Vice grips can sure come in handy, but are they something you’d want in a multi tool? Leatherman clearly believed so, and designed the Leatherman Crunch around this feature. We weren’t entirely convinced and decided to take a look for ourselves. Today’s Leatherman Crunch review will go over the central feature of this multi tool as well as its secondary tools, build quality, and overall usability.
- 1 Leatherman Crunch Overview
- 2 Leatherman Crunch Tools
- 3 Leatherman Crunch Review
- 4 Leatherman Crunch accessories and extras
- 5 Leatherman Crunch Vs Comparable tools
- 6 Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Leatherman Crunch
Leatherman Crunch Overview
The Leatherman Crunch is a heavy duty multi tool built around a novel pair of vice grip style locking pliers. Instead of a classic butterfly fold the Crunch folds outwards and uses a toggle system to attach one side of the grips to the opposite handle. It was introduced in 1998 and has been in continuous production ever since.
The Leatherman Crunch is a sturdy full size tool, coming in at 4 in long and weighing 6.9 oz. Just looking at the Crunch you can see it was built with the job site in mind. It’s a very handy tool to have when working on piping, wiring, or just about any other kind of construction task. Let’s dig a little deeper into the individual tools of the Crunch and how well Leatherman put the whole package together.
Leatherman Crunch Tools
Leatherman didn’t skimp on the tools when designing the Crunch. It includes 15 different tools packed into a very compact package. As you would expect from a tool built around a pair of vice grips most of the tools are very building oriented. Given the Crunch’s age none of the tools are outside accessible save for the hex driver.
You have to deploy the pliers before you can access any of the secondary tools in the handles. One thing we really liked though was the all locking design of the Crunch’s tools. The majority were contained in one side of the handles.
Pliers, Wire Cutters and Pin Vice
The pliers on the Leatherman Crunch are only available in a regular style, no needlenose. This makes sense given that they’re intended to be used mainly as vice grips. We were somewhat skeptical about the fold out design of the Crunch, but after trying it out we were impressed. The pliers themselves meet well and can be adjusted to lock onto objects as large as one inch in diameter.
The locking pliers are pretty much the entire point of the Crunch. We played with them a good bit and were overall very impressed. The fold out toggle system locks firmly in place and the orientation of the handles lets you easily torque down on what you’re holding. The locking feature worked extremely well, providing a strong seal on whatever you clamped it onto.
The wire cutters aren’t removable like those on some of Leatherman’s newer products but they do a good enough job. There are both regular and hard wire cutters included on the Crunch and they both work well. The pin vice was another feature we were interested in. Basically just the smooth tip of the pliers, it allows you to lock down small objects like wires or fish hooks. We tried it out with a few small objects and found it provided an excellent purchase and strong hold.
The knife on the Leatherman Crunch is a 2.2 in sheepsfoot style serrated blade. Given the building focused design of the Crunch this makes a lot of sense. A serrated blade is great for cutting through cordage, cardboard, and other light materials. Leatherman used 420HC stainless steel for the blade and sends it from the factory razor sharp.
There are four traditional screwdrivers on the Leatherman Crunch, one phillips head and three flathead. The phillips head works well on medium to medium large screws. The three flathead drivers come in small, medium, and large. They all work well enough, though the small driver certainly isn’t small enough for things like eye glasses screws.
Hex Bit Driver
A really neat feature on the Leatherman Crunch is the hex bit driver found in the slot of the vice grip lock screw. By completely loosening the lock screw you can pull it free and slide a standard ¼ inch hex bit into the space. We love that Leatherman went with the industry standard sizing for this one instead of their proprietary bits. In our opinion, standardization is always a good thing.
Word of warning though, make sure you don’t lose the lock screw when you’re using the hex bit driver.
Bottle Opener, Wire Stripper, Ruler and File
The last tools hidden away on the Crunch are the ruler, file, wire stripper, and bottle opener. The ruler is found along one side of the handle and measures in inches or centimeters. Given that it’s only 4 in long you won’t be making big measurements with it.
The file and bottle opener are both found on the screwdrivers. The file does a good job smoothing down rough edges on wood or metal and the bottle opener opens bottles. Honestly we can’t ask much more from them. Something that really surprised us though was the wire stripper.
Most multi tools have a notch or blade point for stripping wires. The Leatherman Crunch has a fully integrated slot just below the joint of its pliers. This allows you to put a range of wire thicknesses into the slot and then squeeze and pull the handles. We found it to be much easier to use than wire stripper’s on other multi tools. It still isn’t quite as good as a dedicated wire stripper tool but we could easily see ourselves using the Crunch’s throughout the day without complaint.
Leatherman Crunch Review
The Leatherman Crunch is clearly a tool with a mission. It’s highly specialized in what it can do and doesn’t care about the things it can’t do. The toggle design of its locking pliers is truly inspired. It allows users to quickly access the pliers when needed and stow them quickly when they aren’t needed.
The individual tools included aren’t the best we’ve ever seen but neither are they the worst. All the secondary tools included with the Crunch do a pretty good job fulfilling their role. We really like that they all lock open. Like most of Leatherman’s products it’s clear a lot of work went into building the Crunch.
The materials and craftsmanship are excellent. The pliers though are definitely the star of the show. If you’re working with building materials or are on a job site you’ll be hard pressed to find a better pair of multi tool pliers anywhere.
Leatherman Crunch Pros – Things We Liked
- Locking pliers
- All locking tools
- Sturdily built
- Excellent wire strippers
- Hex bit driver slot
Leatherman Crunch Cons – Things We Didn’t Like
- Non replaceable wire cutters
- Not a lot of tools
- Knife quite short
Who’s The Leatherman Crunch For?
The Leatherman Crunch was clearly intended for construction workers, electricians, and anyone else who works with their hands. The entire multi tool is built around its novel locking plier design with the remaining tools almost an afterthought. All the tools included have a distinct building bent to them. Fully a quarter of the tools on the Crunch are screwdrivers after all.
Most people probably won’t find much use for the Crunch. One thing we noticed was that the locking pliers are excellent for working on vehicles. Adding a Leatherman Crunch to your car emergency kit is a great way to add a good selection of basic tools with a locking plier. If you frequently find yourself wishing for a small pair of vice grips to keep with you though, the Leatherman Crunch could be the tool for you.
Leatherman Crunch accessories and extras
Leatherman offers several useful accessories to improve your experience with the Crunch. These range from aftermarket cases to expanded bit kits that let you turn all kinds of screws and small bolts. Here’s a highlight of these accessories to help round out our Leatherman Crunch review.
Sheath / Holster / Pouch – The Crunch is available with either a black nylon or black leather belt pouch. The nylon is pretty well made and holds up to reasonable abuse but the leather pouch is hard to beat. Not only is it attractive but it also gives you a durable and long lasting belt carry option.
Bit Kit – Leatherman offers a bit kit for their multi tools but in the case of the Crunch we don’t recommend it. Leatherman provides proprietary ⅜ bit’s in their kit. This is great for most of their tools as that’s the size they use but the Crunch already accepts ¼ in bits.
Pocket Clip – Sadly Leatheran doesn’t currently offer a pocket carry option for the Crunch. As one of our personal favorite ways to carry multi tools it’s discouraging to see Leatherman leaving this off the Crunch.
Replacement Parts – Leatherman backs all their products with a 25 years limited warranty. It covers defects in materials and workmanship but not accidental damage. If you have an issue with your Crunch get in touch with them to either have it repaired or replaced, your choice..
Different Colors – As an old school tool the Leatherman Crunch is only available in one color, stainless steel. This is our personal favorite multi tool color. It stands up to nicks and scratches better than just about any other available finish today.
Leatherman Crunch Vs Comparable tools
The Leatherman Crunch is an interestingly designed multi tool that doesn’t really match up with any other on the market today. That being said, there are still a few tools that loosely compare to it. We’ve also included one of the overall most popular tools for comparison sake.
Crunch Vs Gerber Grappler
The Gerber Grappler and Leatherman Crunch are basically two sides of the same coin. Both were designed around a modified plier design and made for workers and contractors. There are some differences though. The Grappler doesn’t fold out at all, using Gerber’s slide out one handed open system, and can only lock onto screws of ⅝ an in and under.
It appears the Grappler is also unfortunately in the process of being discontinued by Gerber. What it comes down to is that the Grappler is a larger, less capable, and more complicated tool than the Leatherman Crunch. If you really want the locking plier design, go Leatherman.
Crunch Vs Wave+
The Leatherman Wave+ is the company’s current flagship multi tool. It’s a big multi tool with 18 different tools including several knife blades, a saw, and a diamond file. The Wave+ is honestly one of the best multi tools on the market today.
It’s reasonably lightweight and absolutely packed full of value. The Crunch beats it out with the locking pliers but other than that the Wave+ is superior. If you think you’ll use the locking pliers more often than the tools on the Wave+ go for it, otherwise, stick with the Wave+.
For more information about the Wave+, check out our full review here.
Crunch Vs Surge
We’ll be honest, the Leatherman Surge is a beast of a tool. It’s a very large and ruggedly built multi tool that can handle just about any job you can throw at it. It includes 21 different tools and incorporates Leatherman’s latest replaceable parts technology. We’ve written about the Surge before and were very impressed with its construction, design, tool choices, and durability.
Both the Crunch and the Surge are aimed at the same audience, working folk, and both are built to last. This one really comes down to whether you’re willing to carry around the 12.5 oz Surge on your belt or if you prefer the lighter weight but still highly capable Crunch. Think too about whether you see yourself using a saw and other basic tools more than you’d use a high quality pair of locking pliers.
For more information about the Surge, check out our full review here.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts On the Leatherman Crunch
The Leatherman Crunch is a somewhat odd multi tool that doesn’t really have any true competitors. The locking pliers included in its design are unique among multi tool designs and provide a very nice set of working tools. There are other tools that provide you with many of the same features but they can’t compare to the high quality design of the Crunch’s pliers.
Overall, if you like the design of the Crunch it’s difficult to find anything else that provides you with the same level of utility.
Rating: 4.6 Stars Out of 5.0