From my recent prize haul, the first items to be reviewed are the two Multicomp Pro MP700136 and MP700151 Wire Cutter/Crimper/Stripper tools, both of which are available from Newark for a relatively inexpensive US$13.99 and US$11.49 respectively at the time this review was published. Interestingly, they are not available via element14's Australian site (my home site), so to have these in my hands feels somewhat special.
Readers may already be aware that Multicomp belongs to a series of element14 own-brands including the likes of Duratool which tend to offer low-cost, high value-for-money products. This often means getting a fairly basic "no-frills" offering which does the job at a good price. But rather than chance it yourself with ordering "no name" questionable products from overseas directly, these products have at least passed the vetting of element14, so you can at least have some confidence in the quality of the product. The Multicomp Pro series takes this a step further, by offering "higher" grade heavy-duty products that might even be suitable for "professional" use. I think the key take-away would be that those with the pro badge may cost a little more, but should be better products overall.
The two tools come inside plain white boxes with just a single label to identify the contents. Both products carry the California Proposition 65 warnings for "Cancer and Reproductive Harm", which might seem alarming at first, but given that almost everything electronics and related can be liable to carry these warnings for trace amounts of heavy metals, I don't think this is of major concern. I do find it unfortunate that it is not clearly documented as to what specifically triggered the need for this warning to be printed - is it something in the metal itself, plastic handles or in the paint?
Both tools are shown above, with their characteristic green colour which is characteristic of Multicomp Pro. The MP700136 (lower) has a cutting jaw at the front, with crimping just behind, screw cutting in the centre, wire cutting and stripping at the rear and automotive crimping at the back. The MP700151 offers a similar array of tools, but instead of cutting, features thin nose pliers at the front, wire stripping and cutting just behind, screw cutting in the middle and crimping in the rear. Both tools claim to be Made in the USA, which is a little surprising given their price. I'm not sure exactly how much of it is made in the USA, however. The tools are clearly labelled in the tool itself with painted recessed labelling.
The rear of the tools have a limited amount of markings pressed into the metal of the tool. Copious safety warnings are printed in the tool handles and pressed into the steel, including "never use on live circuits", "wear safety goggles" and "cut copper only".
I've owned similar tools in the past and they have rarely ever been my favourite. My first one came with a box of crimps and never really did the job, being rather dull and stiff to open and close, with a very rigid uncomfortable handle. I'm pleased to say that these Multicomp Pro tools seem quite a bit above, as they open and close smoothly without any snags. Best of all, the handle grips are oversized, with an air gap in-between, to provide a subtle but noticeable level of cushioning between your hands and the hard steel arms of the tool.
The stripping sections on both tools are quite sharp, while the wire cutting sections on both tools are slightly curved which helps prevent the wire being "squashed" into a flat piece, but also helps prevent the wire migrating as it is being cut. It was a breeze cutting through most forms of copper wire I had to hand. Of note is that the MP700151 opens wider until the screw cutting holes align, while the MP700136 opens up a smaller amount, which is more manageable for a single-handed use.
I had no problems stripping wire, even just a tiny bit off of the end, however it's important to note that the size of wires accommodated by both tools (~8-22AWG) are more suited to automotive use rather than for electronics hobbyists at the desk (which might be using very thin 24/28AWG wire).
It seemed that I had greater success with crimping using the MP700136 rather than the MP700151, but that might also be because the crimps I was using were not suited to the tool or that I was not using it correctly. The crimping action does require a fair amount of force to achieve a crimp that can resist a good pull, so I wouldn't recommend the use of either tool in situations where a lot of crimps need to be made. It's also quite likely that you will make a number of bad crimps as you adjust to the amount of force required - it's basically "crushing" the crimp in a very uncontrolled manner, across a very thin cross section.
The Multicomp Pro MP700136 and MP700151 Wire Cutter/Crimper/Stripper tools seem to be made in the USA with clear painted markings, a smooth opening and closing action and sharp blades. Both have handle grips with some air gap for better comfort and are available from Newark for a relatively inexpensive US$13.99 and US$11.49 respectively. These multifunction tools seem best suited for automotive use in an emergency where no other tool-sets are available rather than working with hook-up wire at the bench and the functionality of both tools overlap somewhat. If I had to choose a favourite, it would probably be the MP700136 as its shorter opening, more cushioned handle profile, cutting jaws at the front and better compatibility with my insulated crimps makes it easier to work with.
However, it must be mentioned that while the tools can crimp connectors onto wires, they definitely require a lot of force, so are only good for occasional use as your hands will tire quickly. They are also liable to be improperly shaped and fail due to insufficient crimping pressure depending on how the tool is used. So while the build quality of the tools are fine, the design is very limiting in terms of making reliable crimp connections.
As a result, it's preferable that if crimping is your primary aim, you instead invest in a ratcheted die-based crimping tool -
This one just so happens also to be an element14 product, the Duratool D03009 which I purchased earlier, which is in a very similar price league as the multi-tools above (AU$28.64 including tax). While it won't do anything other than crimp wire, it's a much better tool for that job and would probably save you the tool costs in wasted crimps and potential failures from unreliable crimps into the future.