Chapter 1) Before there was Leatherman…….

Joined
Aug 23, 2004
Messages
382
Lest you get the wrong idea, let me begin this thread by saying that I am a big fan of Leatherman multi tools. Each time I think Leatherman has brought out the ultimate tool, they prove me wrong by introducing something even better. It’s a cycle that has been going on for more than twenty years.

But what about BEFORE Leatherman? Reading through the “history” page at
http://www.leatherman.com/about-leatherman/history/default.asp
one could get the impression that the PST (Personal Survival Tool) which Tim Leatherman brought out in 1983, was the first and original folding plier / knife combination tool. This is most definitely not the case.

There were a vast array of plier, scissor, and pruning multi tools that existed long before Tim Leatherman’s product came to market. Many were designed for the fisherman or outdoorsman, or ladies purses or gentlemens pockets, but all sought to combine multiple functions in a single, compact package.

abco1.jpg


The tool that draws the closest comparison to the Leatherman PST is this folding plier tool from the Abe Bauermann Company of Solingen, Germany. I do not know exactly when this plier tool was produced, but I suspect it is from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. Like many other European knife tools from this era, it appears to have been designed specifically for the American market. At this time, Europe in general (and Germany in particular) was still rebuilding from the devastation of World War II. The average person was mainly concerned with obtaining enough to eat and getting a roof over their head. No one had money to spend on such frivolous things as a fishing tool. With no domestic market, skilled craftsmen in France and Germany sold their work to importing firms, such as MacOverland, Coles, Hoffritz, and Seaboard Steel. These importers then brought the knives and tools to America, where they were distributed across the country and sold through various retail or mail order outlets.

abco2.jpg
abco3.jpg


The ABCo tool was intended to simply be carried in your pocket, not in a sheath, so the designers kept its profile as thin as possible. At only 3/8” thick, it is significantly slimmer than the typical full-sized multi tool of today. With a folded length of 3-3/4” it fit comfortably in its owner’s pocket, while an unfolded length of 7” made it very usable. Produced before the widespread availability of stainless steels, the entire device is nickel plated for corrosion resistance.

abco4.jpg


In order to achieve the desired thinness, the plier jaws assembly is only 1/8” thick, and each handle only contains a single blade. On one side there is a knife blade, stamped ABCo, Solingen, Germany. The other handle houses a combination fish scaler / hook disgorger / and bottle cap lifter. Other features to the benefit of fishermen are the shot splitter in the plier jaws, line cutter, and hard-wire leader cutting notch.

abco5.jpg


Although somewhat weak at the pivot points, this tool is quite usable in design and function. After playing with it a bit, one is left pondering the remarkable coincidence of Tim Leatherman’s invention of some 30 years later.

~Bob
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2005
Messages
27
Leatherman did not invent the multi tool. He put pliers in it. Multi tools were around a long time. Pliers gave it a life all its own.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2005
Messages
62
Thanks for sharing this Bob. I never have seen one before. (But I'll bet Tim Leatherman has!) It may not be as sophisticated as today's multi tools, but it looks pretty functional for a 50 year old design.
 
Joined
Nov 13, 2003
Messages
180
dogrobber said:
Leatherman did not invent the multi tool. He put pliers in it. Multi tools were around a long time. Pliers gave it a life all its own.

Ummm...No. I've seen examples of multitools with pliers that predate Leatherman.

Leo
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2004
Messages
234
dogrobber said:
Leatherman did not invent the multi tool. He put pliers in it. Multi tools were around a long time. Pliers gave it a life all its own.

dogrobber , those are pliers in Bob's picture . Between Bob and I we probably have well over 100 examples of multi tools that predate Leatherman . Some that are plier based , wrench based , pruning shears , scissors , hammers , etc . Check out a thread that I started at ;

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=301977

It is entitled multi tools that predate Leatherman there are 6 pictures there with 10 different tools , some of them there dating back into the 1910's or so . The earliest example that I own was made in the 1890 's .
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2004
Messages
382
Iron man said:
any estimates about how many of these abco tools were made?
That, I do not know. Judging by how scarce these tools are today, there must not have been very many produced. In three years of watching for old plier tools on eBay, I have only seen about five ABCo's. (Compare this to Barnett Plier-Knives, for instance, which were produced fifty years ealier, yet there is another one on eBay nearly every week.)

Short of visiting the factory in Germany, I'm afraid we'll never know the total production numbers. However, I consider the ABCO plier tool to be one of the rarer pre-Leatherman multi tools.

~Bob
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2004
Messages
234
JOOLIESEWS said:
That, I do not know. Judging by how scarce these tools are today, there must not have been very many produced. In three years of watching for old plier tools on eBay, I have only seen about five ABCo's. (Compare this to Barnett Plier-Knives, for instance, which were produced fifty years ealier, yet there is another one on eBay nearly every week.)

Short of visiting the factory in Germany, I'm afraid we'll never know the total production numbers. However, I consider the ABCO plier tool to be one of the rarer pre-Leatherman multi tools.

~Bob

Bob ,

How about the English folding scissor tools ( plural , more than one variation ) similar to the micra ?
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2004
Messages
382
lonediver said:
How about the English folding scissor tools ( plural , more than one variation ) similar to the micra ?
The old scissor multi tools are another rare breed, with a folding layout similar to the ABCo tool. Interesting variations too, definitely worth a future discussion. How about we take a look at them in Chapter 3 or 4?

So, are there any other questions or observations on the ABCo tool? If not, I will post Chapter 2 this weekend.

~Bob
 

Broos

Gold Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2005
Messages
1,930
Thanks for the bttt Ironman - a very interesting read.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2006
Messages
185
Btt.
Excellent read! Thanks so much for giving us newbies a new insight into this world of fascinating tools! A definite must-read for all owners & enthusiasts. I'm saving these and filing them for future read-throughs.
 
Top