This is a history of the Leatherman Wave Multi Tool. It covers everything from Timothy Leatherman’s first patent in 1980 to the Wave’s release in 1998.
Timothy S. Leatherman majored in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. After having difficulties making repairs to his car using a regular pocket knife, he created what was referred to as a “Boy scout knife with pliers”. Leatherman got his first patent in 1980. His prototype was far from the Leatherman Wave Multi Tool we know today. He initially tried to sell his creation to large companies such as AT&T who would have lots of people needing tools in the field. After failing to get any large clients he decided to try his luck with regular consumers. After simplifying the design he began to sell his product mostly through mail order catalogs. This new business model proved to be highly successful, and in 1983 he founded the Leatherman Tool Group.
The company grew exponentially. The Leatherman Tool Group began to experiment with new designs and products. For example, they added scissors to the tool. They also created tools that were smaller and easier to carry around. By 1992 the company doubled and then tripled their factory size. They were on a roll. The world had caught on to the usefulness of a multi tool. The 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 one million units. The Super Tool became the Leatherman to have. The company began an ad campaign in 1996 showing real life stories Leatherman users’ using their Leatherman’s to survive. The Leatherman Super Tool was the tool that the Leatherman Wave Multi Tool would eventually be based on. One might argue that the popularity of the Super Tool was vital in driving the company to take the necessary steps in designing the Wave.
In January of 1998, the Leatherman Wave Multi Tool was introduced at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. The Wave is the first multi tool allowing access to the blade without opening the pliers. It also allows for access to the blade with only one hand. 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 the Wave’s first big screen appearance.
The Wave has become the most popular Leatherman in history. It is used by everyone from handy men to law enforcement to survivalists. It features pliers, wire cutters, clip-point knife, serrated knife, saw, scissors, wood/metal file, diamond-coated file, large screwdriver, large bit driver, small bit driver, ruler, bottle/can opener, and a wire stripper. In 2004 the Wave was redesigned with larger knives, stronger pliers, longer wire cutters, and all-locking blades. The Leatherman Wave Multi Tool is the most versatile and well designed Leatherman yet. The company has continued its tradition of innovation and has come out with several new tools since the Wave, but the Wave continues to be the Leatherman Tool Group’s best selling product.