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Friday, 24 May 2019 09:34

Buck BuckTool 360

The year is 1996. Independence Day broke the box office, George R.R. Martin published A Game of Thrones, and Macarena plagued the world. It was then that Buck took it upon themselves to join the multi-tool scene, and released the BuckTool. Winner of the "Knife of the Year" at the 1996 Atlanta Knife Show, the Buck BuckTool tool has since fallen into obscurity. Let's take a trip back in time and see what the best knife of 1996 had to offer.

Buck BuckTool 360 review

Dimensions and other info
Length: 4.13" (10.5cm)
Width: 1.38" (35mm) at widest point
Thickness: 0.47" (14mm) 
Tool weight: 6.5oz (184.5g).
Materials: Stainless steel

Handle fasteners: Peened pins

Blade cutting edge: 2.36" (60mm)
of which
Plain edge: 1.575" (40mm)
serrations: 0.7875" (20mm)

Serrated blade cutting edge: 2.36" (60mm)

Implements and Features
Pliers; needle-nose, not spring loaded, integrated wire-cutters
Combo blade; drop point, hollow grind for plain edge, chisel grind for serrations
Flat-heads; 6mm, 3mm, 2mm
Phillips drivers; #1 and #2, three tines 
Combination opener; cans and bottles

All tools lock
Pictograms of implements on handles
Indentations on pliers, related to production run
All implements have half-stop
Made in USA (assembled in Mexico)

Claims relating to the angle of the pliers handle pivot pins in U.S. Patent No 5,267,366 have been licensed to Buck Knives by SOG Specialty Knives and Tools.

This has been long discontinued. No stores stock these anymore, although they can still be found occasionally. New ones (aka unused) can be a little expensive, and used ones can vary greatly in price and condition. 

Buck BuckTool 360 review

An innovative design for its time, the BuckTool 360 was named as such because it was a tool, made by Buck. Also its handles would each pivot 180°, thus 360°, to go from closed to open. 

Its handles do pivot away from each other in a butterfly multi-tool fashion, although along the other axis, much like a side-winder butterfly knife. 

Buck BuckTool 360 review
Along the handles, we can see pictograms of the implements, to allow the user to locate which handle stores the implement they are after.
Also, the pliers have indentations in the arrangement of dice faces, from no dots, up to six, which are related to production runs.

Buck BuckTool 360 review
Opening the handles, we can find the blades, one combo edge, and one fully serrated. A peculiar pair of blades, considering the norm. Instead of a plain edge blade and a fully serrated blade, to accommodate different needs, it seems like an irritating redundancy to have serrations on both. 
Also, no nail-nicks were cut on the first production run of these. 

Ergonomics are excellent. The curves of the handles act like the palm-swell of a knife handle, filling my large hands beautifully, and combined with the wonderfully rounded-off edges, there are no hotspots whatsoever, no matter how hard I squeeze.

The lock is solid, and there was never any worry of either blade unlocking by accident.

As with all implements, the blades have a half-stop. This does not matter all that much when opening the blades, but it is very useful when closing them. Once you press the locking leaf spring to disengage the lock and give a blade a slight nudge, it will spring to its half-stop stage, and your fingers better be out of the way. Similarly, when you then further push the blade to fold it away, once it reaches about 35°, it will snap closed, in a second attempt to ruin your evening.

Buck BuckTool 360 review
Next to the combo blade, we find a flat-head, a flat-head, and a flat-head. A common theme of old-school multi-tools, no flat-head screw could escape them. 
Two Phillips drivers compliment the driver set. Both have three tines, but they bite in screws very well, and do not cam out.

Deploying the drivers requires a strong fingernail to pull against the catches. The process can be awkward at first. When the drivers reach about 30°, they will then spring to their half-stop very firmly, often with the side-effect of prying fingernails like a bottle opener removes bottle caps.

These catches are quite long, compromising the already limited reach of the drivers.

Lock-up is positive, and the tips are properly ground to fit into their respective screws.

The handle orientation may hinder driving screws. When unscrewing there is no issue, but driving a screw in causes the handles to separate. A firm grip of the tool is necessary.

Buck BuckTool 360 review
Next, a combination bottle and can opener. Presumably this did not play a role in winning the "Knife of the Year" award, as it will absolutely mangle a can, and get shrapnel in your food. At least it looks like the bottle opener function works.

This is the only implement with a standard nail-nick, which helps with opening it, but only a little. It still has a sharp edge and point that can cut into flesh when closed, due to the excessively strong spring.

Buck BuckTool 360 review
Going full 360°, we find the pliers. The tips meet to a reasonable point, and the teeth are capable of grabbing, twisting, and pulling. 
The wire-cutters are adequate for everyday tasks.

The ergonomics are excellent, thanks to the absolutely rounded handles, and negligible handle splay. 
The splay can be further reduced, by squeezing the handles together, as they flex quite a lot.

With a common butterfly multi-tool, when using the pliers, the handles are squeezed at the opposite direction than they fold.
With the BuckTool, the handles fold perpendicularly to the direction you squeeze them. Effectively, when twisting something, they may give and partially fold. Given how much they flex, it is not advised to squeeze too hard.

Buck BuckTool 360 review

The tool is held together with peened pins. The logo and icons are engraved. All implements lock with a back-lock, which is operated with a leaf spring.
The handles are held closed and open on the pliers with leaf-springs. The tool is 100% made of stainless steel. The pliers and handles are bead-blasted, and do not show fingerprints. The blades are polished, and hollow-ground. The serrations' secondary bevel is chisel ground on both blades.

Construction quality
On an unused BuckTool, construction quality is decent. It is nice and tight, there is no flex when closed. The pliers and implements snap open and close with authority, and lock-up is solid. 
The logo and icons are engraved properly, with no grind marks or imperfections.
The detent of the spring which keeps the implements both open and closed is arguably too strong. Implements open and close with too much force, and due to sharpened edges or unnecessarily long nail-catches, care must be taken by the user, until they are familiar with the process. 

When bearing down on something with the pliers, the handles flex to an alarming degree towards each other, almost to the point of touching. 
The leaf-springs that push against the pliers, to keep the handles folded and unfolded, are too thin, narrow, and short, and are prone to cracking, rendering the tool almost unusable. With traditional butterfly multi-tools, it is not as much of an issue to have loose handles, and they will stay in place when they are squeezed together. 

Buck BuckTool 360 review

The tool is compact, with many features in a small package. The handles are contoured, and the edges are rounded-off beautifully. The handles are dull, but crisp. The logo is modest, but nicely stylized, and the pictograms enforce the feeling of a functional tool.

The locking mechanism is hidden behind gorgeous curves, which fill the hand, eliminating hotspots completely. 
The implement selection seems uninspired. At least more thought could have been put into the positioning of the implements.

It is not difficult to understand why it is sought after by collectors. The BuckTool is very photogenic, and its smooth, gentle curves have earned it a place in the pantheon of collectability and multi-tool history.

All drivers are rather short, and the handles may start unfolding when driving a screw in. At least the handles are comfortable enough for a tight grip, and the drivers lock firmly in place, and fit their respective screws very well.

The blades are very comfortable to use, and arguably the reason this won the "Knife of the Year" award. No matter how hard the handles are squeezed, there is absolutely nothing whatsoever that could cause the slightest annoyance regarding grip. Why they put serrations on both blades is an odd redundancy and limits the effectiveness of the plain edge.

Using the Buck BuckTool tool, there are some intricacies that the user needs to be aware of, to prevent minor injury. The blades snap closed very aggressively, and the drivers have to be opened equally carefully, as the fingernail catches are quite long, and will deploy halfway almost as if they were spring-assisted, possibly taking the user by surprise, if a fingernail remains in there.

The pliers are decent for the size of the tool, but the way the handles are attached to the pliers is weak, allowing far more flex than should be possible.

The tool set may leave some things to be desired, with the inclusion of serrations on both blades but no nail-nicks, five screwdriver tips, three of which are flat-head drivers, and a can opener that may be outperformed by all other implements, including pummeling the can with the tool like a kubaton.

Buck BuckTool 360 review

The BuckTool 360 is a product of its time. One mere glance and it is readily apparent that it is an old-school multi-tool. Steps were undeniably taken to solve common multi-tool issues of the time, as well as attract buyers. All locking tools, a very comfortable body, a very compact design, and a new way to open the handles, the BuckTool was a hit. At first. It did not survive the multi-tool wars of the 2000's. A redundant, limited, and somewhat awkward to use toolset, an unreliable detent system for the handles, the 360° opening that caused more problems than it solved, as well as issues with patents caused Buck to discontinue the BuckTool line in 2002.

When looking at a BuckTool 360, there is something captivating among those rounded, smooth handles. Alas, performance was underwhelming. The can opener was a remarkable disaster. The drivers are tricky to pull out, lack reach, there are five fixed drivers that offer no other function, and driving in a screw causes the handles to clumsily unfold. The pliers are decent, but the handles flex to an absurd degree, and they may even fold when bearing down on something. The blades are very comfortable to use, but even then, there are no nail-nicks, they shut unnecessarily firmly, and there is a serrated blade and a combo edge blade. Any excuse will fall short. There is a fully serrated blade. Why would the other blade be a combo edge one?

Comparing the BuckTool to its peers did not do it any favors. Just about all other multi-tools of the time were better all around. Maybe not as comfortable to hold, but better in every other regard.

Still, the BuckTool was an important addition to the multi-tool evolution, and definitely looks nice closed, in the display case, crisp, smooth, rounded, curvy, listening to Macarena.

-Very comfortable handles
-Positive lock on all tools

-Uninspired, redundant, and vastly compromised tool-set.
-Locking spring is too strong, making implements dangerous to manipulate.
-Orientation of handle pivoting interferes with driving screws and using pliers.
More in this category: « Buck Metro Review
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