Introduction: How to Maintain Your Multi-tool.

Picture of How to Maintain Your Multi-tool.

Left your favourite Multi-tool outside? Rusted?
Or just not opening smoothly...
Here's how to fix and maintain it.

Your Multi-tool may not be similar... but the same guide can be followed..

What you will need:-

- 1200/800g Wet-n-Dry abrasive paper

- Lubricant preferably teflon based

- Clean dry cloth

- Small container

Let's begin!

Step 1: Taking Your MT Apart-

Picture of Taking Your MT Apart-

When taking your MT apart, especially for the first time, it is important to remember and note which pieces go where...

Believe me, if you get them messed up your going to be there for a while sorting the mess out.

I prefer to take an A4 piece of paper, and line the parts out in order...
This allows us to simply "stack", the parts back into the chassis of the unit..

Begin by locating the fixing mechanism's, which retain the implements..
On my model I have four small bolts...
Some models have a swing arm locking mech..
Locate it and remove the locking system..

Step 2: Removing Implement Stacks

Picture of Removing Implement Stacks

Now we will remove the implement stacks..
Before doing so have a look at how they are stacked, how the finger grips are positioned etc. This will be important when re-assembling the unit...
Take care not to loose the spacer washers if used.

Take the stack out in one piece..
Then line the implements out in the order of the stack..
Write numbers on the paper for reference if needed..

Once we have everying separated, it should be easy to see rust, wear and tear etc...

Step 3: Removing Rust, Grime and Burrs

Picture of Removing Rust, Grime and Burrs

Now to remove rust and matter not wanted in the unit...

Particular attention, needs to be paid towards the rust...

My tool is stainless steel of a reasonable grade... It still rusted due to a leaky basement..
If ANY rust or tarnish, from the rust is left, it is likely to come back very quickly..
So remove it ALL!

Get some Wet-n-Dry abrasive paper...

Lots of rust- 800g but be carefull not to scratch the stainless steel..
Just light circles until the rust has lots its "thickness".

Finish with 1200g then as follow's

No dense rust/tarnish- 1200g but get too pieces and rub them together to
remove some of the grit... It will turn slightly white... Then small very light swirls till you return it to the stainless.. The closer you get to the bright stainless the smaller the swirls.... We do not want to scratch the finished surface..

Step 4: Lubricating

Picture of Lubricating

Now we need to apply some lubrication. In order for our Multi-tool to function smoothly and not attract dirt into the mechanism's causing it to sieze, we need a barrier...
Something I tried a long time ago, was the teflon based lube's. These worked but it was nothing spectacluar... What seems to be fantastic are bike chain lubricant's. Not the cheap stuff, something decent like Rocknroll... Just had some handy one day since I bike alot...

What ever you use I suggest it's teflon based and NOT an oil or grease... These will attract grit and grime from your hands... Remember we often have sweaty salty hands whilst we work.. Not good for stainless steel... Remember it is just "stainLESS" not "stainproof"..

Fill a small container with it and dip the the implements into the lube...
Remove excess with a clean cloth...
Make sure there is only a thin layer remaining... If you are using a teflon based lube, it will leave a white film....Don't worry about this, it will wear off exterior surface area's later.

Give the pliers a good soaking and operate the jaws to let the lube penetrate..
Remove and dry completley..

Step 5: Inserting Cartridge

Picture of Inserting Cartridge

After each piece, has had a total covering of lube and been dryed it's time to assemble the cartridge to go back into the chassis..

This is where it's going to pay off, that we labelled and ordered the pieces...
Stack the pack of implements back together and insert back into chassis...
If you are un-able to stack it back in one piece, try using the locking bolt/pin and stack them back in one at a time...

Once back inside the unit. Re-tighten the locking mechinism, but not completley...
We need to dip the end of the cartridge, one more time as an assembled unit..

Once the end of the cartridge is completely saturated, work the implements back and forth till all the lube has penetrated and left a thin layer inbetween the implements....

Dry end of cartridge completley...

Step 6: Attaching the Head/pliers

Picture of Attaching the Head/pliers

The next step is connect the head, which in my case is another two of my bolts... Your head maybe different but re-attach as you took off.

Make sure everything fits inline and is not skewed in the closed case.

Re-tighten all bolt's completley. Your will notice that the pivoting joint now moves more freely, requiring slightly more tightening of the locking mechanism. This is normal because you have removed the grit and grime...
If you have a reasonable Multi-tool that's all the plier head requires to function correctly.

Step 7: Polish and Your DONE!

Picture of Polish and Your DONE!

To get it nice and shiney, we should probably give it a bit of a polish with some stainless steel polishing compund preferably but standard kitchen polish should do...

Ensure not to get any on the cartridge swivel point....

And your done!!

I would also now put the edges, back onto the blades to finish it of so it's nice and sharp too...
But I won't cover that here there's plenty of ibles on that!

Hope this is helpful..! :)


jolshefsky made it! (author)2014-06-29

Excellent idea in making a diagram of all the parts. I just set them out and traced them onto paper. Also, while I had my tool apart, I was able to add the glowing PlastiDip I had made for my own Glowing Tool Handles Instructable.

Sebastien Loo (author)2013-11-04

This is an excellent guide. Must of the times I clean all my tools with WD-40 and never had problems with it. I have never done a guide on how to clean tools, so this article gave me some ideas.
I have reviewed this tool at Best Multi tool so you can take a look at it. Thanks

DarkHood (author)2013-02-03

What Multi- tool is this?

dkop1 (author)2012-05-26

I use WD-40 as a solvent in cleaning, then 3-in-1 or some unlabeled can of silcone spray I found in the basement. Unfortunately, my leatherman was not built to be disassembled. But, I find a stiff toothbrush suitable to clean every nook.

APlusMM (author)2012-02-06

OR, you could send it back to the manufacturer, they will clean, sharpen, replace broken parts and send it back for free. I've done this a couple times.

Supercoke (author)2008-06-17

thats what i did man i sprayed some w-d inbetween my lock knife and it worked forever . i dont know why everybody is hating w-d man i use it fore every thing and it never let me down

Lftndbt (author)Supercoke2008-06-17

Oh the humanity! WD-40 has many a good use, unfortunatley none of which include long term lubrication of moving joints. It is an attractant in nature and as a penetrative lubricant lends its self towards having tiny grit and dirt particles adhereing to it. Sure it works great at getting things moving. That's its job. But long term no, it's not what it is designed for and can down right damage delicate or precision pieces of equipment. Statements like "thats what i did man i sprayd some w-d inbetween my lock knife and it worked forver ." don't really help the cause for "good information" as your "forever" may not be accurate. So how long is "forever"? Here's a little test if you need proof. Spray some Wd-40 in you front door lock mechanism and see how long it takes to jamb.... remember great at first but just wait.... (I advise you do not do that , please.)

EldarKinSlayer (author)Lftndbt2012-01-27

WD_40 is Water Displacing formula number 40, it was developed to keep water away from electrical components in salt water environment. it is a Fish Oil based product and is a very poor lubricant over any length of time as it turns into a very pretty light golden colored semi solid, a reapplication renews the original BUT leads to a thicker covering again when it solidifies. About the only way to remove the golden sludge is another application of WD-40 to loosen the older caked on sludge and then clean it all of with a solvent. Use 3 in 1 oil instead of WD-40 it is actually compounded to LUBRICATE unlike WD-40.

I like rotor oil like the kind used in brass instruments, its primary use is for the long term lubrication of moving joints, a little in my knife and a little in my french horn makes life a lot easier

Culturespy (author)Lftndbt2009-06-11

Wasn"t sure where to suggest this but this seems as good as anywhere. For a wunder lube and rust remover you might try Break Free. It's a family staple in our tool room. Good enough for gunsmithing work and really gets into the small places. I brought a rusted chunk of a Victorinox back to life with it.

Supercoke (author)Lftndbt2008-07-28

for your info that same lock knife is the one i take out boating and iv dropedin the salt water and it still works fine and forever is about 6 years

dewmi (author)Supercoke2009-04-22

i agree with Lftndbt, wd-40 just rust remover not for lubricate things

pyro man (author)Lftndbt2008-08-20

well lets see...WD-40 stands for water displacement & it took them 40 tries to get it right but yes i agree it is not meant for long term use(its really meant for rust anyway)

sideways (author)Lftndbt2008-06-18

Yeppers! WD40 is good for a quick fix, but is very bad to depend on for long term lube. It turns to gum, IMO.

tlynch1 (author)2012-01-08

i think the one thing you might have missed
i do to all my knives and stuff like that is to make sure all the plastic washers are in good shape i broke a couple and replaced them with copper washers that i soaked a bit in oil works great..better than the plastic/Teflon ones cause they don't break theu just wear after a long time

Gnutella (author)2011-12-26

i have the same multitool.

Rainh2o (author)2009-06-03

Contact letherman, they will replace or repair it for free. They never have asked me for proof of purchase

Syncubus (author)Rainh2o2009-06-09

Funny thing about being the sole manufacturer of a product, isn't it? That big "Leatherman" logo on the side, and the fact you own it is proof of ownership. I'm not digging at you or anything - just stating the obvious about things with lifetime warranties. Zippo and many brands of tools (Craftsman, et al.) also spring to mind...

altgrave (author)Syncubus2010-08-08

proof of ownership is not proof of purchase, alas, regardless of childhood readings of the "possession is 9/10ths" law.

nuckthebuck (author)2010-06-22

there is this one chemical you can soak your rusted pieces it should be easy to find it is called c.l.r. clr stands for calcium lima rust this chemical will remove all three of these just follow directions

DNMEBOY (author)2010-02-12

BoneLESS Chicken does not have bones and never will. So stainLESS Steel can stain?

Ok, lame jokes aside, I thought stainless steel would not rust. But that [robably depends on a few factors.

Also I was wondering if you know of any way to make or buy replacment blades for a multi tool. Specifically a Gerber Suspension. I just picked one up and was thinking about trying to replace a few things I wont ever use with something a bit more usefull.

stainless steel "stains less" it is not 100% stain proof of rust proof

Valkyrie103 (author)2010-01-19

Why bother with all of this when you can just buy a SOG? I have one and it has been through just about everything. I've never had to clean or sharpen it ONCE and it still has its factory sharp blade and zero rust!

cameraeyes (author)2009-09-24

Someone mentioned Leatherman tools being stainless. I don't believe so... it's my understanding that stainless won't magnetize, but after a thoughtless and prolonged encounter with a welding magnet my Blast pliers are slightly magnetic. I make sure to use a different tool for electronics. Am I right about stainless and magnetism?

glend65 (author)cameraeyes2009-12-20

There are different grades of stainless steel. Some rust more readily than others. Tool-grade and some cutlery stainless steels (such as 400 series) have a higher iron content and more carbon, which makes then more prone to rust and magnetism. 18/8 stainless is frequently used for cooking utensils, pots and pans is less likely to rust or be magnetized. Keep your tools clean, dry and lubricated and you will get less corrosion and longer life.

Wolfeye90 (author)cameraeyes2009-09-29

To my knowledge from my Blast, the Leatherman Blast's body is fully constructed of stainless steel. Stainless steel can magnetize but only after prolonged contact with a strong magnetic field. I have frequently covered mine in water for the last 9 months and it is still like brand new.

sharlston (author)2009-12-12

how about finding a 5 pointed bit and drilling a hole in the middle for the post?

DonTZ125 (author)2009-10-22

Is this what you are looking for?

Five Point Torx Security Bit Set

sharlston (author)2009-10-19

hi nice ible i use wd40 or teflon based tri flow for lube

General D3 (author)2009-09-11

if you have the swisstool by victorinox like I do, you wont have to worry about rust.

A leatherman's better then a swiss tool.

stuestrade (author)2009-08-21

I lost my original classic Letterman and want to know what model will replicate it best and the cheapest place to buy one.

JMBreitinger (author)2009-01-10

What tools do you use to get the bolts out?

tezzz (author)JMBreitinger2009-08-13

torx screwdriver

Lftndbt (author)JMBreitinger2009-01-11

He he he, another multi-tool. ;P

duncanscott (author)Lftndbt2009-05-11

My sister once gave me one of those little bitty SwissTek keychain thingies. The first thing I did with it was to tighten the scissors on my Swiss army knife. She didn't understand why I giggled.

tezzz (author)2009-08-13

They are called torx screwdrivers. you can buy them individually at a good tool shop. They are rated by number. Torx 25 Torx 26 etc. I picked mine up for my ryobi brushcutter at a bearing shop. they come with or without the hole in the center to accomodate the pin. About 8 bucks each

piper1234 (author)2009-08-06

you can use a digital camera, a small one and take pics of the process to remember where each piece goes ; )

capth00k (author)2009-08-01

Thanks for this write up!

Lftndbt (author)capth00k2009-08-01

Thankyou. ;) It's good to see it still receiving 100 views a day, almost 2 years after publishing it.

jakdedert (author)2009-06-20

Having read most of the comments, I must add this: I don't know so much about Leatherman-brand tools; but I have several Gerber multi-tools. If anything ever--and I do mean 'anything' and 'ever'--goes wrong with it, I just send it to Gerber. They send it back, fixed, with the blades sharpened and with a new pouch. All I'm out is the cost of postage too the service center. They're the Zippo lighter of multitools. It's not worth even trying to fix it. That said, I did send them a picture of one tool on which I'd broken the pliers. They promptly sent me a new set of plier jaws, along with instructions to install them...and a new pouch.

jbange (author)jakdedert2009-07-14

I was issued a Gerber tool in the Army. A lifetime warranty is nice, but not much comfort when the pliers break on top of a ridge in eastern Afghanistan. The design is simply nowhere near as good as the Leatherman Wave. The handles are flisier, the plier jaws jam up , the tool blades are too short and face the wrong way, the tool doesn't close up as compactly--- it's just not in the same class. I'm not a big fan of the "new" Wave design with the stupid loseable screwdriver bits, but it's still a quality tool.

Lftndbt (author)jakdedert2009-07-05

Yes, that is why I didn't call the I'ble, maintain your leatherman/gerber. I send my leatherman back. I also took up the warranty on a Vietnam issued brass Zippo. They replaced the spring assembly, well one arm of it.

xproplayer (author)2009-07-04

could you just spray the tool carfully and let it dry dont want to completly dissasmble

Lftndbt (author)xproplayer2009-07-05

Yes you could, I would rather bath it in a dish of liquid. Spraying to me would be a last resort.

xproplayer (author)Lftndbt2009-07-05

what if i took the whole tool and bathed it without taking it apart would that work

Lftndbt (author)xproplayer2009-07-06

You said it was new? What is wrong with it..?

A good name (author)Lftndbt2009-07-06

You're using a leatherman I'm assuming? It's stainless steel right?

xproplayer (author)A good name2009-07-06

Yes a new style leatherman wave

Kiteman (author)2007-11-23

A proper multi-tool will never go rusty, because a proper multi-tool will always be either in your hand or your pocket, ready for use.

It is lunchtime as I type: already I have sharpened numerous pencils (it's amazing how many kids "forget" their sharpeners to get the cool faceted look a knife leaves), removed the closing mechanism from a door, loosened a bent bolt from another door, rescued a cyber-pet from a toilet and diced a red cabbage to make indicator.

It doesn't have time to go rusty.

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