The Amazon Basics Electrician’s Stripping Multi-tool Is Not the Tool for You
Don’t buy this.
- Guides & Gear
Tool companies are full of bold claims that what they produce is built to last a lifetime, can do everything, and will be the last tool you ever buy. Amazon Basics doesn’t necessarily make those boasts, but the 10-in-1 electrician’s multi-tool is an oddity. It is, at its heart, a drop-shipped tool that has clones sold alongside it through the retail giant.
One such clone was from Performance Tool, which had a $25 price tag. Both of which were well below the standard $50 and up multi-tools we're familiar with. That said, Amazon and Performance Tool got into a pricing war, and what was $25 dropped to about $12 for the Amazon Basics version and the Performance Tool version, too. And while I can’t say for sure what's causing the back and forth, it sure looks like the two companies are trying to beat each other at the game of selling the same drop-shipped copy of a Gerber Suspension multi-tool. That was enough to instigate an investigation and us ordering the Amazon Basics version, but there's more.
Naming conventions, price hikes, and copied designs aside, for now, this multi-tool is a wire-stripper-centered stainless-steel set aimed at those who need an electrician-focused tool along with a bunch of other multi-tool options such as a knife, screwdriver, bottle opener, and a file. This specific multi-tool is tailored to those who work with electrical wiring. But we wonder: Does tailoring work in a segment that's supposed to be multifaceted?
To find out who this skeletonized Amazon Basics multi-tool is for and whether you should consider adding it to your arsenal, we snagged ourselves a copy. Would you at least benefit from the Amazon/Performance tool value war? You won't.
Unboxing and Initial Impression of the Amazon Basics Electrician’s Multi-tool
The multi-tool came in your average Amazon packaging, consisting of a plain cardboard box with an adhesive paper label and an Amazon logo, the name of the tool, and information about where it was made and who made it, all in seven languages.
On the underside of the box, it says that the tool is manufactured by Ningbo Dropship International, which, as the name suggests, is a drop-shipping agency in one of China’s major shipping ports. It’s safe to say that this is a no-name Chinese tool that seems to borrow design from the Gerber Suspension multi-tool and the wire-stripper pliers of the discontinued Leatherman Squirt ES4.
Curiously, the Amazon Basics line has it labeled as a 10-in-1 tool, but the Performance tool labels it as 13-in-1. The two are identical, with the only difference being that the Performance Tool version lists its pliers, wire strippers, and wire cutters as three separate tools, whereas Amazon just lists them as wire-stripping pliers.
The Electrician Multi-Tool comes with a rather flimsy black nylon pouch and Velcro closure and belt loop. It’s 4 inches long while closed, 5/8 inches thick, and 1 1/4 inches wide. Amusingly, the Amazon product page advertises dimensions of 0.2 by 0.2 by 1 inch, which is practically microscopic, so I’m not sure where they’re pulling those numbers from, but it isn’t reality. Maybe Ant Man’s Quantum realm? Overall, the tool weighs eight ounces, which is normal for a full-sized multi-tool.
Magnets do stick to the tool, so it’s at least steel or some sort of ferrous metal. The tool features spring-loaded wire-stripping pliers with a small needle-nose front and a wire-cutting base, with stripping holes ranging from 10- to 20-gauge wire.
Inside the handles of the pliers, the electrician’s tool features a knife, serrated knife, Philips-head screwdriver, file, awl, two sizes of flathead screwdriver, and a can/bottle opener, all made of the same high-chrome steel. The pliers lock closed for storage, and to disengage them, you simply flip down a lever on one side of the plier jaws, allowing them to spring open.
The spring-loaded pliers are probably my favorite feature of this tool, even if it was blatantly lifted from the Gerber Gear Suspension multi-tool.
Using the Amazon Basics 10-in-1 Electrician Multi-Tool
- Good: Spring-loaded pliers and a low price.
- Bad: Steel is ridiculously soft, most of the tools will be destroyed with normal usage, and one, in particular, doesn’t function properly.
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The first test was to strip and cut some automotive speaker wire. The cutters have an ominous warning that you should cut copper wire only, which leads me to believe the steel used in this tool is incredibly soft. While the wire strippers did work, they required considerable effort to strip normal speaker wire. There wasn’t any sort of edge to bite into the insulating material. So, they pass but just barely.
What about the other tools? They’re made of the same steel as the pliers, it seems: highly polished with poor definition. The first thing about them that strikes me is that they’re not terribly useful to an electrician, despite the name. Nearly every application I could think of with regard to cutting, routing, and installing wiring in the home could be handled by the stripping pliers on this tool or, preferably, by a specialized tool. Additionally, not one of the tools locks into place, which is a safety hazard, especially with things such as knives and pressure-bearing tools such as screwdrivers and awls.
As for the knife, it passed my standard paper-cutting test and it was sharp enough to shave my arm hair but only out of the box. Within a few days out in the open air, its shaving ability was gone, and trying to pass the knife through a sheet of paper was anything but smooth. This didn’t bode well for edge quality, as corrosion isn’t usually an issue that quickly.
The non-cutting tools weren’t much better. The Phillips-head screwdriver was particularly bad. It has an overall lack of definition, which made it difficult for me to use on any common screw sizes. As mentioned, it doesn’t lock, so the tool collapsed on me twice while I tried to tighten the screws on my fuse box. I also had to apply a lot of force to get the teeth of the screwdriver to engage with the screw.
The can opener is another source of concern since most cans are made of steel. Already the quality of the steel in this tool had proven to be ill-suited for any sort of serious utility.
The corrosion affecting the blade quickly gave me an idea. I pulled out one of my more severe torture tests, one called the salt-soak test. I wet the tool with warm water, cover it with salt, and then leave it in the open air overnight. By the morning, the electrician multi-tool had developed a good amount of surface rust, despite looking like the sort of material that would prioritize corrosion resistance over durability.
Even after trying to remove the rust with some Ballistol solvent, the finish was left pitted, and the satin finish on the handles had corroded in several spots. I wasn’t expecting top-notch durability from an inexpensive multi-tool, but the test drives home the point that, for the price, this multi-tool isn’t terrible.
What’s Good About the Amazon Basics 10-in-1 Electrician Multi-Tool
The spring-loaded feature and affordability are two of the better aspects of this tool. But that's it.
What’s Not Great About the Amazon Basics 10-in-1 Electrician Multi-Tool
As you'd expect from the above, this tool fails at pretty much everything. Replacing regular pliers with wire cutters was a bad move, and every professional mechanic that I asked said a multi-tool with a pair of wire strippers instead of pliers wasn’t useful at all.
Frankly, most people who regularly work with wiring already have various wire cutters or wire strippers of much higher quality. And apart from the wire strippers, not one of the other tools is different from the usual multi-tool. But because the pliers are replaced with wire strippers, you don't get the real functionality of a multi-tool. Pliers are essential for automotive work since nearly every fastener in the engine compartment is secured with a machine screw or bolt.
Literally, any other set of pliers would have been much more useful. Additionally, the overall build quality and metal constitution is so poor, this tool is not one you can rely on. The tools don’t lock open and are made of soft steel that deforms quickly. And whatever type of steel this is, it’s not good at anything except attracting magnets and rust.
Our Verdict on the Amazon Basics 10-in-1 Electrician Multi-Tool
For the money, you can do way better. Having wire strippers instead of pliers isn’t helpful, and the other tools don’t bring anything useful to the table. Perhaps if this was a smaller multi-tool that featured wire strippers, you could keep it in your pocket. Overall, this is just an odd choice.
This multi-tool doesn't succeed at all, even at being a good value for the money. Trust us when we say you can spend a little more and get a quality multi-tool that will last for years.
FAQs About Amazon Basics 10-in-1 Electrician Multi-Tool
The Drive’s editors wanted to see what kinds of questions were being asked about similar multi-tools, and we found these.
Q. Why did you think that the steel would be resistant to corrosion?
A. In general, mirror-polished cheap steel is high in chromium, which helps prevent corrosion at the expense of durability and edge retention. However in this case, it didn’t even do that well.
Q. Are knives and tools made in China always of bad quality?
A. Not at all. Plenty of companies in China make good knives, such as Kizer, WE, Reate, Artisan Cutlery, and others. Additionally, a lot of the cheaper brands have their knives made in China. This is just a case of a half-baked ripoff.
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