Leatherman Wave Review

There is a reason why the Leatherman Wave+ is their best selling tool – it is a great value for every user. This full-size multitool has 18 tools, the Wave Plus doesn’t sacrifice utility like pocket sized tools and it is lighter and easier to carry than heavy duty mulitools that have more capability. The Leatherman Wave+ just works and has the functions you needs for a reasonable price.

The Wave is Leatherman’s most popular design and for good reason. Originally launched in 1998 it was the first multitool from Leatherman with external accessible blades and one hand deployment. Leatherman gave the Wave updated tool locks, interchangeable bits, and updated the knife blades in 2004 and renamed it the New Wave. The New Wave was in production for 14 years until 2018 when Leatherman renamed it the Wave+ after giving it a new plier design, replaceable 154CM wire cutters, and an upgraded sheath.

Today we are reviewing the features, build quality, and utility of the Leatherman Wave+ multi tool.

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Leatherman Wave Plus – First Impressions

Leatherman Wave+ with tools fanned

Pick up the Leatherman Wave+ and you immediately notice the similarities to the Leatherman Charge TTi. Except for some minor differences the Wave+ is the same as one of the best Leatherman multitools. With the Charge TTi you get premium materials and a cutting hook added on the back of the serrated blade, as well as additional bit driver accessories. At a little more than half the price of the Charge TTi, the Wave+ gives you the same design that Leatherman has perfected over decades.

Both the main knife blade and serrated blade deploy easily with one hand using the thumb cut outs. Leatherman’s liner locks hold the blade securely and the release is naturally positioned within thumb reach when you want to close the blades. Leatherman thoughtfully included a wavy section on the back of the serrated blade so you can identify the blades by feel without looking. The saw blade and file are also accessible with the Wave+ closed.

Unfold the handles and you have access to the pliers with their 154CM replaceable wire cutters as well as the other tools on the pivots opposite the main blades. The Wave+ includes an eyeglass bit driver that has flat/Phillips tips as well as a regular-size bit driver. The bits use Leatherman’s proprietary flattened form factor and comes with one double-ended bit, one end is a 3/16″ flat blade and the other end fits Phillips #1 or #2 screws. Spring-action scissors, a can/bottle opener with wire stripper, and a medium flat head screwdriver round out the rest of the tools.

Read our detailed review to find out why the Leatherman Wave+ makes it into our list of recommended tools – and which multi tool we rate even higher. 

Leatherman Wave Plus – Manufacturer Description

An international best-seller, the Wave® + has all the essential tools of the original with the addition of replaceable and durable 154CM wire cutters. All 18 tools can be locked open quickly and conveniently to tackle any task. Many of these tools are outside-accessible, so you can use them when the multi-tool is folded and closed.

This new version of the Wave includes a newly designed set of pliers that includes removable and replaceable 154-cm wirecutters. Additionally, the new Wave+ comes with an improved sheath, redesigned from the ground up for better performance, longer life, and updated styling. In this new sheath, Velcro has been replaced with a premium metal snap which provides a more secure closure and longer life. Each sheath is made from high-quality nylon webbing, premium elastic, and reinforced stitching for improved performance, durability, and more dependable fit.

Leatherman Wave Plus – Tool List

The current Wave+ has 18 tools:

 1. Needlenose Pliers

 2. Regular Pliers

 8. Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters

 9. Premium Replaceable Hard Wire Cutter

13. 420HC Knife

14. 420HC Serrated Knife

15. Spring-action Scissors

16. Saw

17. Diamond Coated File

18. Wood/Metal File

20. Large Bit Driver

21. Small Bit Driver

23. Medium Screwdriver

30. Ruler 8in | 19 cm

32. Wire Stripper

33. Can/Bottle Opener

 –. Electrical Crimper

 

Leatherman Wave+ tool guide diagram

Leatherman doesn’t label the Electrical Crimper in their user guide but it is located between the handles close to the pivot joint, opposite from the hard wire cutter. The Lanyard ring (31) is not counted as a tool, but the Can Opener and Bottler Opener are counted separately even though they are the exact same hardware.

Features

• Locking mechanism on all tools

• Knife blades are one-hand opening

• Knife blades, saw, and files are outside-accessible

• Lanyard ring (31)

Leatherman includes eyeglass screwdriver and Phillips #1-2 & 3/16″ screwdriver bits 

Leatherman Wave Plus – Our Hands-on Testing

As the best-selling Leatherman, the Wave+ is the benchmark that all full-size multi tools are measured against. With 18 tools you are well prepared with all the common tools needed for most jobs. We consider the Wave+ a full function generalist tool – it doesn’t have specialized tools but with the Wave+ you have what you need to get by in just about any situation. Leatherman made the Wave+ strong enough to be useful but compact and light enough to carry comfortably on your belt. Every tool is middle of the pack or better with Leatherman quality so you know it won’t let you down.

Core Tools – Pliers

The 2018 refresh brought the Leatherman Wave+ up to date with their latest plier design and 154CM replaceable wire cutters. Large teeth in the bolt grabbing section give solid grip even on smooth surfaces and round nuts. The new Leatherman plier design includes medium teeth on the needlenose section that we like better than the finer teeth or flat cross-hatching found on some multitools. It is very helpful to have the grip when you need it, just take steps to prevent surface marring for delicate tasks.

The handles are comfortable to use without any sharp edges or protruding tools that dig into your hand. Be cautious when gripping small items with the pliers, when doing detail work our tendency was to slide our hand up the handles. There is a pinch point between the back of the knife blades and the opposite handle and we pinched our fingers a few times.

Leatherman Wave+ black pliers close up

Core Tools – Knife Blades

Leatherman Wave+ black knife blade Leatherman Wave Plus closed back

Both the main straight blade and serrated blade on the Leatherman Wave+ are 420HC stainless steel. 420HC is Leatherman’s standard material that goes into most of their multitools and for good reason – it is a workhorse. It doesn’t get quite as sharp or hold an edge quite as long as their premium materials, but it is easier to sharpen and maintain the proper geometry.

The 2.9 inch clip point blade is another tried and true design from Leatherman. It has remained unchanged since the New Wave update 2004. At nearly 3 inches long you have all the utility you need to replace your EDC pocket knife, especially considering the Wave+ gives you two blades. The fully serrated blade is the same length with no upsweep at the tip.

Combination blades that are half straight and half serrated have too many tradeoffs and we are glad Leatherman found room to include both blades on the Wave+. We like the ability to select the blade style based on the cut – when cutting rope, straps, or other coarse material the serrations are a great option to have. But for most cuts we prefer the control and precision that is only possible with a straight edge.

When the Wave+ is closed it is nearly symmetrical so Leatherman included a wavy section on the back of the serrated blade just above the thumb hole. The back of the straight blade is smooth so this lets you know by touch which blade you are about to open without looking.

Core Tools – Bit Drivers & Screwdrivers

In 1998 interchangeable bits were a new feature for Leatherman so leaving the medium screwdriver made some sense during the transition, but we are not clear why it has survived the 2004 and 2018 design changes. Perhaps Leatherman thinks it adds value as a general purpose tool for prying and scraping. You are far better served by adding one of the available bit kits for your screwdriver needs. You always want to match the bit size to the screw head and plus if you damage a bit you haven’t permanently affected your multitool. 

Adding a Leatherman bit kit with extension brings a lot of additional functionality. The bit kit includes a wide selection that covers most situations, including hex and square drive heads, Torx, Phillips and standard screwdriver bits. Leatherman’s proprietary design has been around for decades now and proven effective. Initially there was a lot of concern that that the flattened design wouldn’t work well and strip screw heads. This only becomes a concern for the larger Phillips, hex, and Torx heads that get cut off on top and bottom. In practice we have not noticed any significant impact. On very stubborn screws we’ve stripped heads using the Leatherman bits, but using a full-size driver was no guarantee either. Simple engineering says there must be a drop in performance, but the real impact is not enough to worry about.

One surprise for us was how many people don’t know that the small bit driver is double-ended. The small straight eyeglass screwdriver pulls out of the bit driver and reverses to a Phillips tip. It is designed to be snug so the bit doesn’t fall out and the spring arm gives consistent tension. Replacement eyeglass bits are available if you do lose or damage the bit.

Wire Cutters

In 2018 Leatherman added replaceable 154CM wire cutters to the Wave+ and addressed the biggest complaint users had about the multitool. With the upgrade you don’t have to worry about having your multitool out of service because you damaged the wire cutters – just screw in a replacement set and get back to work. The bypass style wire cutters make short work of copper wire up to 4 AWG although the cut is not very clean due to the bypass design. We were able to cut up to #11 nails in the hard wire cutters. We noticed a slight flex in the handles as we were squeezing to make the hard cuts. As we noted in the pliers section, be careful to keep your fingers clear of the pinch points at the top of the handles when cutting.

Leatherman Wave+ wire cutters close up

Scissors

The spring action scissors on the Wave+ have 3/4 inch blades and work well for cutting fabric and other light materials. The pivot is tight and the blades are straight and sharp so they cut and not bend or fold between the blades. We tested the scissors by cutting denim and paper and they were still sharp and aligned to cut hair with ease. Twine and shoelaces were no problem, but we had to chew a few times to get through 550 paracord. Overall great utility from these little scissors.

Files & Saws

The saw on the Wave+ is standard Leatherman quality. It is 2.9 inches long with an aggressive tooth pattern that makes quick work of both dry wood and green limbs. Multi tool saw blades are one of the least used implements on multi tools so consider if you want the extra bulk.

The diamond coated file is an upgrade from the files found on most multi tools. One side is a standard wood/metal double cut file and the other side is embedded with diamond. Many people on the forums misuse the fine grit diamond side for bulk removal, it is really for fine honing an edge in the field. Used properly for sharpening and minor touch up it should last for years before the embedded diamonds wear away. The bottom edge of the file is ridged so you can use the file for notching and cutting metal.

Can/Bottle Opener

The combination can and bottle opener on the Wave Plus is serviceable. The blade necessary for opening cans can also penetrate bottle caps if you are not careful but this is easily avoided with a little technique. 

All The Rest – Wire Stripper, Ruler, Crimper

The wire stripper on the Wave Plus is a sharpened v-notch cut into the shaft of the can/bottle opener tool. Simply press the wire into the notch and rotate the tool around. This scores the insulation or you can continue and cut it completely. Then use the edge of the wire stripper to pull of the insulation from the wire. Easy and effective.

The crimper is between the handles opposite the wire cutter, right next to the pivot. It will get you by in a pinch (pun intended) but is not a tool you want to use on a regular basis. The crimp will be sloppy weaker than if you used a proper tool sized for the crimp needed.

To use the ruler on the Leatherman Wave+ unfold the handles so they are in a straight line with the pliers pointed up. Ruler markings are on the top edge, with Imperial units in 1/8 inch increments to 8 inches and metric to 19 cm in mm increments. Because the markings are on top of the handle and not next to the surface it is more difficult to use the full ruler length and retain accuracy.

Construction Quality

The blade design on the Wave+ does not have the same weakness that shows up in the Skeletool or Freestyle blades. Since the Wave+ shares a common design with the Charge+ there is an active group of users that modify their Wave+ and replace the knife blade with the S30V version. Leatherman doesn’t sell knife blades to the public so you need to search the forums for sources. Once you have the knife blade, disassembly of the Wave+ is straightforward. You need two T8 torx security bits (one for each side of the pivot). We recommend getting a torx security set that goes from T6 to T10 to cover future needs.

Pinch Point

This weak point isn’t unique to the Wave+ but it needs to be mentioned. When using the pliers or wire cutters a pinch point exists near the pivot between the handles. On most multitools this is just the handles squeezing together but on the Wave+ the thumb holes protrude above the handle surface. When using the Wave+ for detail work we naturally move our hand forward on the handle for additional control, not down the handle for additional power. This puts our fingers near the pinch point danger zone.

Variants of the Leatherman Wave+

The Wave is Leatherman’s most popular multitool and there have been several versions in its history. Starting with the Original Wave from 1998-2004, the New Wave 2004-2018, and now the Wave+ from 2018 to current. Along the way there have been several special edition Waves, including the Leatherman 25th Anniversary Wave in 2008, the limited-edition Damascus Wave in 2009 (only 1000 produced), and the limited-edition Black & Silver Wave+ from 2018. Leatherman includes a sheath packaged with all the versions below currently available for purchase. The stainless and black Wave+ come with a Nylon MOLLE sheath with a snap webbing strap for attachment, a grey Leatherman logo, and velcro closure. The Black & Silver Wave+ comes with a ballistic nylon sheath with a metal snap rivet closure.

  • 832531 Stainless Steel Wave+ 
  • 832533 Black Wave+
  • 832596 Stainless Steel Wave+ with Cap Crimper
  • 832597 Black Wave+ with Cap Crimper
  • 832695 Black & Silver Wave+ limited edition
  • 831089 Limited-Edition Damascus Wave – retired
  • 830970 Leatherman 25th Anniversary Wave – retired

Leatherman Wave+ Review

Leatherman Wave+ iso view with tools open

Wave+ Summary

Pliers 4.5/5 Knife Blades 4/5 Bit Drivers/Screwdrivers 4.3/5 Wire Cutters 4.5/5 Scissors 4/5 Files 4.5/5 Saw 4.5/5 Can/Bottle Openers 3/5

Most tools on the Wave+ get a solid 4-star rating and all of them are middle of the pack or better.

Key Specifications

  • Blade length: 2.9 in
  • Weight: 8.5 oz
  • Overall length: 6.3 in
  • Closed dimensions: 4.0 x 1.46 x 0.67 in | 10.2 x 3.7 x 1.7 cm

One-handed: knife blade yes, pliers no

Carry method: belt sheath

There is a reason why the Wave+ is the best selling tool from Leatherman – it is a great value that works for every user. As a full-size multitool with 18 tools, the Wave Plus doesn’t sacrifice utility like pocket sized tools. The 4 inch handles are comfortable to use and long and strong enough to give leverage for those stubborn tasks.  Yes, the heavy-duty multitools are stronger and more capable, but at the cost of size and weight. At 8.5 oz the Wave Plus is still easy to carry with a belt sheath and that is the best multitool you can buy – one that you will carry all the time. The Leatherman Wave+ just works.

With the addition of replaceable 154CM wire cutters and plier redesign in 2018, Leatherman removed the only real reason not to purchase a Wave Plus. If you want to spend more money there are premium options like the Charge+ TTi and the Free P4, but for the money you get bells and whistles. The core multitool functions are already well served by the Wave+.

Leatherman Wave Plus vs Charge TTi

The Wave+ and Charge+ TTi are identical designs except for minor differences. The Charge+ TTi adds titanium handles and different style cutouts, upgrades the main blade to S30V steel, adds a cutting hook on the back of the serrated blade, and comes with a removable pocket clip. Leatherman also includes additional accessories but to get these upgrades the Charge+ TTi is nearly double the price of the Wave+. We think the Wave+ is an incredible value at its normal retail price, even more so if you find a used Wave+ in good condition.

Leatherman Wave Plus vs Free P4

The Leatherman Wave+ directly compares to the new Free P4 

Leatherman Wave Plus vs Rebar

The Rebar is the big brother to the Leatherman Wave+.