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Knife chat: Victorinox horticultural knives- do they have a place beyond the garden?

3.9050 Floral knife
Victorinox 100mm Floral knife, model 3.9050

Victorinox have produced a wide range of specialised knives for horticultural tasks. Despite many specialised aspects, some of these knives can suit other purposes.

I am unsure when Victorinox first began to provide a horticultural range of knives, certainly there were Victorinox pruning knives in the 1930s. Various gardening knives and pruners were produced over the decades but it wasn’t until 2003 that Victorinox again began to heavily promote their horticultural products. In that year they were advertising their straight edge Gardener (model 3.9050), the hawksbill bladed Pruner (model 3.9060) and double-bladed Grafter (model 3.9045), with straight edge and modified clip point with bark lifter. A budding knife was produced around 2012, though at that time it was not so named and was aimed more at the general outdoors community. Many further products or variants have been added since.

Victorinox have not done a great job in naming their gardening knives over the years. Some share the same name, some have undergone name changes or are known under different names in different counties. The table included below attempts to make some sense of what tool combinations have been released though there are definitely additions to those shown here. For example some models have been produced with better quality construction such as brass liners. Occasional left-handed blade models have also been available of which just one example is shown below. The brass bark lifters sometimes included on the knives can also be left or right handed.

Left-handed variants are possible because the majority of blades found on the Victorinox 100mm horticultural models are chisel cut. Many users dislike such grinds with intensity but the fact remains that precise cutting can be achieved with these blades while the price point remains equally as keen.

Listed below are the features of each knife shown here together with overall blade lengths. I have concentrated on including the intended horticultural usage for each blade initially but users are usually aware of what features may suit their own personal circumstance and requirements.

left and right handed variants of the 3.9050 horticultural knife
Left and right handed variants of the 3.9050 horticultural ‘Floral’ knife
The majority of the range of available horticultural knives from Victorinox
The majority of the range of horticultural knives available from Victorinox

“Our Garden Collection is designed to excel at any horticultural task – from the sleek Pruning Knife with its curved blade for effortless snipping, to the resilient Floral Knife with a smooth, straight blade to cut flowers for stunning displays, to the Budding Knife with bark lifter for easy cutting during transplanting”

Victorinox website, 2021
3.9050 'Floral' knife in the hand
3.9050 ‘Floral‘ knife in the hand
A usable length of blade in an over-sized handle
A usable length of blade in an over-sized handle from a premium manufacturer

It is almost impossible to find these various tools directly compared with each other. Victorinox offer very simple descriptions for the primary use of each knife in their range of gardening knives, leaving it up to the gardener to determine exactly which of the range suits their needs best. Many are simply called ‘Floral knife’ or ‘Budding knife’. The company is definitely missing a trick here as the consumer needs a little more help and guidance. Often the suggested ideal usage of many knives is identical to another, or almost so. Victorinox will occasionally change their descriptive name for a knife and secondary retailers will often give one name and description but show an image of an entirely different knife. Knives can have different names in different countries. This is not helpful at all.

Four variants on the standard horticultural knife from Victorinox, here we have differences in handle colour, branding and a version for left-handers
Four variants on the standard horticultural 3.9050 ‘Floral‘ knife from Victorinox. Here we have differences in handle colour, branding and a version for left-handers

While there is quite a large range of gardening knives available from Victorinox, there is only a small range of handle lengths. Most of the gardener knife range have 100mm long frame lengths. The 100mm knives all have straight, parallel-sided scales. There are no additional scale tools and there are no back tools. Victorinox pruning knives with 110mm, 120mm and 122mm nylon handles, and 105mm, 110mm and 120mm hardwood handles have also been produced. Most of the gardening range are single layer, with just a few two or three layer variants. All of these have proved popular with gardeners worldwide and the general range of nylon handled tools is shown here, but do note that there are further varieties beyond these.

The horticultural knives from Victorinox offer a range of blade shapes and sizes and a smaller range of handle sizes, to suit various tasks
The horticultural knives from Victorinox offer a range of blade shapes and sizes, with a smaller range of handle sizes, to suit various tasks

Victorinox’s horticultural knives are mostly part of their Ecoline series that have nylon (polyamide) scales. Victorinox knives with nylon scales are usually a little cheaper as they do not carry a metallic company logo and the final inspection prior to leaving the factory is less detailed. Red nylon scales are most common but black scales are also found. Brighter scale colours appeared in 2010, I know of five- violet (also referred to as purple), light blue, lime green, pink and, from 2011, yellow. There may be others, I have heard of a camo version, though the range of horticultural knives with the wider range of scale colours is extremely limited. All of the knives have attractive exposed brass rivets. The nylon scales may be cheaper to produce than the more common cellidor scaled Victorinox knives but are also, in my opinion, more comfortable to hold. Nor do they show scratches so readily as nylon scales are more hard wearing than the more delicate cellidor scales used on most Victorinox knives. This is why nylon scales were found on the 108mm German Army Knives and are still used for Victorinox’s large lock-blade knives. Cheaper aluminium alloy liners are usually found in the gardening knives but there have also been premium versions with brass liners.

From 2011 Victorinox catalogue
Black nylon scales and hardwood handles. From 2011 Victorinox catalogue

The 100mm frame length provides the widest range of garden knives by far. It also offers some knives that may be suitable for culinary and general tasks. Note that the knife blades are shorter than what would actually fit within their 100mm fame. The usable 55mm cutting length of blades in the 100mm frame horticultural knives is not far removed from those found in the shorter 84mm frame length Victorinox knives. For example, the Excelsior, which is not a gardener’s knife by any means, has a 58mm long blade in it’s slim and useful 84mm frame. What this means is that though horticultural blades are modest in length, these knives have a longer than is strictly necessary handle which fits the hand comfortably while in use and can provide a little more control of the blade.

Victorinox Floral knife with 100mm Excelsior (above)
Victorinox 100mm Floral knife with 84mm Excelsior (above)

‘floral knife, blumenmesser, couteau fleuriste, navaja papra flores, coltello per fiori, bloemenmes, navalha para floricultura…

Victorinox’s gardening knives are popular across the globe

The blades found on the Victorinox horticultural knives are almost exclusively stainless 1.4110 steel. ‘Back in the day’ the very early knives frequently came with carbon steel but in common with just about all modern Swiss Army Knives a proprietory stainless steel became standard. Spines on the 100mm series are 2mm thick.

1.9900 was a carbon steel variant
The 1.9900 120mm pruning knife was an unusual carbon steel variant

100mm frames:

3.9050: Floral– ‘Universal knife’ with straight blade. The standard straight edged Floral knife comes in the greatest variety. Most of this variety simply being in different handle colours. Especially designed for florists and gardeners and suitable for flower arranging, crown grafting or propagating cuttings and general cutting jobs. Blade length 55mm, nylon handle with stainless steel blade. 34.3g

3.9010
3.9050 Floral
3.9050.3 black handled Floral knife
3.9050.3 black handled Floral knife. The black-handled version can also be found as a slightly improved and higher quality product with brass liners.

3.9450: Floral knife, left-handed. Universal knife with a straight stainless steel blade, Special grind for left-handed florists, gardeners or general users. Ideal for cutting and arranging flower stems as well as general cutting jobs in the garden and elsewhere. 34.3g

3.9450 floral knife, left-handed
3.9450 floral knife, left-handed
Victorinox 3.9450 for 'left-handers' compared to standard 3.9050 Floral knife below. Note that the tang stamp occurs on different sides of these two knives
Victorinox 3.9450 for ‘left-handers’ compared to standard 3.9050 Floral knife below. Note that the tang stamp occurs on different sides of these two knives

3.9020: Budding Knife Combi. Ideal for nurseries and gardeners to encourage bud production. Suitable for crown grafting, budding and whip and tongue grafting. 34.2g

3.9020
3.9020. Budding Knife Combi

3.9040: Budding Knife Combi S. Ideal for nurseries and gardeners to encourage bud growth. Suitable for budding fruit trees, rose bushes or vines. 34.6g

3.9040. Budding Knife Combi S

The 3.9040 Budding Knife Combi S knife is the only one of the single blade horticultural knives that features a finger choil. This is the knurled, un-sharpened part of the blade at the ricasso, where the blade becomes part of the handle. This curved section is where the thumb is held to provide greater control of the blade and prevent it closing while using the bark lifter.

The blade shapes on the 3.9020 Budding Knife Combi and 3.9040 Budding Knife Combi S are remarkable. Unsurprisingly, there is nothing like these anywhere else in the general range of Victorinox knives. Best described as ‘modified clip point blades, each has a blunt bark lifter on the back of the tip. That on the 3.9020 knife has a more pronounced, more pointed profile. Strictly horticultural in intention, these could be used as scrapers or further sharpened to produce a cutting edge. Both are, however, slip joint knives and the blades could possibly close if used in this fashion.

Modified clip point blades
Modified clip point blades on 3.9020 and 3.9040

3.9045: Budding Knife. For expert flower cutting and to encourage bud production. This is a hard to find knife. A shame, as it has potentially one of the most useful combinations of blade. This knife combines both 55mm straight edge blade and the remarkable 45mm modified clip point with bark lifter. The latter blade has a finger choil providing greater control of the blade and point. Two reasonably sized blades, albeit chisel gind, in a 100mm frame: one blade providing great fine control- what’s not to like? 50.2g

3.9045 Budding Knife
3.9045 Budding Knife

3.9010: Budding Knife, previously the Day Packer. For expert flower cutting and suitable for budding fruit trees, rose bushes or vines. The Day Packer knife was once heavily marketed as a utility knife. The clip point blade shape is especially popular in the US. 33.6g

3.9010
3.9010. Budding Knife

Expanding on their ‘Grafting and Pruning Knives’ selection, the 100mm black scaled clip point (model 1.9010) was scaled up in range with a variety of scale colour options and reintroduced by Victorinox in Spring 2012 as the Day Packer utility knife. Clip point blades are popular in the US and this competitively priced knife became favoured as a workaday tool. It wasn’t advertised as a horticultural tool at all. Instead Victorinox advertising stated:

Clip point blade on 3.9010
Clip point blade on the long-standing 3.9010 Day Packer, now called the Budding Knife. This blade type is also found on models 3.9110 and 3.9116

“Unlike other Swiss Army Knives, the Day Packer features one clip point blade. The top of the clip point is thick and defined, while the thinner blade is more utilitarian to fit the needs of many users. Our clip point blade will perform a myriad of tasks for the casual outdoor enthusiast. A great everyday item and all-around useful tool”

2012 Swiss Army Knives Catalog
One, two and three layer knives
The horticultural range of knives from Victorinox have one, two or three layers. While the brass bark lifter was a frequent addition, some two or three layer variants also have two blades. Respective handle thicknesses are 12.75mm, 14.20mm and 16.15mm.

A 32mm brass bark lifter is included on some of the horticultural range. A specialised tool, designed to lift the bark without damaging the sensitive cambium, it might be thought that there was no alternative use to this implement. While it could potentially be sharpened it will not hold an edge. While pretty short at just 32mm, it will cut soft foods such as cheese and salami, and will also spread nut butters on crackers etc. Frustratingly, despite the nail nick, I find I often have to open the blade beside it in order to open the bark lifter

Brass bark lifter
Brass bark lifter

3.9110: Budding Knife 2– 63mm clip point blade with 50mm cutting edge, with brass bark lifter. Ideal for nurseries and gardeners to encourage bud production. Used for budding fruit trees, rose bushes, or vines. 43.8g

3.9110
3.9110. Budding Knife 2

3.9140: Budding Knife Combi 2. Ideal for transplanting buds of fruit trees, roses, shrubs and ornamental plants. Especially developed for tree nurseries and gardeners to encourage bud production. This knife actually has two bark lifters. The stainless steel blade has an integral bark lifter on the back of the blade and there is also a separate brass bark lifter. 44.7g

3.9140
3.9140. Budding Knife Combi 2

3.9116: Budding and Pruning Knife 3. Pointed tip and curved stainless steel blades and separate brass bark lifter. Especially developed for tree nurseries and gardeners. Ideal for transplanting buds of fruit trees, roses, shrubs and ornamental plants as well as pruning tasks. 59.9g

3.9116
3.9116. Budding and Pruning Knife 3
3.9116
Model 3.9116- Budding and pruning knife 3

Pruning knives:

Pruning knives have a curved blade and were specifically developed for cutting back branches and saplings on bushes, shrubs and trees. They feature a carefully honed curved blade designed to make pruning jobs swift, simple and precise. Victorinox make four sizes- all shown here. These are: XS, S, M, L (Extra Small, Small, Medium and Large). The Pruning Knife XS (model 3.9060) has a similar shaped 100mm frame to those knives looked at above. the other lengths are 110mm and 120mm, these have different shaped handles. All that aside, a pruner blade is simply a specialised hawksbill style blade.

The four sizes of Victorinox pruner knives
The four sizes of Victorinox pruner knives

100mm frame:

3.9060 Pruning Knife XS [eXtra Small)

3.9060: Pruning Knife XS [extra small). For pruning in tree nurseries and gardens, cutting back branches and saplings on bushes, shrubs and trees. Suitable for corner or whip and tongue grafting. This, the smallest of the Victorinox pruners, offers most potential for tasks away from the garden. 34.5g

In 2020 Victorinox released the Pruning Knife S, M and L models. It was probably then that the 100mm Victorinox Pruner was renamed the Pruning Knife XS (= Extra Small). The smallest of the pruning knives falls within the same class of horticultural knives shown above and the blade has also been incorporated into one or two of those creating a two layer knife.

1.9703
1.9703 Pruning Knife L is a quality product with brass liners and a stippled handle providing a good grip surface

The Victorinox Pruning Knife S and Pruning Knife M have the classic curved handles found on so many gardeners’ pruner knives. The Pruning Knife L has an even more bulbous handle with a ‘fish’ shape that better suits the larger blade when used specifically for pruning purposes. Most commonly found with nylon handles, premium versions of the pruning knives are occasionally available with hardwood handles. Despite the blades on the larger pruners simply being a pronounced hawksbill shape, their specialised form probably limits them to mostly horticultural tasks, though smaller blades could potentially be used for anything that the user feels suits it- despite not being of much use for piercing they are OK for carving and cutting cordage, sausage, cheese and fruit.

110mm and 122mm frames:

1.9201: Pruning Knife S[mall]. For modest pruning in tree nurseries and gardens, cutting back branches and saplings on bushes, shrubs and trees. This has a 110mm long handle and a 65mm long hawksbill blade. The spine is 2.25mm thick tapering towards the point. 75.2g

1.9201
1.9201 Pruning Knife S

1.9301: Pruning Knife M[edium]. For modest pruning in tree nurseries and gardens, cutting back branches and saplings on bushes, shrubs and trees. This has a 110mm long handle and a 68mm long hawksbill blade. The spine is 2.55mm thick tapering towards the point. 80.2g

1.9301 Pruning Knife M
1.9301 Pruning Knife M

1.9703: Pruning Knife L[arge]. With a large curved stainless steel blade. Especially developed for pruning and general cutting tasks in tree nurseries and gardens. Ideal for pruning back branches, saplings, twigs and leaves on flowers, shrubs and ornamental plants. This has a 120mm long handle a 74mm long blade. The spine is 2.75mm thick tapering towards the point. 115.7g

1.9703 Pruning Knife L
1.9703 Pruning Knife L
1.9201
1.9201
1.9301
1.9301
1.9703
1.9703

The gardening series of knives released by Victorinox and looked at here are not the only knives released by Victorinox that have included a pruner blade. There is, for instance, the Pioneer Swiss Army 2, once known as the Pioneer Pruner. This handsome knife with alox scales features a ‘standard’ spear point blade opposite a small pruner, or ‘hawksbill’, blade. Three Points of the Compass looks a few of the terrific Pioneer 93mm range of knive separately. In addition to pruners, there have been other gardening knives produced by both Victorinox, and Wenger over the years but most of those, especially the Wenger versions, are now difficult to track down.

Hawksbill blade on Small Pruner compared to that on the Pioneer Swiss Army 2
Hawksbill blade on 100mm 3.9060 Pruning Knife XS compared to that on the 93mm 0.8060.26 Pioneer Swiss Army 2

“When it comes to growing, grafting and looking after fruit trees and ornamental plants, there are no high-tech shortcuts that can match a sharp, top-quality tool. After all, success largely depends on making precise and expertly executed cuts – that’s the only way to minimize damage to the plants. It’s no surprise then that Victorinox knives have been the top choice for professionals in garden centers and tree nurseries all over the world for decades”

Victorinox

Pruner handle

Felco branded horticultural knives from Victorinox:

Established in 1945, Felco is a family run company based in a French-speaking region of Switzerland, with a brand name recognised world wide for horticultural tools, in particular their red handled ‘Felco 2’ secateurs. They sell Felco garden knives manufactured by Victorinox that are identical to some of those shown above other than having additional Felco branding. The Felco version (model 3.90 50) of the Victorinox Floral knife is advertised by Felco on the rear of their packaging as being an ‘all purpose knife’ in order to appeal to a wider audience. Nowhere on the blister pack containing the knives are the words horticulture or garden mentioned. Something Victorinox have been lax in doing themselves in recent years.

Simple blister pack for the 'all purpose knife' from Felco, model number 3.90 50. Simply a rebranded Victorinox 'Floral knife'
Simple blister pack for Felco, model number 3.90 50. This is simply a rebranded Victorinox ‘Floral knife’
3.9050 Felco variant
3.9050 Felco variant of the Victorinox Floral knife. 34.3g

Felco do not sell their Felco branded Victorinox knives in Swizerland. The standard red nylon handles are most common but black nylon, and probably other colours, are also found. Besides the Felco name appearing on one scale, the Victorinox scale shield and tang stamp are also present. An appreciated bonus is that Felco branded knives can frequently be found at a reduced and competitive price compared to the non-Felco branded versions. Look for them in the gardening section at garden centres and online rather than from traditional ‘knife’ outlets.

3.9050 Felco variant
3.90 50 Felco variant of the Floral knife, note Victorinox tang stamp
3.9050 Felco variant
Model 3.90 50- advertised as an “all purpose knife” by Felco

Horticultural knives- usage beyond the garden:

Some of the horticultural knives may provide a simple single-blade folder suitable for use for those venturing out camping, backpacking or day-trekking. The usable but modest length blades are suitable for most tasks and the longer-than-necessary handles provide sure grip and greater control. Even a brass bark lifter could be sharpened- to a degree, however it would not hold an effective edge for long. As it is however, it is an ideal small ‘spreading’ blade.

Many electricians favour the floral and pruning blades for their own technical demands. Bakers appreciate the curved feature of the pruner for use with dough etc when working in the kitchen. Victorinox even produce a long curved-blade type knife specifically marketed for bakers. It is doubtful that the larger Victorinox pruners will find much use for other than horticultural tasks. Away from the garden or horticultural nursery many of the lightweight 100mm range of garden knives from Victorinox are often competively priced, especially the Felco branded versions, and could potentially provide exactly what campers and backpackers want. Though for many, this would require a move beyond pre-conceived ideals and prejudice.

The table below lists the range of horticultural knives available from Victorinox, showing current names with alternative or previous names, number of blades and blade type, blade dimensions, with respective model numbers.

Name (and alternative names)Handle length/shapePrimary blade- cutting edge. (full length of unfolded blade, incl. ricasso, in brackets)Second bladeAdditional brass bark lifter? (length in brackets)Colours and model numbers
Floral Knife (Gardener)100mm nylon/straight55mm straight -Sheep’s Foot blade (earlier versions had a Wharncliffe blade: model 3.9030)NoRed- 3.9050 Black- 3.9050.3 (1.9050) Violet- 3.9050.22 Light Blue- 3.9050.25 Lime Green- 3.9050.47 Pink- 3.9050.53 Yellow- 3.9050.70
Floral Knife (Twine Knife)100mm nylon/straight55mm straightNoRed- 3.9051 (as 3.9050 but with key ring and hanger)
Floral Knife Left-Hand100mm nylon/straight55mm straight (Sheep’s Foot blade)NoRed- 3.9450
Budding Knife (formerly Day Packer)100mm nylon/straight50mm clip point, pointed tipNoRed- 3.9010 Black- 1.9010.US1 Purple- 3.9010.22 Green- 3.9010.47 Light Blue- 3.9010.25 Pink- 3.9010.53 Yellow- 3.9010.53
Budding knife100mm nylon/straight56mm straight blade with bark lifterNoRed- 3.9020 Black- 1.9020
Budding knife (Budding knife S)100mm nylon/straight45mm modified clip point with bark lifterNoRed- 3.9040 Black- 1.9040
Budding  knife 2100mm nylon/straight50mm clip point (63mm)Yes (32mm)Red- 3.9110 Black- 1.9110
Budding knife Combi 2100mm nylon/straight45mm modified clip point with bark lifterYesRed- 3.9140 Black- 1.9140
Budding knife (Grafter)100mm nylon/straight55mm straight45mm modified clip point with bark lifterYesRed- 3.9045
Budding and Garden knife100mm nylon/straight55mm straight50mm clip point (63mm)YesRed- 3-9115  
Budding and pruning knife 3 (formerly Budding and Garden knife)100mm nylon/straight51mm hawksbill50mm clip pointYesRed- 3.9116 Black- 1.9116
Pruning knife XS[mall] (Pruner)100mm nylon/straight51mm hawksbillNoRed- 3.9060 Black- 1.9060 Camo-
Floral Knife  (Graft / Duster)105mm hardwood/curved and shaped55mm straight -Sheep’s Foot bladeNoHardwood- 1.9195
Pruning Knife S[mall]110mm nylon/curved65mm hawksbillNoRed- 1.9201 (model  1.9200 has hardwood handle)
Pruning Knife M[edium]110mm nylon/curved68mm hawksbillNoRed- 1.9301 (model  1.9300 has hardwood handle)
Pruning knife [size- ?]120mm nylon/curved and ‘fish’ shaped70mm hawksbillNoBlack- 1.9603 (model  1.9600 has hardwood handle)
Pruning knife L[arge]120mm nylon/curved and ‘fish’ shaped74mm hawksbillNoBlack- 1.9703 (model  1.9700 has hardwood handle)

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

The basic range of horticultural knives from Victorinox
The basic range of horticultural knives from Victorinox, there are further variants

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