There are few three-layer knives in the Victorinox Pioneer range. Of these, the Pioneer X and Farmer each provide one additional tool over their two-layer cousins. That extra tool, either scissors or saw, may be enough to tempt you.
I have previously looked at single-layer and two-layer options from the terrific 93mm Pioneer range. The Pioneer X Alox, model 0.8231.26, and Pioneer Farmer Alox, model 0.8241.26, each have an extra layer to squeeze in another major tool.
The Alox range of knives based around the popular Pioneer have a loyal following. This is unsurprising considering how well made and well thought out they are. Tools are a little thicker than the equivalent Cellidor scaled knives from Victorinox. With their military roots, it is unsurprisingly that the Pioneer range of knives are so robust and capable of tougher work. Beyond that, these knives are also damned attractive! Both knives looked at here are within what Victorinox refer to as their ‘medium knives’ range. The Pioneer knives have thicker and stronger backsprings and tools can be stiff to open. Expect a busted nail occasionally, at least initially as these do ease with time and use however.
I find the length of the 93mm long Alox knives comfortable in the hand however I do prefer the slightly thinner 12mm two-layer over the 14mm thick three-layer knives when being used for tasks. 2mm isn’t a great difference however and it all comes down to personal preference. Some users prefer the feel of the thicker three-layer over the two-layer. Most tasks are fairly brief and it is only with extended use where this really matters. Maximum width is 22.70mm across the widest point (the spine of the main blade), or 18.90mm across the width of the scales.
Both 86g Farmer and 94g Pioneer X have a 12mm diameter keyring however both tools are also too large and heavy to be carried with keys in that manner. Most people will be pocket carrying these knives or using one of the well made Victorinox leather or cordura belt worn pouches. Alternatively, a metre length of paracord could be passed through the keyring and looped over a belt to prevent loss of a pocket carried knife. I have EDC’d both knives but prefer the simpler and thinner two-layer Pioneer. One of these Alox knives would be slipped into a little internal pocket in a Patagonia day pack that I carried for city use for a decade or so. I quickly found the saw on the Farmer a superfluous tool for urban carry and the scissors on the Pioneer X were of far more use. That said, for urban EDC the little scissors on the Victorinox 58mm Classic are more easily and quickly deployed as one of these always hangs with my keys.
Compared to that perennial favourite, the Pioneer Alox, it can be seen how simple the expanded Pioneer X and Farmer are. The only difference is the added tool, either scissors or saw. There is another three-layer variant on the standard two-layer Pioneer where the tools are switched around a little more. This is the Pioneer Harvester, now more commonly known as the Victorinox Swiss Army 7. That knife has a saw added (as with the Farmer) but also has the tin/can opener exchanged for a small pruner blade. This is potentially a useful alternative and Three Points of the Compass will look at that knife in a separate post.
Blades come sharp out of the box and are drop-point, v-ground and are made from Victorinox’s proprietary 1.4110 ‘stainless’ steel alloyed with chromium and molybdenum that resists corrosion well, yet also has a degree of carbon content so holds an edge quite well while still being easily sharpened. Blades are suitable for 99% of tasks but this is a middle-of-the-road steel and if you want better quality you will have to look elsewhere. The blades on both knives have an overall length of 68mm with cutting edges of 60mm. Blades are non-locking and therefore compliant with current UK knife law.
The spear shape blade found on both Pioneer X and Farmer is a little longer and a little thicker than the main blades found on similar length non-Pioneer range knives from Victorinox. This has gained the 93mm Pioneer range the ‘sturdy’ moniker from Victorinox and despite being a folding style knife the blade is capable of fairly tough work. Spines are 2.75mm thick compared to the 2mm thick blades found on Victorinox’s 84mm range of knives. The blades have an asymmetrical shape to enable the reamer to sit alongside the blade when folded. I have never found this to affect their cutting performance.
Both Pioneer X and Farmer have a cap lifter/bottle opener and a can/tin opener. The cap lifter/bottle opener works fine and there isn’t much else to say about that function. This tool also has a wire bender/stripper but I have almost never used this function on any knife I own. It may be useful to some, but not to me. Of much more use is the 6mm flat tip screwdriver. This tool is slightly larger, thicker and tougher than the equivalent tool found on ‘medium sized’ Cellidor Victorinox knives and resists twisting under torque. It also has a half-stop position so can also be used at a 90 degree angle. Positioned at the end of the tool, this enables the user to impart a considerable amount of torque in use.
The Pioneer has a can/tin opener at the opposite end of the tool that acts in a forward cutting motion. It is simple to use if used correctly and I have no idea why some people seem to feel the need to butcher tins with this tool. There is also a small 3mm flat tip screwdriver on this tool that is too large for use with glasses but it will tackle some Phillips head screws.
The scissors are the X in the name of the Pioneer X, just as they are in the four-layer Farmer X which I shall look at in another post. While the three-layer Farmer has a long history, dating back to the 1950s, the Pioneer X first appeared on the market in 2016 and was welcomed by fans who missed the capability of a larger pair of scissors. This was a major loss bought about because a factory tool used for making the scissors included on some 84mm Victorinox knives was not repaired or replaced when it broke resulting in that 84mm scissors becoming an obsolete and much missed feature. The Pioneer X was the first 93mm Alox knife to have a pair of scissors though they were already included on some 91mm knives. Scissors on 91mm and 93mm knives are identical other than the location of their nail nick.
The scissors are excellent and it is difficult to fault them. They are non-serrated and have 27mm long cutting edges that, with care, are easy to sharpen. The thumb tab is 2mm wide which can make them a little uncomfortable to use when cutting tougher material or for extended use. These are not shears. They are still relatively small scissors, but will happily tackle anything reasonable put in their way. They also have decent points to pierce material prior to cutting. The scissors have a small leaf spring between the handles which gives a decent ‘springiness’ to open them, these springs can break or infrequently come adrift. Replacement springs are obtainable.
The Pioneer X is such a highly regarded knife that users voted it the Multitool.org Multitool Of The Year in 2016 when it collected over 34% of the vote divided across ten multi-tool options.
The saw on the three-layer Victorinox Farmer and its big brother, the four-layer Farmer X, saws on both push and the pull strokes. I have included an image of me sawing a one and a half inch piece of chestnut. This is about the maximum comfortable diameter that is reasonably within the capabilities of this two and seven-eighths inch (74mm) long blade, though you could push it a little and I have heard of some people successfully working round five inch diameter logs with this saw.
The awl/reamer on both tools is the genuine article, very sharp and is suited for drilling out or widening (reaming) a hole in wood. It comes sharp out of the box and has an L shaped profile that lends both strength and enables it to be easily opened. There is no sewing eye included and a ferrocerium rod can be struck against it.
At the time of writing (July 2022) the Farmer can be purchased from Victorinox for around £35 in the UK and the Pioneer X for around £10 more. Is that extra tenner a reasonable premium or is it profiteering? That is for the you to decide. The Pioneer X and Farmer may appear expensive but each is built to the usual high standard that Victorinox continues to maintain and each provides a wide range of functions. Three Points of the Compass thinks that both knives offer fantastic value for money. There are knives with better steel, there are knives with better handles, but you will have to pay a lot of money for those.
The attractive Alox scales are punched from aluminium, embossed and then anodised. An electrolytic oxidation of aluminium (eloxal) process creates a protective layer and this gives the scales its colour. The thin layer of oxide provides a hard, fairly tough, corrosion-resistant protective layer to the scales. This will wear with use and pocket carry. Despite being too large to be hung with keys, if they are carried this way, this will wear the scales even quicker. I quite like the worn look and age related patina Alox knives gain over time but many users complain of this.
There has been the occasional alternative colour option with these knives though the standard silver Alox is by far the most common and just about all of the short run colour alternatives command a high premium and can be difficult to find. Though good looking, it is important to remember that exactly the same toolset is found on colour variants.
Both the Pioneer X and Pioneer Farmer are attractive knives from a reputable and well-known manufacturer. The different extra tool that each provides means that each is best suited to very different environments. The Farmer is especially suited to walks in the woods where occasional pruning or cutting dead wood for fires might be expected. The Pioneer X is more suited to general EDC and urban carry. Despite the usefulness of the effective pair of scissors, the Pioneer X is probably too large to be carried for just occasional use and there are likely to be many knife or multi-tool options that would be preferred. That said, every single tool on both of these knives is well-made and robust and will handle a good deal of punishment and abuse. The 93mm three-layer Pioneer X and Farmer are quite a bit larger and heavier than many of the knives that Three Points of the Compass has looked at and should be ruled out for lightweight backpacking.