Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Mk2, the Lansky Deluxe Sharpening Kit, the Wicked Edge sharpener, the classic Spyderco Sharpmaker, and we also talked about some of Work Sharp’s manual sharpeners. But there are other aspects to knife care and maintenance, and one of the biggest is disassembly and assembly.
Some people may never take their knives apart, and that’s fine. But when you get some lint, or mud, or animal guts inside your knife, the best way to get it back into shape is to break it down and clean it out. Sure, compressed air will blow the dirt out of in between the handles, but what about everything built up around the pivot? What if you have ball bearings and they’ve got sand in them?
For literally more than a decade I’ve been using a Benchmade Blue Box to disassemble and reassemble knives. And while it’s worked, it definitely leaves something to be desired. The bits have rounded off over time, which is absolutely bad news if you’re trying to remove screws that have threadlocker on them (as the head of your screw will usually get rounded off too), and it’s hard to get good leverage on a screw without camming out of it (where the bit lifts and turns out of where it’s engaging as you twist). The body of the Blue Box acts as leverage, so you really don’t have a ton of leverage to work with since it’s only about 1.75” wide. The storage of the bits as well as the magnetic driver inside the case is clever, but we can do better.
Enter the Fix-It-Sticks Compact Ratcheting Multi-Tool. Calling it a multitool is a bit disingenous – this is a bit driver, a pry tool, a ratchet and an extension packaged into a carrying case, not a Leatherman. But in terms of a knife maintenance kit, this might be the teardown tool you want to add to your bench.
What does it come with?
Fix It Sticks sells a dizzying array of tools and kits, but this particular kit includes a reversible ratcheting bit driver with a locking quick release collar, a 3.25” extension with a magnetic bit holder, and fifteen bits. All of these bits are standard ¼” hex drive, single sided, with locking notches on the shanks to prevent them from falling out of the quick-release locking collar. There’s also a clever ¼” hex drive multi-wrench/pry tool/nail puller included, and all these items fit into a single molded rubber bracket, complete with a carrying loop for retention. The whole thing is about 4.25” long, 1.25” wide and 1.5” tall, so it can fit in a pants pocket or a cargo pocket easily.
Included bits are of special interest, covering 3 metric hex (3, 4, 5mm) and 3 SAE hex (5/64”, 5/32”, 3/32”), two Phillips (#1 and #2), a 5mm slotted (straight) bit, and a gamut of Torx bits: T6, T6, T10, T15, T20, and T25. The sizes on the multi-wrench aren’t listed (in the literature it’s just called a mini pry bar) but they appear to be SAE sizes, as a 10mm bolt doesn’t quite fit in the large slot.
What do you do with it?
It’s a small detail you might not think about much, but how you apply torque to a screw is almost as important as how much you can apply, and how tight the fit is between the bit and the screw itself. For disassembling knives, a T-Handle driver is really a godsend. For instance, let’s talk about one of the most common jobs when “fiddling with a knife” – setting proper pivot tension. Assemble the Fix It Sticks driver and extension with your Torx bit of choice in the end, hold the tool in your dominant hand with the butt of the driver in your palm, position the extension in between your middle and ring finger, and make sure the ratcheting switch is facing towards your thumb. Hold your knife in your other hand and tighten the pivot screw down. Too tight? Toggle the reversible ratchet with your thumb and back it off a smidge. Being able to simultaneous press the bit down into the screw while you apply force (clockwise or counterclockwise, without repositioning your grip) gives you a firm contact with the screw you’re working on, preventing slips and stripping. Once the screw’s initial torque has been overcome, reach down to the knurled portion of the extension and just twist the screw out if you’re removing it.
Reassembly is similarly simple – the magnetism that holds the bit into the extension also holds the screw onto the bit. Just pop the extension out of the driver, thread your screws into where they’re going using the knurled section of the extension. Then pop the extension back in the driver, and precisely set your tightness using the T-handle driver.
Of course, there’s much more flexibility to this setup than just using the extension itself. You can also remove the extension and fit the bits directly into the locking collar of the driver – the same mechanism that retains the extension will also hold the bits in place, useful for if you’re working in a tight space. I’ve found this kit to be very useful in my day job as a mechanic, especially when changing out TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitor System) sensors inside wheels – which are usually secured to the valve stem with a Torx T10 screw into a copper thread. These are extremely easy to strip if you’re not careful or using a power tool, so the precise nature of the ratcheting T-handle driver makes this much simpler. Additionally, it works well for removing screws that hold cabin filter housing doors in place – another task where there’s not a lot of room around what you’re trying to get to, and it’s important to not apply too much force to the screws or you can easily strip the plastic they thread into.
Also, the ends of the T-handle driver themselves are ¼” bit drivers with magnetic retention, so you can theoretically use those as a long-reach driver in a narrow area, although you’d have a harder time applying torque to them compared to just using the extension – they seem to serve more as bit holders than bit drivers, per se.
All of the parts of this kit – the driver, extension, carrier, and bits – are extremely well made. The ratcheting mechanism itself is very fine-toothed, and the selector switch has a crisp and positive action. Knurling on the extension is grippy without being too aggressive, the cap that covers the ratcheting mechanism is flush with the body and has a nice smooth finish, the laser etched logo in the body is crisp and clean, and everything fits extremely tightly. There is almost no clearance between the bits and the drivers at all, no wiggle when you move them around, and very strong neodymium magnets to retain them.
Even fitment into the rubber carrying case is incredibly tight – both the driver and the extension pop into the sides of the case with a satisfying “thunk” and don’t move at all when stored, and all the bits have a small shelf that secures the bottom of them as well as a tight wrap around the sides. In fact, after messing with and using this kit for about a month, the only odd thing I noticed is that the pry tool doesn’t have notches on the body to retain it into the locking collar. Considering the price, that the tool is well made should be a given, but it’s still nice to see this much attention put into details in a tool like this.
Accessories and add-ons
The number of different accessories and add-ons that are compatible with Fix-It Sticks is vaguely overwhelming. But first, the obvious: this setup uses standard ¼” hex drive bits, of which there is an absolute overabundance in the world, so you can make this kit serve your specific needs. I like the assortment of Torx bits this comes with, as they’re useful both for working on knives (which are almost entirely all Torx fittings) and cars (most modern cars have switched from Phillips to Torx for lots of smaller fasteners due to them being much harder to strip.) T6 through T25 is an incredibly useful range. If I was going to tailor the assortment of bits in this kit to be more useful to my needs, I would probably drop all of the hex bits except for the 4mm and 5mm, and add in a Phillips #0 and a Phillips #3, along with another straight driver bit. But, being a standard ¼” hex driver rather than something proprietary means you can mix and match to make the kit you need for your purposes.
Then there’s all the accessories that Fix It Sticks sells for these, and holy cow it is a lot. You can buy individual bits, but there are also specific bit packs for certain use cases – Shooting/Hunting and Cycling in several varieties, and 2” extended bit packs for even longer reach in Metric or SAE hex sizes, Torx T10-T30, and Phillips/Straight drives. Then there are all the individual tools that are compatible with the bit drivers – a tiny LED flashlight, a small cleaning brush, a steel dental pick(?!?), a bottle opener (of course), and a tiny pull-through style knife sharpener with both a carbide and ceramic bit. Fix It Stick’s “Components” page lists all of the individual tools and parts, with a lot of very specific use tools for gun maintenance, archery, and general-purpose use. Then there are the Torque Tools, precision torque-limiting adapters to prevent over-tightening critical screws in sensitive applications like firearm optics – an indexing line corresponds to marks on the body of the torque driver to show how tight a screw is, preventing warping or stripping expensive parts.
I won’t lie, the Fix It Sticks kit is pretty pricey at $80 MSRP. It works very well and is extremely well made, so maybe if that’s price you put on just buying one kit for knife maintenance and then never worrying about it again, it’s not so bad? My background as a mechanic means that expensive tools aren’t foreign territory to me at all, but the price seems more Tool Truck than Amazon. You gotta pay to play.
Being a quarter-inch hex drive mini ratchet, there are of course alternatives. None of them have the exact form factor of the Fix It Sticks, or the inherent portability, but the Sunex Mini Ratchet Kit (which is sold through Home Depot and Amazon) fulfills some of the same functions. It’s a traditional fine-tooth (72 tooth) ratchet handle rather than a ratcheting T-handle, but it does come with 38 bits including Torx T10 through T40 (with no skips) – you’d have to acquire your own T6 and T8 bits. It also has an extension with a quick-release collar and uses magnetic retention but doesn’t have the flexibility of the three-sided Fix It Sticks driver, and a T-handle is always going to be better for detail work than a traditional 90-degree ratchet. It does come in an aluminum carrying case, and it’s much cheaper at ~$28 though.
You might not have heard of Icon Tools, but you’ve probably heard of Harbor Freight. Icon is HF’s premium tool line, designed to compete with the tool truck names like Matco and Snap-On – and with surprising success. Icon has a locking flex-head micro ratchet set that has an incredibly clever twist. The ratchet itself has a locking head (meaning you can tilt it to a position then lock that position in), a pass-through head with magnetic retention (so bits can fit in either way), and the end of the ratchet handle is also a ¼” hex bit driver with magnetic retention. This means you can use the extension passed through the ratchet driver to create a T-handle for more torque, then use the ¼” hex drive in the end of the handle for the bit. That way you can either have a traditional flex-head ratchet, or a T-handle driver. Of course, with this configuration the T-handle driver doesn’t have a reversible or ratcheting feature, but still, it’s very cool. It also comes with some rare in-between sized Torx screws – it includes T6, T7, T8, T9, T10 and T15-T40 including T27. it’s also only ~$45.
Lowe’s house brand of tools (Kobalt) sells a nice mini ratchet set, including a two-sided flat ratchet with a ¼” hex drive and a 5/16” hex drive to fit larger and smaller bit. It contains Torx bits from T8 through T45 as well as security Torx from T10 to T45, as well as an assortment of Phillips and spline bits. The flexiblity of the two-sided ratchet is a plus, but there’s no T-handle aspect to it for precise torque application like the Fix It Sticks. It’s quite a bit cheaper at $21, and comes in a plastic case with a clear top.
Finally, if you just want to get something cheap off Amazon, first of all, caveat emptor. Buyer beware. That in mind, this “Kaifnt 34-piece comprehensive Torx” set looks like a good deal, even if that name is clearing missing a vowel somewhere. The driver is a 4” flat mini driver with a pass-through head and your most basic mechanism – 16 tooth exposed gear, reverse switch. You get what you pay for, though. That includes Torx from T10-T40, as well as tamper Torx, Torx Plus, and 5 point security Torx bit. Again, no T6 or T6 so you’ll have to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bits) to this kit, but the whole thing is $14. I still probably wouldn’t.
If you’re looking for tools to work on your knives with, I think this Fix It Sticks kit is probably the best in the business right now. It allows you to apply downward force and torque at the same time, prevent stripped screws and making it easier to overcome friction from threadlocker. It’s an incredibly flexible set, allowing the use of an extension, the ratchet itself, or the ends of the ratchet depending on what you’re working on. I think this is the “buy once, cry once” solution to knife maintenance, but a lot of this stuff is just down to preference.
- Unique ratcheting T-handle driver with locking collar and extension gives you tons of flexibility, extremely well-made and tight tolerances, clever packaging
- It’s expensive, pry bar does not lock into collar
Fix-It-Sticks Compact Ratcheting Multi-Tool
Quality/Performance - 85%
Value for Money - 73%
If budget isn’t a concern, the Fix-It-Sticks Compact Ratcheting Multi-Tool kit is the one to get for knife maintenance.