They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that certainly was true for Tim Leatherman 30+ years ago when he developed the first multi-tool. While traveling abroad after college, Tim was frustrated that his trusty pocketknife just couldn’t handle all the repair jobs needed on his unreliable used car and travel gear. Knowing there was a need to fill, Tim returned home to Oregon and got to work developing and patenting a pliers based multi-purpose tool. In 1983, he co-founded the Leatherman Tool Group. To see the original Leatherman prototypes, hear more about Tim’s story, and see the hand-assembly of these amazingly useful tools, take a FREE tour of the Leatherman Factory in Portland, Oregon.
Thirty years have passed since Leatherman’s first customer, Cabela’s, placed a small order for the original Pocket Survival Tools (retired in 2004). Today, employees in the 90,000 square foot factory turn out about 12,000 tools daily, and ship them worldwide. On the tour, you will see various stages of production— premium knife blades cut by lasers then hollow ground and sharpened, heat treating, polishing and de-burring, saws getting their teeth, and precision robots creating a silky smooth finish on the parts. Every tool is hand-assembled. It’s amazing to watch how quickly skilled employees put them together! Your tour guide will also talk about Leatherman’s no-questions-asked 25-year warranty: You broke it, we’ll fix it. No questions, no hassles, no wasting your time.
If you have ever fixed anything or just “tinkered” in the garage, chances are you have used a Leatherman to get the job done. With fun names like Juice, Crunch, Wave, Surge, and even the new Hail snowboard tool, there is a multi-tool to suit everyone, every profession, and every job. Many tools are purse-sized and even pink to appeal to women. Leatherman Tool Group is privately held and is unlikely to go public in the foreseeable future, so the next time you’re in Portland, take the factory tour that demonstrates yet another enduring product that is made in the USA .
IF YOU GO:
Leatherman Tool Group, Inc.
12106 NE Ainsworth Circle
Portland, Oregon 97220-9001
FREE 1-hour tours (limited to 10 people) are conducted Wednesdays at 10 am. In June, July, and August, tours are also given on Fridays at 10 am. Call 503-408-5550 to sign up. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted. Adults must be able to stand and walk for long periods of time. Hiking boots or similar protective footwear is required for safety reasons. No photography permitted on tour. Leatherman also provides FREE parking in a large lot that will accommodate all sizes of RVs.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com