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Knife chat: Leatherman Juice S2

Leatherman Juice S2
Leatherman Juice S2

The Leatherman Juice S2 is a medium sized multi-tool. What Leatherman refer to as ‘pocket-sized’. This particular choice from the wider Juice stable provides a carefully thought out selection of tools that will enable a fair amount of ‘in the field’ repair work, with not too much of a weight penalty.

Leatherman first began making multi-tools in 1983 with the release of the PST (Pocket Survival Tool). It wasn’t long before Three Points of the Compass purchased one of those out of pure curiosity. It was never taken on hikes as it was simply too large and mostly impractical. Of much more use on trail were their keychain multi-tools, first realised with the release of the Micra in 1996.

For backpacking, I always much preferred the Leatherman Squirt S4. This was a scissors, rather than pliers, based keychain multi-tool that first appeared on the market in 2002. It has accompanied me on thousands of trail miles and has never been retired by me, frequently sneaking its way into my gear list to this day. For EDC and urban use, and frequently pulled into use at work, I favoured a larger Leatherman. This is a now quite battered Leatherman Charge. Beside having scissors and a couple of blades and other tools, the bit holder on the Charge, sometimes combined with a 1/4″ Bit Driver Extender, expands capability exceptionally.

Three sizes of Leatherman multi-tools with plier tips- small 'keychain'  Squirt P4, 'Pocket-sized' Juice S2, 'heavy duty' Charge
Three sizes of Leatherman multi-tools with plier tips- small ‘keychain’ Squirt P4, ‘pocket-sized’ Juice S2 and ‘full-size’ Charge

Oregon based, US manufacturer Leatherman cemented their place on the market with two sizes of multi-tool- small keychain tools, and larger and very popular ‘full-sized’ multi-tools such as the Charge and Wave. Even larger heavy duty tools were added, capable of hard work, even meeting military demands. Within these parameters, many dozens of other models have appeared over the years but the company saw a gap both in their portfolio and the consumer market. This was for a range of pocket-sized multi-tools to fill the gap between those small ones hanging from keychains, intended for light work, and their heavier duty multi-tools. They had already tentatively tested the market with the release of the Mini-Tool in 1986 that was manufactured until 2004.

Leatherman leaflet showing the 2014 Juice range of multi-tools
Leatherman leaflet showing the range of Juice multi-tools available in 2014

Prior to the Mini-Tool being retired, the first tools in the Leatherman Juice line hit the market in 2001. Those first Juices had slightly longer blades than the one looked at here. I shall cover this change later. There were ten different Juices in total, but only five were initially widely available, another was aimed at surfers and the two more in the line-up being made especially for two large retailers. Two ‘half-juices’ were released in 2017. Of these, Three Points of the Compass has already looked at the Juice B2 and concluded that, while interesting, that particular tool was not well suited to backpacking duties. Most of the Juice range are intriguing and suitable for disparate duties and they quickly gained a loyal and appreciative following. Sadly, almost none of the pliers based Juice range are suited for backpacking purposes, despite being lighter and smaller than the full-size Leatherman alternatives. Just one of the smaller of the pocket-sized Juice line does, however, provide a particular set of tools that may suit the needs of the backpacker prepared to carry a slightly heavier tool than those favoured by many hikers- such as one of the small Victorinox, or the Leatherman keychain tools, or the cheaper if poorer quality offerings from Gerber and others.

Leatherman Juice S2

The Leatherman Juice S2 was one of the first five Juice tools, released in 2001. The ‘S2‘ signifies that it is a 2 layer tool with Scissors. A particularly handy design aspect of the Juice S2 is that blade and scissors are mounted externally in the frame and can be opened without the need to fully unfold the tool, albeit a two-stage step is required to unfold the scissors.

Second generation Juice S2 has a noticeably shortened blade
Second generation Juice S2 has a noticeably shortened blade
Sheepsfoot blade on Juice S2
Modified sheepsfoot blade on Juice S2

The non-locking blade on the Juice S2 is made of a general purpose 420HC stainless steel which is a typical mid-range steel used for many Leatherman products. The HC stands for High Carbon content which aids in edge retention. This steel also sharpens easily when required. This is quite a chunky little blade with a 2.10mm thick spine. My model is a second generation Juice released in 2014 that has fallen victim to a redesign by Leatherman.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security and had announced that they would again allow airline passengers to carry pocket knives with blades up to 60mm (2.36″) long on board commercial flights. Blades had been banned following the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks. That decision was subsequently reversed but shorter blade lengths remained in some Leatherman tools. This shortening is very apparent when you see how the tip of the folded blade sits within its frame. A reshaping of the blade tip occured at the same time. The previous drop-point tip has been replaced with a modified sheepsfoot tip on the second generation. This blade shape is more effective on food preparation duty.

Side view of Leatherman Juice S2
Side view of Leatherman Juice S2

The scissors are as large as could probably be included in a tool of this length. Blade length on the non-serrated scissors is a modest 28mm and these have a very good spring action. I do prefer the scissors found on some other tools, such as those on larger Victorinox knives, however those on the S2 are more than capable of most tasks that would be reasonably be expected of them. They cut pretty well but take a bit of sawing to work their way through thicker cordura and the like. A leather belt will require the knife blade, but thinner cords and threads are snipped with ease. Paper is laughed at, cardboard can be tackled but the 2mm wide handle leaves a decent indentation on the thumb after use. Thicker card also jams up against the hilt of the tool when in use.

Like most of the tools found on the Juice, the scissors are perfectly capable of light to medium work. Some users complain about having to unfold and open the scissors prior to use but this is not a particularly onerous task. Slightly more annoying is having to unfold the can/bottle opener first to allow the scissors to then be unfolded.

All of the Juice line feature oddly differing thicknesses to each side of the tool
All of the pliers based Juice line feature oddly differing thicknesses to each side of the tool
Juice S2 has a decent sized pair of scissors
Juice S2 has a decent sized pair of scissors

The attractively shaped tool is quite slim in the hand and of ‘anodized aluminum’ over a stainless steel interior frame, looking inside the tool it can be seen that a degree of skeletonising has been incorporated which both reduces the weight slightly and also ensures than any pocket fluff and debris that makes its way into the tool will become well and truly lodged in. A slight oddity is that the two sides of the tool are different thicknesses but this is not so much a noticeable aspect when held in the hand in use. The second generation features a two-tone design with thin textured anodised scales covering the inner scale, but on one side only.

Leatherman Juice S2 has a skeletonised internal frame to cut down on weight. This can accumulate difficult to remove pocket fluff
Leatherman Juice S2 has a skeletonised internal frame to cut down on weight. This can accumulate difficult to remove pocket fluff. Hidden from view behind the closed screwdrivers is the (month/year) date stamped onto the internal frame. Mine was assembled August 2013, something of an anomoly as the second generation appeared in 2014

Despite a cutout in the side of the scale, the three flat screwdrivers can be bit of a bugger to open due to their small nail nicks and stiffness but will open, possibly by pulling open the easiest and thereby making it easier to ease out the remainder. The smallest of the flat screwdrivers will fit and tighten the tiny screws on my glasses.

Three sizes of flat is either ideal or overkill depending on your outlook. Personally, I would have liked one to have been an awl. But as a basic tools provision, the three flat sizes are handy. Especially alongside the well crafted 3D Phillips #02 screwdriver which also features an easier to use nailnick. The Phillips has a square profile on to which the Leatherman Removable Bit Driver (part no. 931012) accessory will fit.

The three sizes of flat screwdriver on Juice S2
The three sizes of flat screwdriver on Juice S2. All four screwdivers on the Juice S2 open with a good snap.
Folded Phillips
Folded Phillips
Open Phillips
Open Phillips, revealing the tucked away keychain hanger

The pliers will be one of the primary reasons to purchase and use this particular tool. The tips of the ‘needlenose’ pliers are not quite what I would call needlenose, but the 2mm wide tips are certainly narrow and will grip and pull a hair, a splinter or thorn with ease. The remainder of the pliers are fairly beefy but it must be borne in mind that this is a pocket tool and not capable of heavy work. Wire cutters work just fine, and are more than adequate for snipping plastic zipties. The only real downside to the pliers is the lack of a spring action, but they are easy enough to reopen with the fingers and hand in use. If used for a long time this would become tiresome however the Juice S2 is intended to be pulled into use for occasional tasks only.

Pliers in the hand, this is a well proportioned small tool, but only for medium duty mind
Pliers in the hand, this is a well proportioned small tool, but only for medium duty mind
Plier tips and jaws on Leatherman Juice S2
Plier tips and jaws on Leatherman Juice S2
Combination can/tin opner and cap lifter on Juice S2
Combination can/tin opener and cap lifter on Juice S2
Opening a tin with Juice S2

Some users of this tool have complained that the combination tin/can opener lacks a sharp tip, even going to the extent of sharpening it. This is not required. The opener pierces and opens a tin just fine as it is, as evidenced in the image shown here. Note that in use, it works in reverse, cutting toward you and not away.

Leatherman list the Juice S2 as weighing 125g. Like so many other gear manufacturers and their products, this is incorrect. OK, the S2 is actually only six grams heavier at 130.9g, but a degree of accuracy would be appreciated. Why is it that so many manufacturers continue to provide false weights to the consumer?

Leatherman Juice S2 with all tools opened
Leatherman Juice S2, in two tone, Cinnabar Orange, with all tools opened

Features:

  • Length: 82mm, width: 16mm across the pivots or 13.25mm across the scales, depth: 30mm (max)
  • Pliers- with regular and needlenose pliers, hard-wire cutters, wire cutters
  • Fine edge modified sheepsfoot blade- 58mm with 50mm cutting edge
  • Scissors
  • Combination tin/can opener/bottle opener
  • 3D Phillips #02 screwdriver
  • Large flat screwdriver- 6mm
  • Medium flat screwdriver- 3mm
  • Small flat screwdriver- 1.5mm
  • Partly anodised aluminum scales on skeletonised stainless steel frame, slip joints
  • Swing out/fold away keyring hanger
  • Weight: 130.9g

There are some aspects of this tool that I am not overfond of. The stiffness of the flat screwdrivers has already been mentioned. The differing thickness in sides of the tool does appear a little odd, end on and not a great deal lines up. I am not particularly keen on the dual colour-scheme with only one half sporting anodised aluminium scales. The combi opener doesn’t always want to close and occasionally has to be guided in to its closed position, though I can live with the two-part opening procedure for the scissors.

While the Juice S2 has a keyring hanger, I find the tool too large and heavy to hang with the keys. Fortunately the key ring hanger folds and tucks away out of sight. If again required, it has to be levered out with a thin prong of some form.

Closed Leatherman Juice S2 in leather pouch
A decent leather pouch is available for the Juice S2. Leatherman refer to this accessory as a ‘Premium sheath’

My Juice S2 has a sweet leather belt pouch with a 55mm deep clip. The expanding elastic sides ensure the tool is firmly held. A metal popper holds the flap closed rather than the ever present velcro found on some other pouches. The Chinese manufactured pouch weighs 33g and while not a strictly required accessory, it is well made. The tool can be placed in the pouch when open or closed.

Open Leatherman Juice S2 in leather pouch

Sadly, Leatherman have retired the Juice S2 pocket size multi-tool. Despite an army of supporters and fans, the entire Juice line has fallen out of favour with those in charge. This is probably down to two reasons. One would be the introduction of a radically different line of tools by Leatherman in 2019 based around a ‘magnetic architecture’, such as the FREE T4 reviewed by Three Points of the Compass here. A major reason however was undoubtably the number of returns under warranty. Leatherman have a terrific 25 year warranty. Many a Juice tool will have been put to work on too heavy a task for which it simply was not designed or intended. As said previously, tools on the Juice are intended for light to medium work only and the amount of returns made featuring broken tools must have been immense. A victim of its own convenience and handiness perhaps. That said, at present, it is not difficult to source new old stock, or second hand offerings in good condition.

In conclusion:

The Juice S2 would be quite a large and heavy choice for a backpacker, particularly as there are many lighter and smaller alternatives. But some hikers and outdoors people are carrying gear for which a small assortment of tools could prove useful for maintenance or repair. The S2 doesn’t waste space on dubious inclusions such as corkscrews and parcel hooks. Instead, a fairly decent blade and scissors are complimented by some handy additions- pliers, four screwdrivers of two different types, plus the ability to open a tin and a ‘cold-one’. It could be just what you want. Finally, with its modest slip-joint blade, the Juice S2 falls within UK permissable carry law. Snap one up while you can.

Leatherman brand

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

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