Chandleries are rife with good folding sailing knives. Selecting the right one often comes down to utility and taste. While the latter quality is subjective, utility is easy to quantify. I’ve been using the Gerber Crucial Tool for several months and I’ve been impressed with its clever design, fantastic utility, and small size and minimal weight (just 5 ounces). While a sharp, locking blade is obviously important for sailing, the go-to tool that I’m always searching for is a good pair of needle-nose pliers. I’ve seen other folding knives that incorporate pliers into their design, but none are as easy to access as those on the Crucial Tool.
Simply fold open the Crucial Tool’s handles and the pliers are exposed. No sliding parts to fumble with on a pitching deck or in the dark of night. What impresses me about this design is that pliers—not the knife’s blade—is the central design feature of this tool. And while the other functions on the knife work equally well, the needle-nose pliers excel at opening sticky shackles, stripping wires and wrenching on myriad other metal bits. They can even be used to help coax sail needles through extra thick sections of sailcloth without badly mangling the needle. The simple, small folding knife is also equipped with a flathead screwdriver, a Phillip’s head screwdriver, a bottle opener, a clip, and a flattop blade (a great safety feature, should you drop the knife tip down on your foot or onto the deck) with a thumb tab for easy, one-handed opening. All of the tools (except the pliers and the clip) lock; a small tab releases each tool back into its folded position. The tool also sports a belt clip, but thanks to its minimal size (closed, the tool is only 3.6” long; open it’s 5.5”; it’s displacement is a mere 5 ounces), the tool will fit into any pant’s pocket. It’s also small enough—and useful enough—to be a strong contender for a boat’s ditch bag, or for a permanent berth in the vessel’s easily accessible tool drawer. $58.70. Gerber Knives