Pictured above is the first knife I ever owned. After more than 30 years I’m proud to say that I still own it; A true testament to the enduring quality of the Swiss Army Knife! The Swiss Army Knife is one of the most recognizable pocket knives globally, but did you know that it was initially intended to be used by officers in the Swiss army?
The Swiss Armed Forces VICTORINOX manufacturer announced that its multipurpose folding knife has now celebrated its 125th anniversary. The peculiar thing about this knife is that it has hardly changed since its creation. In this post I will discuss the origins and uses of the legendary Swiss Army Knife (SAK). I currently have five in my collection but am always on the lookout for excuses to pick up more.
Origins of the Swiss Army Knife
Initially designed for soldiers, it all began in 1891 when Karl Elsener created a simple knife with a single blade and an anvil. At the time, Swiss troops were informed they would no longer receive bayonets with their rifles. To compensate, the government suggested another blade could serve as a “small help.” Karl Elsener created an all-purpose knife with a sword and an anvil, which Swiss soldiers soon used to open canned food and bottled drinks. And that’s how the famous army knife was born; we find it today in many forms: multi-tools, diving knives, and scissors.
The iconic symbol of Victorinox (and the entire country) has become one of the best-known pocket knives in history. This year, the company is marking its 125th anniversary with a special edition called “125 years – Heritage.”
Karl Elsener was not only well known for designing the world’s most popular folding knife (the Swiss Army Knife), but he also shaped his region’s cutlery industry, set up a company that helped make Switzerland known to the world, and created a brand that is part of everyday life.
Karl Elsener was born in 1855 in Ibach, Switzerland. He inherited his father’s cutlery business at age 17 and renamed it “Victoria.” Though he had no formal education, he taught himself to design and craft knives and other edged tools using modern production methods such as stamping steel blanks instead of hand forging every piece. By the time he was 28 years old, Elsner was able to take over his father’s factory and begin expanding its product line with innovative products such as the Swiss Officer’s and Sports Knife (1884) – later renamed “the Original Swiss Army Knife.”
The Original Swiss Army Knife quickly became popular after supplying the Swiss army with knives in 1891. Elsener designed a simple knife with a single blade and an anvil, which Swiss soldiers soon used to open canned food and bottle drinks (and is still offered in military models today). The United States’ recent entry into World War I gave the Swiss cutlery industry its first economic foothold in America. American officers serving in Europe fell in love with Elsener’s Original Swiss Army Knives and began stocking them for their personal use upon returning home. At the end of WWI, American soldiers were allowed to bring home souvenirs from Europe. Many chose Elsener’s Swiss Officer’s Knife (later renamed the “SwissChamp”).
The Swiss army knife was very popular with American soldiers in World War II, who continued to bring it home when they returned at the end of the war. Companies began importing the product to America. Elsener’s company successfully markets its growing product line overseas- giving rise to an international presence for the Swiss Army Knife. By the late 1950s, Swiss soldiers were no longer issued an official pocketknife because they had access to other equipment that could do all that their knives could conceivably perform. However, they no longer needed their famed “Swiss Army Knives,” so these became available on commercial markets without their bayonets.
In 1908, Karl Elsener’s son, Carl Elsener II, took over the business and gave it a new name: “Wenger.” Unfortunately, Karl died less than a year after his retirement at age 65. In 1921, Wenger modified their knives to include a second blade for nail-nicks that allowed the knife to be opened with one hand using either the thumb or index finger. This improvement enabled these kinds of knives to be sold commercially since nails were no longer caught in the blades as they had been previously. In addition to this modification, Wenger also developed other non-military applications for their knives, including corkscrews and wood saws – but none of these were used by soldiers, so they were sold only to the public.
Today, many different companies produce Swiss Army knives and other pocket knives worldwide using blades made by Victorinox (a subsidiary company of Wenger). The Swiss Army Knife has gone through several significant design changes since its invention in 1897 and now comes with 34 tools including knives, screwdrivers, can openers, corkscrews, and pliers. It has also inspired similar knife designs such as Boy Scouts, fishers, and hikers. In addition to the Swiss Army Knife-inspired models designed for sport enthusiasts, it is estimated that there are more than 1 million varieties of folding knives worldwide. Even though these knives come in different shapes and sizes, they all fall under the category of multipurpose pocket knives.
The Swiss Army Knife has become one of the most popular knives due to its versatility and durability. Victorinox was able to turn what was once just an essential knife into a collection of valuable tools that can meet all sorts of specific outside needs by designing it with the multifunctional tools that campers, sailors, soldiers, and cowboys needed. People who enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing find this particular model efficient. It has so many different uses, like cutting rope or opening up canned food cans, making them perfect for anyone on the go. Swiss army knives are incredibly durable choosing high-quality materials designed to last years- even decades; these pocketknives are preferred by many over larger knives that require a sheath because they can be worn around the neck or on a belt – making them more convenient to use. In addition, these multipurpose pocket knives are more versatile than standard fixed blade knives because they have blades and tools attached to a handle held in one hand.
In 1895, Saul Schweizer created what was known as “the world’s first Swiss Officer’s Knife” and then developed it into its modern-day form: the famous Swiss Army knife. The original model of this knife had only three removable parts with only one blade. Still, there are hundreds of different types used by all sorts of people for sporting purposes and other worthwhile activities like cutting string, opening bottles and envelopes, etc.
Swiss Army Knives Today
Today, Victorinox manufactures about 2 million knives per year where they have become the world’s leading manufacturer of pocket knives. The company is currently run by Carl Elsener III, who oversees all Swiss Army Knife operations. On average, each person in Switzerland owns 2.5 pocketknives which amount to more than 15 million pieces held throughout the country since these knives are now mass-produced for commercial use and personal ownership. There are over 260 employees working at Wenger and about 127 people employed at Victorinox, where they produce more than 50 different types of pocket knives.
Uses of Swiss Army Knife
As the name suggests, this multipurpose tool is used for different purposes. This article will tell you about the uses of Swiss Army knives.
A Swiss army knife is a pocket knife or multi-tool with different tools such as pliers, screwdrivers, and cutters attached to it that can be folded into its handle. The tools are stored in the grip of the blade and are fit into their respective slots with the help of an integrated spring mechanism. Different types of sturdy locking mechanisms are used to secure each tool inside its slot when folded.
Difficulties can arise while performing specific tasks if you do not own a Swiss army knife due to limited tools available in everyday items like keychains. Swiss army knife comes in different shapes and sizes and can be used for almost any purpose. It is an essential tool to carry around to perform simple tasks in life.
Day-to-Day Purposes of the Swiss Army Knife
Here is a list of various purposes in day-to-day life:
- Self-Protection: Multi-tools such as the Swiss Army Knife come useful when you are out camping or hiking or just exploring new places. You never know when you might need its services, so it’s better to keep one with you all the time.
- As a Hammer: The small plier can also be used as a hammer! There have been many instances where people have used it while going on a hike for this purpose only.
- To Open Cans: It can be used to open cans as well. The knife attached with the tool is sharp enough for this purpose efficiently. Once you have opened the can, the screwdriver at the back of the Swiss army knife also comes in very handy.
- For Cutting Things: It has a separate blade that can cut smaller objects. This tool is handy if you are out camping or hiking and might need to use it for cutting clothes like rope etc.
- As a Spoon or Fork: There are two small blades present on both sides of the Swiss Army Knife, which makes it perfect for eating your packed lunch while exploring new places.
- As a Toothbrush: You can use the toothpick to clean your teeth when you out camping or hiking.
- For Cutting a Seatbelt: In an emergency, when you are in a car and need to cut the seat belt to get out of the vehicle quickly, then Swiss Army Knife can be used for this purpose.
- For Scraping: The small knife attached with the Swiss army knife can also be used for scraping. After eating it, connect the blade with a plier and scrape it off if you have any food left. This way, you will not waste anything.
- To Open a Bottle of Wine: The small knife attached to the Swiss Army Knife is perfect to open a bottle of wine while camping or just exploring new places. You can also use it for opening beer bottles. Some models actually have a corkscrew feature built in.
- As an All-Purpose Tool: It fits in your pocket due to its small size, making it very convenient to carry. This is why the Swiss army knife is considered the most versatile tool.
- To Open a Bottle Cap: Swiss army knife can also be used to open a bottle cap in case you find an empty bottle of something, or instead, there are no nearby shops that sell things like bottle openers.
- For Sewing on a Button: The needle that comes along with the Multi-tool is helpful if you need to sew on a button somewhere.
- As a Ruler: The ruler at the back of the Swiss army knife helps measure small items accurately. Use it as you would use an ordinary ruler.
- To Cut a Rope or String: The wire cutter attached to a Swiss army knife can be used as a wire cutter as well as for cutting ropes.
- As a Screwdriver: You can use the Philips head screwdriver, which comes along with the multi-tool to fix loose screws on furniture.
Swiss Army Knifes come as a perfect solution because of the size and storage options it provides. You can keep it in your pocket so that you always have it with you when needed. The Swiss Army Knife with its rich history, multitude of options, and timeless design has been a staple everyday carry item for generations. Everyone should carry a Swiss Army Knife or at least own one or ten in their collection!