The Swiss Army knife
The modern Swiss army knife dates back to 1891, when Victorinox founder
Karl Elsener began supplying the Swiss army with knives made in Switzerland,
previous army blades having been manufactured in Germany. The original
wooden-handled knife featured a blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and
a punch, but Elsener didn't really hit his stride until 1897, when he
invented an officer's version that used a special spring mechanism to
enable more utensils to be added without increasing the size of the handle.
In 1908 the Swiss army decided to split the contract, with half the order
going to Victorinox, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and the
other half to a firm run by rival cutlery maker Theodore Wenger, headquartered
in a canton where everybody spoke French. They claim they did this in
the interest of national harmony, but they may have also figured a little
competition would keep the price down, and they were right. Today swiss
army knives are a lot more affordable.
A Swiss Army Knife, often abbreviated "SAK" by knife aficionados,
is a useful multifunction tool. It is a small knife with many other tools,
possibly including a toothpick, scissors, serrated knife, tweezers, can
opener, and screwdriver. These are folded into the handle of the knife
and are unfolded for use. Many different types of Swiss army knives are
available, but not all are genuine.
There are two Swiss
Army knife manufacturers, Victorinox and Wenger; they supply about 50,000
knives to the Swiss army each year. The rest of production is devoted
to exports, mostly to the United States. Victorinox and Wenger SAKs can
be immediately distinguished by their logos; the Victorinox cross is surrounded
by a shield with bilateral symmetry, while the Wenger cross is surrounded
by a slightly rounded diamond with quadrilateral symmetry.