REVIEW – The Leatherman Free P2 is the smaller of the two initial multi-tools in Leatherman’s new “Free” series of tools an knives. It is designed for simplified tool and pliers access. The P2 and it’s larger sibling the P4 are aimed at the same market as their cousin, the long heralded Wave series of multi-tools. Let’s see if the Free P2 can convince me to replace my EDC tools: Leatherman’s Skeletool, Wave, and Micra.
What is it?
The Leatherman Free P2 is a large multi-tool that is slightly smaller as the original Leatherman Wave multitool. Physically in my hands, I would consider the P2 a medium sized multi-tool, but then not everyone has L/XL hands. It differs from previous generations of Leatherman multi-tools in the way the tool is kept closed, how the tools are deployed, and how the blade and tools are locked in place.
What’s in the box?
The Free P2 arrived in a striking black and white themed sleeved tray. There is a single seal holding the tray in the box which must be cut and the tray may then be slid out.
The tray is covered by a black cover card, that when turned over, highlights the new features of the Free line. These are the only instructions that came with my P2. Considering the straight-forward nature of the tool, this is much better than the tightly folded thin-papered instructions that have come with most of the previous generations of Leather multi-tools.
Inside the box are only two items
- Leatherman Free P2 multi-tool (made in the USA)
- Gray nylon sheath with Leatherman branding (made in China)
The Free P2 weighs 220 grams out of the sheath. It is 107.41 mm long, by 34 mm wide, by 23.15 mm thick (measured at the highest point on the clip) Without the clip, it is 19.8 mm thick.
The Free P2 has the following tools
- Pocket clip (potentially removable)
- Pliers with needle nose and regular grip, replaceable wire cutters, hard wire cutters, and on the opposite side of the pivot terminal crimps
- Large combination straight / serrated blade
- Large scissors
- Large philips screwdriver with bottle openner
- Large straight blade screwdriver
- Small straight screwdriver / awl
- Slightly less small straight screwdriver / two sided file
- Medium sized straight screwdriver with integrated wire stripper and a 25 mm / 1 inch rule
- Can opener / box cutter
The P2 is assembled with T8 Torx / lobe headed screws / caps and the clip is held on with T6 sized screws.
Design and features
The principal novel feature of the Free P2 / P4 is the mechanism by which the tool is held closed. This is a pair of magnets, one in each handle that meet when the tool is closed. These magnets are located just inboard of the locking mechanism for the tools (described below).
The pliers are deployed by separating the latch end of the tools with moderate pressure from a finger and then flipping the tool like a butterfly knife. For those readers coming of age in the 1980s and who have attempted to use butterfly knives you know that this takes some skill. A skill that I didn’t master then and still haven’t mastered. I can get the magnetic latch to release, but I can’t reliably get both handles to lock into place on the pliers head without smashing my fingertips. Still, I have lost any digits, so we’ll call it a win. I usually resort to simply unlatching the handles and getting them around and then locking them into place by pressing the free handle against my hip/thigh.
Closing the multitool is simply a matter of pulling to release the handles from the detents in pliers head and closing as you would any other similar Leatherman multi-tool. Just be careful as there is very little resistance to movement when the handles are free.
The individual tools (which are all on the outside) are accessed by pressing on the raised lip on the end of the tools and rotating all of the tools on the same pivot part way up at once fully opening the desired tool, and then closing the remaining tools which activates the spring lock holding the tool open (see below). This is similar, but different from, the tool locking mechanism on the Wave 2.0 / Wave + tools. Relocating all of the tools to the outside makes the handles much more comfortable when using the pliers. I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable my Skeletool was to use until I started using the P2.
A big change, and one to which I am still adapting is the location of the main blade / large tool pivot. Unlike in previous generations, the knife blade does not share a pivot with the pliers head, but instead is on the far end sharing a pivot (separated by a gate / spring) with the other tools. This allows the knife to be secured by the same improved locking mechanism as the other tools rather than relying on a simple, but failure-prone liner-lock mechanism. This is something that I have been complaining about since I learned (the hard way) about the inherent design / performance trade offs between liner lock knives and more robust blade locking mechanisms.
I am happy to see the more robust mechanism which utilizes a small notch in the back of the blade “tangette” which is locked by a spring-loaded lever. This mechanism appears to be strong and reliable. However, I’m still training myself to rotate the tool to open the blade. This is an operator training issue that I am happy to deal with to get a better locking mechanism.
The blade / tools are released by pressing the lever toward the opposite lever which releases the lever from the notch.
The scissors deploy from the opposite handle from the knife blade. The Philips and large straight screwdriver share a handle with the knife and the rest of the tools are on the opposite handle. The pocket clip is on the far side of the same handle as the knife blade.
Comparison to other Leatherman Multi-tools
Since the Free P2 is aimed at the Wave and similar sized tool market, let’s compare the weight of the Free P2 to other Leatherman products. Most of the tools to which the P2 is being compared have more individual tools / features, with the exception of the Skeletool which only has a blade, pliers, and a bit holder and bit carrier. Included in the table is the larger and specialized OHT (One-Handed Tool) which is designed for tactical / military use and is one of Leatherman’s other rapid / easy deployment models.
- Skeletool 142.5 grams
- Free P2 22o grams
- Wave 225 grams
- Wave 2.0 241.5 grams
- Wave + 242.5 grams
- Wave + w/ clip 246.5 grams
- OHT 268 grams
From the list above, it is easy to see that the P2 falls closer to the weight of the Wave family than to the Skeletool which reinforces my initial impressions.
I have been using the P2 for the past week as my EDC knife / pocket multi-tool. I have used it for everything from opening bottles to pruning vines to restoring antique lamps. I have several observations about the reliability of the P2 and its suitability as an EDC tool carried using the clip. I have not, to date, carried it using the sheath.
- The pliers are more versatile, but larger than those on my Skeletool. This has resulting in having to go find smaller pliers on a couple of occasions.
- The wire cutters (both soft and hard wire) are excellent at their jobs. They also make short work of greenbriar vines.
- The scissor are a good size for multiple tasks from trimming finger nails to actually cutting paper. I have had an intermittent problem with the spring for the scissors not popping up into position which requires manual realignment. This seems to be related to the use of the spring as the finger catch for deploying the scissors.
- I haven’t gotten used to the combination blade. I prefer straight knife blades, but this is a personal preference and not a knock on the P2.
- The presence of individual screwdrivers rather than having a bit holder is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t have to worry about losing a bit, but I am limited to what tools I can carry.
- With the free opening handles, the pliers should really be spring-loaded to make the tool more useful for one-handed use.
- The pocket clip is well designed and keeps the P3 in the pocket securely, but easily accessible.
- The tools are slightly magnetic when deployed and small magnetic field also surround the P2 when closed. The field is strong enough to pick up 0.75 gram paperclips.
What I like
- BLADE AND TOOL LOCKING MECHANISM
- Selection of tools
- Replaceable wire cutters
- Much more comfortable handle when using the pliers
- All of the tools (except the pliers) are accessible from the outside
What needs to be improved
- Adding a spring to the pliers to assist with opening them
- Improve the positioning of the spring on the scissors
- Make a straight blade an option on the P2
After just a week, the Leatherman Free P2 multi-tool has made such an impression that the P2 will replace my trusty Skeletool for EDC in my pocket. I am very pleased with the improved locking mechanism for the blade and this just may be the tipping point for me.
I have decided that the P2 is not a replacement for the Wave 2.0 that I keep in my day bag, but I hope to compare the P2’s big brother (the P4) to my Wave before I head out to summer camp with my scouts. For bag carry, I think the extra tools on the Wave outweighs the 25 grams of extra carry weight.
In closing, the Free range of multi-tools with their new locking mechanism are a big hit with me and greatly improve the safety of the main blades on these multi-tools.