Review Leatherman Free T4

Discussion in 'Multi-tools & Multi-purpose Knives' started by A.L., Dec 27, 2019.

  1. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    I lately decided to pick up the Leatherman Free T4 since I have lately been more into multitools rather than just knives. I quite rarely need pliers, and most of the time when I do, they are available nearby. These facts and the one handed features and overall interesting design made me pick this particular knife up. I think this tool might be a little under appreciated and that is what I’m trying to write about in this review.

    Leatherman Free T4

    Leatherman T4 is easy to compare with the good old Swiss army knife: it is pocketable and has most of the common tools. Most common complaint seems to be the higher price that T4 sports versus the SAK. Biggest reason for the price difference is definitely Victorinox’s ability to produce their knives in very big automated batches that lowers the price. All the labor costs aside, what you however gain with the T4 are:

    It’s completely one hand operated
    It has lock for each tool
    Stainless steel frame vs. aluminum and celluloid
    Comes with pocket clip

    A lot of features to get excited about! I understand that these might not be worthy points at all for traditionalist, but I think these features get overlooked when discussing the ”high” price of T4.

    Do I think that the price is justified? Absolutely! Even with the high 80e price tag here over the pond I think the price is excellent for tool that is built this well.

    Another criticism that the T4 gets is its bulk. It must be admitted that it’s tools don’t pack as closely as SAK’s does, but that is purely because of the mechanism that allows the tools to open one handedly and lock. Carrying the thing however has not been uncomfortable. In fact, I don’t feel the thing in the pocket at all! Maybe it’s the overall small size, the ergonomics or just me that makes this tool ”disappear” in the pocket. It does however open up a big gap to your pocket if that matters. If I compare the T4 to my every day carry light Fenix PD25, the flash light is in fact thicker than T4… and the PD25 is thin by it’s own right!

    Leatherman T4 compared to Fenix PD25 flashlight in thickness

    Pocket clip on the tool is fantastic, it’s deep carry clip that is thick and robust in Leatherman fashion and keeps the tool well in place.

    Free T4 in the pocket

    Now that this review wouldn’t be all praise, to my first criticism. The main blade is a little tricky to open at least at first. It might be either practice or the mechanism breaking in, but it has become a lot easier later on. Some lube also helped, since this tool came a little stiff with some gunky oil (or such). I think the opening challenge might also be the slightly small-is opening hole.

    Blade thickness in the T4 is a little thick, so it’s not the best slicer but the thin hollow grind makes this knife surprisingly good cardboard cutter! The blade also came with great edge that has retained its sharpness very well so far even after some cardboard destruction. The 420HC steel is not the hottest steel, but still today makes a great user blade.

    Lock-up on the blade and on the tools is very solid with no mentionable blade play!

    Rest of the tools open up easily and pleasantly for me. This tool is fun for fidgeting! Sure, the tools open all at once, and then you have to bring the rest of the tools down while opening the needed tool. This might not be the best mechanism for clumsy people or for people who have disabilities, but for guitar pickers, piano players and one handed bandits it is very pleasant to use.

    Big flat head screwdriver / pry tool / package opener is great little pry bar that goes along with the knife. Pretty self-explanatory. The tool is nicely hefty for light prying, but I haven’t found the ”package opener” that handy for packages. It would make nice scraper though.

    Flat head / scraper / pry tool in action

    The file is without doubt probably the least used tool for me. It’s very short and only has limited uses. It could come handy when rounding of sharp corners here and there and has medium flat head screwdriver on the tip.

    Flipping the tool around you find the two dimensional cross headed screw driver that does good job screwing and unscrewing. It might not have the reach but then again we are talking about multitool here. The obligatory bottle opener found in the same screw driver has great bite on the cap and works really well!

    Cross headed crew driver with the bottle opener

    The awl has had it’s criticism for the small flat head on the tip. I have to say that I was weirded out by this design choice as well. But how often do you screw holes to things for it to matter? I tried the awl on planks and it made a hole through. Maybe it is not as fast as the fantastic Victorinox alox model awl, but it did it’s job! The micro-ish screwdriver on the tip of the awl works decently with eyeglass screws and that’s a great bonus for me.

    Ladies and gentlemen, it's a hole!

    Lastly there’s the scissors. If you have compared Leatherman and Victorinox scissors before you pretty much know where we are here. Victorinox’s scissors are finer, Leatherman’s are more robust. Apples and oranges. Victorinox can trim nose hair, Leatherman can cut zip-ties. Even though the scissors work great for most thing, they still cannot cut paracord really that well if that’s a problem for you. They seem to cut most strings well enough though.

    As an added bonus the T4 comes with SAK styled tweezers. They are very discreetly nested in to the frame and are probably much harder to lose than the SAK counterpart.

    All in all, I really love this little thing! I apologize if this review / writeup sounds too biased but I feel bad that this thing hasn’t really earned as much love as it deserves. There’s lot of emotional reaction out there for this tool and not actual testing. If you have been on the fence about this I definitely recommend it. The Leatherman T4 has very modern feel to it, it’s very well finished, smooth and well thought out. Like I implied before, I very much appreciate the one handed features and locking tools and I think Leatherman engineers really put their heads together to make this thing function well!

    Big thumb up!
    onionfan, allenC, metaxasm and 5 others like this.
  2. redsparrow

    redsparrow Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 3, 2014
    Thanks for the review, good job. You answered some of the questions I've had bringing me one step closer to picking one of these up. Last I saw Leatherman has a payment program on these. I like that it has the tools I use most and looks robust. Do you think the screw drivers are more durable than Vic's drivers? I too like a clip on larger pocket tools. They help to keep the tool comfortably in place and one hand opening would come in handy at times. Thanks again, have a great day and BTW Happy New Year.
    A.L. likes this.
  3. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    Thank you! All honestly I think it’s too early to say about the screw drivers. But then again I haven’t ever broken a driver. I do prefer Leatherman’s drivers overall because they often are bit ”sharper” vs Vic’s softer, more rounded drivers. The sharpness has more bite, but still I’d say just marginally.

    Happy new year!
    Steely_Gunz and redsparrow like this.
  4. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    Great review!

    I always fall back on a multitool. I have folders that cost hundreds of dollars, fixed blades that can pry open a car door. I just always gravitate toward a MT, regardless. For the pocket space, I like having options to craft, fix, and press the situation into MY service. A good MT will allow that.

    That T4 looks like a great edc tool for those not needing a set of pliers. For me, pliers are indispensable. I use them more than anything else on my job. However, for day to day around the house/weekend carry, that T4 looks like a great choice.
    allenC and A.L. like this.
  5. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    Thank you! Indeed, I can definitely understand the need of pliers. Even though I realistically very rarely need plier, it doesn’t mean I would not want that wave plus with pocket clip! :)
    allenC likes this.
  6. mitch13

    mitch13 Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    Very good review, it hadn't really been on my radar, you give some good insights.

    Thanks foe sharing
    A.L. likes this.
  7. JD Mandrell

    JD Mandrell Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 20, 2001
    Great review, the Leatherman FREE series is a great step forward in MT's. I've got the T2,T4,K4,P2 and P4 and just really enjoy using them, as a southpaw. No righthand nail nicks, and no broken fingernails fighting to get tools out. Leatherman really outdid themselves!
    A.L. and Steely_Gunz like this.
  8. Steely_Gunz

    Steely_Gunz Got the Khukuri fevah Moderator

    May 9, 2002
    This thread actually inspired me to take the plunge on the P4. Expensive? Yeah, but I haven't treated myself to a high end tool in several years. The last one I spent more than $100 was a Leatherman MUT for my birthday several years ago. I really like that one, but I have been intrigued by the innovation of the Free series for this past year.

    Will it take over the role my SuperTool 300 has filled for the last 5 or 6 years? Who knows. I'm buying the P4 to act as a stand alone EDC. I want a tool that offers me a one handed blade for my office cutting needs, but to be honest, my Wave and Surge pliers jaws would constantly jam on the tools when I would close them one handed/against my thigh. It drove me nuts enough to commit to the ST300 and never look back. Still, I missed the convenience of just thumbing open a blade to open a package or cut some hose or whatever. I work with my hands a lot in my job. Having a one handed tool that I can get to every tool with just my thumb makes this a very attractive idea.

    The pocket clip makes this a viable tool to just toss in my pocket and go as well. Honestly, if I didn't need pliers more than any other tool at work, the T or K would be a great compromise.
    A.L. likes this.
  9. arrowhd

    arrowhd Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 19, 2011
    Good review. Have wanted to pick one up but the price has held me back.
    A.L. likes this.
  10. StuntDouble


    Apr 26, 2004
    A.L., thanks to your review I picked up a T4 a couple weeks ago, and it's been on me ever since. It tends to ride clipped to my back pocket, where I can barely even tell it's there. I was actually having a bit of trouble deciding between this and the T2, but I'm glad I went with the larger tool. It wasn't much more expensive, and I don't know that it was really all that different size wise. As much as I like the pliers based tools, they can be a bit awkward when it comes time to use the knife blades or tools. Since I tend to need screwdrivers more than I need pliers, the T4 ended up being a perfect fit. I like that the main standard and Philips screwdrivers are in the center of the handle, making them a bit easier to use.

    I have to admit there's a bit of a fidget factor with the T4 as well. I'll sometimes find myself opening and closing the tools on it when I'm standing around waiting to do something. It's a neat mechanism, and kind of fun to play with. And it's also been easy to use with wet hands, something I can't really say for the pliers based tools I've owned in the past.
    A.L. likes this.
  11. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    Timely bump on the thread @StuntDouble because I was just thinking of adding some notes based on carrying this at working days for months now.

    I've noticed that the pocket tool has started to eat up the inside of my pocket now. I'm not sure if it's the screws inside the clip (see pic below) or the opening mechanism below. I think it might be the screws. Even though the screws don't interfere with drawing/putting back it could be that they rub enough to cause the tearing. Maybe leatherman could try inserting the screws within the clip? I know it's the T4 causing this, because I haven't pocket carried anything in a long time with a clip prior to the T4.

    Which is to suspect?

    Another criticism, even though kind of first world problem: the bottle opener hook could be tad thinner (ground down). It has a little bite problems when opening bottles though the hook is "hooky" enough.

    When drilling with the awl, the handle tends to be a bit blocky and uncomfortable. When cutting and using the knife otherwise the blocky handle hasn't been a problem for me.

    I absolutely love the micro scewdriver though!

    In the perfect world I would love this thing to have micro cross headed screwdriver too, maybe like the wave driver kit.. but that would need changing the tool completely.

    Other than that I have liked the tool very much. I love the versatility in my pocket knife. I have found out the flat head pry tool and the scissors most used besides the knife. I've also noticed the blade starting to open smoother too or I'm just so used to opening it now.
    mitch13, SteeleJ1976, allenC and 2 others like this.
  12. StuntDouble


    Apr 26, 2004
    I haven't noticed the clip tearing up my pocket yet, but I'll keep an eye on it. My back pockets might have thinner edges than yours though. I do agree with you on the bottle opener. I've had it slip off a couple times trying to open a beer. Part of that might be technique as well, but I think if the hook were ground just a bit thinner, it would make a big difference.

    I think the only other thing I wish for on this tool, are half stops on the larger drivers, so they could be secure in the 90 degree position. I don't even know if that's possible with the type of lock the T4 uses. Also, I'd love to see a version with titanium sides and upgraded blade steel. Not that I find it all that heavy now, but I think it would make a cool tool even cooler.

    I just had to add that I think this has quickly become my favorite gadget/multitool, even topping my SAK's.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
    A.L. likes this.
  13. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    It feels like modernized SAK in a way.

    I leave a benefit of a doubt for the tool on the pocket tearing, but I think it’s the T4. Reason is that it catches a bit to the broken bit of my jeans when I pull the knife out which can be a bit annoying.
    StuntDouble likes this.
  14. parnass


    Dec 6, 2005
    Thanks for the T4 review. I carry one daily and enjoy using it.

    The pocket clip screws on my Leatherman T4 could tear the threads from top of my jeans pocket. I replaced the stock T4 clip with the clip supplied with the P2 and P4. They have more clearance than the T4 clip and worked better than the T4 clip. It was merely an experiment because I prefer to carry the T4 in an aftermarket belt holster. Thus, I removed the clip completely.

    A.L. likes this.
  15. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    I have been thinking about trying to put very small ”keyring” to the small lanyard hole and trying how the T4 carries with pocket suspension clip.
  16. SteeleJ1976


    Jan 24, 2020
    Great review. I'm still not sold on the T4 yet. Mainly because my SAK Super Tinker is so functional and useful. I think your review hits most of the highs and low of the T4.

    One reviewer said the metal file collects metal shavings due to the magnets in the knife. Have you noticed this in your use of the knife?
    A.L. likes this.
  17. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    I honestly haven’t used the file on metals, only on some hard plastics and wood. I do believe the statement that it collects dust, because I can notice the magnetism with staples.
  18. A.L.


    Jun 27, 2007
    I think that this review is a great reminder for myself that the initial impression is not always to be trusted.

    Even though I still think that this tool has potential to be an excellent tool, I have now left this to work to be work only tool.

    I took the pocket clip off permanently because I noticed that it causes ”drag” to my pocket, potentionally causing the pocket damage mentioned before.
    Also the lock bars could definitely cause slow but steady tearing to my pockets.

    To my hand, the blockyness is not the biggest deal but if this thing would be in my pocket, it should be more streamlined. In utilitarian work outfit it would work just fine.
    gunspease likes this.
  19. Craig Giuffre

    Craig Giuffre

    Apr 26, 2020
    Do you know the exact torx bit needed for these screws? I have a large number of bits but the T4 has me stumped.
  20. parnass


    Dec 6, 2005
    The Leatherman Free T4 (and K4 and P4) use T6 torx screws to fasten the pocket clips.

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