Leatherman’s Crunch is a unique older model multi-tool that features Vise-Grip-style locking pliers that can clamp onto work materials up to 1-inch wide.
In addition to the Leatherman Crunch, several other locking pliers-style multi-tools were developed and produced in the past, such as the Gerber Grappler, Kershaw and Craftsman A100, and Schrade/Vise-Grip Tough Grip. Of these, the Leatherman Crunch is the only locking pliers multi-tool that is still manufactured today, although the Gerber can still be found new at rather high prices.
It is also worth pointing out that, compared to all the other locking pliers multi-tools, the Crunch is the most compact and portable when folded up.
Similar to the other locking pliers multi-tools, the Crunch features a relatively small number of additional tools and functions when compared to other traditionally styled multi-tools built with combination pliers.
I have been using the Crunch for a few weeks now and have been actively rotating it into my everyday carry tool kit so as to use it as often as possible.
When I first received the Crunch, my biggest surprise was its small size. I had assumed it would be closer in size to Leatherman’s SuperTool 300, but is actually smaller and narrower than the Leatherman Wave.
The Crunch has one of the oldest-feeling designs among Leatherman’s current tools, right alongside the keychain-sized Micra. It is also relatively lightweight at just 6.9 ounces, compared to the Wave and SuperTool 300 which weigh 8.5 and 9.6 ounces, respectively.
It also seems very cleverly designed to feel just like a pair of Vise Grips when assembled, while being very compact when folded for carrying or storage.
The plier head is actually only permanently attached to one side of the tool. The upper jaw attaches to one handle with a large pivot, and the lower jaw features a double-sided detent at its base that snaps into the other handle during assembly to complete the pliers. It is the tension adjustment bar that actually holds the two sides of the tool together.
Assembly of the Crunch pliers is straightforward.
Step 1: Separate the two handles.
Step 2: Swing the pliers’ jaws out from within the handle. This can be done by pushing the deployment knob that protrudes from the outer part of the upper jaw’s handle.
Step 3: Attach the lower jaw to its handle.
Here you can see the jaws’ multiple gripping zones. At the tip, finer teeth help the pliers grip onto thinner materials. There is also a pin vise groove that runs down the middle of the jaws’ tips that can very tightly hold small pins, wires, nails, and similar types of objects. Towards the middle, the curved jaws and larger grooves help provide a strong grip when clamping pipes and other larger materials. At the end, near the beefy pivot, are soft and hard wire cutting blades.
Once assembled, the Crunch feels and operates very similar to a small set of Vise Grip pliers. I have found the locking pliers to be surprisingly useful. They can be latched onto similar sized objects as traditionally styled multi-tools, but once tightened the user can focus on holding or turning rather than also squeezing.
When the tool is set with little or no tension, it is possible to use the pliers in a similar manner as standard pliers, but the temporarily attached side does have a tendency to pop loose. This is not an issue when tightening the jaws due to the handles’ cupped and encapsulating design. So you can use them as non-locking pliers if you really wanted to, but your experiences might vary.
While the Crunch feels like a marvel in engineering, it also seems to be a masterpiece in mass-produced fit and finish. The blades are not too stiff or too loose, while the handles and jaws are manipulated with ease. The jaws fold back and into relief cuts in the handles with just enough clearance, and the detached detented bottom end becomes a slight flipper/button to push the jaws back out when needed. A spur on the Phillips driver helps to clip the two handles together when folded.
Leatherman squeezed all of the Crunch’s fold-out tools into the handle opposite the one the plier jaws are stored in. An active locking lever secures opened tools in place, which makes the tools safer and easier to use.
The Crunch has a total of 15 functions:
- Regular Pliers
- Locking Pliers
- Hard Wire Cutters
- Wire Cutters
- Pin Vice
- Wire Stripper (in the tension bar)
- 420HC Serrated Sheepsfoot Blade
- 8″ Ruler
- Wood/Metal File
- 1/4″ Hex Bit Driver
- Philips Screwdriver
- Large Screwdriver
- Medium Screwdriver
- Small Screwdriver
The 2 pliers, cutters, and pin vice listed above are all features of the plier head/jaws alone. It puts together over twice the features (15 vs 7) in a tool very close to the same size as a Leatherman Skeletool.
As with most other multi-tools the Crunch features a built-in knife blade. Its other tools and functions include small, medium, and large screwdrivers; a wood/metal file, 8″ ruler, Phillips screwdriver, and 1/4″ hex bit driver.
The knife blade is made from 420HC stainless steel and has a sheepsfoot blade profile. It is fully serrated along its full 2.2-inch length. While I am not usually a big fan of serrated knife blades, in this tool I feel that the serrated cutting edges was a great design choice as the serrations improve the cutting capacity of the small blade.
The knife is obviously not the centerpiece of the multi-tool, but even so the serrations allow it to make quick work of many cutting tasks that a user may encounter. As with most other Leatherman tools, the knife blade was very sharp out of the box.
I like how Leatherman opted to give the knife blade a sheepsfoot profile, as it makes the knife feel very controllable.
One thing I am glad to see is that the lock adjustment knob does not interfere with use of the knife. With the blade extended and handles closed, the cutting edge of the blade starts about 1/4″ further away from the base of the blade.
If you find yourself needing a knife blade for regular use, I would recommend carrying a separate pocket knife. The knife blade on the Crunch can be used for common cutting tasks, but deploying the blade is a two-handed, multi-step process.
Most of Leatherman’s other current multi-tool models have externally accessible knives designed for quick and easy one-handed blade access, but this isn’t possible given the Crunch’s pliers design.
The locking knob is cleverly engineered to be completely removable, and when removed it reveals a 1/4″ hex bit holder that is compatible with standard screwdriver bits. This is a great bonus that would allow a user to add a few additional screwdriver bits and maybe even a 1/4″ hex to square drive adapter and sockets to form a very compact but capable tool kit.
Overall, I feel that the Crunch is a great multi-tool. In addition to everyday use, I think it would be an excellent addition to a small car or bike toolkit for quick impromptu repairs.
I am sure there are a few other niche scenarios where this tool would be ideal over non-locking pliers, but I think its compact size and decent feature set make it well suited as an all-purpose everyday carry type of tool. Perhaps Leatherman could have added additional tools and features to the design, but not without the Crunch getting bulky. If tools like eyeglass screwdrivers and scissors are a top priority for you, there are plenty of other multi-tools to choose from.
The Leatherman Crunch is a very unique, well designed, and high quality multi-tool that deserves serious consideration for tradesmen, handymen, and even DIYers. It crams a lot of capability into a very portable package.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
More Info(via Leatherman)
The Crunch tested and featured in this review was purchased at its full retail price from Amazon.
I don’t have a Crunch, but I have a couple of the Schrade/Vise-Grip tools. The standard jaw version, with the 1/4 hex screwdriver (with double end bit) is still my first choice of multi-tool, for instances where the pliers are your most needed tool. A couple acquaintances of mine made them (the pliers part) in DeWitt (Nebraska) and they said they seemed popular, but production ceased when they got bought out by Rubbermaid, and started sending production overseas.
This is probably the most underrated tool in the Leatherman line. It’s a product of masterful engineering. I considered one many times, but never felt justified in paying for it. It’s underappreciated, because it’s not the kind of general purpose item that Leatherman is otherwise known for. It’s more of a niche tool. If you frequently have a need for this type of tool, I could see it as invaluable.
I can’t imagine a plumber for example who wouldn’t benefit from this. I think it’s definitely worth the asking price. I just keep trying to come up with a justifiable excuse, (rationalization,) to buy one!
“I don’t need any more multi-tools,” I thought. Ah well, I just ordered one for myself from Amazon. Although pricier than small Vise Grip locking pliers, I can’t place 4″ Vise Grips in my pocket, at least not comfortably.
The price hadn’t changed by even a penny in the 10 weeks since I ordered one for Clayton to review.
I used to have one , it was very handy , sadly it got lost , and I never replaced it .
The blade was good for general jobsite utility , the pliers were good for holding thin sheet metal stock , during drilling .
This one is definitely on my want list. It has the best of everything a multitool has to offer, innovation, multi-functional, compact and practical. The Vice Grip Toolbox versions are not as functional and using the knife on them can be a painful experience since the knife doesn’t lock and can fold on you during use. There is also a knockoff version of this tool sold in Europe by a company called Silverline.
Hey, can you link me the silver line knockoff? I’m curious.
I tend to shut off a lot of water pipe valves at work. To prevent from wearing out the packing prematurely (would require to shut off main line and drain the lines to replace), I have accustomed to loosen up the nut first…I tend to forget to carry an adjustable wrench though. This would solve this if I carry one of them always with me. Thanks.
To “Yadda”. Have you actually seen a Leatherman Crunch? Have you actually used one? When you finally do, you will see that ALL tools lock when open! So, using the blade is not “dangerous” as you stated, and cannot close until you release the locking mechanism. The only danger comes from issuing misleading armchair reviews like yours without ever having actually taken the trouble to handle one.
Relax. If you read his post, you will see that the comment was directed at Irwin’s “Vice Grip Toolbox”: which he said was not as functional as the Crunch, because the Toolbox’s knife doesn’t lock. I think he is well aware that this criticism does not apply to the Crunch.
I just bought one and have tried it on some minor household works. The Crunch looks and feels quite compact but is jampacked with many features. I have collected almost all of Tim Leatherman’s creations and the Crunch brings something new to the tried and true formula. Thank you very much Leatherman, keep up the good work.
I believe that Yadda was referring to the Vise Grip tool, not the Crunch.
I have used the crunch ever since it came out a few years ago.
In practice the lower jaws sometimes slip out of the detents while applying strong pressure as I would on vicegrips.
This is still one of my favorite tools but I don’t think can match an actual pair of vicegrips.
In my experience using this as an occasional substitute for vicegrips should be fine but don’t expect it to replace one.
I have owned 3 crunches, one I lost, one I broke (one of the jaws broke! I have a strong grip, but not that strong!) Sent it to Leatherman and they replaced it free of charge. I am a sailor, and the law of The sea is “one hand for ship and one hand for The man”. I learned how to engage the jaws with one hand. Getting to the screw drivers is another story, but do able. Best multitool I’ve ever had!
Had one for well over a decade now and its still holding up well. Best multitool for remote-area or multisport use out there imho. The tool needed to service bikes, tweak mountaineering hardware, and tackle the kind of random but heavy-duty and critical jobs that sometimes pop up in the middle of nowhere. It repaired the broken-off spike on the base of an ice-axe (by cutting the carbon/alloy shaft back using the file as a saw, filing away a stainless rivet pin, and refitting the ferrule with supaglue) , thus saving the summit attempt on a remote trip in India. Hell, it even managed to replace the broken waterpump on a jacked-up landcruiser in the wilds of nw Kenya, using just this one tool! That saved days of walking (and totally amazed the locals). Try doing that with folding pliers.
I know why they call it a “crunch” the first time I clamped onto something the metal in the tool went “crunch” and broke. Leatherman used to be quality stuff..they’ve gone downhill bad based on three different models I now own.
I have had a Crunch for some years now and I use it all the time for all sorts of jobs.
I did have a small problem with the pin in lock release mechanism about four years ago and Leatherman repaired it without question under the lifetime guarantee. They actually wanted to replace it with a new one but mine was a gift from my wife and is engraved so they agreed to fix it for me instead.
I have a couple of Leatherman multi tool products but this is my preferred tool and the one that gets used the most.
If you have had a problem with yours Craig, return it to Leatherman and I’m certain they will look after you.
I own 3 crunch. I have backups for when I break a file or blade. I am a commercial HVAC contractor and use mine on a daily basis. I have several other pliered multi tools and hands down this one is the best for me and what I do. If you buy one it does take some getting used to using the vice grip but once you get it figured out it is a great tool