Swiss Army Knife?

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The Swiss Army Knife is a multi-purpose tool with various blades, screwdrivers, scissors, and other accessories stored in spring-loaded compartments. Victorinox and Wenger are licensed to produce the official knife, with military versions made from anodized aluminum. The first knife appeared in 1891, with modern versions containing additional utensils and emergency surgical equipment. The knife is a symbol of multitasking and continues to inspire engineers and tool makers.

A Swiss Army knife (often abbreviated SwAK) is a multi-purpose tool containing a large assortment of blades, screwdrivers, scissors, files, and other goodies. All of these accessories are stored through an ingenious series of spring-loaded compartments that share a single handle. Two Swiss companies, Victorinox and Wenger, each have a license to produce the official “Swiss Army Knife”, although the model commissioned for the current Swiss Army is not the one marketed to the general public. The authentic military versions are made from anodized aluminum, not the familiar red plastic of a commercial Swiss Army knife.

The first Swiss Army knife appeared in 1891, although its designer, Karl Elsener, didn’t perfect the inexpensive spring-loaded model until 1897. Regular soldiers in the Swiss Army received a version containing a thick knife blade, two screwdrivers , a can opener and an awl or punch. The officers’ Swiss Army Knives also contained a corkscrew, which apparently came in handy in the heat of battle. Modern versions of the Swiss Army knife can hold many other utensils, such as spoons, forks, toothpicks, compasses, magnifying glasses and lighters. Advanced models can also contain emergency surgical equipment.

Karl Elsener founded a company called Victorinox (named after his mother Victoria) in a mostly German-speaking area of ​​Switzerland. His original contract called for the delivery of 50,000 Swiss Army Knives a year. In 1908, however, the Swiss government decided to split the contract between Victorinox and a competitor named Theodore Wenger. Wenger’s eponymous company operated in a French-speaking area of ​​Switzerland, leading Army contractors to believe that a cross-cultural contract sharing would build goodwill. Today, Victorinox and Wenger each supply 25,000 official Swiss Army knives with anodized aluminum handles. Millions more are sold worldwide to non-military consumers.

The Swiss Army knife is a marvel of inexpensive design and ingenuity. The very name “Swiss Army Knife” has come into common use as a metaphor for successful multitasking. Swiss Army Specialty Knives continue to be popular gifts for fishermen, mountaineers, golfers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The technology behind the original Swiss Army knife can still be seen in explorers sent to survey Mars and other planets. The idea of ​​storing a maximum amount of tools in a minimum amount of space continues to inspire engineers and tool makers today.

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