it has some minor flaws in practice, it doesn't
do you nearly as much good if you don't have the alternate or replacement
blades available when you need them.
There's no place to store any in the provided sheath, a genuine
The double-sided file was difficult to open. While it has a nail slot, the slot is hidden behind the screwdriver lying next to it in the handle. The only way to access the file is to first open the screwdriver part way, then open the file and close the screwdriver. That pretty much defeats the independent opening concept right there. It proved annoying anew every time we had to use the file.
The file is 2 1/2 inches (63.5 mm) long. One side is a single cut file, the other a not very aggressive cross cut file. The single cut working area is 2 inches (50.8 mm) long; the cross cut working area is only 1 5/8 inches (41.3 mm) long. Neither working area extends to the tip, which we prefer.
We found the single cut side worked well for the most part, though it isn't as fine as we'd like. For those who use their multi-purpose tool's file for filing fingernails or similar fine work, this one is too coarse. On the other hand, the double cut file, which should be more aggressive, wasn't nearly as effective as we'd like, not much coarser than the single cut side.
Worth noting, the older Gerber Multi-Pliers we have are
equipped with files that are stamped "Simonds," a highly respected old-line
American file manufacturer. The file on this tool has no stamp and is of
visibly lower quality. There is a
notable difference in function, as might be expected. The old file's double cut side cuts much better. Gerber told us that they had switched from using just one manufacturer, to reduce their reliance and exposure to supply interruption, which makes sense. But, even though we were told they are still using Simonds for all files, it appears that they lost something valuable in the transition.
In one handle with the file and scissors are the three straight blade (common) screwdrivers, sized 7/32, 5/32, and 1/16 inches (5.6, 4, and 1.6 mm). The medium size driver also incorporates a bottle cap opener. The blades are double ground, not as nice as a straight cut blade, but much better than Leatherman's single grind style. The tips are square, not polished or rounded off, which is also a good thing, contrasting with the SwissTool's polished blades that won't grip a shallow slot
The wide driver is 1 1/4 inches (31.8 mm) long, 1 1/8 inches (28.6 mm) to the nail hook shoulder. The medium driver is 1 3/16 inches (30.2 mm) long, 7/16 inches (11.1 mm) to the shoulder and 3/4 inches (19 mm) to the bottle opener. The bottle opener compromises the ultimate utility of this driver. The small driver is 15/16 inches (23.8 mm) long, 11/16 inches (17.5 mm) to the shoulder.
The nail hooks are staggered and on the large and small drivers worked reasonably well, provided you have strong nails. However, the one on the medium driver cum bottle opener didn't have enough overhang, making it more difficult to use. This is made worse by the fact that it is this driver that must be rotated out of the way to access the file.
The cap opener on the medium screwdriver works fine, but we'd rather have a can opener given the choice. Caps are easy to open without the proper tool, cans are much harder.
The #2 Phillips driver lies in the other handle between the knife blade and saw. Its nail hook is too short to be very effective and it's almost inaccessible below the adjoining tools if you have large fingers and short nails, which just makes it worse. To open, we found it easier to use a finger to reach well down into the handle and catch the Phillips head itself with our nail to pull it out. This is how you open the Phillips driver in previous Multi-Pliers, but there is isn't buried as deep and the head is easy to reach.
The Phillips driver is 15/16 inches (23.8 mm) long overall. It's only 1/2 inch( 12.7 mm) to the shoulder, not a lot of working depth.
The rectangular body of the Phillips driver is designed to work with Gerber's "Multi-function Tool Expander" bit coupler designed to hold any 1/4 in. tool bits. It's included in the Gerber "Tool Kit" with six 1/4 in. hex tool bits in a rubber holder. However, Gerber doesn't offer a combo sheath that holds both the Legend and the Tool Kit as it does for its other Multi-Pliers 600 series tools.
The tool lends itself to unfolding the handles when using the screwdrivers. As with the Leatherman tools, this makes it much easier to use the screwdrivers since your hand is better aligned with the blade, as opposed to when the handles are closed.
There is no lanyard hole or fold out lanyard
attachment, like on some previous full size Multi-Pliers. A hole in what we'd
call "jaw keepers," for want of a better term, could be used for lanyard
attachment in a pinch.
About the only nice thing I can say about the Legend's sheath is that it is reasonably well constructed. The sheath has always been a weak point with the Gerber Multi-Pliers.
Let's start with materials; while the exterior ballistic nylon is adequate and equal to what others use, the interior surface doesn't stand up to abuse and too easily absorbs contaminants. There also isn't much padding provided, so it doesn't hold its shape very well, it's essentially just an envelope with the tool wedged in. Even after nearly six month's use, this occasionally made stowing the tool in the sheath more difficult than it should be.
Those problems are minor compared to the flap design. It drove us up the wall.
First, the Velcro doesn't hold the flap very securely. The flap is oversized for the sheath once the tool is inside, so that the flap then sticks out from the sides, aggravating an already poor design. When worn on our belt, we were constantly catching the flap with our arm or hand, or as we passed by something while walking or working, opening the flap up and leaving the tool unrestrained. This is an easy way to lose the tool. The right angle corner of the flap will constantly remind you of its presence as your arm swipes it while walking or working. The melted nylon that serves to prevent the binding from unraveling results in a sharp edge that only makes this more annoying as it scratches your arm.
One reason it took so long to complete this review is that after wearing the tool on our belt for a few days we would get so annoyed we'd take it off. Then it would be a while until we got going again. This occured numerous times. We've received many similar complaints from other owners of Gerber knives and Multi-Pliers using similar sheaths and looking for a replacement sheath. If we were going to carry the Legend for daily use, the first thing we'd do is have a decent sheath made for it.
Finally, besides there being no place to store spare saw blades in the sheath, there also isn't any place to store the Torx wrench, another noteworthy omission. What's the use of having adjustable axles and the ability to change the carbide cutting surface if you can't do it in the field and without a place to store the Torx L-wrench, the odds you'll have it with you are slim.
The Legend is made in the U.S. and is priced at $136 suggested retail, approximately $85 online (September 2001 pricing). Gerber offers a limited lifetime warranty on all their Multi-Plier tools.
The Model 800 Legend presented itself as one contradiction after another. Gerber's aim was right on the money; the execution leaves something to be desired. The total is definitely not the sum of the parts. It has many welcome and desirable features that had us rooting for it to be successful; all the tools being accessible with the handles closed and they all lock in place, the one-hand opening knife blade, adjustable axles, spring-loaded pliers, and the rotatable/replaceable carbide wire cutters to name just the highlights. Yet, they are also all flawed to one degree or another, as noted. Some of the flaws are almost unimaginable, such as the Fiskars scissors that don't work well with stiff materials. The devil is often in the details, and the details are where the Legend seems to be lacking, often limiting the functionality of the tool.
Aside from all that, it's relatively bulky and heavy compared to its closest competition. So much so that many will find it unwieldy to carry or use. Then there's also the unsatisfactory sheath. Finally, we were also a bit surprised and disappointed in Gerber's manufacturing quality control, as noted.
Aside from the matter of bulk and weight, virtually all the deficiencies we identified have relatively easy solutions. Were Gerber to take care of these issues, they'd have a far better product with some very nice features that that would be welcome by many. Until then, the Legend doesn't live up to its name, it's a Legend only in its own mind.
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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
First Published: September 29, 2001
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