I had to stop at the Victorinox booth at SHOT Show 2014. Dontrese Brown was assembling Victorinox Swiss Army Knives! Integral to the construction of a knife is the special mechanical press that mates the component parts together. Only two of these special presses exist: one in Europe and one in the United States. Both are for demonstrating how a Victorinox knife is built. Obviously, production knives are made on large industrial machines.
Brown, who is actually a creative director for the Victorinox company, said he began learning how to build the knives for events and shows about two years ago. He told me he made nearly 500 knives before he was able to assemble one that he would actually give to someone. The process looks simple, but it takes some practice to ensure the parts are fitted properly.
Key to the operation is the press where the knives are constructed from the bottom up by hand. Brass pivots and pins are placed in the jig. Components such as dividers, backsprings, and blades (to include corkscrews, scissors, punches, awls, pliers, and such) are layered into the jig and press fit together in steps.
When the layers for the particular model of knife are completed, the brass pins and pivots are trimmed and capped. The caps are peened to secure them. Plastic handle scales fit over the end dividers and caps. Brown used the pressure of a vise to mount the signature red handle scales to the knife. He inserted a toothpick and tweezers to finish the new Victorinox Swiss Army Knife.
I found the process extremely interesting. I have owned Victorinox Swiss Army Knives for decades and I always seem to run across one in a backpack, shaving kit, or drawer. My preference has always been to the Victorinox brand, but some folks prefer Wenger’s version of the SAK. What is the difference? I found this interesting tidbit on Wenger’s website:
“The company from which Wenger emerged had been a supplier to the Swiss Army as early as 1893, and its sister-company, Victorinox, since 1890. Wenger is in the French-speaking Jura region and its competitor is in the German-speaking canton of Schwyz. To avoid friction between the two cantons, the Swiss Government decided in 1908 to use each supplier for half of its requirements. So Victorinox can lay claim to being the “original”, Wenger can state its Swiss Army Knives are “genuine”. In any case, both have been manufacturing Swiss Army Knives for over 100 years and both must meet identical specifications defined by the Swiss Army.”
All good to know…