My Indispensible Tool

Perhaps like  many other craftsmen, I am occasionally asked, “What is your favorite tool?”  That particular question is essentially unanswerable due to my changing needs from moment to moment, the workpiece itself, my frame of mind, etc.  One minute it could be my Raney Nelson petite miter plane, the next it could be an Auriou rasp, Bad Axe dovetail saw, Knew Concepts coping/jewler’s saw, something the wizards at Veritas dreamed up, or an antique or something purpose made by my own hands like some sculpting tools I made from solid ivory.

However, if the question being asked was, “What is your most important tool?” or even better  “What is the tool you use the most?” the answer is a bit more measurable, especially when viewed through the lens of my day-to-day life, with a reference data base of several decades.  Coming immediately on the heels of my adventures in home improvement in The Heartland, my answer is unambiguous.


Without a doubt the tool I use several times every day, whether I am doing home repair, barn construction, cabinet making, furniture conservation, gunsmithing, chores around the homestead or anything else is my high quality multi-tool.  My email pen pal Rob Hanus of The Preparedness Podcast argues for a good quality knife being the most important tool, and I won’t quarrel with him other than to say that a good quality multi-tool has a good knife and a bunch of other good tools as well.

I have long been a fan of multi-tools, and have accumulated a drawer-full of different versions over the past forty years.  Of course the gateway drug for multi-tools is the pocket knife (at this point I am not certain you can call yourself a man if you do not carry a pocket knife — if this comment offends you, save your breath as I no longer have to go to sensitivity training, which was pretty much wasted on me anyway…). The very first tool I ever bought myself was a multi-blade Craftsman pocket knife which is still in my bedside box.  I cannot recall my first true multi-tool, but it was probably an inexpensive and forgettable indiscretion from my late youth.

I am so committed to the utilitarian elegance of good multi-tools that I have outfitted my wife and both daughters with one, with instructions that they be carried in their purses.  I’ll have to check to see if they are following those instructions.

For the past almost fifteen years, that is since the TSA folks confiscated my well-loved and now nearly unobtainable original Leatherman Super Tool at LAX, my tool of choice has been a gunmetal black Victorinox Spirit, which I found to be much better quality than the old Leatherman or any of its descendants since.  My Spirit started out as a jet black gun-blued unit but the wear from years of heavy daily use are now giving it some bright and shiny spots.

I try to keep the main blade sharp, not always an easy task given the stuff I sometimes cut, I do keep the secondary, scalloped, knife blade sharp, use the awl, screwdrivers, and file daily, and the bottle opener, saw, and chisel more frequently than you might think.

I bought a newer polished-stainless-steel Victorinox Spirit X unit some years ago, but the second knife blade, a scalloped blade, has been replace by a very nice little pair of scissors.  Now I use my original Spirit in my daily blue jeans and leave the newer pretty one for my travel bag.  I suspect yet another one will be joining its siblings whenever I find one for the right price.

I just have to remember to put it in the checked luggage next time I fly, which I if get my druthers will be never.