Does this 128-year-old tool still cut it?
November 10, 2019 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Lyndon B. Johnson carried one. MacGyver never leaves home without his. A Swiss Army knife can scale a fish, remove a splinter, help start a fire, or sew a ripped seam shut. Now available in impressively specific varieties such as the Equestrian and the Presentation Master, including some models that feature USB flash drives, the 500 millionth tool rolled off the line in 2017. In this age of never-ending technology upgrades and improvements, the “Original Swiss Army knife” is still a best-seller.

Related:
Here’s some breaking news! You no longer need a fancy MRI machine (or the health coverage to pay for it) to peer into the mind of a person who may have gone completely nuts. Instead, all you need is the Internet and the link at the end of the article to the world’s most insane Swiss army knife, compliments of Wenger. Ladies and gentlemen, that is what crazy looks like.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (113 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I still have one with me when I leave the home. It gets much use, usually rescuing others who are in need.

*person struggling with some such tinkering thing*

"Here, use this."
posted by Fizz at 5:34 PM on November 10, 2019 [8 favorites]


This is the Swiss Army Knife I long to own.
posted by Corvid at 5:37 PM on November 10, 2019 [9 favorites]


One Christmas growing up the whole family got Swiss Army knives (from Santa, of course). I have never been particularly handy or in need of tools (I mostly used it as something to fiddle with) but the compact usefulness of it was so exciting. It satisfied every gift-opener.
posted by sallybrown at 5:43 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I keep a Huntsman in my daypack, but mostly use the Leatherman Squirt in my pocket.
posted by mikelieman at 5:44 PM on November 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


I've kept a Swiss army knife in my bag every day since University when I worked in a lab and everyone had one. The toddler in my life knows it is there and occasionally demands it for the use of the magnifying glass (to inspect something interesting she has found on the street) or for me to use it's scissors to cut off a tag. I make myself literally change bags when I fly so I don't forget and accidentally try to take it through TSA.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 5:50 PM on November 10, 2019 [8 favorites]


There was one of those how-it's-made or history-of-tools shows years ago about the Swiss army knife and they were interviewing someone in the family that owns Victorinox or that other one and he said in this delightful half-German, half-cannibal accent "I always carry with me two Swiss army kniiives," and then said which ones. In my memory he sort of bugs his eyes out a little bit, hence seeming a bit unhinged/cannibal, but that might be my stupid brain making shit up.

I'm sure I had a purpose when I started typing this.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:10 PM on November 10, 2019 [10 favorites]


I still have one that I got for my seventh birthday. I don't use it often, but it's probably the one item I've retained the longest.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:10 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I got a Wenger Backpacker II for Christmas when i was eight or nine. Around there.

When i was a kid and we went camping in the summer, it went along, though it was more for show as a neat thing than something I actually used. (Dad did the cutting and chopping.) It has found its uses though over the last thirty years and remains in my desk as my trusty letter opener.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:11 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've got to say, I find my leathermen much more useful, I use the pliers FAR more often then the knife. Not sure why anyone carries a swigs army knife when leathermen are available and only weigh a tiny bit more.
posted by Canageek at 6:26 PM on November 10, 2019 [16 favorites]


US SAK sales declined sharply after 9/11. Once a popular item at airport duty-free stores, the knives were suddenly banned from air travel.

It's a wonderful tool to carry around, but I always have to leave mine at home when i travel by plane, because the TSA will confiscate them.

The company has since adapted some of their products to be flight-friendly, including versions that contain all of the original tools minus any blades.


The better solution, of course, is for the TSA to be abolished.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:27 PM on November 10, 2019 [84 favorites]


The better solution, of course, is for the TSA to be abolished.

Word.
posted by terrapin at 6:29 PM on November 10, 2019 [15 favorites]


I’ve got a leatherman-like tool made by…Victorinox. It’s very nice, but pretty big. Not something I carry every day. As far as I can tell, none of the SAKs have locking blades, and I just don’t trust them.
posted by adamrice at 6:33 PM on November 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


I've switched to the leatherman line, not for the pliers, but for the locking blades. It's too easy to slice the hell out of your fingers when working and having the blade fold up unexpectedly.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:33 PM on November 10, 2019 [10 favorites]


They are not the latest technology or the most macho designs, but they are cheap, useful and and less likely to be confiscated by an over zealous security person. The scissors, bottle opener and corkscrew alone are reason enough to buy one.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:40 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


this is a great reminder that there's a brand of butt lube called Swiss Navy
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:41 PM on November 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


Reminds me of one of my favorite headlines ever:

"Entire Swiss Army Found Stabbed to Death With Own Little Folding Knives"

Sounds like The Onion, but I think it's actually from an ancient Dave Barry piece.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 6:41 PM on November 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


This is the Swiss Army Knife I long to own.

I didn't know I needed one of tho - NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS WHAT THE FUCK.
posted by loquacious at 6:43 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


There are many options for swiss army knives with locking blades.
posted by rockindata at 6:50 PM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have friends who carry a pocket knife against whatever exigencies and, yeah, they need to replace them periodically because of the TSA. Myself, I carry a pair of small scissors in my shaving kit (never confiscated, somehow!), a length of cord and often a four-way screwdriver. It has sufficed.

But my earliest memory of a pocket knife is using one to punch a hole in something and having it fold up on my finger. IIRC, it didn't require any stitches but I had the scar for 20 years (since faded). I'm not a fan of pocket knifes.
posted by sjswitzer at 6:53 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


The weird thing about Swiss army knives is that I don't remember the actual knives being very useful. I think you were supposed to whittle with them? Does anyone actually whittle? I am not entirely sure what whittling actually is. But I kind of want to get one of the TSA-safe ones for myself (or maybe a Leatherman thingie), because I do surprisingly often find myself out and about wishing that I had scissors, a screwdriver, or a pair of pliers.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:54 PM on November 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


It will cut- but will it keel?


/Doug Marcaida
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:55 PM on November 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


I could do without the mental illness framing on the Wenger Giant. It's a goofy novelty demonstration sales unit not intended for use, so impractical the blades are installed unsharpened. Collectors being what they are, it was eventually offered for sale.
posted by zamboni at 6:55 PM on November 10, 2019 [8 favorites]


Wait they make one with USB again? I carried a SwissBit SAK ever since grad school, with a USB drive. Finally retired it when I got my new MacBook Pro in 2017, because it only has USBC ports. Didn’t see any in stock with a compatible drive then. And now, they have a knife with a flippable USB/USBC drive... maybe I’ll swap out my MiniChamp, I miss having the USB drive handy. I love the Victorinox knives; my locking blade SAK goes to camp with me every time, and the previously mentioned MiniChamp is my daily carry. When my son learned to use a knife in Cub Scouts, he did so using my mom’s old knife. Now he has his own. If you take care of them, they last forever.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:56 PM on November 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think you were supposed to whittle with them? Does anyone actually whittle?

I made many sharp, dangerous sticks with mine as a kid so yes?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 PM on November 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


Carried one on my keyring for decades, ever since I was a Boy Scout; but it was replaced by a Leatherman Mini around the turn of the century. And yeah, I'm on my second, courtesy of the TSA.
posted by Rash at 7:37 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't remember the actual knives being very useful. I think you were supposed to whittle with them?

It's a penknife. The whole point of a penknife is to shape your pen. That is, to turn a quill feather into a pen for dipping into your ink well and writing.
posted by fings at 7:52 PM on November 10, 2019 [20 favorites]


And yeah, I'm on my second, courtesy of the TSA.

I think to date I have lost two keychain Leathermen to the TSA. 4/5 times they won't say a thing about it - which is to say a couple years will go by and I may even come to believe policy must have changed - and then one day I'll be at a smaller airport (always when I'm flying home) and they'll solemnly ask me to hand it over.
posted by atoxyl at 7:58 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have one at home, one at work, one of the penknives on my keychain, and have a spare penknife one on my desk at home, plus various other multitools of various brands.

I may have a little bit of a problem.

I blame the Boy Scouts for getting me hooked.

posted by Halloween Jack at 8:25 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]


My mom gave me a Swiss Army Knife Cybertool for Christmas one year when I was a kid, back in circa 2000-ish, which at the time was also branded with the Sun Microsystems and Java logos for some reason. It's been in my pocket nearly every day ever since, and I use it frequently. The screwdriver is probably the most frequently used tool; the can opener is probably the least. The Sun logo has completely worn off, and all that is left of "JAVA" is "JΛ", and a small bit of the plastic has cracked off, but the overall durability is really quite amazing. I've broken the flat-head screwdriver bit twice by misusing it as a wedge, but those are easily replaced from Victorinox. Shockingly enough, the pen still writes, without ever having dried out or run out of ink (not that I use it much). The one thing about it that annoyed me for years was the keychain attachment point, which I don't use and which dug into my palm when I used the screwdriver for any length of time. It finally occurred to me that I didn't need to live with it, and I filed it off a couple years ago. Even this bit was good-quality steel and took a while to file off, but now that it's gone using the screwdriver is so much more ergonomic.

Some years ago my wife asked for her own identical pocketknife since she loved mine so much, and I gave her one for her birthday/Christmas/our anniversary/some other gift event, but because I always have mine on me she still always ends up asking to borrow mine.

Fortunately I've never forgotten to leave it behind when I fly. I've had to return to my car to drop it off once or twice when entering a local government building that prohibits pocketknives. The closest I've ever come to losing it entirely was at Turner Field in Atlanta, when they wouldn't let me bring it in. I ended up hiding it in some bushes near the entrance, and fortunately it was still there when I left.

I really love my Swiss Army Knife.
posted by biogeo at 8:28 PM on November 10, 2019 [13 favorites]


Not sure why anyone carries a swigs army knife when leathermen are available

counterpoint: the saw on the swiss army knife is the best camp saw you can get, and i've never seen a leatherman (or gerber multitool; which are arguably better) that has anything close.

a leatherman style tool is great if pliers/wirecutters and some screwdrivers are the thing you need; i keep one in the car, for instance. but for outdoorsy activities that might go wrong and need me to channel my inner Survivorman? Swiss Army knife.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:30 PM on November 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


I've had one of the small ones (ok, several of the small ones--they've gotten lost or TSA'd) for 25+ years. The small knife is fine for opening packaging tape, the small screwdriver/file is great in a pinch, and the tiny scissors are the best nail trimmers I've ever found (traditional nail clippers have always been incredibly uncomfortable for me to use for some reason). The scissors alone are worth the price to me.
posted by Ickster at 8:34 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]


My dad started giving my pocket knives since grade 4 (and box-cutter style x-acto blades since grade 2 - much to the consternation of my elementary school administration; but this was in the late 80s and I was a HKer in Vancouver, so... weird all around). I started getting into folding knives in college and ditched the SAK. I got a Benchmade Emissary almost a decade ago as a slightly more robust upgrade to a SOG Twitch2 and it's been my EDC since and sees heavy use at work, even when I'm at the office instead of the floor. Probably should upgrade my Swisstech keychain folding pliers that lives in my manbag to something like a Leatherman Squirt.

When I visited HK for the first (and only time) when I was 14, an uncle bought me a Swiss Army Tinker. I used the hell out of it for years, and it was on my keychain (yes, it was bulky) until 2nd year in college. I still have it in my (non air) travel "shaving" kit and it's been so bleeding useful. When I'm not travelling, it sits somewhere near my desk at home and gets the "I need.. oh, right, there it is, it'll be good enough."

The small blade got far more use than the big blade and shows a lot more sharpening wear. The Phillips head driver where the corkscrew normally is got a ton of work as did the can opener. The auger was surprisingly and relief-inducingly useful a surprising amount. It was adequate as a side-lever wine cork remover in the absence of the corkscrew, too.

Buddy who was born in Switzerland but moved to Canada young, like I did, but returned to Switzerland after dropping out of college came back for a wedding in 2008 and gifted me a Soldatenmesser 08 that had just started being issued to the Swiss military. It lives in my "earthquake" bag, but hasn't seen any real use.

The best thing about the new model is that the main blade is has both a thumb hole and a lock - but the thumb hole is kinda not good and the lock release is better in left handed deployment and right handed almost requires two hands if you don't have huge hands or a ton of practice. No corkcrew, but an auger and a cross-Phillips head.
posted by porpoise at 8:37 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yes! Ickster the Swiss Army folding scissors are ... actually good scissors for fine work. Probably the highest used tool on my Tinker in the last 10 years (cutting medical double-sided adhesive tapes to shape).

Better than most small and medium sized "office" scissors (because they tend to be cheap with poor pivots; there are very good small and medium sized office scissors available, just at a much higher price point).

That they're spring loaded is cool (and practically functional too).
posted by porpoise at 8:43 PM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


The SAKWiki points out some fairly weird and wonderful specialized models and tools:
Gas chromatography maintenance
Watchmaker's tools
Orthodontic tools
Pharmaceutical Spatula
The toilet paper SAK
posted by zamboni at 8:59 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]


I bought a surplus Dutch Army Knife - made by Victorinox, but with a metal shell - years back. It's held up better than any SAK. It survived a few games of bothy darts (draw circle on bothy wall; get drunk; fling knife at wall: if it sticks, drink more) with only a few scrapes.

For cutting and picnics, it has to be a carbon-steel Opinel. They can be razors if you sharpen them right.

You can whittle with a SAK, but it's uncomfortable. The ones that they have on special at Canadian Tire every year will do. A mora is much less work, though.
posted by scruss at 9:04 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


Here’s some breaking news! You no longer need a fancy MRI machine (or the health coverage to pay for it) to peer into the mind of a person who may have gone completely nuts.

Here’s some breaking news! You have no idea what an MRI machine actually does.
posted by ejs at 9:09 PM on November 10, 2019 [10 favorites]


Victorinox is a remarkable manufacturer. It's amazing to look at one of their common pocket knives that retail for less than $20 USD, and witness how much they get absolutely right, and set the standard for an entire industry that can't come close to their quality/price level. You can spend a whole lot more on a pocket knife, with more exotic materials and designs, among dozens of boutique manufacturers around the globe, and not match the kind of quality, consistency, and attention to detail you'll get from even the cheapest Victorinox knives.

One of the ways they do this, beyond very smart engineering, is by manufacturing in mind boggling numbers, as noted in the link. Another way is the very modular design of all the implements, allowing for a huge variety of combinations. And keeping the design of each implement unchanged for decades. It seems they tend to not produce a new design unless they can count on manufacturing them in quantities at least in the hundreds of thousands. Contrast with a company like Leatherman, which seems to develop new models that require entirely new tooling, every couple of years, with very few lasting more than a decade. Even when the designs are very close, the individual parts are incompatible.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:13 PM on November 10, 2019 [12 favorites]


FWIW, back in the day, when I was (grudgingly) inducted into the Swiss Army, this is the version we were issued:

https://imgur.com/a/F9SDqIg

Super basic and sturdy - it did the jpb.
posted by oxidizer at 9:34 PM on November 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


You can purchase your knives back from TSA. Thanks, eBay.
posted by blob at 9:42 PM on November 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm on my second, courtesy of the TSA

After I lost a well-loved SAK to the TSA when I forgot to move it to checked luggage, I started carrying (in my standard carry-on bag) a small padded envelope pre-addressed to myself and enough stamps to mail it with a knife inside. That was about 12 years ago, and I know at least once I've gotten to the security line and realized I needed to mail my SAK home. Just seeing the envelope in the bag when I'm packing usually helps me remember to move the knife. Usually.
posted by NumberSix at 10:03 PM on November 10, 2019 [15 favorites]


Seriously, does anyone ever use the corkscrew?
posted by SPrintF at 10:07 PM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


Of course. Not by preference, but y'know. You must plan your wine drinking better than I do.
posted by biogeo at 10:30 PM on November 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


NumberSix, that is genius.
posted by biogeo at 10:32 PM on November 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


I never leave home without one ... specifically one with a corkscrew. A man must always have the means to open a of bottle wine. It is written somewhere. And tho other methods exist, a proper Swiss Army corkscrew is ALWAYS up to the task.
posted by philip-random at 10:39 PM on November 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


I once started my car and saved myself a tow with the help of my Swiss army knife and my dad's advice via phone! Somehow one of my battery cables had gotten loose enough that my starter wasn't working, I couldn't finger-tighten it far enough, and I didn't have a wrench. My dad asked if I had a pocket knife on me - I felt he had raised me right when I was able to say yes - and then he suggested I try wedging it inside the clamp up against the post to see if that improved the connectivity enough to get the car started. It did! I was able to pull the knife back out, close the hood, and drive home. Found a wrench to tighten the bolt and close up the clamp and never had that particular problem again.
posted by sigmagalator at 10:43 PM on November 10, 2019 [9 favorites]


I couldn’t even tell you how many Victorinox knives I have. At least three regular-size ones with a wide range of tools, in black and in red, and something like six to ten of the teeny tiny ones with the scissors, nailfile, and small blade. I used to work for a specialty advertising firm and the little ones were the easiest sale to clients, so we had crates and crates of them with our company name on them as leave-behinds for salespeople to bring out on their rounds.

Many many years ago I had whatever the most-tooled Victorinox model of the day was. It was like over an inch wide and really too large to easily carry in a pocket.

I used to have a promo-branded Cybertool as described above, not that I recall the branding on it. Wonder how I let that one get away.
posted by mwhybark at 11:03 PM on November 10, 2019


Metafilter: I'm sure I had a purpose when I started typing this.
posted by bryon at 11:52 PM on November 10, 2019 [6 favorites]


Well... I have had actual corkscrews confiscated on more than one occasion. I mean, OK, the foil cutter is almost kinda a knife. And, OK, I've even had a fingernail clipper confiscated because... I guess the nail file thingie was sufficiently knifelike?

Anyway, back to the corkscrew. What kind of horror movie mayhem did they think I was going to do with a corkscrew anyway? I'm impressed by the power of their imagination.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:21 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I just last week replaced a cracked scale and lost toothpick on my swisser. Amazon has the toothpicks (and the scissors and pliers springs!), but I had to send away to England for the red cellulose scales, couldn't find the real replacements anywhere here in the US. Mine is a treasured no longer available model: big blade, small blade, scissors, pliers, big screw driver, small screw driver, toothpick, tweezers, cork screw, come-along hitch, and awl. I used to have one with the saw and agree with an above poster that it was surprisingly useful, built a table with it.
posted by Chitownfats at 1:42 AM on November 11, 2019


Greg Nog: "The better solution, of course, is for the TSA to be abolished."

TSA .... T.S.A...... The Swiss Army

WAKE UP SHEEPLE, THEY ARE SELLING YOUR OWN KNIVES BACK TO YOU
posted by chavenet at 3:15 AM on November 11, 2019 [23 favorites]


I still have the Swiss army pocket knife I received for my 10th? birthday, I also still have the scar on my finger where I sliced off a little bit of my finger tip, while whittling. Knife was promptly confiscated by my parents and returned approximately one year later. I cut myself again, but not as badly, and was allowed to keep the knife.

It's a great little tool to have around.
posted by freethefeet at 3:51 AM on November 11, 2019


The Tinker used to be my every day pocket occupant, for many years. I never used the corkscrew on preceding Swiss knives, and the Phillips screwdriver on the Tinker saw a lot of use. Then I got one of the original Leathermen. Its blade holds an edge much longer than the SAK's. Also, I use pliers much more than anything on the Tinker. When I career-changed to tech writing, I stopped carrying the big Leatherman on my belt, and put a Micra in my pocket. Now, I carry a small Gerber multitool that has pliers. I also carry one of those small fold-up scissors (the all-metal ones, not the bulkier ones with fragile plastic handles). Next year, I might be carrying something different, but it's not likely to be a SAK.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:13 AM on November 11, 2019


Anyway, back to the corkscrew. What kind of horror movie mayhem did they think I was going to do with a corkscrew anyway? I'm impressed by the power of their imagination.

Corkscrew mayhem. (Warning: Lots of violence.)
posted by biffa at 4:15 AM on November 11, 2019


I've carried the small model SAK around on my keyring since bettafish gifted it to me in last Quonsmas, complete with my MeFi handle on the side. I use the blade and the scissors quite a lot. The nail file and the tweezers occasionally. Its been useful enough that my SO noticed and got herself one when we were in Switzerland in the summer. Good choice bettafish!
posted by biffa at 4:18 AM on November 11, 2019


I just know that I got in real trouble when my sergeant in the German army noticed I used a Swiss Army knife instead of the way inferior German knife that we were supposed to carry.
posted by dominik at 4:52 AM on November 11, 2019 [7 favorites]


I still have a Victorinox SAK my dad gave me for my 12th? birthday. I don't think they sell that particular model anymore, but it is most similar to this model. It's thick enough to be impractical to pocket, but it came with a belt pouch as part of the set. Mine doesn't have the pliers and is missing a couple of the widgets on the bottom.

Anyway, I still have it and keep it on my hobby table. I still use the scissors, the file and screwdriver mostly, and occasionally one of the blades to cut packing tape.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:56 AM on November 11, 2019


When I was in Cub Scouts, I was sure a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army Knife was the ultimate pocket knife. Whatever brand (maybe Camillus?) the official Boy Scout pocket knife was, it looked and felt crude and sloppy compared to a SAK. Eventually, after I parted ways with scouting, I did get one, and it is the one that is still usually in my pocket. It has the big blade, small blade, saw, scissors, large flat screwdriver/bottle opener/wire stripper, small flat screwdriver/can opener, reamer, corkscrew, toothpick, tweezers one. I bought it sometime in the early '80s. When I was in the army and in the field, the blades were the highest use tool, followed by can opener, scissors, saw, and tweezers. Since that time, the use pattern has shifted. The scissors probably get the most use, followed by the tweezers, and small blade. I am keenly aware of the lack of lock for the blades, (you may guess why, you will probably be right), so this is not the knife to use if you are going to get all aggressive with your cutting. I have various locking-blade pocket-knives or fixed blade knives, (or axes! saws!, chisels!) if that is called for. I have and use a leatherman too, but the SAK is smaller and more likely to be on hand. the leatherman is a bit too bulky pocket carry and I'm not a fan of having things holstered on my belt.
posted by coppertop at 5:36 AM on November 11, 2019


I'm pretty sure I had a pocket knife of some sort when I was in Scouts, but it's long since been forgotten. Boy Scouts was a bit of a traumatic experience - we were living abroad and I ended up in a troop that was on the local Army base, so the whole demeanor of it was way different than the "arts and crafts" kind of troop I had in suburban New Jersey.

Anyway, I have a few different tools now that I actually have some use for them. I think I like the Leatherman best for all-around utility; it lives in my tackle box and is just the right combination of tools for cutting line, dealing with hooks, etc. For a single, very good blade I agree that the Opinel is the way to go - for the cost (I think mine was only $8) it's a great knife. I also have my grandfather's Swiss Army Knife, but it lives at work and doesn't get much use beyond filing my nails occasionally.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:48 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


My mom gave me a Swiss Army Knife Cybertool for Christmas one year when I was a kid, back in circa 2000-ish...

I bought one at about the same time (IIRC it was advertised in The Register). It saw a lot of use back when computers were metal boxes you could open and mess with. It's still on my desk but is mostly used for opening packages, uncorking bottles and tightening the tiny screw in people's glasses by now.
posted by each day we work at 5:54 AM on November 11, 2019


The cadet alox is in my trouser pocket - thin and small enough to fit in a watch pocket, or to sit on in a back pocket without noticing. I don't think a day goes by that I don't use it for something, even if just to file my nails or open a packet. Other favourites: the explorer (I have one bought in Switzerland in the seventies, and a newer model on my desk which has an inferior magnifying glass), and the compact (smallest model with scissors, which as others have observed are excellent given the size).
posted by nja at 5:55 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think whittling is a required step to advance in the Cub Scouts. I remember lots of chewed up hunks of wood when my grand nephew was a bit younger.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:11 AM on November 11, 2019


I carry a Leatherman Skeletool and a Style PS. The Skeletool was (unofficially) recommended when my B-I-L graduated from fire academy; you can pull it out of your pocket, deploy the (locking) knife, cut yourself free, close it, and put it back away with your eyes closed. The pliers are...well they're pretty fuckin' tough, and the wire strippers will do in a pinch (strong enough for 12ga solid, fine enough for 22ga stranded).

The Style is TSA approved, since it doesn't have a knife. I mostly carry it for the tweezers, which have enough grip to pluck those stubborn ear hairs you suddenly notice right before you go into the big meeting...
posted by notsnot at 6:24 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have carried various SAKs and Leatherman tools, but the tool that never leaves my belt these days is a Milwaukee Fastback II box cutter. Opens and closes with a flick of the wrist, locking blade, spare blade storage, easy blade changes. I'm opening cartons and cutting pallet wrap more than anything else these days, and disposable utility blades (yes, I have an old blade bucket) are just so convenient. Plus, I find myself using my knife in ways (prying this, scraping that) that I wouldn't dream of with a "real" knife, because I know I can replace the blade in seconds and keep going.
posted by xedrik at 6:35 AM on November 11, 2019


I carried a Tinker attached to my keys for many, many years. I think I got it in around sixth grade, so at least from then into my twenties. I still have it in a drawer, but don't carry it (or any other knife/tool) any more. These days I try to keep the stuff in my pockets as minimal as possible, and of course there are all the building security checkpoints that didn't use to exist.

I didn't own a real can opener for a long time (also a twenties thing) and just used the can opener on the knife, until a girlfriend insisted that I buy a user-friendly can opener for her.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 AM on November 11, 2019


Back in the pre-security theater days, I traveled through Europe and Asia with a big SAK—it might have been an Evolution—and had absolutely no problem until I attempted to fly from Mumbai to Agra. The security guy removed it from my backpack, fanned open every tool and blade, separated me from my traveling companion, and solemnly instructed me to follow him while he paraded through the terminal holding it high over his head. We were going to that proverbial little room. I began to sweat.

There he turned me over to someone else who examined my passport and tickets and asked me a few questions before announcing that he would be confiscating the knife but that I could pick it up when I returned. “But after Agra, I’m taking a train to New Delhi,” I protested. “I just have a round trip ticket because it was cheaper than the one-way fare.” Much consultation with other officials ensued. Nervous about missing my flight, I asked if I could go if I left the knife behind. “Don’t you want the knife? Then let us figure out how you can keep it!” Um... ok.

Finally I was informed that I would be able to pick up the knife in Agra, but that it would be going in the baggage compartment separately. I thanked them and left, without much hope of seeing it again. But to my amazement, the first item to come down the conveyor belt to the baggage carousel was my knife, all by itself: not even a bin. It sported a baggage tag and a second tag which turned out to have my name and some instructions describing me and my clothing. I went to grab it but an airport guy stopped me, picked it up, read the instructions, looked me over, confirmed my identity using my passport, and handed it over. And off I went.
posted by carmicha at 7:02 AM on November 11, 2019 [11 favorites]


I got my first Swiss Army knife as a young kid. I remember distinctly cutting my finger with it badly enough to bleed all over the place and not calling my mom because I didn't want her to find out and then take the knife away from me. She of course did find out - that's what moms do - but the knife was not confiscated. I think I've owned one ever since.

"an uncle bought me a Swiss Army Tinker."

Number one best Swiss Army knife because of the exact right size and number of tools and Phillips screwdriver instead of corkscrew.

"Seriously, does anyone ever use the corkscrew?"
"Of course. Not by preference, but y'know. You must plan your wine drinking better than I do."


I work in the wine industry and there's little that suppliers love better than giving away branded corkscrews. I have at least three in my house, one in my truck, one in my desk, and one in my bag that also carries my Swiss Army knife, so ... yeah. No more corkscrews for me.

What I don't have at work is a Phillips screwdriver so I've used the one on my knife to take apart desks and remove arms from office chairs and all that. Maybe busted a knuckle or two along the way but that's better than waiting a few days for maintenance to come take care of some trivial task.

"the tiny scissors are the best nail trimmers I've ever found (traditional nail clippers have always been incredibly uncomfortable for me to use for some reason)."

I agreed with that sentiment for a long time but then I bought the Victorinox nail clipper and it's the best one I've ever used. I mean I know it may not work for you but I recommend it highly for anyone who does use traditional nail clippers.
posted by komara at 7:04 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


The closest I've ever come to losing it entirely was at Turner Field in Atlanta, when they wouldn't let me bring it in. I ended up hiding it in some bushes near the entrance, and fortunately it was still there when I left.

There’s an indoor plant near TSA at my local airport where I’ve stashed my little SAK on several occasions when I forgot to detach it from my key ring and didn’t have time to go back to my car. It’s never the only one hidden there and it’s always been waiting for me on my return.
posted by carmicha at 7:15 AM on November 11, 2019 [10 favorites]


I always have to leave mine at home when i travel by plane, because the TSA will confiscate them.


Don’t worry, citizen: as these are dangerous goods, that are surely immediately destroyed so they do not fall into the wrong hands!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:27 AM on November 11, 2019


I got my first Swiss Army knife as a young kid. I remember distinctly cutting my finger with it badly enough to bleed all over the place and not calling my mom because I didn't want her to find out and then take the knife away from me.

I immediately sliced myself open on mine as well
posted by thelonius at 7:29 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


"I got my first Swiss Army knife as a young kid. I remember distinctly cutting my finger with it badly enough to bleed all over the place and not calling my mom because I didn't want her to find out and then take the knife away from me."

"I immediately sliced myself open on mine as well"


The best part is that I was supposed to have gotten one a year earlier. My aunt bought one intending it as a gift for me and then she cut herself with it and was like, "okay no way am I giving this to a kid."
posted by komara at 7:34 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


and the tiny scissors are the best nail trimmers I've ever found

FWIW: The scissors on the Victorinox Classic ( penknife blade, file, and scissors ) are the best things ever for trimming baby's fingernails. We give them a baby shower gift.
posted by mikelieman at 7:37 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Not to abuse the edit windows: Also, I found the corkscrew to be very good at removing the flow restrictor in the new hand-held shower we bought. Twist it in well, and give it a good pull.
posted by mikelieman at 7:39 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Wenger 16999 Giant Swiss Army Knife is awesome, do not listen to the haters
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:47 AM on November 11, 2019


After I lost a well-loved SAK to the TSA when I forgot to move it to checked luggage, I started carrying (in my standard carry-on bag) a small padded envelope pre-addressed to myself and enough stamps to mail it with a knife inside.

Decades ago, back before 9/11, I was flying to Florida early one morning and the metal detector picked up the spring/bat in the dugout in my pocket, so I said, "Oh, excuse me", skipped over to the UPS Overnight box, tossed it in an UPS envelope, and then passed by the screening without issue. Next day it was delivered on time.
posted by mikelieman at 7:49 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


I genuinely don't want to yuck other people's yum. . . but, I really don't get it. I've had a few Swiss army knives and a leatherman. They're big and heavy and 90% of the tools are things I'd never use. It's basically a needlessly heavy single bladed knife, combined with a really shitty corkscrew and a couple of screwdrivers too big to be useful for any screws I ever encounter. Add a fish-scaler, which I wouldn't know how to use even if I were stranded on a desert island and had to fish to survive, shitty scissors that I always give up on before switching to the knife, unusably bad tweezers, a goofy children's magnifying glass, an awl that isn't sharp or useful. . . and you've got a really heavy knife that costs six times more than a better ordinary knife.

No Swiss army knife has ever lived up to the idea of a Swiss army knife.
posted by eotvos at 8:00 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Well, good job doing the thing you didn't want to do.

They're big and heavy and 90% of the tools are things I'd never use.

It's too bad they only make one model.

Most of the tools on a SAK fall solidly into the close enough is good enough category. They're not as good as the single use article, but they're much better than a tool you don't have with you.
posted by zamboni at 8:23 AM on November 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


I have a keychain-size SAK on my keychain. I get them used on eBay for cheap, probably because of the TSA. I use the toothpick more than I care to admit. I also still have the Swiss Army Camper I got as a kid in Boy Scouts, but my Leatherman Wave gets far more use around the house these days because of the Phillips head screwdrivers and the pliers.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:31 AM on November 11, 2019


Most of the tools on a SAK fall solidly into the "close enough is good enough" category

I have this LED flashlight, right. It's small and I'm not sure about the battery. But when the power goes out, I scramble for it. I have learned, through hard experience, you want the right tool for the right job. A SAK isn't perfect, but it could save your ass one day.
posted by SPrintF at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2019


I used to carry a miniature Swiss Army Knife on my keyring that I'd found at a beach resort that had, inset on one side, the seal of the United States Senate. It was a nice resort, so in my head I'd decided that it was the actual knife of a senator and not something someone bought as a souvenir and lost.

Then I lost it too, and was pretty sad about it.

Later I found another miniature Swiss Army Knife, same model, this one in white plastic with a silver exclamation point on one side. I put that one on my keyring and still have it there.
posted by penduluum at 10:20 AM on November 11, 2019


If anybody ever sees a Swiss Army Knife for sale with an inscription along the lines of "Mt. Titlis, 3,238 metres" would you kindly PM me? My parents brought it back for me from their Europe trip when I was probably 10 or 12 years old. I lost it to the TSA. Years later, it makes me sick to my stomach that I didn't choose the missed flight over the lost knife. I've never been able to find a replacement.
posted by scottatdrake at 10:57 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Former TSA agent here.

TSA doesn't sell the knives - they are actually given to the state that the airport is in. It is my understanding that most states auction them off. So your confiscated knife helps fund the state you are flying out of.
posted by Monday at 11:59 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]


I've carried some model of Victorinox knife basically every day of my life since high school. For a while in the 90s and into the oughts, it was a giant Cybertool34 (hi, biogeo!), which was fat but contained pliers and a driver I could use to disassemble computers easily (which came up surprisingly often).

I flew with these things in my pocket until, obviously, 9/11.

Eventually I realized I was never opening PCs (or, later, RFID equipment) anymore, and switched to the more conventionally-sized Climber (2 blades, scissors, can & bottle opener, awl, corkscrew). I carry it every day, and if I'm traveling for more than a day or two, I check a bag and take it with me.

It's ASTONISHING how often it's useful. I bought I go a day without using it or being asked to use it.

(It's true Leatherman-style tools have more options and are more sturdy, but they're also harder to carry in a pocket -- rough edges wear your pockets, and they look bulky. And I'm 100% not into the Utility Belt look. I keep a full-sized one in the car, though.)

Incidentally, I've done the actual math on this, so I can tell you standard sized Victorinox knives are UK-legal. The limit there is (a) nonlocking and (b) blade < 3".
The weird thing about Swiss army knives is that I don't remember the actual knives being very useful.
I don't understand what this means. I find both blades on mind terribly useful -- boxes, envelopes, threads, hangnails, whatever.

And, @eotvos:
They're big and heavy and 90% of the tools are things I'd never use. It's basically a needlessly heavy single bladed knife,
WAT.
combined with a really shitty corkscrew
You've clearly never used it. It works absolutely fine. I use mine very often. I have no complaints.

Is a Rabbit better? Sure. But the one on my knife is a 100% useful and acceptable corkscrew.
and a couple of screwdrivers too big to be useful for any screws I ever encounter.
You understand, don't you, that a screwdriver need not exactly match the screw head to be useful in a pinch?

The alternative isn't your fifty-pound toolbox. The alternative is not tightening the screw, because you don't happen to have any viable way to do it.
Add a fish-scaler, which I wouldn't know how to use even if I were stranded on a desert island and had to fish to survive,
My guess is if you're stranded in a desert, you'll have a hard time finding a fish.
shitty scissors that I always give up on before switching to the knife,
I use the scissors on my SAK more often than the blades, probably. SUPER useful.
unusably bad tweezers,
Now you're wholly off the charts wrong. I have done all sorts of very useful things with the tweezers on one of my knives, but the king-hell indisputable champ application has been splinter removal. For that, they're better than "nicer" tweezers because of the shape and size of the heads.
a goofy children's magnifying glass, an awl that isn't sharp or useful. . . and you've got a really heavy knife that costs six times more than a better ordinary knife.
Wow, you really haven't touched or used a decently made one, have you? I mean, you're pulling in examples from giant models nobody carries while also complaining about the efficacy of tools that many, many folks on this thread have already declared super useful.

And then you cap it by saying it "costs six times more than a better ordinary knife?" I mean, seriously, LOL. A regular-sized SAK like the one I carry is $28 on Amazon right now. There's no viable sub-$5 single blade I'd trust not to fall apart in a fortnight.
posted by uberchet at 12:16 PM on November 11, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't carry a knife. Whenever I need one, I just take it from my opponent ;)
posted by some loser at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


I just used mine to get the cap off a poorly made bottle as I was reading the thread (the loose cap was just spinning instead of twisting up and cracking the metal ring off, can opener pry a gap, screwdriver and a whack to snap the metal).

I don't think I've ever used the corkscrew for wine, but the local community group has these big marquee stalls with spring loaded locking pins on the legs. You're supposed to pull them out via the attached ring, but when a ring breaks all that's left is an ungrippable nub with a hole in it. So satisfying to just whip the corkscrew out instead of fussing about swapping rings or trying to find string.
posted by lucidium at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


mikelieman: "the metal detector picked up the spring/bat in the dugout in my pocket"

Sorry to pry, but I am genuinely interested to know what it is you are talking about. I mean, it's not a cricket bat, is it?
posted by chavenet at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2019


Sorry to pry, but I am genuinely interested to know what it is you are talking about. I mean, it's not a cricket bat, is it?

No worries. It's a one toke smoking system for marihuana.
posted by mikelieman at 1:53 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Agree with uberchet, the corkscrew works fine (although I find a lot more uses with versions that have a Philips screwdriver in that position). Also, the tweezers - though a poor substitute for the real thing, those on my Leatherman Mini are a useless joke. Plus the awl - again, though no replacement for a real one, I've expanded the range of many a belt with it. Prefer the Leatherman's scissors over any on a SAK, however.

And although I certainly don't have a SAK with a Senate seal I do have quite an interesting variant an acquaintance gave me, in Switzerland: it was floating around with a lot of other loose stuff in her car and when she observed my reaction upon spotting it, said "Keep it." It's Victorinox, a Climber, but it's blue, and stamped with the name "Tela Papierfabrik_Balsthal" - that's a paper factory.
posted by Rash at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2019


For those lamenting the loss of their tools at the hands of the TSA, you might want to check out the Gerber Dime Travel. It's a particularly small multi-tool whose key selling point is that it's TSA-approved because it has no knife. So far I've had a TSA agent question me about it once, and they let me keep it after I pointed out the lack of a knife.

Since I still feel the need to carry a knife, I just keep a separate knife clipped to the inside of my pocket. It's big enough that I'm less likely to forget about it when I'm getting ready to go to the airport, and losing a pocketknife is less of a problem than losing a multi-tool, because a simple pocketknife comparable to the blade on a multi-tool is very cheap to replace.
posted by shponglespore at 2:41 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Mine lives in my toiletry bag that lives in checked luggage and it comes in handy on every trip and is missed sorely whenever I get carried away and think I can manage with hand luggage only.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:47 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


My first pocket knife was one of the SAK Alox models with red aluminum scales. They don't seem to offer the same model any more, as mine had the large and small blades, the nail file, can opener/driver and maybe an awl or something? My grandpa gave it to me when I was about 8 or so, maybe 10ish.

It was a beautiful pocket knife and my likely my first real adult tool that was all mine. I can't recall what happened to it but I know I had it well into my early 20s. I think I may have ended up actually breaking a blade and losing one of the stamped/cast aluminum scales.

I still have the scar on my knuckles from where I did the thing I knew I wasn't supposed to do and by using a pocket knife like a hatchet to chop up some grass where I was mucking about in a field with some friends. I mean I was a boy scout and this is one of the first things they teach in pocket knife safety is that you don't go whacking or prying things with it because it'll cut you.

I remember running home bawling because there was so much blood and I whacked myself deep enough to see the bone and gristle of my knuckles but to be honest it was superficial compared to a really grievous wound.

And I still remember my mom's uncharacteristically exasperated reaction because apparently she'd been waiting for this ever since I got the pocket knife, and her response was "Well, you can go wash it off and put a band aid on it or we can go to the ER and get stitches, your choice." and of course my response was "ER!? NOOOO!" because I knew it would cost a crapton of money but I also suddenly realized it wasn't actually that bad and she was right, all I could really do was get over it and put a bandaid on it or wait for it to stop bleeding.

To this day I haven't freaked out about injuring myself or the sight of my own blood. It's like it crystallized some facet of self care and the first aid I had learned in the Scouts and elsewhere and I had some kind of real world bright line and formative experience.

I also haven't seriously cut myself with a knife since then and that includes working in commercial kitchens. There's a handy scar on my non-dominant hand to remind me to be careful every single time I'm using my knife, like a secret tattoo.


On the pocket knife nerd side of things I don't find SAKs to be useful enough.

They are fine tools and suitable for many who really just want a pocket knife for trimming threads, hangnails, opening boxes or even the occasional bite of cheese and fruit. They're well polished and affordable and won't weigh you down or mess up a nice pair of pants.

And Victorinox is a remarkable company with what appears to be strong ethics and values and a good work culture.

I have used a lot of different tools including Gerbers, SOGs and other arguably higher end quality multitools and after 20+ years I can safely say that Leatherman are really the best in class and field.

Yes, you can go spend small bags full of money on super nice pocket knives by the likes of Kershaw or Benchmade and other interesting tools and pocket toys and bespoke titanium widgets - but the field of companies making practical, affordable do-it-all multitools is actually pretty small and narrow. It is not an easy thing to manufacture reliably in large commodity amounts.

For similar prices for the small keychain SAKs you can get a Leatherman Micra or Squirt that have sharper blades and better tools in a similarly sized package. My Squirt E4 has extremely functional wire strippers and cutters and tiny pliers and they get a lot of use since I frequently work with audio and electronics.

I was carrying a SOG multitool for like 5 years and spent a lot of time justifying it to myself over a more polished Leatherman. "Well, it's tougher... it's mil-spec or something and look at that tacticool black oxide and anodization. The pliers have gear drive and greater gripping and crushing power."

But, no, objectively it's a cruder instrument. The bushings and fit of a SOG definitely sags and wears out faster than a Leatherman Wave. The knives dull and spall/roll sooner. They will actually will rust. The blades don't lock well and are crazy dangerous under load if you're not careful. You also can't open the knives or pliers reliably one handed like a Wave. Even the pliers tend to be more of a hassle to use and don't have the precision control of a Wave.

Even worse, one model of SOG that I had had these doors or scales on the handles covering some of the blades and tools that were barely held on with a friction/pinch fit, to that as soon as you applied any useful pressure or torque on the handles they'd slip off, and trying to apply real working pressure without them was painful. Those beefier, tougher geared pliers were never able to generate their full force because the ergonomics and safety were just not good or as well done as on a Wave.

Eventually I lost that SOG and after a few months of being without a multitool I managed to replace it with a Wave that was on sale at a local B&M for over 50% off, which is a bloody steal. I hadn't had a real Leatherman in a long time besides my keychain one, so I'd forgotten how good they could be. I used to have the original Supertool and some other earlier, less modern models and they were state of the art at the time and remarkable tools.

By comparison the Wave is really and truly a high precision tool. One of the things I love about the Wave is how once they're locked open the pliers function almost exactly like a really nice set of workshop pliers. They don't use a spring because the hinge or joint is so high precision it has just a perfect amount of friction and stiction that makes it very easy to open and close for detailed work without resorting to using a spring at all. The balance and heft on them is really manageable, too, whether doing fine light work or heavier work.

They behave like jeweler's pliers or high end Knipex hand tools, which is really high praise. Knipex makes some of the best pliers in the world.

Another thing I love is how the tools or blades never self deploy or get in the way. The grip on the handles of the Wave when in plier mode is incredibly well done and comfortable with effectively zero hot spots or pain points.

Using the knives is also remarkably easy and comfortable with really positive locks on the blades and easy one-handed opening.

The blades and tools are also extremely high quality. The little scissors in my Wave are tiny, but sharp enough for detailed work, even with cloth and thread. The blades are scary sharp and as long as you don't abuse them cutting wire or anything too abrasive or hard they'll stay scary sharp for years without sharpening because of how they grind and heat treat the blades for this kind of reliability.

Sure, I have some complaints about some of the tool options or design but by and large out of all of the available tools they get it right the most, and to be honest I'm not sure what I could change in the Wave or replace in the tool assortment that wouldn't drastically change ergonomics. It's a heavily refined design after 30+ years of seriously nerdy obsession by Timothy Leatherman and the Leatherman Tool Group. As far as I know Tim is still heavily involved in the design stages of the company and passionately hands on in the company.

I've seen some tours of the Leatherman plant and they also apparently have a healthy work culture like Victorinox, and they use even more advanced production techniques. Much of the work is automated and high precision CAM. Even grinding and shaping blades is robotic, but finer fit and finish work, assembly and QA is manual and very hands on.

I misplaced my Wave recently for a couple of days and it was mildly upsetting. I seem to use it multiple times a day. I've used that tool for some really tough work like cutting heavy fence wire with the notched cutters or sharpening and restoring a rusty axe head with the file and diamond grit face. I can tell that the file could handle doing that job another hundred times and as long as I treated the file well like a proper file, it would happily keep working for years and years.

Another uncommon thing I find myself using a multitool for is handling things, say, blackberry bramble, or the hot grill or grate of a BBQ or fire. Or something extra dirty or greasy, picking up random trash, or, say, handling a dirty bike chain to get it back on the sprockets.

And, of course, opening boxes and packaging. Any given Leatherman blade will readily open cursed plastic clamshells like cutting through butter. It'll also slice a tomato paper thin. Or aluminum can, then a tomato, then more aluminum cans, like some kind of real world Ginzu informercial miracle knife. The serrated knife is perhaps my favorite knife for opening avocados, because it makes a clean cut and then the serrated blade is just long and heavy enough to whack into the seed and extract it cleanly.

I sometimes wish they made affordable fixed blade utility or kitchen knife like an American Morakniv, or just a basic locking one or two blade folder like a SAK. A Leatherman-style santoku kitchen knife would be a beast.

I've deboned a chicken with the blades on my Wave and it didn't even blink at the work. You could conceivably skin and break down a frickin' deer with a Leatherman if you took your time.

Hell, you could whittle a log cabin with a Leatherman if you had a lot of time and some basic carving and joining skills. You can whittle fish hooks, make bark twine and rope, make a firebow or drill, dress game and hides, scrape skins, sharpen tools.

If I was going to take one single modern metal tool into the wilderness to survive and try to start a homestead from scratch with a head start like the Primitive Technologies project, it would pretty much be a Leatherman Wave or Surge if it wasn't going to be a really sturdy fixed bush knife.

Make that a combo of, say, a Leatherman and a solid bush knife and you could have fire and shelter from scratch in a day, fish weirs, spring traps, baskets and some bark twine or rope within a week or two, a more permanent hut in under a month and then be making charcoal and even crude ceramics and stone tools within a month or two.

Sorry for waxing so nerdy about all this especially in a thread about the venerable and respectable SAK. Which, yes, I find is a bit dated but is a fine small tool to have on your keychain or in your pocket. I don't hate it or anything, it just doesn't suit my admittedly complex and rather intense lifestyle and needs.

I don't find myself able to say most of these things about most pocket knives or multitools or even plain old toolbox hand tools like I can my Leatherman, and I find this to be remarkable and I have a lot of strong, positive feelings about it in ways that I don't really have about anything else.

It is a remarkable product and design.
posted by loquacious at 3:12 PM on November 11, 2019 [5 favorites]


And yeah, I'm on my second, courtesy of the TSA.

Would be handy if they just had a bucket - Leave a knife, Take a knife - like the penny dish at the corner market.

But I'm sure it would quickly morph into - Leave a gun, Take a gun.
posted by JackFlash at 5:31 PM on November 11, 2019


a goofy children's magnifying glass

... It's for starting a fire with.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:10 PM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]


OK, Wenger is straight up trash. Victorinox actually knows how to make a knife sharp... not as sharp as cheap chinese knock-offs, but the blade will last a little bit longer before you ruin it trying to sharpen that soft-as-cheese cheap import steel.

They have other blades besides the knife that promises to be able to do things. Like scissors, to snip threads or something, can openers that can't open cans and bottle openers that once you pull it out, the bottle had already been opened. The promise of utility, none of the delivery.

Compare a new Swiss Army Knife with a much cheaper Opinel No. 8 Gardening Knife, in Inox, which is actually a Swedish Sandvik 12C27 stainless alloy, rather than the much cheaper and generic import SAK alloy used by Victorinox. It will reliably cut things for YEARS without so much as a steeling or stropping hone, and cut the wayward thread more cleanly than the little scissors. Also, a beefy beechwood handle to hang onto. If you have access to a belt sander, you can sharpen it easier than any stones.

I haven't even gotten to the Opinel carbon steel No. 8 or the Opinel carbon steel No. 8 Fishing Knife. Much sharper. Or the Carbon Steel lockback Merkatur K55K "Otter". Much sturdier. Or the tool-steel 3.5" Northfield EZ-Open Sunfish Pattern slipjoint which lives in my pocket pretty much everyday I'm not carrying the Opinel No. 8 Gardening. Sturdier and sharper.

I don't need fancy weapons, I need elegant and reliably sharp tools that look better the longer they live in my pocket, and sharpen up nicely when required with a plain old bench sander with fancy belts. I have Amazon packages to open! Loose threads to to trim! Rope to size! Boxes to break down!

Swiss Army Knives are overcomplicated frauds, and have been since I was a kid on his first sleep-away camp so many years ago. Out of the box, they are amazingly sharp. Once you put them to actual work...
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:32 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy, how many toothpicks do the Opinels have? Hah! Yeah, I thought so ...
posted by Chitownfats at 2:13 AM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was just contemplating turning into a thread-spoiling curmudgeon when eotvos and slap*happy made their points. Sak, big heavy, clumsy, hard to open, dangerous to close, packed with half-useful, cramped 'tools'. What I hate most about them is that the promise of something nifty is so woefully betrayed. They are a disappointment, like, I don't know, the eventual taste of strawberries to someone who grew up in mango country.

Though I think its possible the usefulness or not of the sak correlates with the size of your hands and the size and sturdiness of your pockets. I've never had a problem keeping nifty little tools on hand, but having them all clumped together decreases their usefulness by about 80% for me. Chitownfats, you'd bring a metal spike in contact with your tooth enamel? That idea scares me.

I got my son (at 12?) an opinel for a birthday once, which didn't go down very well at school. "well what did you bring a knife to school for?" "whittling, sir" At the time, and it's not much more than 20 years ago, my thinking was He's a boy; boys have knives. Times change eh. Another thing I got him once was one of those credit card multi-tools. Now there's nifty.
posted by glasseyes at 3:42 AM on November 12, 2019


you'd bring a metal spike in contact with your tooth enamel?

This makes me wonder how much you've actually used a SAK. The toothpicks have never been metal. (I always wondered why the toothpick was that weird off-white color- it turns out that before 1960, they were made from ivory.)
posted by zamboni at 6:05 AM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


Victorinox actually knows how to make a knife sharp... not as sharp as cheap chinese knock-offs,
I do not think your argument here is strong.

I've had Victorinox knives for years. I use them often. I don't have a problem with them keeping an edge. It's possible my redneck origins regarding knife maintenance and care are helping, but the V. knives definitely hold an edge for me better than most knives I've had.

Also, reading deeper into your comment, it sounds like Victorinox knows much more about making and keeping a knife sharp than you do.
They have other blades besides the knife that promises to be able to do things. Like scissors, to snip threads or something, can openers that can't open cans and bottle openers that once you pull it out, the bottle had already been opened. The promise of utility, none of the delivery.
This is way more ideological than factual. Those tools on my knife get regular use.

Lots of dudes are REALLY REALLY INTO justifying big stabby single-blade locking knives instead of any more utilitarian option. Sometimes they construct elaborate scenarios about how SAKs aren't useful, or are silly toys, or some other hokum, to justify carrying much larger locking blades with no additional utility at all.

These arguments are never especially convincing.

(Oh, and not for nothing, but an Opinel No. 8 is *illegal* to carry in the UK, given its locking, 8.5cm blade.)
sharpen up nicely when required with a plain old bench sander with fancy belts
Jesus christ. My grandfather just spun in his grave.
Swiss Army Knives are overcomplicated frauds
Sak, big heavy, clumsy, hard to open, dangerous to close,
I laughed, and then saw...
Chitownfats, you'd bring a metal spike in contact with your tooth enamel? That idea scares me.
This line alone makes it very, very clear that glasseyes has only a very limited exposure to Victorinox knives, though this does not in any way, apparently, get in the way of his categorical dismissal thereof.

posted by uberchet at 6:22 AM on November 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Unless I'm flying anywhere, my handbag always contains the Victorinox German Army knife I bought some time in the 1980s. It's a nice solid, useful little thing, and the corkscrew and bottle opener have seen a lot of use. The saw attachment is also very handy for trimming the branches on Christmas trees.
posted by Fuchsoid at 6:47 AM on November 12, 2019


OK, Wenger is straight up trash. Victorinox actually knows how to make a knife sharp

Yeah, some of these comments. As Victorinox and Wenger are now part of the same company, I think this is a bit of hyperbole.

I always carry around the same Wenger SAK that my dad gave me back in the 80's, the old version of the Tinker that had a saw and a knife instead of two knives. It has a phillips screwdriver instead of a corkscrew, which while not the most ergonomic screwdriver to use, has gotten me out of many scrapes over the ears. The knife blade and little saw are still sharp despite 30 years of much use. The can opener has opened countless cans while camping. The only thing I have never liked about it are the stupid little scissors, which have always have had a tendency to jam instead of spring back open.

I have also have a Victorinox SwissTool that by dad gave me back in the 90's. That thing is awesome and really is a pocket toolbox. Still works flawlessly after all these years.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2019


I ended up buying a SAK as a general-purpose knife before going on a camping trip. Usually I go with friends who have lots of knives and other cutting implements but this time around it was just me taking my nephew. I borrowed a saw from a friend and between the two I was fine for all of my cutting needs. Afterwards as I now had a SAK I kept it in my bag and it has proved to be quite useful for all kinds of mundane things. The tweezers are great at digging in to your skin and pulling out splinters.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:10 AM on November 12, 2019


but the tool that never leaves my belt these days is a Milwaukee Fastback II box cutter.

Somewhere I have a super cheap Husky Home Depot Special that's a box cutter on one side and a really basic half serrated bog standard leaf locking pocket knife on the other.

I don't open enough boxes or cut enough random stuff like string or wire to justify carrying it around but the choice between a box cutter/utility knife blade and a regular pocket knife was a winner for warehouse or stage work, any time you needed to cut a whole lot of things like zip ties or gaff tape. I do bring it out when I have projects to do, like an art installation or stage work.

But the main reason I really keep it around is that at some point I randomly took it to a pro knife sharpener who had a van or truck at a farmer's market and I didn't realize I was in the presence of an artist and a wizard.

And it was odd that he wasn't... what you would expect. He wasn't an old grey or grizzled feller that you'd expect to be running a sharpening business, this guy was younger and basically prime San Francisco lumbersexual hipster. He looked like he was a luthier that made fiddles and violins out of extremely expensive bookmatched hardwoods, and maybe he did. He was using some pretty modern looking powered benchtop tools, not oiled stones or leather strops but grinders and high tech brightly colored polishing belts.

He didn't even blink when I handed him that cheap piece of crap and just said comforting things like "Oh, sure, I can fix this right up and correct that factory bevel, put a nice heel and slope on it so it stays sharp longer..." and off he goes to the grinder, throws just a few sparks, steps over to a set of polishing and sharpening belts and runs through them, coarse to fine.

And barely 60 seconds later he hands it back to me and charges me something silly like 2-3 bucks. I look at the knife and the edge now looks like a high end Benchmade or Kershaw or something. I can't even see the edge at all in bright sunlight and instead of the steep, axe-like one-side cheap bevel grind both sides now have a profile that looks more like a high end chef knife.

"How's that look?" He asked rhetorically, but smiling and friendly. Confident but not egotistical.

"It's... fucking beautiful. Wow, how the hell did you do that so fast!?" I remember exclaiming, testing the edge on a thumbnail and feeling no burrs or drag at all. I still suck at sharpening knives but I know what a good job looks like and I was looking at it.

And I'll be damned if that thing couldn't cut paper thin flakes of sashimi if I had any fish to cut. It slipped through an old tomato like I was waving it through fog. It would also part thick zipties like a hot knife. It was glorious.

For the next five years or so every time I let someone borrow that knife they almost all exclaimed "Holy crap this knife is sharp. Why is your cheap piece of crap pocket knife so damn sharp?" and I'd have to explain that some kind of wizard blessed it and did crazy knife wizard magic to it.

I never saw that guy again, and every time I've had someone sharpen a knife for me ever since I've been more than a little disappointed. That guy was so good I wish I knew where he was so I could mail him stuff to sharpen.
posted by loquacious at 12:35 PM on November 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


While I have a Leatherman Squirt that I keep for all manner of random tasks, I usually leave the cutting blade alone. For that, I still reach for my UtiliKey, which I bought 20 years ago and have never had confiscated from my keyring.

The straight blade is a bit dull now, but combined with the serrated middle it's absolutely perfect for getting a cut started and then slicing through something. And it's always right with me.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:52 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


There’s an indoor plant near TSA at my local airport where I’ve stashed my little SAK on several occasions when I forgot to detach it from my key ring and didn’t have time to go back to my car. It’s never the only one hidden there and it’s always been waiting for me on my return.

I'm waiting for someone to tell the story of the time they went to hide their pocketknife in an airport planter near security and found a little cache of other people's pocketknives, sewing scissors, and nail files there.
posted by pykrete jungle at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2019


Also, I have always been impressed with the blades on the Victorinox scissors. I remember the old Wenger scissors being oddly serrated, but with a much neater and less fragile-looking spring.
posted by pykrete jungle at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Wenger scissors ARE weird and very definitely less effective despite (because of?) the serration.

The Victorinox spring absolutely will get cattywompus if you're not careful with it, but the good news is that it's replaceable, and you get a better tool in the bargain.

What surprises me about Victorinox:

1) They don't offer a "recondition your old knife" program. I mean, get they're cheap -- or, at least, the ones that live in pockets are pretty cheap -- but it'd be neat to be able to send it in and have it disassembled, cleaned, professionally sharpened, worn elements replaced, etc., instead of just getting replacing the whole thing if you (for example) broke a blade or whatever.

2) They don't have a "design your own" program, wherein the buyer selects "slices" to assemble into their own bespoke configuration. I think Leatherman experimented with this a while back, but when I looked into it, the options were limited.
posted by uberchet at 7:26 PM on November 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


I just unpacked my Tinker SAW after a residential move and was reminded of the tweezers.

Popped it out, noticed the discoloured tip - <memory:small smile> - roach holders. When you're a teen, you don't want to be wasting weed.
posted by porpoise at 7:37 PM on November 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


(No comment.)
posted by uberchet at 7:09 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had a Wenger Angler since the late 70s. The scissors weren't serrated, but they were absolute shit: The blades were held together by a screw that came loose immediately upon use. I kept it together (literally) for about 35 years, until the very first time I loaned the knife to someone (my beloved son!) He broke the scissors and hid the screw and detached blade. When the TSA confiscated it shortly thereafter, it was a liberating release from poor design and filial impiety.

He will never be allowed to touch my Leatherman Juice CS4. My will dictates that it be donated to a worthy maker space.
posted by whuppy at 8:41 AM on November 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


My dad the scoutmaster and consummate outdoorsman still has the original Mini Leatherman in a little belt pouch. The guy who designed the original tool and set up the company was literally named Tim Leatherman. The knife blade has been sharpened to hell and gone, and is considerably diminished, but the tool entire is still hanging in there. A few drops of machine oil every other year... this is a good tool. Also, he can take the tool apart and replace the blade if he wants to.

SAK's are bad slipjoints with worse gimmicks. W.R. Case can get you a prettier slipjoint knife with better steel and more durable plastic scales. Any Leatherman or Gerber brand multi-tool will be more expensive, but reliable for decades of hard, hard use.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:34 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


And tho other methods exist, a proper Swiss Army corkscrew is ALWAYS up to the task.

and then, what should pop up on my Facebook but the French Army Knife!
posted by philip-random at 9:04 AM on November 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Tool-obsessed thoughts

I've got a scar on my thumb from when I was 8 from trying to cut an apple with a non-locking blade.

I regularly carried a swiss army knife and thought nothing of it pre-9/11.

My most treasured ship gift from my job is my microsoft portable media center (a precursor to the zune!) cybertool. Since they're still in production I recently bought a spare to leave at work. It's got a torx bit!

Recently I'm collecting no-knife multi-=tools for upcoming trips - Japan's got super-strict rules about knives so I just want scissors and a bottle opener. Maybe pliers? I go through phases of portable tool obsession...
posted by temancl at 11:17 PM on November 15, 2019


I regularly carried a swiss army knife and thought nothing of it pre-9/11.

I went through airport security with a swiss army knife many, many times (domestic and international) from the 1980s into the 2000s. It was almost never an issue, but once in a while they would insist that it be placed in my carry-on, as if that was somehow more secure than being in my pocket. I can remember people with larger hunting knives having to hand them over; the knives would be given to the cabin staff for safekeeping and returned upon arrival.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:07 AM on November 16, 2019


Recently I'm collecting no-knife multi-=tools for upcoming trips

Please share? I have need of these.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:03 PM on November 21, 2019


« Older “You people...”   |   I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments