That's Flawesome: Multi-tools: The Gift No One Really Wants
Not too long ago, we stumbled across a blog that caught our attention. Started by three friends with backgrounds in industrial design and art direction, That's Flawesome came across as a much-needed reminder that not all designs are created equal, no matter how visually pleasing they appear to be. Each blog entry focused on a particular design to focus on, and what we especially liked was the way these guys balanced constructive criticism with useful suggestions and, of course, a sense of humor. Clearly, these guys were excited about design, and instead of picking each project apart, they approached their critique from a sense of fairness and joy, hence the name That's Flawesome.
We are excited to feature That's Flawesome on the Coroflot blog because we appreciate their honesty and insight when it comes to the design world. Remember that each entry is written in good fun and entirely subjective. The critiques presented by That's Flawesome do not reflect the opinions of the Coroflot team, although we do find them to be entertaining. We hope you enjoy!
You forgot to get someone a present, didn't you?
I get it. There's just too much stuff going on this time of the month; Christmas specials on TV, new old Star Wars movies coming out. Or maybe you were too busy camping out in front of a Best Buy at 5am for your chance to get one of the two Nintendo NES Classics that some internet site said *might* be in stock on Tuesday...instead of thinking about picking up a Christmas present for your best friend. It's okay, we've all been there. You probably realized that you forgot to buy a present for someone while waiting in line...to buy a present for someone else. You can't just get out of line to shop for another present in the store: it took you 20 minutes just to get to the almost half-way point to the register! You're not going to the back of the line, so you start scanning to see what's around you. Stores always have fun little items in bins, or hanging on peg hooks, in close vicinity to the checkout line, that people like you, the forgetful shopper, may pick up as a last minute present. And I see you eyeing that one particular item. The package says it has a variety of uses! It comes in various colors! It can hook on to a keychain! I'm here to tell you to put that down. No one wants a multi-tool for Christmas.
The multi-tool is just that: a tool that is a multiple...of tools. It's several tools in one. They're often marketed as something to keep with you "just in case." You know, just in case you were out somewhere, and needed a screwdriver. And then minutes later, you needed to scale a fish, but only after you uncorked a bottle of wine. Why carry a screwdriver, a fish scaler, and a corkscrew, when you can carry a tool that fits in your pocket, and that has all three of these things, plus MUCH MUCH MORE. I'll tell you why. Because each one of those items does its job much better than the multi-tool. Also, these multi-tools aren't well-designed for the user. They are well-designed in the sense that the designers and engineers managed to squeeze a dozen different functions/tools into a small package. But using the different tools in a way that works well? Good luck with that.
Let's look at a few different multi-tools, and see what's Flawesome about them.
Swiss Tech Micro Max 19-in-1
NINETEEN IN ONE. This thing has 19 different tools, and folds up into a compact shape that you can hook onto your keychain...although not very reliably.
As you can see from the instructions, the jaws of the pliers just close around your keyring. I can't imagine that's a robust attachment.
Of the 19 tools, 6 of them are screwdrivers. And just look at how you would have to use the screwdriver.
Normal screwdrivers are easy to use because they're straight, and you rotate them about the screw's axis, which is also the axis of rotation of the screwdriver. With this multi-tool, the screwdriver head is not located at the center of the tool. You're going to have an awkward time trying to rotate that tool to unscrew a fastener.
Machine Era Multi Titanium
"We created the Multi out of the same desire as all of our products - the desire to create and carry objects that are both beautiful and functional." Well, that's a nice statement. This has 7 tools, but one of those tools is a 1 inch ruler, and another is a 2.5 cm ruler. Out of curiosity, do you know how many centimeters are in 1 inch? 2.54 centimeters. GO FIGURE. They could've just put the two measuring scales on one side of the tool. Also, I'm not sure "Finger Grip" is much of a tool. What do you use that for? Holding the multi-tool? And what are you prying with that really small pry wedge? The pry wedge is recessed, with the flat head screwdriver extending much further. Wouldn't you just use the screwdriver as a pry wedge? And again, I ask, what are you prying with that? How much leverage are you getting using a pry bar that's 2.5 inches in length?
Barbuzzo Multi Tool
This looks like a bottle opener with some cut-outs added as "tools". It has 9 functions/tools listed, but if we follow the previously mentioned Swiss Tech Mighty Max 19-in-1's way listing tools, then it has 13 tools...with 5 of them being wrenches. You're going to need a pretty big clearance around the nut or bolt you're trying to remove if you're using this wrench, much like the minimalist wrench set we wrote about some time ago. But that's a minor problem with this multi-tool, when the handle of the multi-tool is a saw. That's right, in order to hold and use this multi-tool, you have to hold the serrated teeth of a saw. How's that for a great user experience?
Tool Logic Credit Card Companion
The multi-tool for your wallet! I'm not going to lie. It's pretty amazing that they were able to fit a 2" serrated blade, combination can/bottle opener, awl, magnifying glass, compass, tweezers, toothpick, small/large screwdriver, and in/cm ruler, all in a package that's the size of a really fat credit card.
First of all, who is using that magnifying glass? It's so small! And who actually uses any type of magnifying glass these days? You know, besides Sherlock Holmes cosplayers. It just seems like an odd tool to include. Also odd: having a compass. I guess there could be a case where you get lost in the woods with nothing...except your wallet, where you keep your Credit Card Companion. But as the instructions state, "Please remove the knife from the tool for compass to work as the metal can interfere with the compass." Well, that's less than ideal. So now you're walking around the forest, looking at your compass, with a 2-inch knife in hand. And let's take a look at how you would hold a 2-inch knife in your hand.
That seems a bit...awkward. But I'm sure it's fine, like when you have to cut some rope. Or if you have to stab that killer who's chasing you in the woods. Just remember, if you're going to stab that guy, make sure you get in really close, because this knife is only 2-inches long.
Right now, I'm sure you're saying, "Great. I get it. You don't want me to buy a multi-tool for my friend as a gift. What do I get them now?" Well, if you're dead set on buying a multi-tool, there is one that isn't Flawesome, and that I carry with me every day: a Swiss Army Knife.
Yes, Swiss Army Knives have many of the same functions/features of the multi-tools we've examined above. The difference between those tools and a Swiss Army Knife is that the Swiss Army Knife is actually a joy to use. It feels nice in your hand, it's easy to hold. And unless you're getting the monstrosity known as The Swiss Champ (with 49 different functions!), the knives have a relatively low profile, and fit in your pocket nicely. Let's not forget that this design has been used by the Swiss Army since the late 1800's, and that the knives are still made in Switzerland. It's a classic. Also, MacGyver carries one. And who DOESN'T want to be like MacGyver?
If you're still thinking about getting a gift that's a tool, but aren't really thrilled with getting someone a pocket knife, I would suggest a multi-bit compact screwdriver, like this Wera Kraftform Compact 25. [Side note: check out that guy holding the screwdrivers in the link. He seems nice...and someone you don't want to mess around with.
I bought this screwdriver a few months ago, and I must say, lots of thought went into this design. The mechanisms it employs to expand and collapse work flawlessly, and it's one of the most comfortable screwdrivers I've ever used.
If you're on the fence about getting your friend a screwdriver, and really have your heart set on a multi-tool, well then have fun with it! Get your friend this Star Wars Millennium Falcon multi-tool.
Sure, it only has a few hex keys, a couple screwdrivers, and an awkward wrench, but it's also shaped like the fastest ship in the Star Wars galaxy (according to Han Solo, that is). It may not function as a tool as well as some others, but again, it's shaped like the Millennium Falcon.
Regardless of what you get your friend, I'm sure it will be fine, because it's the thought that counts, right? And also, from a design standpoint, remember that it's how and when the product is used that really matters. While I've pointed out that some of these multi-tools have some Flawesome usability issues, remember that these multi-tools aren't used every day. No one is using a multi-tool screwdriver as their main screwdriver. So maybe a multi-tool as a last minute Christmas gift to your friend won't be so bad after all. Just don't get the one with the saw blade as a handle.
Article written by Carl Acampado
For more That's Flawesome visit their website!