The Leatherman Skeletool KB is an adaptation and simplification of Leatherman's line of multi-tools that share the same Skeletool branding. Compared to the average of our tested pocket knives, the KB is a little less expensive, a little more compact, a little lighter, and has pretty typical blade and edge integrity. We wish the handle were bulkier for heavier and extended use, but it works well for most tasks around the campsite. As is, the handle is a little small with some sharp edges. It isn't the most ergonomic to use. Further, left-handers and those that like deployment options should look elsewhere; the KB is set up for only right-hand, right pocket carry if you wish to deploy it easily with one hand.Editor's Note: We updated this review for Leatherman Skeletool KB on August 25, 2022, with a closer look at value and a section that highlights directly comparable products that may better suit your needs.
Leatherman Skeletool KB Review
Cons: Small handle, not available with Leatherman's best blade steel
Compare to Similar Products
Leatherman Skeletool KB
|Price||$40 List||$100 List|
$46.85 at Amazon
$29.95 at REI
|$20.15 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
$9.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Compact carry, familiar blade, bottle opener||Beautifully constructed, assisted open, good value||Serrated blade portion, carabiner carry option, lightweight, good blade steel||Small, portable, well-constructed||Inexpensive, functional, heavily featured|
|Cons||Small handle, not available with Leatherman's best blade steel||Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragile||Rudimentary construction, primitive lockback||Not made for heavy-duty use||Unremarkable construction, low quality steel, bulky|
|Bottom Line||A compact, lightweight, affordable pocket knife with a handle that is a little too small for robust tasks||A slender, svelte pocket knife with great materials and a reasonable value||The best knife we have tested for rock, ice, and alpine climbing||A tiny, multi-function pocket knife||A fully-featured tactical pocket knife at an unbeatable price, but it lacks high quality construction|
|Rating Categories||Leatherman Skeletoo...||Kershaw Leek||Petzl Spatha||Victorinox Classic...||Albatross EDC Tactical|
|Blade and Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||Leatherman Skeletoo...||Kershaw Leek||Petzl Spatha||Victorinox Classic...||Albatross EDC Tactical|
|Weight||1.3 oz||3.1 oz||1.5 oz||0.8 oz||3.8 oz|
|Blade Length||2.3 in||2.9 in||2.7 in||1.4 in||2.5 in|
|Blade Material||420HC stainless steel||Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel||Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel||Proprietary Stainless (between 440A and 420)||440 stainless steel|
|Handle Material||Steel||410 stainless steel||Nylon||Plastic||Stainless steel|
|Blade Style||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop Point, hybrid straight/serrated||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Opening Style||Thumb hole||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud; back-of-knife finger tab||Ambidextrous thumb hole; ridged traction ring||Fingernail||Assisted, flipper|
|Lock Mechanism||Liner lock||Frame lock||Lock back||None||Liner lock|
|Carry Style||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Carabiner hole||Keyring||Pocket clip|
|Closed Length||3.4 in||4.0 in||4.2 in||2.3 in||3.9 in|
|Overall Length||5.9 in||7.0 in||7.0 in||3.8 in||6.5 in|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip)||0.3 in||0.3 in||0.5 in||0.4 in||0.4 in|
|Other Features or Functions||Bottle opener||None||None||Scissors, nail file, small screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, key ring||Seatbelt cutter, glass breaker|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Skeletool KB is a stripped-down version of this multi-tool company's stripped-down multi-tool. That's right, twice-stripped. The Leatherman Skeletool multi-tool family is one of our favorites in that category. It is an ergonomically-optimized tool with just the right attributes for most day-to-day multi-tool users. The multi-tool version has fewer features than most other pliers-type multi-tools. Apparently, some amount of original Skeletool users (or designers, or marketers?) wanted the blade isolated out, essentially on its own. The result is the Skeletool KB that we test here. This is a compact pocket knife with a bottle opener; nothing else.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Leatherman equips the Skeletool KB with a familiar blade shape and makes that blade out of solid and reliable 420HC steel. Their hardening process is proven; we've tested their blades for years to verify this. The final edge bevel is well-tuned for day-to-day use. If the edge angle leans in any direction, it is toward sturdiness. The edge angle is steep enough to hold up to fairly aggressive use.
We love the Leatherman Skeletool CX in our multi-tool review. That is Leatherman's top-of-the-line version of the Skeletool family. As such, they equip it with a blade made of 154CM steel. There are a few different versions of the Skeletool KB, but none include the better blade steel. As far as we can tell (and we've looked close, with calipers), all the Skeletool blades share the same dimensions and geometry. Leatherman inc has Skeletool blades in 154CM steel in their production chain. We'd like to see a Skeletool KB made with the better steel. It wouldn't cost much more, but it would be a significantly more robust blade. Although maybe it wouldn't matter as much as we hope it would. The Skeletool KB is small and will always come up a little short in terms of ergonomics. The handle isn't big enough to push around the better blade. This brings us to our more in-depth analysis of ergonomics.
The Skeletool KB is a small pocket knife. It isn't the smallest, but it is smaller than other full-size models in this review. To us, a full-size knife has a handle that somewhat fills your fist. Full-size knives still cover a wide spectrum, but the KB is beneath that spectrum. This makes it relatively low profile in your pocket but greatly compromises usability. Deploying it is a little fiddly. In tackling extended or rigorous cutting tasks, the small handle quickly finds its limit.
Leatherman put a nearly full-sized blade into a handle that is just a little too small for us. The blade is a great shape. It just needs a little more handle to drive it well. Further, deploying the blade is not ambidextrous. We overlook this in our multi-tool review (it is virtually impossible to make a pliers-based multi-tool with an ambidextrous, one-handed blade) but know that knives are a different beast. A knife can easily be ambidextrous. Leatherman's adaptation of the Skeletool multi-tool format to a knife leaves a right-handed opener while the competition isn't bound by adherence to the multi-tool legacy.
Portability, to a point, is the flip side of ergonomics. An ergonomic, well-made knife has certain dimensions and mass. Portability is optimized the smaller and lighter your knife gets. The Skeletool KB is smaller than average. It is made of all metal components, so its weight isn't especially low. Our test has several full-size knives that weigh nearly the same as the KB.
The pocket clip of the Skeletool KB is tight and visually unobtrusive outside your pants pocket. Its configuration means that a little of the knife peeks out above your pocket edge. The pocket clip is fixed in one orientation (tip-down, best in your right pocket).
We dig the all-metal construction of the Skeletool KB. We test vigorously and for the long term. But we can only test a product as long as it has been on the market. The KB is relatively new, but we feel like we already know it well. The blade geometry, for instance, is the same as that on a multi-tool model we have tested for years. The other components are also familiar (but not identical to those on the multi-tool Skeletool). In short, we have had no issues with the Skeletool KB and do not anticipate any.
The only other feature on the Leatherman Skeletool KB is a bottle opener (apparently, that's what the "B" stands for. "K" for "knife" and "B" for "bottle opener." They add an "x" qualifier to Skeletool KB knives that have a hybrid straight/serrated blade). The bottle opener works, but it isn't as slick or simple to use as a full-size version. You have to get it on the lid of your bottle at just the right angle for the hook to engage where it needs to. It does the job, especially for the first few of your evening.
Should You Buy the Leatherman Skeletool KB?
The Skeletool KB is among the least expensive ways to enter the Leatherman "ecosystem." With the knife-only Skeletool, we now have a pocket knife that is an evolution of a multi-tool. You get the construction quality, the branding, and a great blade at a reasonable price. You probably won't get a knife as well-made and compact/portable at this price. For these reasons, the Skeletool stands out as one of our favorite pocket knives, and if portability and value are your primary considerations, you can do well with the Skeletool KB.
What Other Pocket Knives Should You Consider?
For the same price as the Skeletool KB, you could get similar construction quality and edge integrity in a more ergonomic package. A knife like the Ontario Knife Company RAT II offers improved ergonomics and a higher-quality steel blade. If you're a climber, we also highly recommend looking at the Petzl Spatha, which is similarly portable but offers the versatility of a half-serrated blade.
— Jediah Porter
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