Inside The Leatherman Factory: Where Multi-Tool Dreams Are Made

If you’ve got a whatsit that needs tweaking, a screw that could use a good tightening, a doodad in a severe state of jiggifying, perhaps you turn to the Leatherman multi-tool with all its myriad dongles. But these tools don’t come springing fully formed from the toolbox like the answer to your fix-it prayers. There’s a complicated process involved in the making of the gadget and of course, someone is all over that story.

Kat Bauman immerses herself in the history and making of the Leatherman over at Core77, dating all the way back to its beginnings with inventor Tim Leatherman. Betcha didn’t know there was a guy with that last name, a name that conveniently sounds like someone who would create tools in the first place.

The company got its start in Portland, Ore., and all tools are still made there to this day, 30 years later. Bauman took a tour of the factory, chronicling every step of the way. From the off-limit die shop where tool elves putter away, to stamping the tools out of sheets of steel (all of which is American made) it’s a fascinating peek instead a complicated process.

Near the fine blanking machines is a massive progressive punch, a thundering machine the size of a spacious two-story bungalow. Here, tool handles were being created in an impressive multi-step process. A blank spool is fed in and treated to fifteen different processes in a single cycle. It punches, moves over, drills holes, moves over, folds, moves over, knurls… producing multiply formed tool handles in thirty seconds. Operating most of the day, the unavoidable sound of the punch is known to cause dreams of lumbering giants. Smaller progressive punches do similar work nearby with less aural drama.

That’s just a small part — there are lasers and gigantic vibratory tumblers (bow chicka bow bow) and finally, a precision treatment that adds all the details each piece of the tool needs to do its assigned duty. Check out more in the source link and video below. You’ll never look at your Leatherman the same way.

A Visit to Leatherman, in Which I Briefly Become One with Their Production Process, by Kat Bauman [Core77]

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