Victorinox Swiss Army Knives Info
Victorinox_sign.jpg (3781 Byte)

(History)  (Steelinfo)   (Care)

Charles Elsener, the fourth son of the hatmaker Balthasar Elsener-Ott decided to become a cutler. At the age of 24, after his journeyman's years in the South German district of Tuttlingen, he returned to his home and in 1884 opened his own business in Ibach near Schwyz in Switzerland. In those days there was hardly any industry in the district of Schwyz, and many of the young farmers were compelled to emigrate to North America, Australia or New Zealand. In order to create new employment opportunities, Karl Elsener took the initiative in 1891 to form the Swiss Cutlery Guild with the main aim of producing the soldiers' knives which the Swiss Army had up to that time purchased from Solingen in Germany. In October 1891 the first delivery to the Swiss Army was made. Thereafter Karl Elsener began producing other ingenious pocket knives which he did not identify with numbers but with names, such as Student knife, Cadet knife and Farmer's knife. The Soldier's knife was very robust and also relatively heavy. Because of this, Karl Elsener developed specifically for the officers a lighter and more elegant knife which, apart from the blade, awl, can opener and screwdriver on the Soldier's knife, also had a second small blade and a corkscrew. This new model with only two springs for the six blades he called the "Officer's knife". Its design was officially registered on June 12th 1897. Swiss officers do not receive their knives from the Army as the recruits do, but many of them purchase them privately at cutlery shops where the simple Soldier's knife is also available.

This handy multi-purpose pocket knife very soon became most popular. More and more orders started flowing in from abroad. Soon, further tools were added to the knife, for example a wood saw and scissors. Later on, a bottle opener was added to the large screwdriver, the can opener was improved and had a small screwdriver added. Subsequently a nailfile was added, toothpick and tweezers, metal saw with metal file, fish scaler with hook disgorger and ruler, Phillips screwdriver, a key ring and a magnifying glass. Today this Officer's knife is available in over 100 different combinations. The flagship of the assortment is the "SwissChamp" model with 31 different features. All this in a toolbox which only weighs 185 grams (6.5 ounces) and can be held comfortably in your hand. The New York Museum of Modern Art and the "Staatliches Museum für angewandte Kunst" in Munich have selected the VICTORINOX "Champion" for their collection of "Good Industrial Designs". The "SwissChamp" is made up of 64 separate parts and has over 450 processes in its production.

In 1909, after the death of his mother, grandfather Elsener chose her Christian name VICTORIA as his trade-mark. Only in 1921 did the invention of stainless steel take place. Subsequently in Ibach, when stainless steel knives were made, the word INOX was added to VICTORIA, and out of these two words the present-day trade-mark VICTORINOX was created.
Today (2009) Victorinox has a global workforce of over 1,700 and generates sales of about 500m Swiss francs.

In the years 1945-1949 VICTORINOX pocket knives were sold in large quantities to the PX shops of the US Army, Navy and Air Force. It is largely due to these deliveries that the Swiss knife became so well known throughout the world. For American officers and soldiers the word "Offiziersmesser" was too difficult and tongue twisting, so they simply called it "Swiss Army Knife". Today this name is well known throughout the whole of the English speaking world. In France it is known as the "Couteau Suisse" and in Germany and Austria as the "Schweizer Messer", whitch also mean "Swiss Knive".

Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States, presented 4,000 pocket knives engraved with his initials to his guests at the White House. Subsequently, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush followed the same tradition. Swiss diplomats and senior army officers often present their hosts in other countries with the Swiss Officer's knife. The knife has special appeal for pilots. When Francis Gary Powers, the pilot of the American U2 observation plane, was shot down over Russia in 1960, the Russians publicised all the secret items which were found on him, amongst them the famous small red knife. The Nigerian Air Force ordered a large quantity with the addition of a curved blade. When all seems lost one can use it to cut through a knotted parachute line. As from 1976 the German Army has also been supplied with its "Army knife" by VICTORINOX in Ibach. In place of the Swiss cross, however, the German eagle is featured on the olive-green casing of this knife.

The American Space Administration NASA has also ordered the "Swiss Army Knife" as standard equipment for its "Columbia" space shuttle program. The universal success of the VICTORINOX pocket knives is largely due to their quality and price. They represent good value for money and function extremely well. They are sold in more than 100 countries. The largest customers are the United States and surprisingly enough Germany where, although they have a very large home production, the Swiss cross is recognised as a seal of quality. The "Swiss Army Knife" is being constantly copied abroad, e.g. in Germany, France, Spain, USA, Japan, China, etc., but the original quality has never been equalled. Unfortunately, however, on some of the foreign imitations the Swiss cross was added, which could be stopped thanks to the intervention of Swiss embassies and court orders. The application of the Swiss Cross was undertaken in order to confuse the public and give the impression that they were dealing with a genuine Swiss product. The official ruling, however, gives only the two Swiss manufacturers, VICTORINOX and WENGER, the right to use the Swiss cross on their knives.

During recent years VICTORINOX pocket knives have increasingly found their way into the promotional market. They are reckoned amongst the most popular and successful promotional gifts.


to the top   to the bottom   (History)  (Steelinfo)   (Care)

After a sophisticated hardening process at 1040°C and an annealing temperature of 160°C the blades achieve a hardness of RC 56.

Material for Shortname C (%) Cr (%) Mo (%) V (%)
1.4110 Blade X55CrMo14 0,48 - 0,6 13 - 15 0,5 - 0,8 < 0,15
1.4021 Spring X20Cr13 0,16 - 0,25 12 - 14    
1.4031 Tool X39Cr13 0,36 - 0,42 12,5 - 14,5    

What does stainless mean?
Stainless steel has a high resistant to corrosion. The steel is tempered, annealed and polished to achieve the necessary hardness and provide optimum resistance to corrosion.
If stainless steel products are not cleaned over a long period of time, aggressive substances (fruit acids, salt water etc.) are able to act on (corrode) the material.

The spring exerts a pressure of 12 kilograms on the large blade and 8 kilograms on the small blade. The combined 20 kilograms exert pressure on the corkscrew. With two springs and six pressure locations a total of 70 kilograms pressure is achieved. To close the blades high pressure is necessary since the ratio of the pressure points between the axis and the thumbnail recess is 1 to 20. In the case of the "SwissChamp" model with 8 springs and 24 pressure points a total of 300 kilograms (660 lb) is achieved.



to the top   to the bottom   (History)  (Steelinfo)   (Care)

Care preservation



When cutting or peeling fruit, fruit juice often runs down between the blades, sticking them together once it has dried. Open and close the blades in warm water several times and the tools can be easily moved again. When they have dried it would be good, but not always necessary, to apply a small drop of oil between the blade or tool shank and the spring. On the locking mechanism sometimes a drop of this excellent gliding oil could be helpful. Do not put penknives or other multi-tools in the dishwasher!

    When selecting knife oil, various properties need to be taken into account, including the legal provisions relating to the safety of foodstuffs. Some oils intended for pocket knives do not provide satisfactory lubrication or may even prevent the knife working properly (causing it to stick, for example).

Our recommendation

Multi Tool Oil (Victorinox Art. No.: 4.3301) The main features of this multi-purpose oil are: neutral odour and taste, highly resistant to ageing, good wear and corrosion protection qualities, suitable for use with foodstuffs



Re-sharpen using a whetstone at an angle of 15° - 20°. This will result in a cutting angle of 30° - 40°. If sharpening on a grinding wheel, always cool with plenty of water to avoid excessive temperatures.


Handy Ballpoint Pen

First press button towards blades, then slide forward or backward. To write, open nailfile as extension.

To replace, simply pull out empty ballpoint and click new one into place. Enclosed toothpick can be replaced with tweezers.


(History)  (Steelinfo)  (Care)


Info by Victorinox