THE UPKNIFE UPK-M2 IS A WELL-DESIGNED MULTITOOL THAT CARRIES LIKE A POCKET KNIFE
For me, a knife is an indispensable tool that I call upon every day. So, am I ever caught without one? The answer is both “yes” and “no.” How so? Yes, there might be a few times when I’m not carrying a dedicated knife on my person. But no, if I don’t have a dedicated knife, I at least have a knife blade that’s part of a multitool I’m carrying instead.
“It is simply the best multitool I’ve found, with the most useful tools, that also carries like a typical pocket knife because of its extremely flat profile.”
While I often have both, carrying a multitool instead of a regular folding knife is happening a bit more frequently now that I’ve found the UpKnife UPK-M2.What is a UPK-M2? Well, it’s not a German submarine or a Soviet automatic weapon. Obviously, “UPK” stands for UpKnife. The “M” denotes this is their multitool and the “2” indicates that this is the second and improved version of the design.
It is simply about the only multitool I’ve found that has truly useful tools and carries like a typical pocket knife because of its extremely flat profile.
The fact is, on a daily basis I need more than a knife alone. I might have to turn a screw, tighten a nut, strip a wire, or saw through some PVC. That’s in addition to opening packages, cutting rope or slicing an apple. While I own some very good multitools, I find that because of their size and weight I’m either not bringing them with me at all or I’m leaving them tucked in some pocket of my travel bag or pack, where they aren’t as conveniently accessible.
EXPOSING THE BLADE
So, how is the UpKnife UPK-M2 different? For one, it’s not based on a folding pliers design. While I hate giving up the pliers, their absence allows the UPK-M2 to be very thin. This multitool is basically a knife blade that extends out the front of two stainless steel handle panels that incorporate a number of other tools.
The blade is opened and closed one-handed with a simple bolt-action mechanism that you operate with your thumb. That mechanism that allows the blade to be locked closed or locked open at two different positions, giving you essentially two different blade lengths.
At the first bolt notch about an inch of the blade is exposed. The extreme end of the blade is formed into a bottle opener. It’s not sharpened, but the bottle opener was pointy enough that I tried it as a can opener. It wasn’t as easy to use for opening cans as the sharpened opener on a Swiss Army Knife, but in a pinch you could use this to get the job done.
The short portion of the cutting edge that’s exposed at the first setting makes a perfect box opener. Because the short edge limits the depths of your cuts, you can safely open boxes without the risk of damaging contents inside. That part of the cutting edge is curved as well, so that working the blade back and forth in a rocking motion allows cuts on tough material, such as a garden hose.
At the next bolt notch, the full 3.2-inch blade of 440C stainless steel is exposed. The blade was sufficiently sharp when I received the tool and did a fine job of slicing through various materials. On the spine is a saw. I tried the saw on wood and it worked, but it didn’t cut as vigorously as I’d hoped.
Also on the blade are three of the tool’s eight hex wrenches. There’s a V-shaped slot at the bottom of the smallest wrench. That’s a wire stripper that works with various sizes of wire to strip off the insulation. Insert the wire into the slot and rotate the tool a quarter turn one way and a quarter turn the other and then simply pull the insulation off without harming the copper wire inside.
THE HANDY HANDLE
Yet more tools are found on the UpKnife UPK-M2’s handle scales. When you release the bolt, the blade closes by spring action. When closed and locked, a small portion of the blade is still accessible as a line cutter via a slot at one end of the handle.
On the side of the handle with the bolt, there are three more hex wrenches. The smallest of these serves as a ¼-inch bit driver with the multitool itself as a T-handle. Picking up a set of bits at a hardware store would be a good accessory for this multitool.
There’s a removable magnet on the opposite side of the tool from that ¼-inch wrench / driver. It’s meant to keep the driver bit in place so that it doesn’t fall into some crevice where you’re working. Because the magnet is removable, you could tape the magnet to a piece of string and use it to retrieve small screws or nuts that might fall out of your reach.
“…a simple bolt-action mechanism…allows the blade to be locked…open at two different positions, giving you essentially two different blade lengths.”
On the side of the tool with the magnet, there are two more hex wrenches. This side has three textured areas in the shape of chevrons that serve to provide a more secure grip on the tool. They also enhance its looks.
There is wide, beveled jimping on the outside edges of the handle, top and bottom with four shallow finger grooves on the bottom as well. These also serve to enhance the grip without being abrasive.
At the tail end of the handle is a tungsten carbide-tipped glass breaker. I’ve tested such tools in the past and found them very effective at breaking auto glass by directing a forceful blow with the breaker tip to a lower corner of a car’s side window. The tip can also be used as a center punch to mark a precise spot you need to drill a hole.
There’s a small lanyard hole in one corner of the handle, but it would allow for the use only of very fine cordage. If I wanted to put the tool on a lanyard, I might try a loop of high-strength braided fishing line that’s extremely strong for its tiny diameter.
Inside the lanyard loop is an access port for adding a drop of lube. Rounding out the features of the UPK-M2 is the deep-carry pocket clip.
The UpKnife UPK-M2 is a clever design that’s executed with good materials and fine workmanship. One drawback might be the price. The tool is available with either a gunmetal gray finish for $350 or a natural stainless steel finish for $375. There are lots of products on the market listed as multitools that consist mainly of a small pry bar a bottle opener. The UpKnife UPK-M2 is much more than that.
With an occasional drop of oil on the spring and a couple of swipes of the blade on a ceramic sharpener, you’ll have an American-made multitool with lots of utility in a flat package that rides as comfortably as you favorite pocket knife. My prediction is that some smart company will offer to buy this design from UpKnife owner John Risch and mass produce it.
UPKNIFE IS A ONE-MAN OPERATION
UpKnife is the solo enterprise of John Risch, an electrical engineer who runs the business from his Agua Dulce, California shop. He imagines, designs and manufactures all of his company’s products. He even cut the round foam cushions that hold the multitool in its tubular packaging.
Other UpKnife products include: the UPK-D Pocket Sai with retractable blade; UPK-T Rocket Tool (a small, pocket-sized multitool shaped like a rocket); and UPK-F Predator fixed blade knife.
Type: Multitool with an out-the-front 3-position bolt-action blade
Blade Steel: 440C stainless steel
Length Of Blade: 3.2 inches tip to choil
Handle: Milled Custom 450 H900 stainless steel
Thickness of Handle: 5/16-inch
Width: 1 3/8-inches
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Hex Box Wrenches: Dual: 9/16-inch (15mm), ½-inch(13mm), 3/8-inch(10mm); Solo: 7/16-inch, 12mm, ¼-inch
Other tools: Multi-use saw, ¼-inch bit driver, tungsten carbide glass breaker, bottle/can opener, wire stripper, line/strap cutter, removable magnetic bit retention
Other features: Deep-carry pocket clip, lanyard loop
MSRP: $350 (gunmetal finish); $375 stainless finish
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2021 print issue of Knives Illustrated.