Knife chat: the NexTool Mini Sailor
The NexTool Mini Sailor combines ten functions into a single product to bring a surprising addition to the few ‘keychain sized’ multi-tool options available.
The NexTool Mini Sailor Multifunctional Pliers, model NE20135, was released in 2022 and is a welcome addition to the mini multi-tool fold. Not only is it good to see manufacturers continuing to provide such a niche product, but the Mini Sailor also includes a couple of tools within its toolset that are rarely encountered in small multi-tools. I suggest that only one of these is actually of much use and the other would have been much better if swapped out for another tool. More on that below.
NexTool are part of Binovo Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and are based in Guangdong, China. They manufacture tactical pens, knives, lights and tools, under their own name while also subcontracting under other brands. The quality of their products appears to vary. Products are churned out by the tens of thousands and reviews of products differ, indicating ongoing issues with quality control. Three Points of the Compass has previously looked at their little Mini Flagship multi-tool, that combined decent similarly sized mini-pliers and scissors in the same tool.
I have no idea on why this multi-tool is called Mini Sailor. None of the functions seem to be particularly associated with sailing or the sea though it does come in a pleasant looking blueish grey finish. The Mini Sailor is variously described as having either ten tools, or eleven. The 2023 NexTool catalogue lists ten tools on this multi-tool, so let’s go with that.
There is a reason the scissors based Leatherman Squirt S4, and pliers based P4 and PS4 remain favourite mini multi-tools of mine. The quality from that manufacturer is superb. I have ten keychain multi-tools with pliers as a main tool from three manufacturers and show them here for comparison of both size and tool complement. Links for reviews of all of these are shown below. Leatherman are the best for pure build quality and efficiency but are expensive. NexTool offer a far more affordable alternative. It can be seen that the Mini Sailor is on the large size of mini multi-tool, probably too large to comfortably be carried with keys.
NexTool specify a weight of 84g±2g. Mine comes in at 83.6g. This is a little heavy to be hanging with a set of keys but it is certainly small enough to be carried that way if that is your wish. There is no pocket clip either. though I don’t think this little tool would suit a pocket clip as it is so small and light that it could easily be lost if carried that way. I am more interested in how the small multi-tools in general, and the Mini Sailor in particular, suits backpacking or Every Day Carry (EDC). Three Points of the Compass is a fan of multi-tools that have their frame tools on the outside as they are so much easier to access that way without having to unfold the entire tool. If then pocket carried, outside tools can gather a bit of pocket fluff and debris, but where slipped into a ditty bag this would not be an issue. If just the blade were wanted to quickly open a package or cut a piece of cordage, then it is but a moment to unfold the blade, carry out the task, then fold it away. Give me outside tools any day.
This is quite an attractive tool. The requirement of keeping the frame fairly stiff for the pliers to work efficiently is probably behind the lack of internalised skeletonising. There are six small slots on each side of the tool that go some way to improve the aesthetics and probably remove a gram or two. Main materials are 420J1 and 420J2 steels. After quenching, 420J2 stainless steel is harder than 420J1 steel but it would have been good if better quality steel were used, even if that had raised the price point a little. NexTool state that the hardness of principal function parts on the Mini Sailor is higher than HRC 50. The grey blue aluminium scales are HAIII anodised for a harder, denser, thicker, and more abrasion resistant coating. My example is a smooth eggshell finish, with no obvious flaws. The Mini Sailor is mostly held together with T7 torx screws so could be dismantled if wished. All tools open easily under a thumb nail and there is a good snap as they open fully. None of the tools are locking and there are no half stops on the screwdrivers.
I like the profile of the small hollowground blade included on the Mini Sailor. It has a blade length of 42mm but almost all of this can be used as it only curves up slightly toward the point. It is 1.45mm across the spine and keeps this thickness for almost all its length making it quite a stiff blade with little flex. The blade has a thick pointed tip and is not particularly suited to fine work. Frustratingly, the blade also opens toward the hanger, which could potentially make it a little awkward to use if hung with a bunch of keys and it would have been better if this had been reversed. Interestingly, the clip-point blade on the Mini Flagship is interchangeable with the blade on the Mini Sailor, but that will entail stripping both multi-tools down. The short length, non-locking blade means this little tool is UK street legal.
The v-grind modified sheepsfoot blade is fairly sharp out of the box but will take an edge fairly easily. The small non-locking blade ensures this tool is compliant with UK ‘knife-carry’ law. But, as usual, you are not going to be permitted to board a plane while carrying this little tool. The blade is the only part of my tool that demonstrated any lack of quality control. There is a small nick in the blade. I’ll be able to work this out of it with time, but it shouldn’t be there.
The scissors on the Mini Sailor are very small, a little clunky and a little odd. A thumbnail can hook under them to unfold from the body of the tool. The pivoting arm is then unfolded to use. The jaws have a cutting edge of just 14mm. Despite this, they are surprisingly effective and will snip cotton, thin cordage, even paracord. They will handle paper and dehydrated camping meal packaging but struggle with card and will barely dent leather or cordura. This is hardly surprising considering their extremely modest dimensions. The thumb is pressing on a 1mm wide bar so could prove painful with any sort of extended use. But that is not what these are intended for, more aimed at the very occasional snippy type scissor tasks that arise in every other day use. It is good see that they have a sprung opening in use, this is via a thin wire under tension. Folding them away is the reverse of opening however I sometimes find this a little awkward as they want to swing open unless pinched while closing.
There are two small inline screwdrivers on the Mini Sailor. One is a well-profiled 4mm flat screwdriver and the other is a flattened 3D Phillips #2 screwdriver. This 3D design means that it will fit Phillips screws more snugly than the 2D Phillips found on some other multi-tools, but also means that it cannot be used for flat screws.
There is a SIM card removal pin folded behind the flat screwdriver. This is a tool not found on many multi-tools and for good reason. It is pretty much superfluous. A paper clip does the same job anyway. I would have liked to have seen this swapped out for something more useful such as a mini Phillips, or even a little awl, as found on the Leatherman Squirt P4.
At the opposite end of the tool, behind the Phillips is a key hanger tab, that swivels and folds into the tool frame if not required. There is a small nail nick protuberance at its end used to hook it out. This could have been refashioned to make a tiny flat, glasses screwdriver tip. When used as a hanger, this lies so close to the Phillips screwdriver that if it actually has a split ring or similar passed through it, it is impossible to fully open the Phillips screwdriver. This doesn’t bother me as I don’t hang it with keys or pass a lanyard through, but this would really annoy many users and is a severe design fault.
The blade, can opener and screwdrivers all have have decent thumb nail nicks for opening. The SIM removal tool, scissors and key hanger each have a decent small metal protuberance under which a nail also comfortably hooks to open them.
Very few keychain multi-tools include a tin opener amongst their toolset. None of the smallest Victorinox knives have one, yet NexTool seem to have grasped the usefulness of this tool, including it on a number of their products. The Mini Sailor has a very similar combination opener to that found on the Mini Flagship but has been improved, though left-handed users might disagree with me! The opener on the Mini Sailor also has a polished finish unlike the matt opener on the Mini Flagship.
The design of the opener is now properly orientated for us right-handers. The opener on the Mini Flagship is constructed to cut forward clockwise, awkward for a right-handed user, but ideal for a left-hander. However the opener on the Mini Sailor is oriented to be used in a forward cutting motion anti-clockwise. This keeps the hand outside the opener and away from the can/tin. Take lots of small bites and this is an efficient opener. The bottle opener/cap lifter is just like any other small tool. It may require a couple of bites but this is no hardship, it works fine.
The spring-loaded pliers and blade are made from 420J2, equivalent to Chinese made 30Cr13. This is an inexpensive stainless steel quite high in chromium, known for its high resistance to corrosion. It is frequently used in budget knives. The pliers are thin, just 3.5mm across the pivot tapering to 2.3mm wide tips. They are not precise tips, nor the needle nose they are described as. There are no serrations at the tip but it will grasp and extract quite small hairs, splinters and swarf. The little ‘regular plier’ jaws behind are perfectly up to holding or loosening <15mm nuts and bolts.
The wire cutters have very small cutting jaws, just 3.5mm in length, and it will not handle thick wires at all. In this tool’s defence, despite having quite small 67mm handles, it is comfortable to grip and use, with little to dig into the hand under pressure. When the Mini Flagship was released, early users reported that the pliers on that tool were prone to failure, mostly down to failing springs. NexTool have since stated that they improved the build quality of the pliers on later Mini Flagships and also on the Mini Sailor model that followed. It should still be realised that these are both very small multi-tools and are only suited for light duty work. Attempt something beyond their means and they will break.
NexTool Mini Sailor specifications:
- Needle nose pliers
- Regular plier jaws
- Mini wire-cutter
- Main blade
- Can opener
- Bottle opener/cap lifter
- Mini scissors
- Phillips screwdriver
- 4mm flat screwdriver
- Sim card remover
- Key hanger
- Folded dimensions: 67.2mm × 25.3mm × 15.5mm
- Open dimensions: 105mm x 62mm x 15.5mm
- Main material: 420J2, 420J1
- Weight: 83.6g
I paid £13.44 for my Mini Flagship plus shipping, total £16.13. The Mini Sailor cost me £11.92 via AliExpress. With shipping this came to £14.36 and it was delivered within a week. This is remarkably good value for what you get. The equally good value NexTool Mini Flagship is of a similar size but seems smaller in the hand, has almost identical pliers, similar length blade and a far superior pair of scissors. The Mini Flagship also has a tin opener oriented for left-handers!
The NexTool Mini Sailor comes with a one-year warranty covering ‘performance failure’ under normal use. For severe damage caused by what is deemed to be ‘improper use’, there is a paid-repair service. But for such a cheap overseas purchased tool, it is unlikely that many would be taking advantage of that facility. Particularly as invoice, warranty card, order information and original packaging are required for claims.
The NexTool Mini Sailor offers us an interesting ‘new’ combination of tools and the small pliers are frequently a welcome tool on longer camping trips and for EDC. The inclusion of a tin opener in this keychain multi-tool is especially appreciated as not every tin can has a ring pull, and even if they do they can sometimes snap off. There isn’t much else that will get you inside to the contents. The inclusion of both Phillips and flat screwdrivers are always welcome and these are far better tools than those found on the Mini Flagship. I would have liked to have seen the SIM card remover swapped out for a micro-screwdriver (suitable for glasses), or even an awl with sewing eye. Finally, it would be good to see a further variant on the Mini Sailor built around a pair of scissors as the main tool instead of pliers.
Compared to the thousands of knifes that have been produced over the years, it is surprising how few small ‘keychain’ multi-tools have been released. Leatherman have made nine. Three Points of the Compass has looked at these in a series of posts, linked below. Gerber produced a few small multi-tools too, reviews for those are linked below too, together with a review of the SOG Snippet. Few of these little multi-tools remain on general sale but most can be found on the second hand market. Review links below.