I remember purchasing my first multi-tool. Actually, I bought two that day. One was for my brother as a birthday present and the other was for me. I proudly carried that thing everywhere I went for months. But as time went on, I realized that my precious multi-tool wasn’t much more than a backup – and not a very effective one at that. Enter the Gerber Center-Drive. It has some innovative features, but will it be more effective than other multi-tools currently on the market?
For many professional users, the multi-tool is a highly effective part of their day. But for many others, it’s a fancy novelty that carries a whole lot of tools we never use. Without a doubt, the tools I use most on my multi-tools are the pliers, the knife, and occasionally the screwdriver. The problem is that none of those are as effective as simply grabbing a dedicated tool from my tool bag.
It seems like most multi-tools are geared toward people who simply want to be prepared for anything. Some models, like the Leatherman Signal, are intentionally designed for the outdoor enthusiast. It just doesn’t seem like anyone has given much thought into what we need on the jobsite. I’m hoping that the Gerber Center-Drive is going to change that.
Features and Performance
The Gerber Center-Drive is full of features that look pretty attractive on paper. They didn’t try to pack as many tools as they could possibly fit, opting for a handful of tools that seem to make more sense.
Rather than going with a butterfly style opening, Gerber went with a one-handed slide opening mechanism. While holding the tool, simply push up until you feel the slide lock into place. At that stage, the pliers are exposed and the spring-loaded handle can be operated.
Gerber goes with a little bit of a nontraditional pliers design on the Center-Drive. Its sloping nose gives it the look and function of a hybrid between standard pliers and a needle nose design. This gives you the ability to get into some tighter areas while still leaving plenty of strength to grip bolts in the middle.
At the base of the pliers you’ll find carbide wire cutters. These triangular shaped cutters can be rotated as they begin to dull. This means you’ll get three times the life of other carbide cutters and they’re replaceable when the end of their life comes around.
A notch at the bottom of each cutter acts as a wire stripper. You’ll need to feather your grip a bit based on the wire gauge you are trying to strip. I’m not a professional electrician by trade, but I found them pretty easy to use with only a small amount of practice.
The screwdriver is where the Gerber Center-Drive gets its name. By creating an offset design and extending it out to 3.2 inches, the driver is in the middle of the handle giving you an axis of rotation that is more likely to reach and stay engaged with the fastener. This is a sound design in theory and it is definitely an improvement in practice. However, your handle is still a multi-tool body so it’s not going to be as comfortable as using a cushion grip screwdriver.
The offset design isn’t the only intelligent move the Gerber made with the screwdriver design though. First, they gave the bit holder a magnet to ensure that you can keep a bit in the driver without fear of losing it. Most importantly, they made it a standard 1/4-inch size. This is a huge deal because I can replace bits when they are worn or broken and I can customize my bit set to the type of work I’m going to be doing.
The Gerber Center-Drive comes with 14 different bits – 12 are stored in a bit holder that conveniently fits in your sheath, one is held in the driver itself, and the last is held in a spare bit holder on the tool. This gives you quick access to your two most commonly used bits (a #2 Phillips and 1/4-inch slotted for most people) while any assortment of 12 other bits are close at hand in the sheath.
A plain edge knife is accessible from the outside of the tool and a serrated edge knife is found on the inside. The plain edge blade features a drop point style and easy one-handed opening with a hole cut in the base. It locks in place with a frame lock. The blade is 3.25 inches long and made from 420HC steel. This high carbon steel blend is not a surprising choice for multi-tool. However, it’s on the lower end of mid-range blade steel blends.
The serrated blade isn’t quite as sexy. The end of the blade doesn’t really have a classic style, but is closest to a sheep’s foot. You don’t really need as much of a point on a fully serrated blade since it will mainly be used for things like cutting rope. It’s about a half inch shorter than the plain edge blade and has a spring-loaded lever lock to release it. Gerber doesn’t tell us what steel is used for this blade.
I’d love to see multi-tools that start to move up the ladder when it comes to steel for their knife blades. Certainly something like 8Cr13MoV would be a good mid-range choice. Some users may even be willing to move up to an S30V or S35VN, but that would raise the price significantly.
The file offers fine and coarse sides and is nice to have on board for deburring or filing down other sharp metal pieces. The awl Gerber included is about the best I’ve seen. It’s actually sharp enough to make an effective hole in several different materials.
The bottle opener is also one of the most effective designs I’ve seen on a multi-tool. Not that its ability to crack open a cold brew at the end of the day is any better than other versions, but there is an integrated nail puller and prybar on the end of it. Is reinforced well enough to actually be able to put some force behind it and I’m very grateful to have a nail puller on me at all times. As backup tools go, that’s an incredibly handy one.
You have markings in both inches and centimeters on the inside of the handle. While this is probably the only place they really could have reasonably etched it, is only mildly effective because of its placement. It can be used to judge fastener lengths pretty easily though. Finally , there’s a lanyard hole integrated in to the outside spring-loaded tool lock.
The fabric sheath features two pockets – one for the Gerber Center-Drive and one for the spare bit holder. The back features three loops that can be used to thread it onto a belt, clip it to a carabiner, or attach it in a variety of other ways. My only complaint is that due to the lack of snaps, you won’t be able to put it on to a fixed strap like you would find on a MOLLE style system.
The Bottom Line
The Gerber Center-Drive is the most effective multi-tool design I have ever had for jobsite use. Its combination and design of tools are simply better thought out than other models.
The Center-Drive screwdriver is a win for this tool thanks to its longer size, ability to hold a standard 1/4-inch bit, and its central axis placement. It’s not alone as a highlight as the one-handed opening and spring-loaded handle mechanisms are preferable to a butterfly opening system.
The design of the pliers with rotatable/replaceable carbide wire cutters/stripper along with the combination of knife blades rounds out my favorite features.
This multi-tool still isn’t going to replace your dedicated screwdrivers, knives, wire cutters, etc. However, it is a huge step forward in having an effective backup for each of these tools close at hand and saving you a trip back to the truck for one-off jobs. Furthermore, the Gerber Center-Drive is Made in the USA and is backed by a lifetime warranty.
Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool Key Features
- One-thumb opening system
- Spring-loaded needlenose pliers with X-Channel rail system
- Rotatable carbide wire cutters and strippers
- Full-size 3.25″ 420HC fine edge blade
- Magnetic 3.2″ Center-Axis bit driver
- Pry bar with nail puller & bottle opener
- Serrated blade
- Awl, file
- Magnetic flathead and Phillips bits
- Lanyard hole
- Fabric sheath included
Gerber Center-Drive Multi-Tool Specifications
- Item Number: Gerber 30-001193
- Opening Style: One-hand
- Knife Blade Length: 3.25″
- Standard Bit Driver: Yes
- Rotatable Carbide Wire Cutters: Yes
- Closed Length: 4.7″
- Open Length: 6.6”
- Weight: 9.5 oz
- Jaw Material: Cast
- Made in USA: Yes
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Price: $74.99