Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gerber Dime Review

Though I try to be brand agnostic, it is hard to miss my decidedly anti-Gerber slant.  Perhaps it is the regular recalls on Gerber products (three in the last 10 years, one this year on their high profile new knife, the Instant).  Perhaps it is their overt abandoning of quality in favor of marketing, as seen by their relentless pushing of Bear Grylls branding on their products.  Perhaps it is their steadfast policy of over charging (the Venture, for example, is an $80 knife with 7CR steel, really?).  Gerber has been on a downhill trend in terms of quality and enthusiast interest since Fiskar took over.  They are the most high profile voluminous peddler of Chinese junk in the gear world.

But even with all that Gerber can still make good stuff.  I really, really like the Shard.  It has been my keychain OPMT for more than a year and I don't miss my Atwood in the least (though the TT Chopper has caught my fancy again).  But for every Shard there is an Artifact--an ill-conceived, poorly executed, hunk of junk.  The Artifact is, without reservation, the worst item I have ever reviewed.  So the question is: does the Dime belong to the collection of rare and seemingly random pieces of gear that Gerber produces that is good or is it like the majority of their product line--total and complete shit?

Surprisingly, the Dime is very good.  Not just very good, but probably the best keychain multitool on the market.  It's design is nice, its fit and finish is quite good, and its tool selection is the best ever for a keychain multitool.  Not just the best Gerber ever (after all, one of the Hilton sisters has to be the smartest), but probably the best ever regardless of maker, including the vaunted and beloved Leatherman.  The Dime is a premier tool at a bargain basement price.

Here is the Dime's product page.  I am surprised they did not find a way to cram it into the zombie kitHere is a good video review.  Here is a good written review.  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Gerber Dime, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Finally, here is my Dime (which I bought with my own money, it is a not a review sample from Blade HQ that will go back; this one will probably be my car MT):

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Design: 2

I know you have concerns about one thing so let me get it out of the way first: the bottle opener doesn't poke or really effect the carry of this tool at all.  In fact, I never once noticed it when I was carrying this multitool or when I was pulling it out of my pocket.  It looks like it might be a problem, but in practice it never was.

With that out of the way, let's look at the rest of the design.  While it is superficially a very standard pliers-based multitool, the tool designs themselves are quite ingenious (more on this later).  The handles are nicely shaped and the spring loaded pliers really do make a difference.  I also like the precision tip to the pliers themselves.  They are so precise in fact I used them to pull out a splinter.  It was a fat oak splinter I got from chopping wood for the winter, not a needle-like birch splinter, but still that is quite impressive and a good decision design-wise for a multitool of this size.  

As a pliers-based multitool of the keychain size, this is a bit on the bulky side--much bigger than the slim as a pin Style and slightly bigger than the PS4.  That said it is not so big or heavy as to be a problem.  In real world use it is about the same, in the pocket, as the PS4.  The tool to weight ratio is a decent 5.45 (by way of comparison, the tool:weight of the SAK Alox Cadet is a staggering at 11.43 and the Charge TTi has a tool:weight of 2.32).

Fit and Finish: 2

In the past, Gerber stuff has been felled by hellacious fit and finish.  Fortunately there is little to complain about here.  The tools snap into place with authority and stay there.  The springs on the pliers are quite strong.  The grind on the blade and the finish on the plier tips are superb.  The handles are nicely colored and the texturing is excellent.  The scissors are sturdy, a usual Achilles heel for mutlitool scissors, especially in tools this small.  Finally the handles align well and do not display the up and down play that many Gerber mutlitools do.  This is a sturdy and well made tool and I never once lacked confidence when using it. 

Theme: 2

Keychain multitools have to rigorously focused on convenience tools.  Doing otherwise doesn't just make the tool less useful, it can make it too big to carry.  For example,  a saw is a ridiculous item to include on a multitool this small, though Gerber does it on the Vise.  Can openers are stupid on mutlitools in general but even dumber on tools of this size.  Its tempting to lose focus and just cram a bunch of junk on these tools, but Gerber didn't do so here and the tool benefits tremendously from that restraint and focus.  The clam shell cutter is one of the best new implements on a multitool I have seen in years and a perfect example of what devotion to the tool's theme can bring about.  If convenience is the watch word, the Dime passes the test beautifully. 

Grip:  2

As a pliers-based multitool grip is a key factor in the tool's overall usefulness (or if I were a management consultant: "utility"; or if I where Nutnfancy: "useability;" why has "useful" become such a shunned word?).  Fortunately the size of the tool and the spring loaded pliers give the Dime an excellent grip in the pliers position.  The handles also work well when using the knife, the clam shell cutter, the scissors, or the screw drivers.  The handles even give you enough purchase to use the bottle opener easily.  Finally, I really like the texture on the handles.  Its not a big deal, but it does help. 

Carry: 2

My fear, as you can tell, was the bottle opener would be be pokey.  Its not.  The whole tool carries inconspicuously.  The rounded edges prevent anything from catching and none of the tools protrude (other than the bottle opener).  Excellent all around. 

Materials: 2

Okay, this is the first place where I was waffling.  The steel is Gerber's mystery meat steel, but prior history tells us it is one of a few choices.  It could be there old standby, 440A.  It could be there new standby 7Cr17Mov.  Regardless of what it is, it works well.  The blade, with its pronounced belly and reverse tanto shape is still sharp after three weeks of use.  The clam shell cutter is less sharp, because it is used more often, but still works well.  I was concerned about edge retention and then I realized this is not a tool that will be pressed into chores more demanding than opening a package or cutting some twine.  In this role, and perhaps this role alone, the steel is sufficient.  The aluminum handles scales are equally fine and the file is well cut and actually useful despite its tiny proportions. 

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

Generally the accessibility on the Dime is quite good.  All but the pliers are externally accessible.  But here is a potential problem area:

IMG_0031

If you use your keychain multitool drivers in tight spots this will be a problem as there is a bottle opener, a lanyard attachment, and the Phillips driver all in close proximity to each other.  I typically don't use my keychain multitool that way, so this is not a problem.  I find cramped quarters are never good for small multitools.
 
Retention Method: 2

Its a keychain multitool so you get the standard split ring attachment point.  Nothing special.  I have also used the bottle opener to lace my mechanic's ring through.

IMG_0030


I know they have to include the split ring for those that still insist on an old fashioned crappy keychain, but if you have the mechanic's ring set up, you can remove the small split ring and use the bottle opener instead, making more room for your driver.  Its not like you could use the bottle opener with the tool attached to your key ring via the small split ring.  

Tool Selection: 2

Here is where the Dime shines.  There is no keychain multitool out there that has as good a selection of tools.  This gem even bests the perfect PS4 (time to go change that score).  Here is the new attraction, the star of the tool that puts this thing over the top:

IMG_0026
This little implement is designed to ride underneath a clam shell package bubble, severing the puffy top from the rigid plastic backing.  It works incredibly well.  It might even work too well--I can easily see shoplifters carrying the Dime to defeat the clam shell packages that were design to foil their sticky fingers.  In terms of new ideas in the multitool world, this along with the one on the Leatherman Wingman, are among the best.

The rest of the tools are also nicely organized around the convenience theme.  There are a pair of tweezers tucked into the aluminum handle scales, a pair of scissors, a pair of pliers with the wirecutters at the bottom, a nice little reverse tanto knife, a flat head driver, a Phillips 2D driver, a fine and coarse file.  That, with the clam shell cutter, makes 10 tools, hence the name.
 
Tool Performance: 2

In the past Gerber's tools seemed to be there simply to add bullet points on the packaging.  No one really could imagine a use for the saw on the Vise, right?  And the scissors on my other Gerber multitool (review coming when I get a chance) are really scissors only in appearance.  Here they are beefy and can cut through plastic quite well (I used them to cut the nib stabilizer in a new F-701 to fit the Fisher insert after my old one was destroyed from a two story fall).

IMG_0029

The knife is likewise an actual useful implement, with a strong tip and plenty of belly for its size:

IMG_0025
None of the tools are slouches.  Even the tiny little files work.  I used them multiple times to round off seams on my son's plastic toys.  In this role they worked well.  They also took care of busted fingernails.  They won't help you sharpened a splitting maul, but then again only a moron would try to do that task with this tool.  For convenience jobs, they were more than fine, they were quite good.  The clam shell cutter worked well.  The pliers were exceedingly precise.   Every single thing worked well.
  
Overall Score: 20 out of 20

 
Normally when I get a piece of gear in, I put up a draft of the review and make notes on that draft as I use the thing.  Over the weeks I get an idea of what the score will be in each category.  The text comes next, then the pictures, and finally an overall score with HTML links and editing.  Here I just took some notes and purposely did not score any of the categories.  I wanted to be extra sure I was right.  I have really bashed Gerber, deservedly so, and before I put my stamp of approval on something they make I want to me 100% sure I am right.  I don't want the scores to create some sense of momentum.  So I took notes and pictures.  Then I wrote the text given each category a score as I went along.  When I was finished, over a period of two days, I realized, this thing got a 20.

Honestly, it deserves it.  This is a great multitool, regardless of who makes it. I know there are some reviews out there that claim the Dime has sloppy fit and finish, but that happens in any mass produced item.  Mine is rock solid.  This little puppy is so good that it really does raise the bar for all of the competition out there.  The PS4 is a great tool.  No reason to get rid of one if you have it.  But if you are looking for a new keychain sized multitool, the Dime should be your first choice.  The steel is still Gerber's mystery meat, but it works well here.  All of the tools really carry their weight and the bottle opener, the most unusual of design choices, is perfectly fine.

Gerber did it.  They made a tool worthy of the highest praise.  But here is the problem--it means they can do it if they want to, which leaves them even less room for excuses when they make absolute garbage.  I am not sure if this is a sign of a new Gerber or merely a broken clock being right twice a day, but whatever the cause, the effect is a mutlitool well worth owning, especially at the $20 price point.

15 comments:

  1. I have been carrying the Gerber Dime for quite a while now and it is still the EDC choice for me. Although not intended for heavy duties it actually handles the small chores pretty well. Things like opening beer-coke-soda bottles, cutting cord, opening boxes and helping me (un)screwing all sort of IT stuff are not a problem when my Dime is at hand.
    Versatile, cool looking and highly portable I really recommend it as a backup to fit in you pocket.
    The pliers are a plus and the bottle opener is not an issue. And on top of it the scissors are quite good. Needless to say that the package opener is the "pièce de résistance".
    As for those who complain about the lack of a locking system all I can say is that one hardly even notices it's not there. The tools fit quite firmly in their place.
    In a nut shell: considering the price it's the best buy and it is overall better than the competition.

    Peace and Respect.

    (Pardon my english, I'm not from an english speaking country!)

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  2. Wow! 20/20! Nice little tool - was thinking about picking up a Squirt PS4, as I had always wanted to have a pliers option for my S4 - but I think I will take a close look at this tool.

    I wonder if REI (very local to me) carries it, as they tend to have a decent selection of Gerber gear (cough, cough, unfortunately.)

    Actually it is good to see Gerber make a nice multitool.

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    Replies
    1. Trust me, Maxray, go for the Dime! Especially considering the difference in price, the Leatherman PS4 is not better than the Gerber and the Dime looks way cooler. Plus, you get to have tweezers and a great package opener!
      Everyday Commentary know what their talking about.

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  3. I bought one of these based on the stellar review and perfect score here, but am disappointed. Perhaps the great review caused me to have unrealistic expectations, but the fit and finish on mine isn't great, it's virtually impossible to open the short tools and the package opener (my thumbnails got severed trying to open them), and the printed letters are already partially rubbed off. I might just buy a Leatherman so that I can use it to open the tools on the Dime, LOL. Actually, the Dime is going back to Amazon.

    I probably just got a lemon, but still. Not too pleased.

    By the way, keep up the great work on your blog. I dig it.

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    1. It is hard to judge the fit and finish from one sample. Mine is pretty rock solid, but Gerber's QA is spotty at best. Thanks for the info.

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  4. I'm a MT enthusiast and own several LM, SOG and Victorinox MT. I've been wanting to own a PS4 as my Wave is a tad to big for EDC. When I saw the Dime and the reviews that followed, I did not hesitate to buy. I returned the first one I purchased as there was a bad finish right at the blade of the side cutter. The 1st replacement had poor scissors, could not cut properly on cloth material and the pliers spring was weak, so back to the store. The 2nd replacement is okey but still have slight problem with the scissors. Comparing it with the Swiss card scissors or LM Wave which are comparable in size the Dime lags far behind. The scissors are also left handed - for right handed user you need to pull down the material you are cutting instead of up. Had no issues with the other tools except perhaps steel quality which requires a bit of improvement.Overall opinion: The quality is a lottery and commensurate with cheap price.

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    Replies
    1. Quality/price lotto is 100% right. Other than victorinox

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  5. My fear, as you can tell, was the bottle opener would be be pokey. Its not. The whole tool carries inconspicuously.

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  6. The Dime is a Keychain multi-tool. Let me repeat that: Keychain Multi-tool! You can't expect it to be a tough, resistant and all duty effective gadget. It's no match for a Pocket sized multi-tool. It couldn't be. Still, within its segment it's really the best one you can buy.
    I've been using one for more than a year now, and I haven't been easy on it, and I can honestly say that it's really worth the price and more. I truly recommend it!

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  7. try cuting a paper clip.. the dime will just bend it...the squirt will cut it...gerbers mystery metal blows

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  8. Don't know what your paper clips are made of, but after reading your comment I tried my Dime on some of my own paper clips and it worked just fine. In fact, I risked going a little bit further and tried cutting one of those small nails that are used on wodden crafts and again it worked. Maybe you just got a lemon like The Acquirer said before.

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  9. Nice ! I was looking forward to replace my 1 year old PS4. In fact i was really thinking about choosing a bigger MT. Springs on my PS4 broked and i was thinking that even if leatherman couldn't do reliable stuff with tiny MT i had just to pick a MT the size above. But it was really ennoying me as i carry it all day long in my pockets. I'll definitely test this gerber model.

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  10. In my opinion the Dime is the best key chain like multi-tool, but if you're trying to save space in your pockets or preparing to make a pocket survival kit I suggest you take a look on the Gerber Curve. Not so many tool as the Dime but quite an achievment for such a tiny piece!
    I personally have both! The Curve on my keychan and the Dime in my pocket.

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  11. I loved the Gerber dime. it fit well in my fishing vest.

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  12. I have a Leatherman Style PS, a Gerber Dime, a Victorinox Alox classic, and a LM PS4. I've had the Swiss army knife the longest (like 10+ years) followed by the Style PS, then the Dime and my most recent purchase was the PS4. I really wanted to like the Dime... and I do, but not as much as I'd like to. I use pliers a lot and since that is the main tool, it is most important to me. I don't really like the little flat spot at the tip on the Dime's pliers, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me. Recently however, I gripped a large hex wrench with the pliers to turn it and they just bent out of shape (rather the bar that keeps the plier handle straight bent). I didn't feel like I was squeezing hard at all. The combination of the softer steel and the design of the stopper is bad. One or the other could work, but I was able to bend the steel with just two fingers not even squeezing close to full strength.

    I feel the scissors are slightly sub-par when compared to the SAK or LM and the "file" on the Dime is a joke. Everything else is great. I'm thinking of switching out the blade on my PS4 for the one on the Dime. I do like that the Dime uses screws because I was able to take it apart and fix the bar for the pliers and adjust the tension on all the other tools.

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