Monday, August 22, 2011

Awl modification for Leatherman Wave

I had my original Leatherman PST (Pocket Survival Tool) for many years and when I decided to upgrade to Leatherman Wave, I was a bit disappointed to find out that they have omitted a very useful tool from the set - the awl. If you want to puncture a hole in a coconut, leather belt or an old plastic bottle with Gorilla Glue, a good awl will do the job just fine. The PST has a somewhat small but sturdy and useful awl so I decided to add one to my Wave. I've seen people grinding a 1/4" hex extension driver to make an awl for the Wave's bit driver. The problem with this - it takes A LOT of grinding and it is difficult to precisely adjust the thickness and shape of the base part so it fits and locks in the bit driver - Leatherman is using a modified (flat) version of the 1/4" hex bit with most of the new multi-tools in order to save space in the handle.
This mod is for the NEW Wave tool and it will not work on the old Wave (pre-2004) as the old model is missing the bit driver.

This is the starting point for my awl mod - the bit kit (#930368 - only $5 at for Leatherman MUT (Miltary Multi-Tool). Looking at the MUT tool I realized that the bits are compatible with the Wave's bit driver. The set includes 3 combo bits - short Slotted/Phillips, long (2.5") Slotted/Phillips and a long (2.5") hex 7/64 / Torx T15 bit. These bits will fit in Leatherman's standard bit driver (equipped on Wave, Charge, Surge and Skeletool)

I used the long Hex/Torx bit to grind my awl from. This bit is less useful to me than the other two. Leatherman is using pretty good tool steel for these bits as it took me well over half hour of grinding on my improvised grinding wheel (Electric Drill with grinding wheel mounted in the chuck). First, I used a scriber to draw the desired shape in the black oxide coating and used my Dremel Tool to cut off the tip and roughly correct the shape in order to reduce the time spent in grinding. The bit can be shaped in many forms - I wanted a heavy duty awl so I kept more metal around the tip and reduced the size less gradually. This resulted in a "straight-back knife blade" tip that is very strong. For lighter duty it can be shaped with more aggressive reduction of the size from tip to base (sharper, "needle-like" form). The remaining two bits from the kit can be shaped into other useful tools - like a miniature V-blade line cutter/wire stripper (the Wave has one already on the bottle opener), a sharper awl, a punch-down tool or a small pry tool.

As one can see - the overall thickness is pretty good, resulting in a strong and solid tool. Now, there is no need to use (and possibly damage) the knife blade when puncturing holes.

The awl inserted in the Wave's bit driver. It locks nice and firm in the bit holder with absolutely no wobble. For finishing the surface I used a drop of Perma Blue solution (Liquid Gun Blue). The bit has a black oxide coating and the selenium based gun blue blends in perfectly.

Here is another mod. The original Leatherman sheath has a side pocket for a small flashlight and inside pocket to fit in the the two plastic holders with the extra bits kit (#931014). Unfortunately, there is no space for the bit driver extender (#931009) or any of the long MUT bits (and my awl). I used a cheap aluminum (2x AA batteries) flashlight ($1 form AutoZone) to make a container for the long bits/driver extension. I just cut a portion of the aluminum tube of the flashlight body and capped the cut end. The original end cap (normally used to load batteries) serves as the container's threaded cap. The container slips nicely in the side flashlight pocket of the Leatherman sheath. I can fit the driver extender, two long MUT bits, one short bit, large needle and some thin steel wire and rolled up Band-Aid :-)


Anonymous said...

Simple yet awesome and practical mods. I also wish the Wave came with an awl. When you say you capped the end of the $1 flashlight how did you do that? It doesn't look like you kept the original lens cap...

Andrey E. Stoev said...

I have cut the flashlight body to size it, removing the reflector portion. To cap it, I epoxy glued a large wooden dowel (pressed into the open end), which was then cut flush with the bottom edge of the aluminum tube. The dowel had a slight cone shape to it and made a nice seal. To improve adhesion you should use very coarse file along the inside portion of the tube close to the opening. One can also drill a few small holes around the bottom edge and cover them on the outside with scotch tape prior to the glue application. That way the epoxy will squeeze in and fill the holes from the inside and this will make very strong bond when the dowel is pressed into the tube.

Anonymous said...

An excellent mod; thanks for posting it! I was hesitating on buying the New Wave because I consider an awl essential. The only improvement I would suggest is drilling a hole through the awl to pass heavy thread through leather or canvas during field repairs. (However, inclusion of a suitable needle with the accessories may be sufficient, along with some thick waxed thread).

Drilling a hole through hardened steel is a challenge, even with a drill press: I have a friend with a plasma cutter that may make a precise hole, and perhaps help with initial shaping of the awl from stock as well.

Tools I will miss from my Victorinox knife will be tweezers (essential in the desert) a toothpick and a pin (spares available on Amazon). I guess they can go in with the accessories. (I had thought of shaping the plastic grip from an old Victorinix, which has grooves for them, and gluing it to the grip of the Wave.)```````