A penknife that has an actual pen? Well, A Swiss Army Knife (SAK) is not just a penknife, it is a lot more and packs a lot of other tools. And a pen just happens to be one of them.
Some smaller Swiss Army Knives (58mm SAK models) meant to be carried in the keychain have a retractable ballpoint pen. Some of the mid-sized Swiss Army Knives (91mm SAK models) has a detachable ballpoint pen. These are pressurized ink pens because of which they can be used while holding sideways or even upside down.
Victorinox is perhaps the only well-known multi-tool manufacturer that packs a pen in their tools. Even their erstwhile fierce competitor, Wenger, though considered to be the more innovative company, never added a pen in their Swiss Army Knives.
Types of Pen in Swiss Army Knives
Depending on the size of the SAK, Victorinox has used two types of pen. Both are extremely thin, comparable to a replaceable refill found in ballpoint pens. The two types differ only in length and how you are supposed to hold them while writing.
Retractable Ballpoint Pen (58mm SAK models)
Victorinox first introduced a small detachable ballpoint pen in one of their 58mm models. This design was discontinued and replaced with a retractable ballpoint pen. Nowadays, all such models in the 58mm range which have a pen are of the retractable variety.
All such SAKs have a sliding button that can be used to extend the pen out of the scales of the SAK. Once extended, the button locks the pen in its place.
This way, you can use the body of the SAK to grasp and write with the pen.
Note that a 58mm SAK with a retractable pen can have only one other scale tool, either a toothpick or a tweezer. You cannot have both, there is just not enough space.
Removable Ballpoint pen (91mm SAK models)
The removable pen design of the 58mm models was introduced in Victorinox’s most popular SAK series, the 91mm SAKs.
Victorinox designed new ‘plus’ scales for the 91mm SAK models with an additional slot that can hold the pen along with the toothpick and the tweezers.
The pen used in the 91mm models is much longer and hence can be used as a normal pen after removing them from the scales.
Note: the pen found is Victorinox SwissCards are of the same size as the ones in the 91mm SAK models.
58mm Swiss Army Knives with Pen
A ballpoint pen as one of the tools in a SAK was first introduced in one model of the 58mm SAK series. Subsequently, Victorinox started to include the pen in many other models in this series.
As of now, the following 58mm models carry the retractable ballpoint pen.
1. Victorinox Signature
The Signature is the first series of Swiss Army Knife to carry a pen. In fact, a small removable pen was introduced in the original Signature model. Later, the new Signature model started having the retractable pen.
Today, Victorinox has three signature models, all having a retractable ballpoint pen: Signature, Signature Lite, and Signature Lite Onyx black.
2. Victorinox Manager
The Manager is a slightly upgraded series with more tools compared to the Signature. Just like Signature, Victorinox offers three Manager models with a retractable ballpoint pen: Manager, Midnite Manager, and Midnite Manager@Work.
3. Victorinox MiniChamp
The MiniChamp series with 18 tools is naturally the most functional of all 58mm SAKs. And of course, the pen is one of those 18 tools. Incidentally, the original MiniChamp also had that small removable pen, just like the original Signature. And just like the Signature, it has also been replaced by the retractable pen.
Nowadays, Victorinox offers two MiniChamp models, both having a retractable ballpoint pen: MiniChamp, and Midnite MiniChamp.
91mm Swiss Army Knives with Pen
The 91mm is the most popular series in the Victorinox SAK lineup and includes a lot of popular models. No wonder, Victorinox added the removable ballpoint pen in many of these popular models.
1. Victorinox Compact
The Compact is a rather slim SAK. But most people consider it to have the most optimized set of tools within its two layers in the 91mm SAKs. And yes, it has a removable ballpoint pen.
2. Victorinox Huntsman Lite
Though the Huntsman does not have a pen, the Huntsman Lite does have a removable ballpoint pen. It is quite a hefty SAK.
3. Victorinox Traveller
The Traveller series, comprising of the Traveller and the Traveller Lite includes the removable ballpoint pen in their long list of tools.
4. Victorinox Swiss Champ
The most famous 91mm SAK with the highest number of tools is a darling of many. With its huge list of 33 functions, how can it miss a so-called pressurized ballpoint pen? It has the removable ballpoint pen in all the models of the series: Swiss Champ, Swiss Champ XLT, and the Swiss Champ XAVT (this one has 83 functions!)
You can find a detailed review of the Swiss Champ here, where I discuss the pros and cons along with my experiences of using it.
5. Victorinox CyberTool
The CyberTool, just like the Swiss Champ, packs a hefty list of functions, including a pressurized ballpoint pen. Likewise, all models of the Cyber Tool series have a removable ballpoint pen: CyberTool S, CyberTool M, CyberTool L, and CyberTool Lite.
Other SAK Models with Pen
Apart from the above-mentioned 58mm and 91mm SAKs, Victorinox as of now does not provide any other SAK with a retractable or detachable pen. The only exception is the Victorinox SwissCard series.
Victorinox packs a removable pen in all of their SwissCards. The pen in the SwissCard series is the same size as that in the 91mm SAKs. But of course, a Swiss Card is not a Swiss Army Knife.
How to use the Ballpoint Pen in Swiss Army Knives?
The retractable pen in the 58mm SAK models is easier to use because the entire body of the SAK can be used to grasp it.
In case you find it too short, you can extend one of the tools on the opposite end of the SAK. This will provide more grasping length to your pen.
I usually extend the combo tool in the SAK if it has one.
In case you find it too short, you can extend the nail file on the opposite end of the SAK. This will provide more grasping length to your pen.
The removable pen in the 91mm SAK models can be taken out and used standalone as you would use a normal pen.
The longer length helps a bit here, but still, the almost negligible thickness of the pen makes it somewhat impractical for prolonged use.
However, there is a neat trick to use the pen in the 91mm SAK more comfortably. You can place it against the spring of the multipurpose hook, with the spring keeping it locked in its place. This way, the entire body of the SAK can be used while writing with the pen.
The above trick is pretty well-known among SAK lovers. You will have to admit that the multipurpose hook does come in handy sometimes. If you want to know about more interesting ways to use the hook, do read this article.
If you are comparing between the two, the 58mm arguably has an edge while using the pen as it feels more natural. The 91mm, with its multipurpose hook trick, balances the scales somewhat, but this trick is applicable only with models that do have a multipurpose hook.
However, the 91mm does have a longer pen, allowing it to write much more before the ink runs out.
The pen in a Victorinox SAK can come quite handy sometimes, especially when no ‘real’ pen is available. It is great for quickly jotting down something or taking short notes.
However, just like all other tools in a Swiss Army Knife, the pen is also to be used sparingly. It cannot be your main writing pen, it is not designed like that.
Nowadays, we live in a digital world, and rather than writing, people prefer typing and keeping digital copies of notes on their smartphones and tablets. But on that rare occasion when you do need to actually write down something, you will be thankful to have a small pen in a Victorinox SAK in your pocket or keychain.