Victorinox produces great pocket knives. Their Swiss Army Knives(SAK) are famous world over and many people carry only a SAK as their every-day-carry tool. But have you noticed most of the SAKs have two blades?
The main blade in a Victorinox SAK is sharp enough to do anything that a pocket knife is supposed to do. Why then is there another smaller blade?
Why not remove a redundant tool and make the SAK slimmer?
Victorinox Swiss Army Knives have two blades so that the secondary small blade can be used as a backup when the primary large blade becomes dull due to usage. In any normal scenario, the secondary smaller blade almost never gets used. As a result, it stays as sharp as new. Hence, it comes very handy when the overused large blade becomes too dull to get the job done without resharpening.
Having a backup is probably the most acceptable reason for including a second blade in a SAK. Everyone who carries a SAK will tell you the same. Even the SAK Owner’s Manual says the same.
In fact, most people also use the two blades like that only, one for regular use and one for backup. Some people use one of the blades for rough and dirty work, while keep the other clean for food preparation.
The Smaller Blade is not just a Backup!
Let me tell you this: while ‘backup’ is quite a valid reason for having two blades in a SAK, it is not the only reason.
Have you noticed that the smaller blade is not only shorter in length, but also thinner and less in height?
Like everything else, Victorinox has thought it through. The small blade may be one of the most underrated tools in a SAK, but its very design makes it suitable for certain specific tasks. And some people use the smaller blade much more than the larger one!
Uses of the Smaller Blade in a Swiss Army Knife
Let us see some the tasks which the smaller blade can do much better than the larger one.
1. Package/Box Cutter
I use the smaller blade to cut open packages all the time. Reason? It is sharp and can cut those packing tapes on boxes like butter.
Yes, it can be done with the larger blade as well. But the main reason I am more comfortable using the smaller blade is that due to its shorter length, I am not concerned about damaging the product inside. Using a shorter blade also reduces the chances of accidentally cutting my fingers while working on those packages.
2. Cutting open Clamshell Blister Packs
This kind of packaging annoys me the most. The plastic in these blister packs is quite thick. You can see the product so clearly from outside, but it is so difficult to get it out! I have cut my fingers more than once while cutting open these blister packs.
I have used almost everything, from Scissors to large knives, as well as Gillette salon shaving blades. But nothing works better than the smaller blade in a SAK.
It is sturdy and sharp enough to cut the plastic, yet thin and short to maneuver it at different angles. You have so much better control that you can make very clean precise cuts on blister packs to get the product out with the minimum effort.
3. As a Pen Knife
Nowadays, every small knife is referred to as a penknife. But the original pen knife was actually used for thinning and pointing quill pens. Quill pens are quite delicate and you need a sharp and thin blade to shape them. And something like the smaller blade in a SAK is exactly what you need if you ever need work with a quill pen.
Who knows, this might have been the intended purpose for including the small pen blade in the SAK. After all, Victorinox has been making SAKs for more than a century.
4. Sharpening Pencils
I know you have already guessed it. Who uses quill pens nowadays? But many use pencils. And pencils need sharpening very often. In case you do not have a sharpener handy, the small blade in the SAK can resharpen your pencil quite easily.
The smaller blade in the SAK is tempered differently to give it a very sharp edge in a thin body. Just the type of edge you need for shaping quills, sharpening pencils, and trimming fingernails.
5. Trimming Fingernails
Yes, you can trim your fingernails with the smaller blade in the SAK quite easily. This is especially handy in an emergency situation when there is no nail-clipper at hand. But the SAK is always with you, why not put the smaller blade to get the job done?
I have used the smaller blade to trim my fingernails multiple times. It takes a little more time than a nail-clipper of course. But since you can maneuver the cutting angle very easily, you can get an almost similar cut as a nail-clipper.
Also, since the blade is so short, there is almost no chance of accidentally cutting your finger if you are a little bit careful.
6. Wood Carving/Whittling
This is one of the most popular uses of the small blade in a Swiss Army Knife. While wood carving involves using other tools (like a chisel) alone with a knife, whittling is an art that only makes use of a knife blade.
Whittling is so popular that there are knives available in the market which have been specially designed for the purpose. But in case you do not want to invest in a whittling knife, you can use the blades in your Swiss Army Knife. And yes, this is something where the smaller blade in your SAK will prove to be much more useful than the larger blade.
Ask any expert on whittling, they will always recommend you to start with the smaller knife blade in a SAK. There are various reasons for it:
- Whittling involves cutting closer to the hand as you grip the knife. You can have much better control if the knife is short.
- Whittling often requires cutting and slicing at very acute angles. This is possible only if the blade is short and has less height. Bigger blades are almost useless in certain whittling tasks.
- For beginners, there is less chance of accidents with a small knife.
In fact, people have written entire books on whittling projects using a SAK. The Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book is quite popular in Amazon.
Another highly acclaimed book also available in Amazon is Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling in the Wild, written by SAK expert Felix Immler.
7. Removing a Splinter
Most SAKs usually have a pair of tweezers which can be used to remove splinters. But sometimes splinters do get buried deep in the skin. In such cases, you may need to cut an opening in the skin to get to it.
Precision is of utmost importance here as you do not want to make a bigger cut than required. The smaller blade in the SAK is what you would use to make a finer cut or slice a little bit of skin to make an opening. Then you can use the tweezers to pull the splinter out. I have done this many times while working with a SAK in the garden.
8. Re-profiling the Blade Shape
I have often thought why Victorinox did not include a different blade design for the smaller blade, rather than having both the blades as spearpoints. Maybe they could have made one blade serrated. Or maybe the smaller blade should have been a pruner blade or an electricians blade. Pruner and electrician blade are in fact specialized designs that are available in certain hard-to-find SAKs.
This is when re-profiling the smaller blade can serve the purpose. However, you need special tools to re-profile a blade to a different shape. If you are not sure what I am talking about, just have a look at this video.
As I said, re-profiling is not for everyone, as you need the right tools to do it properly. But you can perhaps get it done from someone who has the relevant experience.
Even if you do not have the means to re-profile the blade shape, you can at least give a different edge angle to the smaller blade. Victorinox SAK blades usually have around 30-40° edge angle. You can re-sharpen an edge around 15-17° for the smaller knife. This can then be used for finer and precise cutting tasks.
9. As a Drawing Compass
This is quite an interesting application of the smaller blade. You can create a makeshift drawing compass if your SAK is one of those models that come with a pen and a corkscrew. It so happens that you can fit the pen in the corkscrew by driving it inside.
Once this is done, the pen will act as the pencil lead and the smaller blade in its open position will act as the pivot of the compass. Your makeshift drawing compass can now draw some nice accurate circles on any surface where you can pivot the knife point.
10. Correcting Writing mistakes on Paper
This is something I have done many times earlier with salon shaving blades. I found that this can be done just as effectively with the smaller blade in a SAK.
The blade is thin enough to scrape just the surface of the paper to remove the ink. This is very useful especially when a correction pen or correction fluid is not available. The smaller blade of the SAK in your pocket can just save the day for you.
Now that you know some of the scenarios where the smaller blade can be very effective, I hope you will appreciate the usefulness of having two blades in a SAK.
In fact, two blades are usually available in most of the 91mm SAK models. Only a few smaller keychain SAKs (e.g. the MiniChamp) have more than one blade. Even most larger models (111mm range) do not have the smaller blade. The larger SAKs designed specific to a certain type of use and hence sometimes include blades of different profiles, like a serrated blade, or a belt cutter blade.
I can think of many more situations where the smaller blade of the SAK can be very effective. In fact, I use the smaller blade much more than the larger blade in my day to day activities. The larger blade usually gets some use when I am on tour or traveling and need to cut fruits or vegetables.
Start using the smaller blade on your SAK more. You will be surprised how useful it can turn out to be!