Many of us carry a knife or small multi-tool on trail. Usually these come with metal or brightly coloured plastic handles. But wouldn’t it be great, when escaping to the woods and hills, to actually have something a little more organic? Here are three small options with wood scales.
Backpackers and those simply venturing outdoors will frequently reach for the most popular small knife on the planet to accompany them- the Victorinox Classic. That tool offers the trinity of most useful tools, a blade, scissors and nailfile. The small size of this knife means that many will already have one sitting beside their keys. The Classic has a nailcleaner tip to the nailfile while the Classic SD has a small flat ScrewDriver tip. The standard variant of this knife has the red cellidor scales which make Victorinox knives so familiar to millions. Those plastic scales contain two further tools, a little toothpick and a small pair of tweezers. Three Points of the Compass is not a fan of either of those items. The first because of bacteria being harboured in the scale slot, the second because it is simply a poor pair of tweezers for which there are far better options.
Wooden handles, or ‘scales’, offer little beside tactile handling and aesthetics. But surely that has to count for something when we venture outdoors to appreciate nature’s beauty, variety, simplicity, complexity and frequent incomprehensibility. If we carry a small tool such as a knife, to make some kitchen, repair or first aid tasks easier, why not also connect that knife to our surroundings in some small way? Victorinox and some other knife manufacturers have been making wooden handles for their knives for some years now. Wood would, of course, have been one of the first materials ever used when knife making. Some knife makers have subsequently built their name round this simple resource and Three Points of the Compass looked at one of these, the Beech handled Opinels here. This blog focuses on three small knives from Victorinox, though the roots of two lie in another Swiss Army Knife manufacturer.
Victorinox Classic SD Wood, model 0.6221.63
Victorinox released a small range of models with walnut scales in August 2019, one of which was the Classic SD Wood. This is a small knife with just four ‘real’ tools- blade, nailfile with screwdriver tip and scissors. Though Victorinox seem to delight in counting the keyring as a ‘tool’, but we know the truth…
For many, the small selection of tools found on the Victorinox Classic are sufficient. The 40mm drop point blade with 33mm v-grind cutting edge is stainless steel and comes pretty sharp out of the box. The blade is easily sharpened when necessary. The spine of the small blade is just 1.15mm thick with only slight sideways flex. The steel used by Victorinox on their knives is probably stainless 1.4110 steel, a ‘middle of the road’ product that resists corrosion. In addition to the blade there is a small nailfile included on the Classic SD. The small textured surface of the file is perfectly adequate for smoothing nails. Many might regard the addition of a nailfile on a small ‘trail-based’ tool superfluous but the importance of nailcare on trail is not to be under-emphasised. Over-long toenails can hit the front of a trailshoe or boot, causing pain, bruising or worse, nails can be lost as a result, at the very least, nails can damage a neighbouring toe or hole socks. While a trim and smooth of toenails is part of a pre-hike regime, or should be, the additional means to carry out a little maintenance while on trail is to be appreciated. The standard Victorinox Classic has a small nail cleaner tip that can also be used with small Phillips head screws. Around 1987 Victorinox introduced a variety with a 2.5mm flat screwdriver tip on the nailfile. It is this variant found on the Classic SD Wood. I find I can use this screwdriver tip for cleaning nails just about as well as I could the actual nailcleaner tip, so a win-win.
The final major tool is the small pair of scissors. Though tiny might be a better description. The 40mm overall length of the lightly sprung scissors have 16mm cutting edges but offer a real-life cut of just 13mm. This may be modest but is perfectly up to snipping threads and, with a few bites, cutting thinner gauze or tape.
A cellidor scaled Classic weighs 21g while an Alox Classic, with no tweezers or toothpick, weighs 17g. The wood scaled Classic SD looked at here, again with no tweezers or toothpick, weighs 19.7g so lies square between those other two options.
All three knives looked at here feature a simple key ring. This is a 9.5mm diameter stainless steel split ring with 7.5mm internal diameter on a small hanger that actually adds a millimetre or two to the overall length of the knife. I don’t often hang a knife from my pack or anywhere else on hikes. Nor do I entrust it to a pocket as to lose it would not-be-appreciated. I usually have a knife packed away in my ditty bag or food bag, so I am not going to get too excited about a split ring. But- it’s there if you want it.
Classic SD Wood features:
- Walnut wood scales
- Small blade
- 2.5mm flat screwdriver
- Length: 65mm, width: 17.40mm, thick: 8.55mm
- Weight: 19.7g
The Victorinox Classic is a classic indeed. There are a large number of knives based around it, some good, some not so good. A great many were looked at in more detail when Three Points of the Compass selected a ‘top five’ from the 58mm frame range. Links for those five and others are included at the end of this blog.
While the Classic SD is built around a 58mm frame length, the next two knives looked at here are slightly longer- 65mm. This is due to their different lineage. Wenger were one of the original two companies that manufactured knives for the Swiss army. One of the resulting actions after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, was the clamping down on both the sale and carrying of knives on flights. Wenger, who relied on large sales of their products in airports could not survive the drop in sales and in 2005 were acquired by Swiss rival Victorinox. Some of the Wenger range of knives were retained by Victorinox and subsequently reissued under their “Delémont collection” brand, tools being manufactured in the Delémont valley in the Canton of Jura, Switzerland. These two knives are part of that ‘Delémont’ range and the name appears as part of the tang stamp on the blade.
Victorinox EvoWood 81, model 0.6421.63
The Victorinox EvoWood 81 is the wood handled version of the Executive 81 knife from Victorinox. This was the Delémont branded version of the Wenger version that preceded it. In 2017 Victorinox again renamed this knife and the standard cellidor scaled knife became known as the ‘Wenger’, the name also appearing on one of the scales.
The Victorinox EvoWood 81 has sculpted Swiss walnut ‘Evolution’ scales. While these are certainly attractive, despite their intended added function, Three Points of the Compass doesn’t feel they are particularly ergonomic and they don’t actually do much to improve grip.
The plain edge knife blade on the EvoWood 81 is a little longer than the blade on the Classic SD which may be preferred by people who find the smaller blade just a little too small for their needs. The overall blade length of 44.5mm on the EvoWood 81 has an actual cutting edge of 39mm. The blade measures 1.15mm across the spine. Steel quality and blade thickness is common to all of these small Victorinox knives. The tang stamp varies from the Classic. That on the EvoWood 81 reads- VICTORINOX / SWISS MADE / DELÉMONT.
The extra frame length enables not only a slightly longer blade, but also a very slightly beefier pair of scissors with a much improved spring though still only capable of light work. Attempt anything too ambitious and they will fail. The 45mm long scissors actually have the exact same length cutting edges as their smaller brethren- 16mm. But all of this is practical usable length on the EvoWood 81. The cutting edges are different too. The ‘self-sharpening’ edges of the scissors have micro serrations. Some users don’t like these but Three Points of the Compass finds serrations particularly useful on such tiny scissors as they provide a little grip on slippery materials such as the packaging of Mountain House type meals, without detracting from simpler thread-snipping tasks. The scissors will trim nails but are not particularly suited to that task and dedicated clippers are preferable.
EvoWood 81 features:
- Sculpted walnut wood scales
- Small blade
- Serrated scissors
- Nailfile with nail cleaner tip
- Length: 65mm, width: 19.30mm, thick: 12.15mm
- Weight: 20.2g
The EvoWood 81 weight of 20.2g is just half a gram more than the Classic SD Wood.
Victorinox NailClip 580 walnut, model 0.6461.63
One of the original Wenger knife models was their Wenger Swiss Clipper. When Victorinox took on the Wenger brand they kept the clipper, made a small number of changes and renamed it the NailClip 580, becoming part of the Delémont range. Effectively, the ‘NailClip 580 walnut’ is the EvoWood 81 with added nail clipper. Again, the tools are found inside attractive sculpted Swiss walnut ‘Evolution’ scales. Three Points of the Compass took a closer look at the Wenger Swiss Clipper and other nail clippers here.
The scissors on the NailClip 580 are exactly the same as those found on the EvoWood 81 and the earlier Swiss Clipper, as is the nail file with nail cleaner tip. The nail clipper on the NailClip 580 has been refined from earlier incarnations but folding/unfolding, operation and performance remain unchanged, a simple two stage procedure
This is a faily niche product that suits manicuring needs most. The addition of nailclippers elevates this tool to perfect for the long-time traveller, or backpacker on trail for many weeks.
The Classic SD has a textured nailfile 27mm x 5mm. The nailfile surface on both the EvoWood 81 and NailClip 580 measure 27m x 5.5mm and are akin to a roughened match strike surface that are just fine for smoothing nails. As befitting the Classic ‘SD’ name, that knife has a small flat screwdriver tip. Neither of the nailfiles on the larger knives has a screwdriver tip, instead featuring a nailcleaner tip, This tip can also be used for light work with small Phillips head screws.
Despite having very similar sized file surfaces, the nailfiles themselves are slightly longer than that found on the Classic SD. The smaller knife has a 38mm long tool, both EvoWood 81 and NailClip 580 tools are 44.5mm long, making them just a little easier to use when filing nails. All three files have the roughed surface facing the folded kinfe blade alongside, the other side has decent sized nail nicks to unfold the tools.
The curved cutting edges of the nail clippers are 9mm wide and are comfortable to use and very effective. They will clip big, gnarly toenails with ease. There is a small plastic catch over the nailclippers when closed, this is flipped open to release them from their folded stowed position. Unfolding them for use is then a two-part operation. Unfold from the wood scales, then swing the operating lever from one side to the other. The reverse to fold away. The back of the NailClip 580 is plastic, smooth and unobtrusive, tucked beside are the scissors, the only back tool. The scissors have a small nail nick to extract them, this can sometimes be just a little awkward to tuck a thumb nail under.
NailClip 580 features:
- Sculpted walnut scales
- Small blade
- Serrated scissors
- Nailfile with nailcleaner tip
- Length: 65mm, width: 19mm, thick: 19.75mm
- Weight: 36.3g
The NailClip 580 weight of 36.3g is 16.1g more than the Evowood 81. While this is a significant increase, if a trip of many weeks duration is planned and a pair of nail clippers in the packing list is being considered, this little tool may be a practical solution.
The European walnut used to make the scales found on these knives is sourced from off-cuts and Victorinox maintain a tree-planting replacement scheme to boost the environmental credentials of these products. It should be realised that the scales found on each and every one of these knives are unique. Each comes from a different piece of walnut, each with it’s own grain and shade, each is special in it’s own way and will weather with time, use and treatment. I well remember a patient shop assistant humouring me as I emptied out box after box of wood scaled Classic SD knives when I visited the Victorinox flaghip store in London (now sadly closed), just so that I could select the one that was just right…
The three knives shown here each have the Victorinox trademark ‘Swiss’ cross etched into the european walnut scale on one side, the back scale being kept plain. Being a natural product, the wood scales will benefit from occasionally cleaning and oiling.
All three knives are slip joint with modest length blades that ensure they fall happily within UK ‘knife-carry’ law. There can be a premium to pay for the wood scaled Swiss Army Knives. Not only that but it is impossible to fit any additional tools in the handles- no toothpick, tweezers, LED, pen, ferrocerium rod. You could even argue that there is little point in buying one of these knives over the metal alox or plastic scaled versions. These three knives will not cut better, they will not trim tape more efficiently, they won’t file or shape nails any better than the more common and cheaper versions of the exact same knives with bright red scales. But these three knives have one thing in common, they do look damned good.
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. If you are keen on the smallest of the Victorinox offerings, a top five knives based around the 58mm frame length were selected and these and their close variants are linked below.