Voiding the Warranty of a Warranty Voider with Another

I couldn't resist the temptation, so i'll get right to it. The following is a howto/review/documentation of the couple of hours i spent voiding the warranty on my Leatherman Charge ALX. All that was used to take the Charge apart was another Leatherman (and a hell of a lot of patience).

Caution:

1. Attempting to take apart a Leatherman tool WILL void Leatherman's terrific 25-year warranty. Think twice.
2. Without proper/proprietary tools, you WILL slip and damage the screws, or have a washer go flying.
3. Reassembly ain't exactly a piece of cake, so be prepared to put in a good chunk of time.
All that said, do it, it was fun.

Disassembly

All Charge models are basically held together with 4 screws/bolts, one at each end of the two handles. Older Charges uses star-shaped security screws but newer editions uses bolts with teeth around the perimeter. I figured that my Squirt (P4) is all that i needed, though, to do the trick on the bolts.

And I was right. The Squirt's tiny spring-loaded pliers has a surprising amount of bite and strength! A couple of turns was enough to loosen the end bolts. However, the female ends on these end bolts are actually not rounded and should not turn. Forcing it like i did (since the female and male ends are exactly alike) will damage the bolts and parts. On these end bolts, the male ends are on the large bit-driver side of both handles (on the Charge AT, Ti, TTi, it should be on the bit-driver side and its opposite corner when closed).

The bolts on the plier ends are not shaped like the ones on the other end, and will not lock when turning the male ends. Therefore, two sets of pliers are needed to loosen this end. I would suggest loosening both ends of one handle before removing any bolts. The locking mechanism will push the blades and handle plates outward as the bolts are being loosened, so removing one bolt first might make it harder to loosen the other due to the distorting pressure.

Other than the bolts there is really only one other removable part, the locking mechanism for the drivers, bottle opener, and other handle-end tools. I was hesitant when trying to remove it since that would involve forcing the walls apart considerably to release the hinge. But, it turns out the Charge's stainless steel has more than enough flexibility to take the abuse of jamming Squirt's pliers between the walls to force it open.

The angled slivers of steel that provides the spring force for the Charge's locking mechanisms are unfortunately riveted in. Though i was itching to take it all apart my thinning wallet told me to hold off. I want my ALX to be at least functional after it all.

And that's all there really is too it. The only other notes of caution is to take care and not lose the the washers and smallers parts, and to remember the order of layering for reassembly. To the latter's effect, i carefully layed out the parts in the order they were removed and snapped a picture (click on for a larger image).

Impression:

I was surprised at the number of parts used in the Charge. Washers of varying sizes line almost all moving parts, and where a washer is missing a shaped spacer is found. I keep my ALX well oiled so there was little noticeable wear in the joints. The only damage are from the pliers slipping when removing the bolts (i used my Skeletool as the second pliers, but the larger size was actually harder to use on the small bolts compared to the Squirt). The red tipped bolt tips (synthetic ruby or some type of protective epoxy?) do show very different thicknesses though. I'm not sure if this is caused by wear or parts inconsistency, because i've really no idea what the function of the red tips are.

Assembly:

Keeping everything layed out in order definetly helped. The thin washer between the handel-end tools was especially tedious to keep in place. The plier head was a bit hard to get back on the bolt too because of pressure from the handle (which provides the lock and bite when opening the pliers). But, there's really no trick to reassembly other than patience.
Left handers might want to take the opportunity to swap the blade locations. However, doing so to facilitate left-handed one hand opening of the blades would disable/bypass the indents on the blades used to keep the blades closed snuggly. Pressure from the locking plate should still do, so the trade off is really up to left-handers to weigh.

Summary:

2+ hours later, my Leatherman Charge was near completely disassembled and almost all put back together. The ALX suffered only scuffs and lost teeth on a single bolt, and myself a pinched pinky. What it gained was a good rub down from the inside out, and i, knowing i can take apart a Leatherman with a Leatherman.

I'm going to keep my ALX half-assembled for the time being so i don't lose any parts. The intention is to try and blacken my ALX either through some home-brew oxidizing toxic broth or spray/bake-on military/firearm-use coating. But, that's another story.

Shameless plug for my <<<eBay auctions selling the ALX>>> among other gear and knick-knacks. Please take a look if interested in purchasing one.

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