Monday, November 28, 2011

Swiss Army Knives

There can't be anything more practical than a Swiss army knife, yet this utilitarian device has more design than the average car, having been developed over many years to fit the functionality required by those who need to survive outdoors.

The History of the Swiss Army Knife

As with many things, the development of the Swiss army knife was driven by necessity. The Swiss army in the late 1880's required a folding pocket knife with not just a blade, but a screwdriver (for assembly of rifles), a can opener and reamer. These early examples were designated Modell 1890, which was originally produced by the Wester & Co. company in Germany as there was no production capacity available in Switzerland.

Photo Credit
In 1891, Karl Elsener, surgical equipment manufacturer was awarded the contract from the Swiss army to produce the Modell 1890 knife and came up with a number of innovations, namely attaching tools to both sides of the knife which allowed twice the amount of tools to be attached and also springs were used to keep all of the attachments in place - a serious innovation at the time which stopped sharp blades from moving out of position on worn models.

In 1921 the Elsener company, now renamed Victorinox started using stainless steel for all attachments, which was a real revelation for soldiers out in the field (who were getting wet all of the time). This meant that the knives could be in effect maintainence free, a great time saver.

Competition for the Swiss Army Knife

In 1893, another player entered the market in the form of the Wenger company. Wenger started to produce folding 'Swiss army knives' of a similar quality, so the Swiss government split the contract for supply of these knives between the two companies. This had the effect of increasing competition in the production of these knives.

Manufacture of the Swiss army knife continued throughout the two world wars, with the knife being a particular favourite with US sodiers, who anglicised the original name 'Schweizer Offiziersmesser' (Swiss Officer's Knife).

Design Features of the Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army Knife has been extended over the years with a number of tool combinations to cater to specific tasks. Everything from toothpicks to fish hook extractors are regular features on Swiss army knives and as modern developments happen the Swiss army knife gets developed to make the soldier or outdoor enthusiasts life that little bit easier.

Recent inclusions on Swiss army knives have been such things as laser pointers, USB flash crives and even bluetooth. The Wenger company have also, since 2006 produced the 'Giant' model knife, which has every tool that the company has ever produced on it. This unwieldy monster doesn't exactly qualify as a 'pocket knife', however it is a real demonstration of design and innovation.

Trek King is a well established specialist outdoor retailer offering a wide range of survival gear and Swiss army knives