I recently got interested in the whole EDC (Every Day Carry) thing and so I thought I'd upgrade my pocket knife...

I was brought up in the 1960s and back then it was still a right of passage for every young lad to receive their first pocket knife. These days the idea of kids carrying knives may horrify parents but back then it was still an accepted thing, especially if you were a member of the Boy Scouts.

But I won't get into the politics and how times have changed, I will just say that as someone who was encourage to draw from a very early age a 'pen knife' was an indispensable accessory that has been with me to this day.

Pocket Tools and Careers

While for the most part I only needed a short blade for sharpening pencils throughout my youth and college days things changed slightly when I got into my first jobs. Then extra tools on my pocket knife became useful, not just a blade and a bottle opener, but screw driver heads and even pliers (as I initially worked in IT).

My first pocket multitool was a CRKT 'ZillaTool Jnr' and it was a fantastic tool and really was indispensable. The one downside of this multitool, though, turned out to be the detachable driver heads as these just clipped into recesses in the handle and the inevitable happened and I lost the them!

Eventually, however, I found myself in a design studio and so a multitool became less crucial, day to day, and I went back to a simple clasp knife for sharpening pencils. I had a variety of cheap unbranded slip lock pen knives though this period of time and it wasn't until I changed profession again that I felt in the need of a multitool (by which time I had completely misplaced my old ZillaTool).

This is when I picked up my first Victorinox Swiss Army Knife...

Tinkering with a Tinker

Finally, tiring of cheap pocket knives and box cutter gadgets I decided I wanted something with a more robust and quality build. The wife and I happened to be spending a day in the Yorkshire town of Whitby and I happened to glance in an outdoor adventure shop which had a superb display of a number of the Swiss Army Knife range.

While the classic red pocket knives appealed to me I didn't really know which variation would suit me, but I was very keen to have one. The wife asked me if I would like one and offered to buy one as a gift for me, so I decided to chose something fairly basic and which I felt wouldn't be too heavy to carry day to day in my trouser pocket.

I chose the Tinker as it was trim but still had a few extra tools than I was used to...

Above: The Victorinox Tinker Small. This is a 'medium' (84mm) long
pocket knife which Victorinox describes as 'The ideal companion for
all crafty men' (girls now allowed)!
Unlike my old ZillaTool it Tinker didn't have pliers of handy replaceable drill bits but these seemed less necessary as my day to day carry, especially as I now had a design job at a desk. Sharpening my pencils and opening bottles were my primary needs, while the Tinker also had decent integral screw driver accessories, particularly a nice Philips bit.

The Tinker was, indeed, light enough and useful enough for my none too strenuous career and it served me well for many year. It was a great acquisition, and - as I had thought - the two most used tools were the short 'pen knife' blade and the bottle opener, with the various 'emergency' screw 'blades' of occasional handiness.

Small is Beautiful!

Anyway, fast forward a decade and my daily carry-tool needs changed when I took redundancy as a designer. My new job turned out to be a bit more 'hands on' than a desk job and my Tinker didn't seem quite the right match for the type of jobs I was now doing.

I did think about buying a replacement CRKT tool as I thought that they must have some more modern upgrade for my original ZillaTool but unfortunately the closest equivalent in their current range - the Septimo - was a locking blade and UK laws made this a no go.

Beside this technical issue my latest job - as a Operating Theatre Domestic (yeah, big jump in career types) meant that I had to wear scrubs and carrying weighty multitools wasn't very practical... 

I should explain something about medical scrubs, they are the worst clothing if you want to keep items in your pockets. For a start they only have a limited number of shallow pockets deliberately designed to encourage you NOT to have pockets full of 'stuff'. Strict infection control means that you are encourage to carry around as little by way of personal bits and pieces as you can. Pockets are for the *temporary* parking of medical items.

And one more thing, because the pockets are so shallow in the scubs top thing tend to spill out every time you bend over ( which you do a lit as a domestic)! 😐 SO, I needed a small sized tool that could be attached to my ID lanyard on in the one small securer pocket on the rear of my scrubs trousers.

Ironically, on another visit to Whitby I saw - in the same shop I got my Tinker - a little Leatherman multitool and decided to give it a look...

Above: Don't let the picture fool you, folded up the Micra
is just 2.5" | 6.5cm long and weighs a mere 1.8oz | 51g!

The Micra suited my work requirements very well, aside from the ubiquitous blade - great for breaking down boxes - the scissors were very helpful cutting medical and industrial tapes and the little screw driver accessories helped me undo the great many sanitizer dispensers we have around the department.

I've been very happy with the Leatherman Micra for the pat five years, but I wouldn't say it was a multitool that fits all my needs - at work and at home. Plus, there were a couple of little niggles that developed over time, but I will talk about those in my Conclusion.

Off the Clock, Hobby Crafting Needs

My Tinker has served me well enough for my basic daily leisure jobs over the past years but this slowly changed as I began to get into traditional wood crafting and model making. 

I do have a pretty comprehensive set of specialist tools and gadgets in my little hobby room, but I do have a habit of 'crafting on the go' by either doing some minor work on a small laptop board in the front room or even outside. In these cases you are governed by 'Sod's Law' which in this case dictates that no mater whether you think you have brought all the tools you need with you you almost certainly haven't. 

In my model making there are two tools which I regularly need but which I likewise regularly misplace, forget about or occasionally get 'borrowed' by others - scissors and a small saw.

My Leatherman Micra showed me just how handy is was to always have a little pair of sharp scissors to hand but scissors are also the tools that in our house are most likely to go 'walkies' - my wife being a teacher! So having a small set of precisions scissors actually on my pocket tool would be very convenient. Luckily, the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife scissors are very highly rated in bother sharpness and ease of use, so that's a good starting point.

As for a light saw, I had never even considered Swiss Army Knives as a platform for their inclusion in my carry set. I did some looking and initially I had thought that to have both scissors and a saw I would have to think about a slightly more cumbersome multitool like a full size Leatherman variant. The down side to this quality tool is twofold, it's price ( the Leather wan WAVE PLUS, which has the scissors and the saw, is £179) and it's size and weight!

Above: The Victorinox Camper which I had bought specifically for,
er, well, camping! But it really impressed me with it's saw! I used it
for some random DIY and decided I needed one of these on my EDC!
While doing my research for which pocket tool should replace my Tinker I happened to join the 'SAK .. Swiss Army knife fans' group on Facebook. This was a good move as it's posts made me aware of the vast range of Swiss Army Types that were available, with a multitude of tools and - importantly - a variety of sizes. From here it was a simple matter of googling a few of the likely candidates I had spotted and by comparing their features I narrowed down a little list of likely contenders.

I ended up with the following Victorinox SAKs on my list (listed in increasing size):


Click on these links to review these knives, they will open in another window.

All I had to do now was play Goldylocks and and weigh up the various combinations of tools versus size to come up with the porridge that was 'just right'! 😄

As it turned out the Fieldmaster - in the middle of the above list - seemed to have everything I needed. Or rather, that would be the monstrously large Handyman multitool but there was no way that was going to feel comfortable in my jeans pocket! No, the Fieldmaster had the scissors and the saw and exchanged the corkscrew (I don't drink wine) for a nice robust medium Philips screwdriver.

Above: The Fieldmaster, coming in at 100g and 91mm long it is
a 4 layered SAK (the Tinker was 2 layer), 20mm thick.

There is a Victorinox For Everyone...Just About!

Before I conclude this post let's rewind a little and talk about my work pocket tool. As I said above over time the Leatherman Micra I used for work started to show a couple of small niggling draw backs.

The scissors which I found so useful cannot be fully open so are a bit hard to sharpen. Thus they cannot cut as cleanly as they once did, particularly when trying to use them on gummy medical tape. Try as I might to sharpen then I cannot get easily get an angle which hones all of the edges and also find it hard to get the correct 20o angle with my sharpener. Bummer.

Additionally, the little accessories the Micra included for screwing Philips and flat head screws are quite short and most of the screws that I want to get at are at the back of a dispenser housing. 

Anyway, as I was doing my research for my 'home' carry I notice a compact little knife in the Victorinox inventory that seems to solve at least some of my problems' (but not all). The Signature Lite was diminutive - even shorter and lighter than my Leatherman Micra - and had a lovely set of Victorinox's scissors (all be they the smallest in the range).


Additionally, the Signature Lite included both a small LED torch and a retractable ballpoint pen. Both of these are very handy for my work; the torch because I invariably have to clean and recover things from underneath furniture and the pen because - bless NHS workers they are the best but they NEVER give pens back! 😆

The slight down side is that the include blade ends intended for screwdriving are just as short - maybe even shorter - than my Micra so I still have issues getting at hard to reach screws! 😑

The small flat blade that doubles as a screwdriver id 2.5mm wide which means it could deal with smaller screws of both flathead and Philips type (at a push). The major benefit is it's extremely small size (58mm long) and it's light weight (24g) which means it will hang from my ID lanyard without too much bother.


In the above photo you can see how I have come up with a temporary work around with two 'key' format screw drivers which have enough length and give good tork. I can hang these on my lanyard too and while not perfect it will get me by until I find a perfect solution (if one exists).

But the fact is that the additional torch and ballpoint are a excellent addition to my work carry at the moment. If I had to mark this out of 10 - with 10 being the ideal tool for me - I'd mark the Signature Lite as 7/10.

Conclusions

It's safe to say that I have become a Swiss Army Knife convert, while other multitools of the Leatherman format might be more compressive and add larger tool than SAK's compact versions you pay for that extra functionality with extra size and weight. For example, to get another (quality) brand of multitool with a comparable array of tools to my Fieldmaster (100g/91mm long) I would be looking at the either the Gerber Suspension NXT Multi-Tool [no saw, but includes pliers and better screwdriver] which is 190g/159mm or the Leatherman Wave Plus [includes a file and pliers] which is 241g/102mm

So there is a obvious trade off between the various brands, but Victorninox is obviously concentrating of the compact corner of the market. No, my Fieldmaster doesn't have the pliers but if I wanted them so the SAK was a closer equivalent to the Leatherman and Gerber I would chose the Victorinox Handyman (155g/91mm) which would still be more compact that the two other makes!

Above: The Victorinox website allows you to filter the available
tool combinations so you find exactly the right multitool for you!

If you want a pocket tool that fits exactly the space you have in your pocket and can cherry-pick the exact tool accessories that suit your needs I don't think you would find a more comprehensive range than the Victorinox Swiss Army Knifes.