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Knife chat: which to choose- scissors or pliers? Why not have both, with the NexTool Mini Flagship multi-tool

Nextool KT5022 Mini Flagship multi-tool
NexTool Mini Flagship multi-tool

The NexTool Mini Flagship, model NE20052, is a ridiculously cheap Chinese-made mini multi-tool. The name- ‘Mini Flagship’ is a direct translation of ‘small battleship’. I paid around sixteen pounds for mine on AliExpress, which included shipping. This 10-in-1 tool is the same as that listed as model KT5022. It is the smaller brother to the full-size 10-in-1 NexTool Flagship and 16-in-1 NexTool Flagship Pro.

NexTool Mini Flagship multi-tool comes with simple packaging
NexTool Mini Flagship, or ‘small battleship’, multi-tool comes with simple packaging, no pouch is provided

NexTool are based in Guangdong, China and manufacture tactical pens, knives, lights and tools, under their own name while also subcontracting under other brands. The quality of their products appears to vary. Products are churned out by the tens of thousands and reviews of products differ, indicating issues with quality control. It looks as though if you get a good ‘un, you are fortunate, but don’t count on it. This keychain multi-tool has been sold by UK based stockists but at a much inflated price. It is possible that resolution of any issues may be more easily realised with a more locally based supplier.

All tools on the NexTool Mini Flagship multi-tool
All tools opened on the NexTool Mini Flagship multi-tool

Three Points of the Compass thinks the NexTool Mini Flagship an interesting addition to options possibly considered by backpackers and lightweight campers. Most outdoor goers would probably look at something like a Victorinox knife, with whatever tools that has in addition to a main blade. However some will find a small multi-tool provides increased capability of carrying out ‘in-the-field’ repairs. For many of my own hikes I have favoured the diminutive Leatherman Squirt S4 if not carrying a simpler knife. Now obsolete, that keychain multi-tool is based around scissor jaws, though others hikers prefer to have a small pair of pliers with them on trail. Pliers can be used for grasping a pot off the fire, or gripping small bolts on a multi-fuel stove etc. If a zip has to be repaired, there is little beyond pliers that will manage it. So- scissors or pliers? Until the Mini Flagship, there was possibly no other option that combined both of these tools, of a decent size, in one package other than in large (and heavy) multi-tools.

Knife blade
Double-bevelled knife blade
Knife blade
The knife blade on the NexTool Mini-Flagship is manufactured from 50Cr15MoV, a middle-of-the-road Chinese stainless steel that is a copy of a German steel much used in knife manufacture. The blade comes sharp out of the box but will hone up easily with a stone. It has a Rockwell hardness of 54
Scissors on NexTool Mini Flagship
Scissors on NexTool Mini Flagship
Pliers on NexTool Mini Flagship
Pliers on NexTool Mini Flagship

Other than a blade, scissors are probably the most useful tool to have on trail. Used for First Aid- trimming gauze, tape and skin, opening meal packages or in simple small gear repair, the default scissors for backpackers are the superb offerings from Victorinox. These days I pack along a tiny 7g pair of titanium Westcott Embroidery scissors in my First Aid Kit.

The sprung scissors on the Mini Flagship have 25mm long 420J2 stainless steel edges that will handle most small tasks expected of them on trail. This steel is commonly used in scissor manufacture and it is good to see it being incorporated here. As with every tool on this keychain sized multi-tool, the scissors should be used for light work only. Attempt anything beyond their very obvious limitations and they will break. They will easily handle athletic tape, gauze pads, threads and thinner cordage up to and including 550 para-cord. There is very little sideways flex in the scissor jaws and they resist ‘curling over’ thicker materials being cut. Any weakness lies in the pivot joint, scissor spring and small handle. While the pivot can be tightened if necessary, if the spring breaks there is no way to fix it. The scissors are easily operated and have a wide bar on the small handle for the thumb to rest on (as shown here) but are more easily used inverted and the first two fingers used to operate the thin bar. Worryingly, the thin scissor handle is one of the few spare parts listed for separate purchase, which points at a recurring weakness here.

The spring-loaded pliers are made from 30Cr13 stainless steel as is most of the body of this tool. This is a budget steel capable of taking a fair amount of abuse though it will not hold an edge particularly well, which is no problem because it doesn’t have to on this tool, beyond the tiny wire cutter jaws. At just 3.5mm long, the wire cutter jaws are very small and will only handle thin soft wires. Expect to carry out a bit of electrical work with this tool and you are likely to be disappointed. As to the tip of the plier jaws themselves, they are also small. Only meeting at the smooth tip, they have a 2mm wide, almost needle-nose, tip. The plier jaws behind this will handle nuts and bolts up to M6.

Pliers on NexTool Mini Flagship
Spring-loaded pliers on NexTool Mini Flagship
Plier applications. Image: NexTool

This little multi-tool has one of the most appreciated features of any multi-tool. All the handle tools can be opened up without the need to open the whole tool. The pliers side of the tool has two screwdrivers while the scissors side has a blade and combination can/tin opener and bottle cap lifter. The nail nicks on this tool are amongst the best I have encountered on a small multi-tool. Unlike almost all the Gerber offerings, you are not going to break a nail struggling to open the tools on the NexTool.

Single cut file
Single cut file

The file on this tool is poor. It has a single-cut on one side and a double cross-cut on the other. Neither look to be properly finished in the manufacturing stage but even what there is performs badly.

double cut file
double cross-cut file

Both file surfaces struggle to file plastic pipe, let alone metal. So poor are both surfaces that this tool works better as just a nailfile and should be regarded as such. It does work well for striking a ferrocerium rod against, delivering a fine shower of sparks with my Light My Fire rod. There is a 3mm wide flat screwdriver tip that will also work with some Phillips head screws. Again, this is only capable of light to medium work and excessive torque will twist the tool.

Flattened Phillips head screwdriver
Flattened Phillips head screwdriver

The flattened Phillips tip will work with a wide range of smaller Phillips head screws and, as yet, I have not had the tip burr or twist off. Neither Phillips or flat screwdriver tips are small enough to handle the small screws on my glasses.

Can and bottle opener
Tin/can and bottle opener

None of the handle tools lock and are only capable of light work. This is a small multi-tool and should be regarded as such. It is simply not capable of what a full size purpose built tool can manage. Case in point, there are few small knives and multi-tools on which a can or tin opener is included. You are more likely to find such a tool on larger brethren. I shall look on the tin opener in the manner that I am looking at the whole multi-tool- how practical it would be on hikes and while backpacking. It is seldom that a tin requires opening on trail. Either foil, plastic or mylar packaged food is being carried, or tins have ring pulls. Just occasionally however, a ‘real’ tin presents itself. If you don’t have an opener, things then get difficult. The opener on the NexTool Mini Flagship will open that tin, just not well, not with ease, not with comfort, but it will open it. It takes a lot of small bites, doesn’t particularly like what it is being used for, but if used with care and unhurriedly, will work. As to the bottle cap lifter, that works fine.

A tin can be opened with this tool, but it is a slow and tortuous process
Keyring
Keyring is an obtrusive nuisance when the tool is in use

This is a small multi-tool intended to be hung with keys. Not only does Three Points of the Compass feels the dimensions a little large for that, but if carried while backpacking, this tool would more likely sit in a foodbag or dittybag. Which is just as well as the 12mm diameter key ring on this tool is a pain. It flops in the way of the tool closing, it finds its way between the scissor handles when that is being used, it just gets in the way. Do yourself a favour, take the ring off and either remove or swing the hanger round so that it is out of the way.

Features:

  1. Needle nose pliers
  2. Pliers
  3. Wire cutters
  4. File
  5. Slotted screwdriver
  6. Phillips screwdriver
  7. Can/tin opener
  8. Knife blade
  9. Bottle opener
  10. Hanging ring
  11. Keyring
  12. Scissors
All tools on the NexTool Mini-Flagship
Disassembled tool is comprised of 54 components
  • Weight: 79.4g
  • Dimensions: length- 68mm x 29mm x 16.15mm (across torx screw heads)

Held together with T6 and T8 torx screws, the NexTool Mini-Flagship can be almost entirely dismantled. Though this is not the type of job to be tackled ‘in the field’ as there are a lot of small parts amongst the 54 components from which it is made.

The small non-locking blade ensures this tool is compliant with UK ‘knife-carry’ law. But, as usual, you are not going to be permitted to board a plane while carrying this little tool.

NexTool Mini-Flagship with red scales
NexTool Mini-Flagship with red scales

The NexTool Mini-Flagship has a sand-blasted metal finish with ‘skeletonised’ handles that look both modern and attractive. It can also be purchased with red or green scales covering the skeletonised handles.

It comes with a one-year warranty covering repair of anything damaged under ‘normal use’. For severe damage caused by what is deemed to be ‘improper use’, there is a paid-repair service. But for such a cheap overseas purchased tool, it is unlikely that many would be taking advantage of that facility.

NexTool Mini-Flagship with green scales
NexTool Mini-Flagship with green scales. The coloured scale options increase both weight and thickness a little
Keychain multi-tools from Gerber, Leatherman, NextTool, Leatherman and SOG
Keychain multi-tools from Gerber, Leatherman, NexTool, Leatherman and SOG

There is a lot of right about this tool and a few things that are wrong. That is the nature of any small multi-tool, particularly one as competitively priced as the Mini Flagship. Carrying such a tool means accepting limitations and compromise. NexTool specify a weight of 78±5g for the Mini Flagship multi-tool, which is quite a wide range considering manufacturing tolerances would be quite small for such a tool. Mine comes in at 79.4g. Compared to some other popular keychain multi-tools from three other manufacturers this is heavier but quite respectable considering it packs along both larger scissors and pliers as main jaw tools. The pliers-based Gerber Dime weighs 66.4g and Leatherman Squirt PS4 is 56.9g. The scissors-based Leatherman Micra weighs 49.9g and SOG Snippet is 55.7g.

Keychain multi-tools from Gerber, Leatherman, NextTool, Leatherman and SOG
From left to right: Gerber Dime, Leatherman Squirt PS4, NexTool Mini Flagship, Leatherman Micra, SOG Snippet

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.

2 replies »

    • A great choice of mini multi-tool. I had a closer look at the PS here. That has pliers as the main jaw tool and a small pair of scissors. No blade though, so you need to pack along a separate blade if you want to cut cheese, salami or the like. In theory, this does mean you should be able to take the Leatherman Style PS through airport security though I know many have been confiscated nonetheless. I think a couple of the Leatherman Squirt series offer a little more functionality. The Squirt PS4 has pliers as the main jaw tool, plus small scissors and small blade (and some other little tools). But still, take what you are happy and content with. If it works for you, why change anything. I have stuck to my old obsolete Squirt S4 for years now

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