As most long-time readers of my reviews know, I'm a big fan of versatility in my tools. When you look around the industry, the knives from Victorinox Swiss Army, more commonly referred to simply as Swiss Army knives, have always offered a decent level of versatility. It's almost impossible to find a Swiss Army knife that ONLY has one tool in it. In fact, I haven't been able to find such. For all that, the grip slabs on every Swiss Army knife I've ever handled have been slick plastic. Not any more. At SHOT Show 2011 we were shown the new "Soft Grip" series which currently includes the Tinker model and the new Spartan model. For the purposes of this review / test, I used the Tinker.
Measuring only 3.5" and sporting the inevitable key ring, the Tinker offers eleven tools. They are:
- Large blade
- Small blade
- Can opener
- Small screwdriver
- Bottle opener
- Large screwdriver
- Wire stripper
- Reamer (with sewing eye - more about that)
- Phillips screwdriver
None of that is particularly new. The Tinker is as it has been EXCEPT that the hard plastic - sometimes slippery - grip slabs are gone. Now in place are grip slabs that are almost tacky feeling. As near as I can figure out this is a very thin rubberish coating on the grip slabs. The "scales" shown in the picture are coloring in the grip material. This is not an adhesive appliqué. The overall effect, though, is to have a knife in your hand that provides a more secure grip creating a more comfortable and confident hold on the knife.
Now, understand: this is NOT the typical knife I'd take out back to my shed and beat the heck out of trying to see if I could get it to fail. It's not designed, built or meant for that. This IS a good pocket knife that offers far more than your typical "nail cleaning" pocket knife. Take a look at that list of tools again and realize how much more you can do. The blades and tools all lock out strongly into place, held by spring-tension.
To test this knife I headed out to the shed for a different purpose: to use the tools. The blades cut well given their size and designed purpose. The tools all function well for their designed purpose as well. The screw-drivers are easy to lock out and use, even wearing driving gloves (or similar). The new soft grip increased-friction grip surface makes it easier to use the tools in wet or sweaty conditions without losing traction. Remember that this isn't something you'd necessarily try to use wearing thick mittens in winter conditions. It's a pocket knife. The thickest gloves you'd (reasonably) be wearing are those you'd still be able to reach into your pocket with and get the knife.
Now, about that reamer with sewing eye... what's that about? In "the old days" when sewing was done, the needles were much bigger than what we've been accustomed to in the past few decades. Still, if you're in the field and need to lace a few sheets of heavier material together - like denim, leather, canvass, etc - you need a tool that you can lace the "thread" (string, twine, etc) into and then push through BOTH layers of the fabric. That's your reamer with the sewing eye. It offers that capability; a capability most of us in today's comfortable world have forgotten about or simply never needed. Hopefully we never will, BUT it's better to have it and NOT need it than to NEED it and not have it.
MSRP is only $28 and I think that's a fantastic price for a knife / tool with all these capabilities. Search around and you might find it even cheaper. To learn more, visit Swiss Army online (linked below).