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We all know what a Swiss Army Knife is don't we? The phrase has passed into common usage now as 'something with many uses'. But did you know that the Swiss Army actually get their knives from two different companies and they buy exactly the same number from each so as to be completely impartial?
One of these companies - Victorinox - have been supplying their national army with what they call 'officer's knives' since 1897 and have produced hundreds of different varieties of knife with countless variations of fold out attachments over the decades. They've adapted with the passing of years too as any good company must. Gone is the thing-for-getting-stones-out-of-horses-hooves and in has come a USB data stick attachment on some models with others having up to thirty-three different blades.
Mine has just eight and it's called the Victorinox Climber. It's approximately three and a half inches long, one inch wide and half an inch thick. It's the lovely red of the Swiss flag with a silver shield / flag motif embossed in it. It's a quality item that I've had for about fifteen years now and it's never let me down once. It was a gift so I've no idea how much it cost back they but now (Sept 2013) this particular model will set you back about thirty pounds.
They say that officially it has fourteen different functions and I reckon that over the years I've used them all, so let's see...
1 - There's a key ring hook on the end of the Climber. I actually have a big loop of string attached to mine through this so that I can tie it onto a loop inside my rucksack for security.
2 - It has a large blade of about two and a half inches. It's a serious fold-out straight knife and I've hacked at lots of things with it.
3 - When you require a little more finesse there's a smaller knife blade. This one's just over one and a half inches long. Like the bigger blade, it's very sharp.
4 - I know that even quality bottles of wine have screw tops these days, but I have used the corkscrew attachment quite a few times and I'm sure I will again. Better to be prepared than go thirsty.
5 - There is a small pair of sprung scissors. The spring is great as it means you can operate them with one hand and they'll spring back to the open position. These are excellent for cutting card, paper, cloth or fingernails but nothing any thicker than that.
6 - The can opener is a little clumsy but it does work in an emergency. You just clip it over the edge of your can of beans or whatever and work your way around the top of it, cutting with a see-saw action. It's a bit of a faff but it does what it's supposed to eventually.
7 - On the end of the can opener is a very small flat screwdriver head which does the job adequately.
8 - There's a bottle opener which has over the years probably been used more than any other attachment on the knife! It's a simple but useful tool.
9 - On the end of the bottle opener is a flat screwdriver blade quite a bit larger than the previous one. This is about a quarter inch across and I've used it successfully on several occasions.
10 - This same bottle opener attachment has a notch in it for stripping the insulation from around wires. I've only used this a couple of times (when fitting new plugs) but it was easy to use and I'm glad it's there.
11 - One of the blades is called a 'reamer'. I had to ask my dad what this was for! He said that it's for sewing through leather. Hmmm, I can't see there being much of a call for that these days. To me it's a stubby but really chunky sharp-bladed awl for punching through things. It has a hole in it (which is presumably related to the sewing idea) but to me it's just a spike for ramming through things, which it does very well indeed.
12 - There's a metal hook on a spike that's almost two inches long. This was the final thing that I hadn't used until very recently and yet when I came to need it the hook was the perfect tool for the job. It's difficult to explain but there was a string stuck in a little gap where my fat fingers couldn't reach. I stuck the hooky-thing into the gap and it neatly snagged the string. Brilliant. They also say that you can use it to carry a parcel that's tied up with string. Just loop the hook into the string and carry it by the body of the knife. I get the idea but again, parcels tied with string? In Victorian days, maybe.
13 - In the picture above you might just be able to see a grey blob beside the key ring loop? That's the head of a small pair of tweezers that ingeniously slide out of the knife's body. They're great for removing splinters but that's about it - although I once used them to pluck out a particularly annoying and wiry nose-hair too.
14 - Finally, inset into the body of the knife on the other side from the tweezers is a toothpick. I never knew that I needed one until I got this. Obviously, unlike the rest of the knife, this is one implement that you can't share with others but it's useful nonetheless.
So that's it, that's what's in my Victorinox Climber Swiss Army Knife. After fifteen years it's still going strong and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I'd heartily recommend that every grown-up should have one but take a look at the full range before deciding which model's right for you.
You may be that person who rides their horse over stony ground.
I take my Swiss Army Knife almost anywhere, because before I bought it and after I would be in a situation where this master-piece of Victorinox could have saved the day, and I just stood there wondering why I didn't take it.
As you can see from the photo above it has one very large knife almost the same length as the pocket knife itself. The Swiss Army Knife has another smaller knife pretty much identical to the first but smaller. These two knifes are useful when you are out camping and you need to cut something or if you just need to cut anything. It also comes with a bottle opener and a can opener which is, like I said before, just handy to always have with you, even in the house. Another handy piece of equipment that the pocket knife has is a good, sharp scissors for cutting things like paper or cardboard.
If you like fishing this might be handy(don't know a lot about fishing) because it has a fish hook. There are two more i think i should mention. One are the tweezers and the awl. If you look closely to the picture above you will see that there is a small grey spot above the hanger at the bottom which are the tweezers. I don't really know where they would come in handy but you never know. And lastly it has a awl. You don't find many awls around anymore, mainly because in the old days people made their own belts or towns had each a person who would make belts, but these days we buy them after they are made from factories. Awls are used to make holes in belts and other things like making holes in wood or marking wood, but these are very handy if you want to make a hole in a specific place on a belt.
Swiss Army Knifes like this one don't cost that much but I don't advise you to get a very expensive one unless you are getting it for a specific reason like because you are in the army.