Leatherman Skeletool KB Review
Cons: Small handle, not available with Leatherman's best blade steel
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Leatherman Skeletool KB
|Price||$29.95 at Amazon||$131.02 at Amazon||$185 List|
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|$160.00 at Amazon||Check Price at REI|
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|Pros||Compact carry, familiar blade, bottle opener||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Top-of-the-line materials, tight construction, great blade||Light, simple, well-made, full size blade, full-function|
|Cons||Small handle, not available with Leatherman's best blade steel||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Super expensive, small handle profile||Expensive, low profile handle, flexy plastic construction|
|Bottom Line||A compact, lightweight, affordable pocket knife with a handle that is a little too small for robust tasks||Immaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every task||This is one of the best knives we have ever tested with a wooden handle||A high-end pocket knife that is readily available at proven retailers; we only wish the handle were a little bulkier for heavy usage||For a full-function, full-size pocket knife, this is as light as it gets, and is the premier option for all sorts of human-powered adventures|
|Rating Categories||Leatherman Skeletool KB||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork||0450 Sinkevich Carbon Fiber||Benchmade 535 Bugout|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||Leatherman...||Benchmade...||Benchmade 15031-2...||0450 Sinkevich...||Benchmade 535 Bugout|
|Weight (ounces)||1.3 oz||3.4 oz||3.2 oz||2.4 oz||1.9 oz|
|Blade Style||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Opening Style||Thumb hole||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Back of knife finger tab||Ambidextrous thumb stud|
|Lock Mechanism||Liner lock||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Frame lock||Proprietary (Axis)|
|Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket clip and lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||420HC stainless steel||154CM stainless steel||S30V stainless steel||S35vn stainless steel||S30V stainless steel|
|Handle Material||Steel||Plastic||Stabilized wood||Carbon fiber||Grivory|
|Blade Length (inches)||2.3 in||2.8 in||2.9 in||3.2 in||3.0 in|
|Closed Length (inches)||3.4 in||4.0 in||3.9 in||4.1 in||4.2 in|
|Overall Length||5.9 in||6.9 in||6.9 in||7.4 in||7.4 in|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||.3 in||.6 in||.5 in||.4 in||.4 in|
|Other Features or Functions||Bottle opener||None||None||None||None|
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 set of 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 and 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 any direction, it is toward sturdiness. The edge angle is steep enough to hold up to fairly aggressive use.
In our multi-tool review, we really love the Leatherman Skeletool CX. 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 of them include the better blade steel. As far as we can tell (and we've looked close, with calipers), all the Skeletool blades share exactly 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 a ton more, but it would be a significantly more robust blade. Maybe, though, it wouldn't matter as much as we'd hope. The Skeletool KB is small and will always come up a little short in terms of ergonomics. The handle isn't big enough, perhaps, to push around the better blade. Which 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 definitely smaller than what anyone might call "full size." To us, a full-size knife has a handle that fills your fist, to some degree. 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 trying to tackle 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 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. There are full size knives in our test 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 exactly the same as that on a multi-tool model we have tested for years. The other components are familiar as well (but not identical to those on the multi-tool Skeletool).
In short, we have had no issues whatsoever 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.
The Skeletool KB is among the least expensive ways to enter the Leatherman "ecosystem." You get the construction quality, the branding, and a great blade at a reasonable price. For that same price, though, you could get similar construction quality and edge integrity in a package that is more ergonomic to use. At this price, you probably won't get a knife as well-made and compact/portable. If portability and value are your primary considerations, you can do well with the Leatherman Skeletool KB.
It is as if the multi-tool and pocket knife "cross-pollination" has now come full circle. Pocket knives came first. Then we started adding more features to pocket knives. The multi-featured tools then began to evolve on their own. One of the pinnacles of that multi-tool evolution, so far, is the Leatherman Skeletool family. With the knife-only Skeletool KB we now have a pocket knife that is an evolution of a multi-tool.
— Jediah Porter