Thursday, July 22, 2010

10 Reasons I Love the Victorinox Swiss Classic, plus a longwinded, wandering anecdote.

For some reason when the idea for this post materialized, I felt I needed to post about the fact that it was going to be a post, maybe more as a public reminder to myself to confess my love for the little Swiss toolbox. I said:
"I used to resent all of the old men who'd come into the shop I used to co-run, looking for toothpicks for their damn beloved Swiss Classics. Well, maybe I'm more mature now, but I finally understand the indelible love for the tiny red folder."

Yep, a couple weeks has passed and that still sums it up succinctly. Long ago, as a younger man...(cue misty-eyed daydream music)

In spring, 1999, I left my beloved job among friends at the world's best independent video store (Seattle-ites, you ALL know the best feature of Roosevelt Way, no, not the abandoned Tubs building), only to be working a stressful, temporary agency customer service position in Bellevue, WA, for a company that rhymes with, "Spicro-Loft". This was before the behemoth moved all of their CS call center jobs to India, f***ers...Anyway, my girlfriend worked there and had some senority, and the money was good. But I hated it. I hated the smell, I hated my coworkers (most of them) and the management were all despicable. On top of all that, I'm not a mega-tecchy guy. I mean, obviously I get around the web without a training mouse, but technical stuff, nuh-uh, not me. So, after a couple months, I got up, stretched, farted loudly and put my keycard badge on my desk, and left. I later came back to pick up my girlfriend, who was starting to wonder where rent was gonna come from.
So, the next day I went to the mall, a pile of resumes in hand, on expensive paper. I needed to blow off steam, I needed to spend that last $80 in my pocket...I needed a knife. Another. Knife.
Well, I left with my money in tact and a slightly hopeful twinkle in my eye. I'd spoken with a man who was to be my mentor and friend at times, and the bane of my existence at others. I started working at the cutlery shop full time, for peanuts, but the pace was nice, the mall-girls cute, and I was surrounded by blessed steel. I eventually took over assistant manager duties until leaving in 2003. Now, an every day occurrence was older gentlemen coming in, first thing after opening, setting their coffee on the counter and launching into Grandpa Simpson style stories of the olden golden days. I loved many of those old guys who became regulars, I found in that job that I had patience, and a knack for conversation I'd previously been unaware of. It all came down to the camaraderie offered between dudes who love knives. It didn't matter if the customer was 8, or 87, we all love sharp awesome stuff.
Now, inevitably, and with little variation, these elderly gentlemen would request one of three things; a Swiss Classic knife ("ya know the little bastard that goes on yer keys!?), a toothpick replacement for said knife, or, less frequently, a spring for the scissors housed in such a knife. Hell, sometimes all 3. Now, I had no reason for bitterness against these old fellas who were willing to share their hazily remembered boyhood exploits with me...but I was into (cue echo) TACTICAAALLLL - KNIIIVVVVESSSS!. So, in my early 20's surrounded by cool shit, the Swiss Classic was the furthest thing from useful in my slightly warped mind.
Fast forward to a few days ago, going through my various knife stashes and hidey holes, I counted NO FEWER than SEVEN variations of Victorinox's venerable classic knife. This got me thinking, would I be soon needing a hearing aid and telling stories of cooking raccoons in hollandaise at BoyScout Camp? No, I love the Swiss Classic for many reasons. Here are a few.

1) They're socially acceptable. Unless you were traumatized as a child by Uncle "off his meds" Wilbur threatening your half-naked mom with a tiny red Victorinox, you're probably not going to gasp or make a snide remark if one is withdrawn for a legitimate utilitarian purpose.

2) They're inexpensive...Ok, it's 2010, and the MSRP is likely around $20-some-odd USD for the regular Classic SD, but shoot, Target sells them for eleven, I even lucked out at Radio Shack of all places, and found the genuine article for under seven bucks.

3) Variety of colors etc...Make mine green, or black, or StayGlow yellow, whatever, they even frequently do limited editions, like the all-over shield pattern pictured below for Vicnox's hundred and something anniversary (I scored that edition version of the's awesome). This summer, 2010 they launched 3 limited summer editions, including a classy white, with a handsome little red lobster on the logo side.

4) Toothpick. No brainer, do you ever eat jerky, or nuts in the car? Are your teeth perfectly aligned and airtight? Yeah, me too, and me neither. Toothpick=essential. It's way better than using the cover of a matchbook or trying to stretch a piece of plastic grocery bag into a strand of floss, believe me.

5) Lightweight. 0.7 oz. are you KIDDING?! I have to put a lanyard or something on mine so they weigh MORE and I don't lose them. 58 mm | 2 1/4 inch. PERFECT pocket size...seriously.

6) Swiss, not Chinese etc, but Swiss. 'Nuff said.

7) Reliable warranty, conscientious company. I'm not 100% sure about 2010 and beyond, but I can attest that from 1999-2004, these guys were SO easy to deal with regarding warranty repairs. 9 times out of 10, they'd send us a replacement, brand new knife for our customer, even if the knife had slight signs of misuse.

8) Widely available. Specialty shops, gift boutiques, websites, Target, Radio Shack, drug stores and on and on and on and on.

9) Good bladesteel. I don't remember what their actual designation is, but it always comes sharp, and if you have a decent head for hand sharpening, you can make them WAY sharper in short order. The steel is a bit softer, so the edge may not hold up razor sharp through extreme use, but the payoff is 6-10 whacks on a ceramic rod or diamond hone, and you're back in business.

10) Range of uses. Keychain friendly. Classic indeed, 1000 uses for the flat tipped file sided screwdriver blade alone. I KNOW that I'm not the only one who has felt relief because they've packed a Classic, whether to adjust something like a fishing reel, change a battery quickly in a guitar pedal (me, frequently) or use its valuable asset, the toothpick to scrape some chive out of your teeth before a date. Need I say more? No.

Basically, it's that adage of, "what's the best tool?", well, it's the one you have with you, and because the little buggers are small and light, there's no excuse not to have one on or near your person, even when sleeping (haha).

Victorinox Swiss Army


Anonymous said...

Excellent Aaron, most excellent! Despite ever changing out a variety of my EDC knives, I ALWAYS have my trusty old "Red" in my pocket.

You can't beat them!

Big George
Riverview, FL

Aaron said...

Hey George my man!
Yeah, ever so useful, and so common, truly the MacGyver Jr. as one of the knifeshop guys I used to work with called them. On a camping trip in my buddy's father-in-law's big yellow van back when we were just out of highschool, the behemoth Econoline overheated in the middle of nowhere, it was @ least 90 out, getting late, and the girls were grumpy. Dave used the little Swiss classic to cut out a chunk of bad radiator hose and splice it into working condition to get us into the nearest town. I'd brought my fancy newest Benchmade plus a fixed combat knife, and Dave had a Spyderco Endura, but I swear for that jaunt, we ended up using the Swiss Classic for almost everything, and it saved us from walking 15 miles in the heat!