Introduction: Tactical Multitool

About: A mechanical engineering graduate-turned software product manager. But there will always be a special place in my heart for making.

When camping, I often wish I had brought a tool along; a hammer, a hatchet, a shovel, etc. Especially on backpacking trips, however, the weight and hassle of carrying 3 or 4 tools is over the top and not worth it in the long run. The Tactical Multitool is the perfect solution. It combines the versatility of a tool shop with the simplicity of any other camping gadget. It especially stands out in its ability to mismatch a number of "heads" in many combinations. The ability to detach, reattach, and swap "heads" makes this a truly unique tool.

Whether you're camping in the wilderness or fixing something around the house, there's always the right tool for the job. So, while you read the process I took to make this Tactical Multitool, let your creativity run free and help me think of more ideas to add to this "one-tool toolbox". The possibilities are endless! 

Step 1: Materials


1/8" Cold Rolled Steel
1/8" ABS Sheet
5/16" Steel Rod
Steel Wire (16-14) Gauge
Epoxy or Super Glue
Black Paint


Bandsaw (or some other saw capable of cutting 1/8" steel)
Drill Press
Milling Machine
Angle Grinder

Step 2: Design

The basic design of the Tactical Multitool consists of a central "frame" piece shaped like a "T". It is built of two identical pieces that sandwich a small "spacer" piece at the "T" junction. This creates a space between the two frame pieces and a slot into which the several "heads" can be inserted and affixed. These heads are affixed using what I referred to as an "attachment unit", which consists of two pins connected by a backplate. The pins go through the first "T", through the head, through the second "T". The attachment unit is held in place by a cotter pin which keeps the pins from sliding out of the frame. (See Step 7 for clarification)

**Originally, the heads had "B" pieces that were designed to be welded to the attachment to increase strength and stability. The 1/8" steel, however, was much stronger and more stable than expected and therefore the reinforcing "B" pieces were no longer needed (See pictures for clarity).

Step 3: Cutting the Frame

The "Frame" consists of the two "T" pieces and the "spacer". These pieces were cut out of the 1/8" steel sheet with a bandsaw. With the spacer sandwiched between the two "T"s, the slot is formed where the heads will be attached. The gap in the handle area will be filled by the 1/8" ABS sheet in a later step.

Step 4: Welding!

Once the two "T" pieces and "spacer" piece are cut, the spacer must be welded to one of the "T"s. I am very far from having mastered the art of welding, but after a bit of practice my welds were at least functional. One the spacer is welded, all three pieces must be welded together with two beads along both sides. See pictures for clarity.

Once the welds are finished, they should be ground flat with the angle grinder. Be careful when welding or using the angle grinder on metal; things become very hot very quickly. Don't burn yourself like i did! Once everything is welded together, the holes for the "attachment units" must be drilled. These holes must match the 5/16" diameter of the pins and must be perfectly straight. That is why a drill press or mill is necessary for this step.

Step 5: Cutting the "Heads"

The heads were cut from the 1/8" steel with a bandsaw. Rough edges were smoothed with the angle grinder. Three potential heads are shown below: the tomahawk/hatchet, the backspike, and the hammer. A quarter-circle is cut out of the corner of each head to match the semicircular section of the "spacer" piece. Both the backspike and tomahawk/hatchet heads can be sharpened. This was done with an angle grinder, however, i decided to leave the backspike dull.

In order to make sure that the holes drilled in the heads matched the frame perfectly, the heads were clamped into the frame and the frame's holes were used as a guide to drill into the heads. All burrs left from drilling must be removed with sandpaper or a hand file or else the pieces will not fit together.

Step 6: The Handle

In order to remove weight from the frame, channels were milled along the handle. The large holes drilled at the top and bottom of the handle allow for the Multitool to be fastened to a backpack or clipped to a belt. Once the handle was milled out, the gap caused by "spacer" piece was filled by the 1/8" ABS sheet. This panel was glued between the two metal handle pieces and clamped down to dry. Once dry, the leftover ABS was removed from the handle.

Step 7: Attachment Mechanism

The Attachment Mechanism consists of three parts: the pins, the backplate, and the cotter pins. The pins are 5/16" diameter steel rods cut into 3/4" pieces. Four are needed. Two rods will be welded to each backplate (made of 1/8" thick steel), creating an attachment unit that will hold a "head" in place. The welds were done with the pins in the frame in order to assure that the they were welded straight. Once welded, the backplate-pin unit was inserted into place and holes were drilled in the pins to allow for the insertion of the cotter pin. See pictures for clarity.

The cotter pins were then formed by inserting the steel wire through the two holes and then bending it back on itself. After a few additional twists and turns with a pair of pliers, the final shape was achieved. See pictures for clarity.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

The holes in the frame and "head" pieces may require some extra drilling to make sure they are matched up perfectly. Once this is done, the tool can be left as is or painted, as shown below. I used a primer layer of automotive paint and then finished with a textured black spray paint. I am very satisfied with the final product!

Before painting you may want to use an angle grinder to grind the edges of the handle. This will provide a smooth edge when gripping the multitool. You can also fashion your own grip from paracord or some other material.

After a good amount of use, the adhesive holding the handle together broke. Another solution was necessary to keep the handle together permanently. In order to do this I welded a small piece of 1/4" steel rod to the bottom of the handle, thereby connecting the two frame pieces.

Step 9: In Action

Now its time to use your Tactical Multitool! I did a couple of pre-paint tests on the finished product. The backspike held up well against the railroad tie (see picture) and the Tomahawk attachment works like a charm! (see video)

As always, be safe while using this tool because it can cause harm or serious injury. But most importantly, have fun!

I would love to hear any ideas for new attachments so that I can expand the scope and capabilities of the Tactical Multitool!

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Metal Challenge

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