These 84mm knives from Victorinox are pretty similar to each other. They share a majority of their tools. Not only that, but the four knives are all well-priced, well-made and well-regarded.
The range of 84mm ‘Small Officer knives’ from Swiss manufacturer Victorinox are amongst what are termed their ‘medium pocket knives’. The 84mm range is not large and the great majority of 84mm models released over the years have been discontinued. Don’t go looking for scissors in any of what remains. The machine that made them broke some years ago and rather than repair or replace it, Victorinox simply discontinued all 84mm models that included scissors.
The Recruit (model 0.2503), Tinker Small (model 0.4603), Tourist (model 0.3603) and Sportsman (model 0.3803) looked at here are all two-layer tools that share common ancestry. They are prime examples on how Victorinox can cherry pick components from their wide range of tools and produce a small range from which buyers can select what they feel to be just right. Too large for a keyring, each will happily sit in a pocket and not feel too bulky. All four share common dimensions- 13.8mm deep, 19mm wide scales, or 25mm extreme width across the widest part of the closed tools and 84mm in length (or 86mm, as we shall see later).
The family history and development of these knives is a little involved and probably too much to go into here. I might attempt a family tree in the future, not that I have all of the 84mm models as many are discontinued and some now quite rare. Looking at the four knives shown here, the Recruit is evolved out of the Cadet II. Add an awl and a corkscrew to the Recruit and you have the Tourist, swap out the corkscrew on the Tourist for a Phillips and you have the Tinker Small, or swap out the small blade on the Tourist for a nailfile and you have the Sportsman. Add scissors to the Tourist or Sportsman and you have the Climber Small or Alumnus respectively.
The 84mm sized frame is about the smallest offered by Victorinox that actually nestles well into all but the largest of hands. While there are no scissors to be found on these knives, they do all have a reasonably sized blade and are comfortable to use for simple tasks. Blades are v-ground, spear point stainless steel and come pretty sharp out of the box. The 63mm blade has some 53mm of cutting edge and is 2.08mm thick across the spine, tapering toward the tip. These are non-locking, so compliant with current UK knife law. Tang stamps are present on the main blade.
Three of our knives looked at here, the Recruit, Tourist and Tinker Small, have a second blade. Smaller than the main blade, this is again v-ground spear, or drop, point. The type of steel used for both blades, almost all the tools in fact, is a proprietary Victorinox 1.4110 ‘stainless’ steel alloyed with chromium and molybdenum that resists corrosion, yet also has a degree of carbon content so holds an edge quite well, while still being easily sharpened. The small blade has a spine thickness of 1.4mm, tapering toward the point. It is 39mm long with a cutting edge of 35.5mm. This is also a non-locking slip joint. Note that the larger blade opens away from the keyring while the small blade opens toward and alongside it. This is a handy little blade and can be kept dedicated for specific tasks, however in a small tool with only limited functions, it is a bit of a luxury. There is no tang stamp on the small blades.
A small, non-folding metal tab with 12mm split ring key hanger is positioned at the end of all four of these knives. Some versions of Victorinox knives, including the four looked at here, do not have a keyring fitted. However, all of these are really too large and heavy to be hung with a bunch of keys. A small cord loop or pocket hanger might be more useful for some. While these knives are part of the defined ’84mm’ range of medium length knives from Victorinox, the small protruding key hanger does actually make them 86mm in length.
The Victorinox Recruit is the same as the simplest of the knives looked at there. It has tools on one side, there are no back tools. My Recruit doesn’t have tweezers or toothpick as scale tools either as it is an older ‘Economy Recruit’ model 2.2501 circa 1979-94. There are just a few differences with this knife from today’s Recruit, the simple shield on the scale being obvious. The lack of a half-stop on the bottle opener/large screwdriver is perhaps less obvious. A Victorinox Recruit purchased today will have the two additional scale tools, as do the three knives shown below.
All four knives have the same fold out combination tools. These are very good tools indeed and show how masterful Victorinox are in combining functions. Sitting alongside the main blade and folding in the same direction, is a can/tin opener. As well as a tin opener, this tool has a 3mm flat tip screwdriver that can also be used with some Phillips head screws.
The second combination tool was first introduced by Victorinox in the 1980s. It sits at the other end of the knife, opening in the opposite direction to the combination can/tin opener. This second ‘combi’ tool combines a bottle opener with a 6mm flat screwdriver. At some point, Victorinox added a wire bender/stripper to this tool. This is simply a little notch that I never use and wouldn’t miss if it weren’t there. My early model Recruit lacks this function, and it is no loss. The combination tool also has a half-stop to allow the screwdriver to be used at a ninety-degree angle with greater torque. Earlier models lacked the half stop and my older Recruit and Tourist models don’t have it, current models of those two knives do have it. Alternatively, opened fully, it can be used as a light duty scraper or pry bar as well as screwdriver. When used an inline screwdriver, it is opened one degree past the optimum, so pressure in use keeps it open and largely stops it closing.
The Recruit weighs just 49.9g. A similarly equipped but slightly lighter and thinner alternative to the Recruit is the 46.1g Alox scaled Cadet, however that knife has a nailfile instead of small blade, which may suit some users better.
The simple Recruit may be just what some users require. A decently sized main blade in a small package, with a small blade kept in reserve for specific tasks, perhaps food preparation while camping, or kept clean(ish) and sharp for First Aid. Or simply as a back-up in case of damage to the main blade. As we can see, the Recruit has no back tools. The three extended variants of this knife shown below add just a little extra functionality, with little in the way of size or weight penalty.
Victorinox Tinker Small
The 84mm Tinker Small, also called the Small Tinker, is a variant on the Recruit, now including back tools for just a little weight penalty. The Tinker Small weighs 54g, just 4.1g more than the Recruit. The back tools are an awl and Phillips screwdriver. All the front tools remain unchanged.
Both Recruit and Tourist lack the ability to handle larger Phillips screws via their flat screwdrivers. Attempt to loosen or tighten one with the tiny flat tip and it will rip the head out. The Tinker Small has a #2 Phillips driver and provides a good deal more functionality than the corkscrew found on other 84mm knives. Though those fond of a tipple might disagree! The tool has a cleverly designed tip that will fit a wide range of crosshead screws. The Tinker Small is aimed more at the user wanting to tinker a little more…
The Tinker Small is a terrific tool with a long history, first appearing in the 1950s. There is an interesting variant on it, one I sadly do not have, called the Tinker for Kids. Especially made for the Japanese market, that knife has a rounded tip to the main blade, while the smaller blade is swapped out for a nailfile.
The Tinker Small may provide screwdrivers of different types and sizes in a small package. However, for those that do want it, there are a further two variants that eschew the useful Phillips and swap it out for a corkscrew.
The 84mm Tourist is another variant on the Recruit, again, with added back tools. At just 52g it actually isn’t that much lighter than its 91mm equivalent, the famous 59.7g Spartan.
Both Tourist and Sportsman have a corkscrew as one of their back tools. With winemakers increasingly moving away from corks toward screw-top wine bottles, there is a decreasing need for such a tool. You could use the corkscrew to drill holes in some materials, such as a leather belt, but it sits alongside a perfectly decent awl. A corkscrew can also be used to loosen knots, a task at which it excels. Of more use, is utilising the tool to store one of the small Mini-Tools that Victorinox also sell. As a glasses wearer, I prefer either the mini-flat or mini-Phillips screwdriver as none of the screwdrivers that are found on the 84mm knives are capable of handling the very small screws on glasses.
The 84mm Sportsman is a further variant of the Recruit, with the same awl and corkscrew back tools as the Tourist, but now without the extra, small blade found on Recruit, Tinker Small and Tourist.
The Sportsman swaps out the small blade found on the Recruit, Tourist and Tinker Small, for a nailfile. The 84mm nailfile has changed in design over the years. At first, it had a textured surface. In 2018 this was changed to an effective single cross-cut finish and it is that style shown here. The nailfile is 39mm long with a 28mm x 7mm file surface. The other side of the file has nothing beyond a nail nick. The nail cleaner tip to the file can also be used with smaller Phillips screw heads but not a great deal of torque can be applied without expecting damage of some kind.
There is a 37.5mm long awl, what Victorinox call a reamer punch, as a back tool on the Tinker Small, Tourist and Sportsman, this has a sharp 23.5m long section with a slight curved edge, just about perfect for punching and reaming leather, or even wood. Used in ‘T’ fashion, the lack of a sharpened edge under the fingers means there is less chance of damaging the hand when holding the knife while torquing down. There is a sewing eye in this awl too (added by Victorinox in 1985). All awls should have these, but do not. The nail nick on all three awls is placed on the wrong side of the tool, adjacent to the corkscrew so prevents easy opening. There is no issue with the nail nick being beside the narrower Phillips screwdriver on the Tinker Small.
Three Points of the Compass dislikes the toothpicks found on Victorinox knives as the slot in the handle scales can harbour bacteria. While the tweezers are very flexible with straight tips so of limited practical use. The thinner 84mm knives with Alox scales don’t have these scale tools.
The 52.1g Sportsman is quite similar to the thinner and lighter 46g two-layer Cadet Alox knife from Victorinox. That has the same three main tools as the Sportsman, but lacks awl and corkscrew back tools, and, because the Cadet has Alox scales, it also lacks both tweezers and toothpick.
|Model||Main blade||Small blade||Nailfile||Bottle opener, with flat screwdriver||Can opener, with small screwdriver||Awl||Phillips screwdriver||Corkscrew|
So, four decent, not-too-large, knives with just a little variety in the tools that they carry. None of the four 84mm knives shown above are expensive and are currently (November 2022) easily available and well-priced, at between £16 and £22 in the UK.
Many of the 84mm range of knives from Victorinox, including two of the four shown here, have a larger equivalent in Victorinox’s 91mm range that have identical tools, though tools are usually just a little larger in the 91mm. For example, both of the combination tools found on the 84mm knives are a little smaller than their equivalents found on their larger 91mm cousins. This can be seen on the 84mm Tourist and a 91mm Spartan (with black scales) below. While the 84mm Small Tinker, unsurprisingly, a smaller version of the 91mm Tinker, there is no directly comparable variant of either the Recruit or Sportsman.
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.