A Swiss Army Knife with engraving on it has always been considered extra special. Victorinox usually comes out with such models for limited durations, mostly for SAK enthusiasts and collectors. But what about engraving a Swiss Army Knife with your own text and design?
A Swiss Army Knife can be engraved just like any other knife with the help of engraving tools. The process can be automated or manual. Engraving can be done on the scales (Cellidor, wood, or Alox), as well as on the small and large blades that are found in most Swiss Army Knives.
Why Engrave On A Swiss Army Knife?
The main reason for engraving a Swiss Army Knife is personalization and identification. Adding a name, message, or memorable date on a Swiss Army Knife makes it unique and increases its sentimental value. It also helps identify and separate your own knife from several other similar-looking knives.
A Swiss Army Knife that has some personalized text engraved on it also makes it an exceptional gift for someone you love. Engraved Swiss Army Knives are also used as corporate gifts in the business sector.
U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush have gifted their guests at the White House with personalized Swiss Army Knives, with their signatures engraved on the knives.
Swiss Army Knives are quite popular and used worldwide. Many people gathered together for some occasions and having similar SAKs with them is not very uncommon. In such situations, there is always a chance of getting your SAK swapped with someone else’s.
A unique engraving on the knife can work as an identifier and prevent this from happening.
How Engraving Is Done On A Swiss Army Knife?
Laser engraving is the most popular way of engraving a Swiss Army Knife. Another process used on Swiss Army Knives is rotary engraving, usually done by pantograph engravers which are semi-automated machines.
Engraving a Swiss Army Knife can also be done manually by hand with Dremel rotary tools.
Laser engraving works by concentrating a significant amount of energy on a specific area of the material. This focused beam of energy leaves its mark by heating, melting, burning, or vaporizing the top layer of the material in a given pattern.
The end result is a high-contrast physical modification of the surface of the material that is easily visible to the naked eye. It can be used both on the Cellidor/Alox/Wood scales, as well as on the stainless steel blades of the Swiss Army Knife.
Laser engraving is preferred mainly because it is a fast and ‘non-contact’ method of marking with little wear and tear on the material of the knife. Also, the laser is usually preferred over other methods for engraving graphics and photographs on knife blades.
Rotary engraving involves physically removing material with a drill that has a motorized spinning cutter. Modern engraving machines that employ a spinning cutter are software-assisted and can perform the task with extraordinary detail and precision.
Usually, a cheap pantograph engraving machine can be used to engrave on a Swiss Army Knife quite efficiently. And yes, it works both on scales and on stainless steel blades.
Here is a short video of engraving the Cellidor scales of a Swiss Army Knife
Hand engraving is an age-old art done by master artists with a graving tool made of steel or carbide. The process is time-consuming and needs considerable expertise but can create unique works of art that are almost impossible to replicate.
An easier way of engraving a Swiss Army Knife by hand is to use a Dremel engraver. A hand-held rotary tool like the Dremel with an engraving bit works on the scales (Cellidor and Wood) as well as on the blades. The best I have seen is the Dremel 4300-5/40 Toolkit (Amazon link).
Where To Engrave On A Swiss Army Knife?
Most Swiss Army Knives are engraved on the scales. Usually, a white or silver color fill is used once the engraving is done. This makes the engraved letters visually attractive on the red scales. In wooden or Alox scales, usually black color fill is used.
One of the advantages of engraving on the scales of the SAK is that it is always visible, unlike the blades which will be closed most of the time. The drawback is that scale engraving tends to fade off with time.
Engraving on the blades is considered to be more durable. Unlike the scales, the blade is made of a much more durable material – stainless steel. So there is negligible chance of it getting scratched and the engraving wearing off.
However, engraving on blades that are used in food preparation is not considered a good practice by many.
Pieces of food getting stuck in the engravings is quite common.
The same when not cleaned up properly allows bacteria to grow which will contaminate food on subsequent use of the knife blade.
What Can You Engrave on a Swiss Army Knife?
While initials or first name is the most common, there are a lot of things that can be engraved on a Swiss Army Knife.
You just have to keep in mind the limited space available and decide accordingly. Also, it is better to leave enough space on either side of the engraved text so that the engraving looks better and clean.
Here are some engraving ideas, suitable both for the scales and the blade of a Swiss Army Knife.
- Logo (usually used by companies, or establishments)
- Name or short name (very personalized)
- Initials (clean and discrete)
- Date (usually used for events or occasions like weddings and birthdays, has an emotional appeal)
- Occasion/Event name (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.)
- A ‘Thank You’ (as an appreciation to the receiver)
Engraving of pictures or images is also popular as these tend to give an exotic look to the Swiss Army Knife, especially if done tastefully.
Drawbacks Of Engraving A Swiss Army Knife
Victorinox sometimes releases Swiss Army Knives with special engravings on them which are considered more valuable, especially to collectors and SAK enthusiasts. However, engravings that people like you or I do on our Swiss Army Knives, tend to reduce the value of the SAK, especially to others.
Think about it, will you buy a knife with somebody else’s name engraved on it? Anything that is unique to me, in most cases, has no value to you, and in fact, is even less desirable to you. So is the case of engraved Swiss Army Knives.
If you are thinking of selling your Swiss Army Knife in the future, it is better not to engrave it. It will severely diminish the resale value.
A pocket knife is often considered a very personal tool. While most people know that engraving does not affect the performance of a knife, they are reluctant to carry a pocket knife with someone else’s name on it.
Engraving is an age-old art of personalizing something, and Swiss Army Knives are no exception. An engraved Swiss Army Knife is a great souvenir and a unique gift for many occasions.
While engraving is a great way to express your own personal style, I myself don’t do it for my own SAKs. I much prefer changing the scales to personalize it. But if I ever get the opportunity to visit the Victorinox factory at Ibach, I would surely want to get a Swiss Army Knife from there with something unique engraved on it.
I would also consider engraving while gifting a SAK to someone, just to make it unique and stand out from the rest.