History of the Leatherman Wave Multitool
This is a story of the Leatherman Wave multitool. It covers everything from Timothy Leatherman’s first patent in 1980 to the launch of the Wave in 1998.
Timothy S. Leatherman majored in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. After making difficult repairs to his car with a regular pocket knife, he created what was called the “Boy Scout knife with pliers.” Leatherman obtained his first patent in 1980. His prototype was a far cry from the Leatherman Wave multitool we know today. He initially tried to sell his creation to big companies like AT&T, who had a lot of people who needed tools in the field. After failing to land any major customers, he decided to try his luck with regular customers. After simplifying the design, he began selling his product primarily through mail order catalogs. This new business model proved to be a great success, and in 1983 he founded the Leatherman Tool Group.
The company grew exponentially. Leatherman Tool Group began experimenting with new designs and products. For example, they added scissors to the tool. They also created tools that were smaller and easier to transport. In 1992, the company doubled, then tripled the size of its factory. They were on a roll. The world had realized the usefulness of a multitool. Leatherman began appearing in movies and television, such as the hit show “MacGyver” and the blockbuster movie “Speed.” The Leatherman became more than a useful tool, it became a cultural phenomenon.
In 1995, the Leatherman Super Tool, which featured the first locking blades, sold over a million units. The Super Tool became the Leatherman he had. The company began an advertising campaign in 1996 that featured real-life stories of Leatherman wearers using their Leathermans to survive. The Leatherman Super Tool was the tool on which the Leatherman Wave Multi Tool would eventually be based. It could be argued that the popularity of the Super Tool was vital in prompting the company to take the necessary steps to design the Wave.
In January 1998, the Leatherman Wave multitool was introduced at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show. Wave is the first multi-tool that allows access to the blade without opening the pliers. It also allows one-handed access to the blade. This one-handed action came in handy for Jackie Chan in “Rush Hour,” who used the Leatherman Wave multi-tool to fend off mobsters. This would be Wave’s first big screen appearance.
The Wave has become the most popular Leatherman in history. It is used by everyone from handymen to law enforcement officers and survivors. Features pliers, wire cutters, clip-nose knife, serrated knife, saw, scissors, wood/metal file, diamond-coated file, large screwdriver, large-tip screwdriver, small-tip screwdriver, ruler, bottle/can opener, and wire stripper. In 2004, the Wave was redesigned with larger knives, stronger pliers, longer wire cutters, and full-lock blades. The Leatherman Wave multitool is the most versatile and best designed Leatherman to date. The company has continued its tradition of innovation and has introduced several new tools since the Wave, but the Wave remains Leatherman Tool Group’s best-selling product.