Darrell Collins, a metalworker and tool designer that runs a storefront on Etsy (remember the Etsy post?) and on Tumblr contacted me and asked if I would like to review his OPMT, the RoBoT. Always game, I said yes and he sent me one to review. Because this is a custom item there are no Amazon links, Amazon reviews, or price variation. The RoBoT costs $57 and is available only on those two sites. Here is a picture of the RoBoT Darrell sent me for review:
This review took me forever to write because this little sucker took me forever to test. I carried the RoBoT on my keychain for two weeks and it poked the shit out of my leg. I was about to send it back and prepared a blistering review when it occurred to me, based on his description, that maybe keychain carry is not the best way to use this little tool. One thing the RoBoT has on it that no other OPMT I have seen has is the bark scraper. That is a hint, folks. This is not a keychain tool, though you could carry it that way. This is a backpack tool, something for those that hike in the great outdoors. With that in mind, I started using the RoBoT to help around the yard with maintenance chores and I took it backpacking three weekends in a row.
It is hard to break out of the mold that Peter Atwood, JDR, and others have created for the OPMT. There are only so many ways you can embellish the edge and interior of a slab of steel. This tool is not all that different from those that are already out there--a pry tip, a bottle/can opener, some drivers...but the notion that all of these tools work only when they are on your keychain is a faulty one. As a keychain tool the RoBoT is clearly below par. The two driver tips poke the shit out of your leg when the keys are in your pocket. But, as a tool to slide into a backpack or other device and use on a camping trip, the RoBoT is really sweet. It is a little big for the keychain too, but as a pack rider it is sweet. Whenever I go camping there is always some sort of half-assed can opener/bottle opener in the gear, kinda funky and usually not too sturdy. The RoBoT would be sweet in this scenario and the extra "fix-it" tools would be a nice bonus. I'd like to dock it a point solely for the pokey-ness in the pocket. It is really pokey, but seeing as that is probably not its best or sole role, I am not going to. It would be like docking a fixed blade for not being easy to carry. Definitely a different take on the OPMT form and I can't hammer it for merely being different than what I expected (which is why this review took so long).
Fit and Finish: 2
Grind it. Cut it. Keep it smooth. Darrell is a gifted metalworker and while the design is a thorny issue (oh my god...hilarious...stop me, I could do this all day), the fit and finish is very, very nice. I especially like the thematic 8-bit font (which is well cut). All that said the grind on the snag edge/can opener is really impressive. There is something like a yokote (the line behind the second cutting edge on a tanto blade) on the ground rear edge and with all of that geometry Darrell manages to keep things really, really clean. Excellent.
Again, if you think this is a keychain tool you will be sadly disappointed. If you think this is a OPMT for camping and outdoors, you will be happy. The jagged edge is actually a bark stripper and it works well. I had a pile of firewood outside that we use in our firepit (I find it really ironic that one of the trends of landscaping is a firepit...what's next the return of the cave? How about designer sitting logs?). The rain came and soaked the wood and while I could get it to light, thanks to this bad mother fucker (I know it is not EDC related, but man is this thing cool):
but they smoked like a stoner. So I stripped off the bark with the RoBoT and the logs burned much cleaner. I would imagine that this feature would be useful for processing wood in the wilderness, but it works best on coarse barked wood and less well on things like saplings. With this theme in mind--the outdoors--the RoBoT is really great. Camping is one place where I can get behind a can opener and you'll appreciate the other things as well.
It is a trade off--useful bark stripper or pain free grip. The RoBoT's design made the trade off in one direction. If you are looking for a keychain tool, you'll want to go the other way, but I can see the utility of abandoning grip if your making a different kind of OPMT.
Same trade off--leg wounds because you use this as a keychain tool or large, easy to use and access tools with a bark stripper. In a backpack, though, this thing can disappear in a pocket or a flap.
440C is not my favorite blade steel because it is soft, but in a OPMT it is actually quite good. Unlike harder steels, you can really thump on the 440C here. It is less expensive than Peter Atwood's favorite steel, S30V, but I can't really see a performance difference in this device. The added toughness is great in an outdoors tool as it just shakes off the bumps and dings of scraping wood.
If the two drivers stood out anymore this thing would be very close to a throwing star. That's bad for carrying this in your pocket, but really good for use. Every single tool is well-placed and accessible. It is substantially better than the next closest tool. Not only are all of the tools stand outs, the tool itself is huge making it nice and easy to use.
Retention Method: 1
I'd actually prefer a pocket clip on something this big and this pokey. JDR has a OPMT with a clip and the stripper edge and stand out drivers would be "hidden" better if the device laid flat in the pocket. The lanyard hole here is both small and difficult to reach with a traditional split ring. My preferred key ring, a coated mechanics cable, works fine, but most people still like the ole' splitter.
Tool Selection: 2
The pry end of this thing is a fascinating exploration of edge geometry, as I mentioned above. But all of the tools are something I could see myself using around a camp. I'd like a rough patch for a firesteel strikeplate to round out the rugged stuff included here.
Tool Performance: 2
Again, like with accessibility--the tools work REALLY well but the drawback is a limitation on "carry-ability." It is a trade off again, add after really cranking on a flat head screw with this guy I think I might like the direction this trade off went. The tool's size and the drivers' positions almost make this thing as torque-y as a t-handled screwdriver. How cool is that in a OPMT?
Overall Score: 16 out of 20
The RoBoT is not like other OPMTs. It is not a keychain tool. It is not for "urban convenience" (when was the last time you needed to strip bark for a fire in the city?). It is too big and too pokey. It can be tough to grip. But if you are looking for something a little different, something that works well and works in places more rugged than, say, your local food court at the mall, give it a look. Darrell is a super cool guy and he has made 100 of these tools. One will be given away here to a randomly chosen comment. They are a bit pricey at $57, but again these are custom handmade items not stamped sheet metal (not that there is anything wrong with that, I really liked the Gerber Shard). While most OPMTs are tiny and convenient like R2-D2, the RoBoT is more like T-101: big, effective, and ruggedly tough.
Post away for your chance to win. And thanks Darrell for the chance to take a peek at the Robot and for the giveaway.