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Knife chat: the SwissBuck Legend- obsolete, but still a good choice

SwissBuck Legend, in the hand
SwissBuck Legend, in the hand

The 65mm SwissBuck Legend is an interesting little tool that may suit those looking for something just a little different. It was the result of a collaboration between Swiss knife maker Wenger and one of the oldest knife makers in the US- Buck Knives.

Both Wenger and Buck Knives have long and interesting histories. In short, Wenger were founded in 1893 at Courtetelle in the Delémont valley in the Swiss Canton of Jura. In 1893 they began manufacturing the Modell 1890 knife for the Swiss Army. From 1908, this contract was shared with Swiss knife maker Victorinox, who had first manufactured the knife in 1891. Wenger went on to produce a very large and respected range of knives however began to struggle commercially. This was particularly the case following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks as Wenger relied largely on sales of their products in airports and there was a consequent large drop in sales. In 2005 Wenger were acquired by Victorinox. US knife maker Buck Knives have their roots in the first model hand-made by Kansas blacksmiths apprentice Hoyt Buck in 1902. Famous for their folding lockback knives, the knife maker made their name with the release of the classic Model 110 Folding Hunter. Buck Knives Inc. remains a family business. Buck Knives are credited with inventing the folding hunting knife and the term ‘buck knife’ has become synonymous with folding lockback knives, including those made by other manufacturers.

It is unsurprising that a collaboration between Swiss manufacturer Wenger and Buck Knives gave us a model range they termed- SwissBuck. It was Buck Knives who approached both Victorinox and Wenger looking for a mutually beneficial partnership that would give a Swiss manufacturer increased access to the North American market and Buck Knives increased exposure both in the US and Europe. Wenger expressed most interest and a range of ten, quickly extended to twelve, SwissBuck models were introduced in 1991/2 with a further four added in 1994. The model history is a little complicated with one being discontinued and four models undergoing name changes. There were seventeen SwissBuck models in total. All were a striking variation on the norm that featured (mostly) black scales with the very great majority also having clip-point blades, the favoured blade shape in the US.

SwissBuck knives dealers price list, 1991
SwissBuck knives dealers price list, 1991
1991 advertisement for SwissBuck knives
1991 advertisement for SwissBuck knives

The scales on SwissBuck knives differed in design from standard Wenger scales, having grooved black nylon handles instead of the familiar bright red cellidor scales that Wenger normally produced. The Buck brand name was applied via small stickers in oval indentations on each side of each knife. These little stickers are somewhat poor quality and not at all robust. Many surviving examples of these knives have lost one or both Buck stickers. Manufactured by Wenger in Switzerland prior to export to the US, their brand is stamped on blade tangs.

There were two 65mm long SwissBuck models. One was the three-layer SwissBuck Attache, model 87555. This was a very well-appointed knife with many tools and was based around Wenger’s Pocket Tool Chest model. The two-layer SwissBuck Legend (model 87504), shown here, is a simpler tool. It has scissors on one side, with blade and nailfile, lying side-by-side, on the other. Both blade and nailfile open away from the keyring. Knives were available for purchase in either a green card box or clam-pack (model 87504P). There was also an attractive and well-made leather slip pouch available however I do not, regrettably, have that.

For 99% of tasks in general life and on trail, a small blade and small scissors is all we require of a small folding tool. In addition, a small nailfile may be useful. These are the three primary tools found on what is probably the most popular knife ever made, the 58mm Victorinox Classic, or Classic SD, model 0.6223.G. Wenger had their version on this trinity of tools too, the slightly longer 65mm Esquire. The present versions of that knife are the 65mm Executive 81, model 0.6423 and 65mm Wengermodel 0.6423.91, both now made by Victorinox. The 65mm SwissBuck Legend, model 87504, was the collaborative Wenger/Buck Knives version of the Wenger Esquire, featuring blade, scissors and nailfile as main tools with tweezers and toothpick as small secondary tools slotted into the scales. It also has a small keyring. There was also an uncommon version of the SwissBuck Legend introduced in 1994 that had white scales, that was model 87505. At just a tad over 22 grams the diminutive Swiss Buck Legend is punching way above its weight.

SwissBuck Legend with white scales. Image from Russian online auction site
SwissBuck White Legend, model 87505, with white scales. Image from Russian online auction site
SwissBuck Legend main tools
SwissBuck Legend main tools

SwissBuck Legend features:

  • Blade
  • Nailfile with nail cleaner tip
  • Serrated scissors
  • Toothpick/tweezers
  • Keyring
  • Dimensions: 65mm x 18.57mm (extreme measurement) x 9mm
  • Weight: 22.2g
Toothpick and tweezers
40mm long plastic toothpick and 39mm tweezers with 3mm tips
Blade
Non-locking slip joint spearpoint blade is 45mm in length with a cutting edge of 38mm
nailfile
Nailfile has nail cleaner tip and decent textured surface measuring 28mm x 5.5mm
serrated scissors
Scissors have 17mm long ‘self-sharpening’ serrated edges
keyring
Keyring measures 7.7mm OD and 5.54mm ID. The ring tab is fixed and does not fold away, making the length of this 65mm knife actually 67mm!

The matt black nylon scales have a very slight textured feel to them and with the four thumb slots on each side, the tool is not as slippery as you might think, certainly grippier than the Wenger equivalent. The three main tools have decent sized nail nicks and open easily. All close with a decent ‘snap. As you would expect, all the tools on this knife are modest in both dimension and capability. All tools can only handle light work. The small blade is a v-ground proprietory ‘stainless’ steel that resists corrosion well, has a degree of carbon content, comes sharp out of the box, retains a edge ‘quite’ well, but is easily sharpened when inevitably dulled.

Three Points of the Compass is not a fan of any of the standard scale tools found on the Swiss knives. The toothpick slot simply harbours bacteria, and the tweezers are too flexible for most gripping tasks, they would be better with angled tips too.

In common with other Wenger scale tools, the toothpick and tweezers nest inside the scales rather than being accessible from the top edges, as with Victorinox scale tools
The nylon scales on the SwissBuck Legend wrap around and cover the metal frame of the knife. In common with other Wenger scale tools, the toothpick and tweezers nest inside the scales rather than being accessible from the top edges, as with Victorinox scale tools
1994 advertisement for SwissBuck knives available exclusively from Whitby & Co. of Kendal, Cumbria.
1994 UK advertisement for SwissBuck knives “available exclusively from Whitby & Co.” of Kendal, Cumbria, England.
Two knife maker brands on the same tool. Buck on the scale and the Wenger identifier is stamped on the blade tang. Front: Wenger/Delémont/Switzerland/Stainless. Rear: W/WENGER
Two knife maker brands on the same tool. Buck on the scale and the Wenger identifier is stamped on the blade tang. Front: Wenger/Delémont/Switzerland/Stainless. Rear: W/WENGER

The SwissBuck Legend was not manufactured in large numbers. There were 116600 of the black-scaled version produced between 1991 and 1997, and just 7880 of the white-scaled version, made between 1994 and 1997.

For those who like the idea of the SwissBuck Legend but think it a little small, there was a slightly larger version with exactly the same tool set. This was the 75mm SwissBuck PocketMate (later renamed Delemont). This is easily identifiable in photographs due to it having five handle slots compared to the four on the SwissBuck Legend. The 65mm and 75mm SwissBuck knives were the only models in the SwissBuck range to have spearpoint blades. All other SwissBuck knives had clip point blades.

One of the unique features of the Swiss Buck Legend on its release was the attractive black finish. By the time the collaborative series was bought to an end, this was no longer the case. Compared here with a modern alternative, the Victorinox Signature Lite Onyx Black 2020. This has better scale tools, an LED light and pen, but exchanges the useful nailfile for a less useful ruler
One of the unique features of the Swiss Buck Legend on its release was the attractive black finish. By the time the collaborative series was bought to an end in 1997/8, this was no longer the case. Compared here with a younger alternative, the 20g limited edition Victorinox Signature Lite Onyx Black, 2020 (model 0.6226.31P). This has better scale tools- an LED light and pen, but replaces the useful nailfile for a less useful ruler

In conclusion:

The SwissBuck Legend was an interesting diversion for Buck Knives and added a variant on the standard Wenger Esquire. It is a good tool, excellent in fact. However, it is long discontinued and now fairly hard to find, though both poor and good examples do turn up on auction sites on occasion. A premium will have to be paid as there are a lot of interested collectors seeking these knives. Is this particular model and toolset worth searching out for use on trail or for EDC purposes? Probably not. Unless the Buck name is particularly important to you, or the slightly different scales appeal to you, or you simply want something a little different. The modern surviving incarnations of the original Wenger Esquire still produced by Victorinox will supply the exact same toolset at a much-reduced price. But, the choice is yours.

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.

Comparison of four small knives. clockwise- Wenger Microlight Esquire, Victorinox Classic SD, SwissBuck Legend, Wenger Esquire
Comparison of four small knives. Clockwise from top left- Wenger Microlight Esquire, Victorinox Classic SD, SwissBuck Legend, Wenger Esquire

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