Friday, November 25, 2011

Gerber Shard Review

The Gerber Artifact was a complete and total failure--emblematic of Gerber's fall from a high perch in the industry two decades ago.  The swill that now wears the Gerber label is perhaps the worst gear available, with a few notable exceptions.  It is not as bad as the loss leader pack of two dozen knives for $20, but it is also vastly more expensive.  When you break it down by price v. performance nothing come close to approaching the terrible ratio the average piece of Gerber gear has.  It is among the worst made and designed stuff on the market, but it is priced as if it were a true equal to brands like Spyderco.

It comes as no surprise then that they released the Shard originally as a give away at trade shows, not to be sold to the public, but as a swag for visiting their booth.

It was as if a Gerber executive (actually Fiskars, they own Gerber now) was saying:

"Come look at our terrible gear that is vastly overpriced and we will give you this tiny, ingenious tool for free, noting that it is what you'd really want.  No we aren't selling it to you, so there.  Go buy our Zombie kit and shut up."

This is a sad commentary on Gerber in two ways.  First they don't know what their consumers want.  And second they do not know how to monetize those desires even when the consumers tell them what they want.  After shots of the Shard leaked out, the gear consuming public started to clamor for them to go on sale.  For months, Gerber insisted they would never be sold, that they were a give away special, and instead people should really consider buying the Artifact, the tool the Shard was helping to promote, which is a piece of junk.  Then after months of online complaining and petitions and emails, Gerber changed their minds and decided to produce the Shard for sale.

Gerber exec: "Fine, I guess we will give you what you want and make a profit, if we have to..."

 Here is the Shard's product page.  Here is a written review.  Here is a video review.  Here are the Amazon reviews.  It received a 4.06 stars out of 5 with 32 reviews.  And here is my Shard, living happily on my keychain (along with a LRI Micro Photon II, a coated aircraft cable mechanics keyring, and my keys):


Design: 2

The Shard does right what the Artifact did, including a Phillips driver, but it fixes all of what the Artifact did wrong.  It is thin.  It has an large lanyard hole.  And none of the tools cramp each other.  It is the right size as well, an overall 2 3/4 inch long and probably a 1/8 inch thick.  It feels solid without being overly bulky. 


Fit and Finish: 2 

The Artifact's painted coating was replaced by a TiNi coating and it has held up well, given that it dwells in the metal tumbleweed that is my keychain.  There are some burnishing marks where the Shard rubs up against keys most often, but other than everything is fine.  All of the holes and edges were cut well and again, the bottle opener is super aggressive and this time it is accessible, making it the best I have seen on a OPMT.  Even the grind on the v-notch is good. 

Theme: 2

As a minimalist tool, the Shard is a gem.  It has everything I'd want on a OPMT and nothing I don't.  I like the size and thickness as well.  It is a perfect keychain pal.  The large lanyard hole makes a huge difference on the keychain allowing you to use the tool without removing it and allowing the Shard to flow easily on your keychain.

Grip: 2

Jimping on a keychain tool?  Cool.  Jimping that actually works?  Yowza.  The tool's shape and jimping make it very easy to hang on to even when you are applying some heavy force.  The jimping is very nice.  


Carry: 2

Because of the spacious lanyard hole this tool carries like a dream.  Nothing at all to complain about here.  You can even use the tool when it is on your keychain.  Go figure.
Materials: 2

Mystery meat stainless steel and a TiNi coating have held up well to about a year of use.  Again, like with the 420HC on the Leatherman Sidekick, it may not be high tech, but it works and that's what counts.  

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

Yipee! All of the tools work both on and off a keychain.  Superb.  

Retention Method: 1

I love the big lanyard hole I really do, but I think that even with the spacious sizing, it may make the Shard hard to get on and off a standard split ring.  I hate split rings and hopefully everyone reading this has moved beyond them, but you have to account for them when you are designing a keychain tool and try as they might, I don't think this design plays well with the old tried and true splitring.  

Tool Selection: 2

Ah!  A OPMT with a built-in Phillips driver.  


How awesome is that?  I love the tool selection here.  It is just perfect.  Everything you need and nothing you don't.  I couldn't pick a better seven tools for a OPMT if I were designing it myself.  Perfect.  Great, great, great.  

Tool Performance: 2

Shockingly everything works very well.  Unlike the Artifact nothing gets in the way of anything else.  They are all nice and well designed.  The bottle opener is superb.  The v-notch, seen below, is good. 


The Phillips driver works well.  Every single tool just works.  I love it.   

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

This is a great little tool and for under $8, this is a no-brainer.  You could spend your time and money on a snooty Atwood tool or get this guy and give up the small batch custom feel in exchange for $50 or more in your pocket and a built-in Phillips driver.  If you are looking for a keychain tool, stop.  This is the one you should buy.  If, after a while, you want something fancier Peter will still be making his works of art and you get go get one of those.  I did this backwards, going from an Atwood to this, but I am perfectly happy with this guy on my keychain.  

A great tool and a win from Gerber.  I'd like to see them make a comeback, but with all of the emphasis they are placing on their Zombie kits and Bear Gryllis I think this tool is an aberration instead of a new trend.  I hope I am wrong, but I doubt it.  After all, the Zombie kit is $350.  Kill me now.


  1. Awesome review, Tony. I think I will bite and pick one of these up. Unlike the Atwood tools, this is an item I wouldn't mind using/abusing and your review has convinced me of it's sound design.

    One question though, what do you prefer over a split ring? The aircraft cable? A carabiner? Not sure if you already wrote on the subject, but I would love to hear your thoughts - be it through the comments section or in the form of an article.

    1. It comes as no surprise then that they released the Shard originally as a give away at trade shows, not to be sold to the public, but as a swag for visiting their booth.
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  2. Fantastic review. I still feel like the Zombie Kit is a silly idea despite the fact I'm prepared for emergencies, including "zombies."

  3. I found that it's hard for me to keep my keys on the cable and a carabiner. Which cable are you using? I have not seen many blue colored or rubber coated cables.

    Will probably pick one of these Gerbers up though, they are pretty inexpensive.

  4. I got my coated cable at my local Ace Hardware in their keychain section. They have a few colors--clear, red, and blue. They also have a few different latching mechanisms, though mine is a straight up screw together set up. It is nice and light and really tough. Simple and easy.

  5. Thanks Tony. There is an Ace right by my parents house. I'll definitely check it out the next time I'm in town.

  6. The plural of knife is knives. Great blog.

  7. Even after you pointed it out I STILL couldn't find the "knifes" misspelling. I had to CRTL+F to find it. Thanks.

    I am trying to get out as much stuff as possible and sometimes I am typing really fast and can't edit things as closely as I like. Also, if I were simply doing videos, which are a lot more free form, spelling and the like would not be an issue.

    It is one of the costs of doing a blog with timely written output. I'd like to do better and if you notice I do make a handful of small editing changes even after stuff has been published.

  8. I recently discovered that the Shard bottle opener also works relatively well as an O2 tank wrench in a pinch. You have to flip it "GERBER SHARD"-side up (prybar bending upwards) to twist open and flip it over (prybar bending down) to twist closed, but it's very nice to have and doesn't take up any extra room on the tool. I've even used mine to as a makeshift thimble to drive a sewing needle through leather. My only minor gripe is that the prybar end could stand to be a bit thinner, but I may just grind it down a bit myself.

  9. I don't especially enjoy carrying the Gerber Shard on my keychain, because the Phillips driver protruding from the back of the tool gets pokey in the pocket.

    But the tools are very functional. The bottle opener works quickly with practice. The Phillips driver may look like an afterthought, but no way, it is well machined and it totally works. It was perfect the other day when I had a sudden need to replace batteries in a baby toy.

  10. Love the review, I agree it is the best gerber offering in a while. I wrapped mine in 550 paracord, cobra weave and put it round my neck. Can still use all the tools, is fatter in my hand and always where I need it. Solved the issue of the phillips head protruding in my pocket and cut out the higher tone it makes when striking other metal.
    Still early days though, may change it again.


  11. Hi Tony,
    This is my first time on this site and I enjoyed your review. I've got a Gerber boot knife that's probably older than you are. I bought it back in the '70's and I still have it. It stays sharp, has a (probably) plastic sheath with a pretty good clip on it. I think one or maybe both of the logo medallions have fallen off by now and it's kind of retired in a drawer and I'll generally reach for my one-piece k-bar with no scales and a kydex sheath. I usually wear it as a backup knife when I'm wearing a uniform and body armor.
    End of ramble.
    Again, I enjoyed your review.
    Frank Harrah

  12. I have one on my keychain, love it!