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July 28, 2008 Comments (0) Blades & Tools

Swiss Army Farmer

Swiss Army Farmer in Blue AloxIn today’s world, we have at our disposal a plethora of tools and technology that allows our pursuit into just about every adventure we can envision.  Take, for instance, a BIC lighter.  No one out there would point to that and call it "High Tech", however think what our ancestors from 150 years ago would have thought about it.  For that matter, imagine living a thousand years ago and having something as handy as a BIC lighter for your every day use.  It would have been revered as a marvel, and your status in the tribe would be highly elevated.  Something so simple as a BIC lighter would allow our ancestors to not worry about life-preserving activities that had to be done each day, and would allow for their efforts to be focused on other pursuits.  And so it goes, with each new step and with the development of new tools, more and more tasks can be made easier and consume less time each day.  Can you imagine what the soldiers of the Roman empire two thousand years ago would think of the types of steel and designs we have for knives and swords today?  That’s why I’m so impressed with a simple tool that still exists in its basic form today over 100 years after its introduction.

Assorted Modern Multi-Tools

Assorted Modern Multi-Tools

The tool that I’m speaking about is the Swiss Army knife.  In the past twenty years, there has been a revolution of inventions orbiting the multi-tool industry.  Perhaps one of the most well-know brands are the Leatherman tools.  I, myself, have several of that company’s models including one old and two new versions of the Leatherman Wave and the Leatherman Juice S2.  Gerber has its own versions as do other companies such as S.O.G..  But, that revolution has really taken place in just the past twenty years.  What has really filled that void up until that time were pocket knives including the Swiss Army Knife, which I would argue was the first true multi-tool to hit the market.  Most pocket knives during the past century had multiple types of blades, but the Swiss Army Knife, which was introduced in 1897, had actual tools integrated into their designs.  Such tools included a screwdriver and a knife blade, and a can opener.  Over the years, many other tools and other designs have cropped up.  Some of the assorted tools include reamers, eyeglass screwdrivers, saws, magnifying glasses, cork screws, files, scissors, and many more.

WengerTraditional Looking Swiss Army Knife

and Victorinox both were companies that provided these knives to the Swiss Army, with Wenger being the first when given the contract in 1893.  Victorinox acquired half of the orders in 1908 when the Swiss government decided to divide that contract in half.  Since that time, both companies produced knives/tools under the Swiss Army Knife brand until 2005 when Victorinox acquired Wenger.  Information provided so far indicates that Victorinox intends to keep the Wenger brand online, I suppose for the sake of "tradition".  But, all of that is just background info to bring me to the reason for the article today.  I’ve had a few swiss army knives along the way, and have a couple or three lying around right now.  In all actuality, I didn’t carry them that much because the models I had were the huge bricks with around 53 tools in them, and they get a little heavy for pocket carry–also one of the main reason I don’t carry a full-size multi-tool in my pocket as well.

Right Pocket Carry Items

Right Pocket: Ruger LCP and Ritter RSK1

I used to carry a full-sized multi-tool (my favorite being the Leatherman Wave) in my left pocket, but as time wore on and as I began to carry more items on a daily basis (which I’ll cover in just a bit), having a full-size multi-tool began to be cumbersome–especially every day in dress clothes.  This was a bit of a conundrum for me, as I like to have things on hand that make me feel relatively prepared if something happens.  One such thing is a good size, single-blade folder that has a strong lock for hard work, and which I can carry with a pocket clip in my right front pants pocket.  In that same pocket, I also carry a Ruger LCP in a pocket holster, and usually, the requisite BIC lighter.  Somehwere along the way, I decided to start carrying a small flashlight to keep with me at all times.  I ran across enough occasions at home, work, and on the trail to warrant having a small light readily available.  There is a large assortment of such lights on the market including models from companies like Inova, Gerber, Surefire, and many others.  I settled for just a small 1AA LED light made by Gerber.  It has an aircraft-grade aluminum shell for a strong build and provides enough illumination in an emergency where I need light immediately.  It goes in the left pocket, and I’m now running out of room.

Enter the Swiss Army Farmer.  I ran across a sweet deal on Amazon where they were selling the Blue Alox and Red Alox Farmers for about $18.00.  I’ve always liked the Swiss Army Brand, and this knife had just the tools that I wanted for every day carry, and that Blue Alox looked very sharp as well.  I like unique things, and most of the time, Swiss Army Knives come in red.  It was like when Henry Ford once said that folks could have the Model-T in any color they wanted as long as it was black.  When I saw that Blue Alox, I just had to have it.

Swiss Army Farmer Close-UpBy today’s standards, it’s a relatively simple affair.  It has one large knife blade that’s approximately 3" long.  In addition, it also has a can opener tipped with a small slot-head screwdriver and it has a bottle cap opener with a large slot-head screwdriver.  Finally, it has a reamer and a wood saw that’s approximately 3.25" long.  That was the real selling point for me.  Most folks say, "why do you need a saw that small when you can just chop something that small with your knife".  That’s true, but when you need to do fine work or when you’ve already got a piece of wood in your hand that just needs trimming off, the saw is awfully handy, and it’s neater work.  One example is that a buddy of mine (the world famous hunter and knife photographer Terrill Hoffman) has a little campground in the hills of North Carolina, and around the spot where he camps, he took multiple saplings and tied them up between three trees to create a make-shift table or storage shelf.  The little wood saw would come in extremely handy for just such a task to take off the lengths that were sticking out and keep them from snagging clothing or even skin.

Now, back to the reamer.  In all honesty, up until a little while ago, I really hadn’t considered what the reamer was for on a pocket knife, and had never really used one for anything in my years.  But, at a recent week-long campout, I figured out that this, too, is a handy tool.  In the hills, I always carry a firearm on my side, and that week, my choice was a Smith and Wesson 686 with a 4" barrel.  I had just picked up a new belt before the trip, and once I was in the hills with the weight of that .357 on my side, I couldn’t get the belt to snug up enough to keep the gun and holster from sagging.  Rummaging through my pockets, I went through the tools I had on me, and lo and behold, the reamer saved the day.  I just took the belt and laid it across a log and made several more belt holes in the leather so I could tighten it up some more to handle the weight of the revolver.  Once done, I was good to go for the week!

As I mentioned, I do have a Leatherman Juice S2, and that’s what I started carrying in my pocket (the left) on a daily basis instead of a full-size multi-tool.  It’s a lot more compact than a normal multi-tool, but it still gives me a set of pliers to fold out and use when necessary.  The pliers are the main reason I carry the Juice S2, but it also has 3 small slot-head screwdriver blades, a pair of scissors, a small knife blade, and a fairly universal philips screwdriver.  I can’t count the times that I’ve used this little multi-tool, and it’s a perfect complement to the Swiss Army Farmer that I acquired which provides some additional functionality to the Juice S2.

Left Pocket Carry Items

Left Pocket: JuiceS2, LensPen, Beat Up Task Light, and S.A. Farmer

So, with the Gerber LED Task Light that I carry, that’s three implements in the left pocket.  In that same pocket, since I am a photographer, I also carry a Lens Pen with me at all times as well.  As you can see, having the tools I want at my disposal quickly fills my pockets, and every little bit of weight counts when you’re lugging it around all day and every day.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a couple of larger Swiss Army Knives that I could carry, but they are bulky and fairly heavy.  For outdoors use, I’ve got no problems carrying those, and I also prefer the full-size multi-tools as well.  But for every day carry in casual or dress clothes, this combination of tools provide me with the basic tools I need and does so in a fashion which I can manage quite easily.  The right rear pocket has the wallet, and the left rear pocket holds the Doug Ritter Pocket Survival Pack distributed by Adventure Medical Kits.  You can purchase these Pocket Survival Packs and other specialised gear develped by Doug Ritter at www.aeromedix.com.  Aeromedix has a complete line of high-end survival gear oriented to the aviation enthusiast and since that’s Doug Ritter’s main area of expertise, and that group of folks needs hard-core gear they can depend on, that’s why his gear is sold through Aeromedix.

Full EDC Complement

Full EDC Complement With Casual or Dress Pants

Everyone, including me, gets caught up in the lust for gear whether it’s flashlights, knives, backpacks, or anything else.  But, when you think about it, all the bells and whistles aren’t all that important.  I heard once, and will often repeat, that man’s ability to exist comfortably in the wild comes down to his ability to cut things and make fire.  I believe in that creed and in redundancy as well.  Between the folder, the Juice S2, and the S.A. Farmer, I’ve got at least three ways to cut things.  With the shells and powder from my Ruger LCP, my Bic lighter, and the firestarter in the Pocket Survival Pack, I’ve also got at least three ways to start a fire as well.  So, I think I’ve got things covered fairly well with just the items I have in my pockets.

The beauty of the Victorinox Swiss Army Farmer isn’t found in just the Blue Alox grips that you see.  It’s more importantly found in its simplicity and ease of use.  When I need to do something quickly, I don’t have to fold out handles and rotate grips to find the saw or bottle cap opener, nor do I have to sort through fifty-three items to locate what I need.  It’s an intuitive design that’s uncluttered and allows you to quickly get to the tool that you need to use.  That’s not only handy, it’s reassuring as well since time spent locating a tool for an emergency can sometimes be the key difference in between surviving or not making it home.

I am very pleased with the acquisition of the Victorinox Farmer.  For the money, it’s hard to find a better deal for something that will help keep you safe down the road.  More amazing to me, is that it’s a throwback to the days of more than a century ago that still holds firm ground amidst the technological marvels and super-steels that seem to arrive every single day.  There’s a reason the Swiss Army knife is still around.  Pick one up and you’ll discover the reason why!!

Visit:  Victorinox and Wenger

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