The good people at Gerber sent us one of their redesigned multi tools, the Gerber Centre-Drive, and sponsored us to write a review. A couple of the writers at DIY tips used the tool for a week and we also gave it to our handy man for a professional’s opinion. We have pulled our thoughts together here.
What The Chuff is ‘Multi-Tool’?
Basically, this is a clever device that combines lots of functions into one small device. A Swiss army knife is a good example of a multitool. These tools can be easily carried in a pocket, wallet or bag so it is practical to carry them with you where ever you go. In comparison, it isn’t very practical to lug a toolbox up a hill or up a precariously balanced ladder.
Multi-tools are varied because they are designed for different users. Firemen love versions in which the wire cutters can be used easily whilst they are wearing thick gloves, soldiers like ones where the components can be flicked out in a millisecond and the rest of us like the ones with bottle openers and a corkscrew.
The Gerber Centre-Drive we are reviewing is designed to cover the bases for DIY jobs. You tighten screws (flat and Philips head), cut, strip and twist wire, pull out nails, cut stuff, file things and yes you can open bottles too. Its quality means that it is suitable for professionals too; it will work alongside a plumber, builder or electrician for decades.
Who Are Gerber?
In 1910 Joseph Gerber was working in his families Oregon advertising company and he posted 24 sets of handmade knives out to a selection of their clients. Abercrombie & Fitch were so impressed with the blade quality that they asked for more to sell in their catalogue – and lo Gerber Legendary Blades was borne! Over the years Gerber has moved away from cutlery and specialised in knives; hunting, survival and military blades. In addition, they expanded their range to include axes, torches and multi-tools.
The brand is a household name in the US but not so well known in Europe so you are forgiven if you haven’t heard of them. Gerber multi-tools have been on the U.S. armies kit list for years, soldiers and ex-army personnel being some of Gerber’s most fervent fans. The fire service and police also use them.
Wow, it weighs a tonne! There is no doubt that this is made with some pretty impressive and quality materials. There is nothing limp, lose or wobbly about this thing. The mechanisms are smooth and the grip good.
The writers scrabbled about looking for instructions but there weren’t any so we sent an email to Gerber to ask for some. Sadly none were forthcoming! The handy-man tester laughed at us when we told him. Apparently, most people know how to use them already or just work it out in a few minutes. He was almost right. After a quick look at the image below we worked out to get all the tools out and back in again pretty quickly – see the next section for some pointers. We strongly recommend familiarising yourself with the tool before you dangle out of a window or climb a ladder to do a bit of DIY.
Tools: How To Access and Put Them Away
Piers/Wire Cutters. You can’t open the arms of the tool without using the slider to push out the plier/wire cutter attachment. This is easy to do one handed using your thumb however if you have small lady hands you can’t do it in one go. Our handyman with his big spade hands could do this in one motion. Getting the plier/wire cutter head to slide back into the housing was not easy because the mechanism seemed to be a stiff at first. After a couple of uses it eased up hugely and it became easy to do single handily. First of all, close the arms and then place your thumb across the slider. There is a small square raised bit – press it in. This removes the lock then slide it back down which re-houses the pliers. IMPORTANT – Don’t pull the arms together tightly when you are sliding the pliers in or out, this freezes the mechanism. Just close then arms without pulling them together as far as they will go.
The knife blade and screwdriver are on the same arm as the plier slider. You can access these tools when the arms are closed. Simply pull them around on the hinge so they point in the opposite direction the pliers. To re-house them; look at the arm just the other side of the hinge that the blade or screwdriver rotate on. There is a long thin bit of the handle with some etching on it (it says unlock and there is a padlock symbol but you will be forgiven if you can’t read it!). Use your thumb to press it in towards the handle and this frees the hinge so you can rotate the attachment back into position.
The other tools are on the inside of the other arm so you need to slide the pliers out so you can open the arms. The attachments simply rotate out in the same way as the blade and the screwdriver. To re-house; On the same arms as the tools look on the other side – there is a large ridged black rubber thingy which kicks out at the end. Use your thumb to push it up the arm. It won’t move very far but it will release the lock allowing you to rotate the attachments back into their housing.
The Best Bits
1. By far the most impressive design feature was the screwdriver. This was loved by the writers and the professional alike. It has something called a ‘Centre-axis driver’ which means the screwdriver end aligns perfectly with the rest of the tool allowing you to use maximum force. With other multi-tools and even compact screwdriver sets, this alignment of the body combined with a decent handle length is missing. This means it is impossible to create the torque necessary for a lot of jobs. If you can’t create enough torque (force) the screwdriver simply wears off the etches in the screw – once that happens it is very difficult to remove the screw making a difficult job virtually impossible. Hence why this feature on the Gerber is so good.
2. The wire cutter and plier blades can be opened one-handed. The wire cutters are great but if they get a lot of use they will inevitably wear out and you can’t sharpen them like you could a knife blade. Never fear these are replaceable on the Gerber Centre-Drive!
3. Quality is a real feature. It’s no good having one of these emergency tools only for it to break or a blade to wear out at a critical time. Our handyman assessed the quality as very good and he would definitely give it space on his tool belt.
The Worst Bits
To a homeowner, the tool is not instantly intuitive. You need 10 minutes of fiddling to work out how it all works. It should really come with proper instructions or better yet there should be a decent (and short video) on the Gerber website.
It is quite heavy and this might put some people off carrying it with them everywhere.
This is a top quality gadget and it did do all the jobs expected of it well. The range of attachments is good and useful for most tradesmen and DIY’ers. It also looks impressive and the weight makes it feel high quality. This is would make a good gift.