Swiss Army Knives (SAK) are great for those odd tasks. Especially the small ones that you can hang in your keyring. Or better, those handy medium-size SAKs that you can carry in your pocket. But if you need something more capable and effective that can handle a variety of tasks, you need one of those large SAKs. And the one with the most functions among those large SAKs is the Victorinox Work Champ.
The Victorinox Work Champ is a large Swiss Army Knife that packs a huge number of functions. It is different from a regular-size SAK in the sense that it has a large locking blade and an ergonomic handle. It also has a hefty assortment of other tools that are very effective in a real-life situation. It packs all these within a compact body thereby being actually practical to use.
Does it sound similar to any other medium-size SAK that has a lot of tools crammed between the two scales? Well, actually it is not. The Work Champ is actually quite different. And that is because of its size.
In the ‘Large Pocket Knives’ category on the Victorinox SAK lineup, all have locking blades. And among all those, the Work Champ also has the most number of tools.
Looks like the best of both worlds, isn’t it? The biggest tools as well as the most tools. Sounds interesting?
Well, I know what you are thinking! How big and heavy is it? Will I able to carry it in my pocket?
Will I be able to hold it comfortably in my hands?
I have had the Work Champ with me for three years now. And I do not miss any opportunity to use it. And yes, using it and carrying it is nothing like any other SAK that I have used. Let’s go through some of the aspects of this heavy-duty multi-tool one by one.
Size and Weight
The Work Champ falls in the group of SAKs that Victorinox calls Large Pocket Knives. Commonly these are known as 111mm SAKs (around 4.3 inches) because of their length. It has six layers of tools and weighs slightly above 220 grams. The thickness of this SAK is around 29mm.
Yes, this is pretty thick. You must have realised by now that the Work Champ is not something that you can carry in your pocket comfortably.
It also does not have a pocket clip.
The best way to carry it is in a standard sheath that you can attach to your belt. Or you can carry it in your bag.
Also, note that the most prevalent scale color for the Work Champ is red. You will be lucky to get it in some other colors, like ‘black’.
Quality, Ergonomics and Design
Victorinox is known for the quality of their pocket knives. The Work Champ is no exception. No matter how many SAKs Victorinox produces in a day, their consistency in quality control in unmatched by any other multi-tool developer. However, considering that this SAK is much bigger than the regular SAKs, you will admire the quality even more.
Each and every tool opens and closes with a distinct ‘click’, that is so evident in every SAK that I have handled so far. It is more satisfying in a big SAK like the Work Champ. The precision, tolerances, and assembly work is just flawless. The fit and finish of Victorinox tools have arguably been the best in the world. I think the Work Champ re-asserts this fact more than any other SAK.
One of the differentiating factors in the 111mm SAK line-up is the ergonomic handle. In fact, this handle design is one of the factors why the Work Champ feels so comfortable in your hand even though it is so thick. The grip is so comfortable because the handle is shaped for your hand and is big enough to get a firm hold. And yes, there are almost no major hot spots no matter how tightly you grip it.
Add to it the slip-resistant scales. Yes, the scales used in this SAK are not those shiny ones made of Cellidor that Vic uses in most of their small and medium-size SAKs. The scales in the Work Champ are made of Polyamide. These scales are thicker and have kind of a matte finish.
The Bigger Tools in the Work Champ
The most important reason why you would like to get the Work Champ is the four main big tools that this SAK has: knife, file, wood saw, and pliers.
The knife blade is the most important tool that sets the Work Champ (and all other 111mm SAKs) apart from the 91mm SAKs. In terms of shape, sharpness, and design, it is everything that you would expect from a Victorinox knife: shiny, sharp, and very usable. But it is longer, thicker, and broader. Think of it as an oversized version of what you would get in a 91mm SAK.
The blade is around 3.2 inch long. Yes, that is almost 33% bigger than that of a 91mm SAK. If you are familiar with smaller SAKs and haven’t handled a bigger SAK before, the blade may look scary at first.
There is a reason why all SAKs in the 111mm category have locking blades.
If this blade snaps accidentally on your fingers, it can cause serious injury. A lock to secure the blade in its place when open gives the much-needed safety. In fact, I would be afraid to use a blade of that size without a locking mechanism in place.
The blade is kept in place by a slip joint and locked by a slider lock. The lock is released by sliding down a button on the handle.
Newer versions of the Work Champ has a liner lock instead of the slider lock. Both locking systems are efficient enough to hold the blade securely in place.
One thing you will notice in any 111mm SAK including the Work Champ is that it has only one blade. This is unlike most 91mm SAKs where you get a shorter small pen blade in addition to the main blade.
Another interesting point to note is that the knife blade placement along with the lock may seem designed for someone left-handed. I am lefty and when I hold the knife open the slider lock button is just below my thumb. The knife blade, being placed at the leftmost layer, is nearer to me. While holding it in my right hand, the knife is farther from me. This is not a big issue as such, but quite noticeable in such a thick multi-tool like the Work Champ.
In the newer version of the Work Champ which has a liner lock, from the pictures, the knife appears to be almost at the middle layer. However, I am not sure about this, have a look for yourself on the Victorinox website.
Similar to any other Victorinox file, the file in the Work Champ has aggressive teeth which can remove material with ease. The teeth cover the whole of the file giving you more length to work with. And yes, it can be used as a metal saw too.
If you have ever hacked off nails and screws with the Victorinox metal saw, then you already know how much effort and time it takes to do that. The metal saw in the Work Champ can reduce that effort in half. Yes, the length of the tool, as well as the comfortable ergonomic handle, make it that much more effective.
I tried the metal file on a screw. It took me 20 minutes to cut it in half. Of course, I am not an expert at this. It is difficult to hold the screw steady while using the file (I used the Leatherman Wave pliers to hold it tight). I believe someone with experience will do it in much less time.
The Wood Saw
If there is one tool where size always makes a difference, it is the wood saw. You will be surprised how a longer wood saw is so much more effective while cutting off branches of plants and trees, or blocks of wood.
Just like in all Vic SAKs, the wood saw has very aggressive teeth.
Add to it the additional length that the saw in the Work Champ has, as well as the comfortable handle, and you have one of the finest wood saws.
I have used the wood saw in 91mm SAKs, as well as the ones in Leatherman Wave and Surge. Nothing compares to this one.
As per my experience, this wood saw is the best that you can get in any full-size multi-tool. You will probably not miss a dedicated wood saw during camping or bush-crafting if you have the Work Champ with you.
The pliers in the Work Champ are the same that Victorinox provides in any of its knife based multi-tools. Yes, it is neither stronger nor bigger than the one that you get in a medium-size SAK. The Work Champ is significantly bigger and heavier than any 91mm SAK. So I was expecting a stronger set of pliers. As such, these small set of pliers appear out of place in such a big multi-tool.
However, these pliers are not designed for heavy-duty tasks. If you keep that in mind, it can prove to be very useful in specific situations.
I have heard people using the pliers as tweezers to remove splinters.
I have found the pliers very efficient while working with computer hardware. Grabbing jumper wires, loosening or tightening nuts and bolts that you find inside a computer cabinet is easy with these pliers.
In fact, for such delicate tasks, these pliers work better than those full-sized pliers that you find in any plier-based multi-tools.
The pliers also incorporate a wire cutter and a wire crimper. However, these are not heavy duty cutters.
I have used the wire cutters on thin wires and safety pins with success. It is not meant for anything bigger than that.
Though I did not try the wire crimpers, considering its size, I do not think it will be much useful in any practical situation.
The Victorinox SAKs have the best scissors in any multi-tool, period. I know there are other multi-tools with much bigger scissors. But considering the performance to size ratio, nothing beats the scissors in a SAK.
In fact, while getting a new SAK, I always make sure that it has scissors. Scissors are probably the most used tool for me in any SAK, be it the one I carry in my keychain, or a heavy-duty one like the Work Champ.
The scissors in the Work Champ are the same size that you see in 91mm models. But that does not bother me.
They are wicked sharp and big enough for most tasks, and have never failed me.
From cutting paper, cardboard, to thick cloth, leather or even thin plastic, the scissors perform admirably and with precision.
I have heard a lot of complaints about the flimsy spring that Victorinox uses in their scissors. But in my more than a decade of using SAKs, I never managed to break one. And even if the spring breaks, I know that it can be easily replaced.
The Philips Screwdrivers
Ok, now that we have covered all the important tools that make the Work Champ special, let’s look at two interesting and very useful tools that the Work Champ has. In fact, it is the same tool, but in different sizes, large and small Philips head screwdrivers.
I have used screwdrivers in many multi-tools, including the ones with replaceable bits and replaceable extenders to increase the length. But nothing beats the feeling that you get while using fixed screwdrivers. And it is even better if the screwdriver opens at the end, and the multi-tool has a comfortable handle. The Work Champ Philips driver has both these criteria.
There are two noticeable things about these screwdrivers.
First, both of these drivers are located beneath other tools. The big one resides below the pliers and the small one below the scissors.
So you have to open these outer tools to get to the screwdrivers. While this might appear a minor inconvenience to some, I think this is an awesome space-saving design. Victorinox managed to shave off an entire layer of tools by this ingenious design.
The other thing significant about these screwdrivers is how strong their back-springs are.
Victorinox SAKs are known for their strong slip joints. But the ones used in these screwdrivers are a class apart.
Especially, the springs used in the smaller one. It snaps into place with a force that is astonishing (and sometimes scary).
It needs some time to get used to the strength of the slip joint springs used in these screwdrivers. With this kind of slip joints, you do not need locking screwdrivers.
The Openers And The Awl
The can opener, the bottle opener or cap lifter, and the awl or reamer is exactly the same that you get in any SAK. There is nothing significant to write about them, except that they work well, as always. The two flathead screwdrivers, one at the top of the can opener, and the other at the top of the bottle opener, also work fine.
An awl is a tool that has multiple uses and I always end up using it at least once a week for something or the other.
The one in the Work Champ also has the same design that you will find in most 91mm SAKs.
However, in such a big multi-tool like the Work Champ, an awl that opens horizontally in the middle of the body is a bit cumbersome to use. I would rather like it opening vertically at one end (like how it is in the SAK Pioneer X model).
The Corkscrew And the Scale Tools
Victorinox makes corkscrews of the same size and design for all its SAKs. This is the same 4-turn corkscrew that you will find in any other SAK.
A great tool for wine drinkers, but not that useful to me.
But I would rather have a corkscrew in the Work Champ for two reasons.
First, the corkscrew also houses the mini-screwdriver. I found that sometimes useful while working with glasses and watches. Secondly, I found the corkscrew useful while loosening very stubborn knots. It really works great for this.
The tools inside the scales of the Work Champ are those that almost all Vic Swiss Army Knives have, the tweezers and the toothpick.
They are useful sometimes, and I will rather have them than not.
How practical is the Work Champ?
The Victorinox Work Champ is one of the most practical multi-tools to get some serious tasks done. While you are actually using the Work Champ, you will find it much better suited to tasks where you need to use the knife, the wood saw, or the file. Yes, the size of those tools along with the ergonomic handle makes the difference. In this sense, I cannot think of any other multi-tool that has the same level of comfort and effectiveness.
I also enjoyed working with the Philips screwdrivers. The smaller one especially can reach places which will be impossible with most other multi-tools.
The only tool that I do not like much is the set of pliers. I know it has its uses, but not in a robust multi-tool like this one. If you anticipate a lot of use of the pliers, better go with a plier-based multitool.
All other tools work as they should and will come handy sometime or the other. Granted that apart from the knife, no other tool locks. But the slip joint in all the tools is of such high quality, I do not think it will matter much. None of the tools folded on me while working with them.
Other SAKs similar to the Work Champ
The only SAK in the 91mm category that is often compared with the Work Champ is the Swiss Champ. But the Swiss Champ is way thicker than this one, while smaller in length.
I always found it difficult to have a comfortable grip on the Swiss Champ. But you have to admit that its functionality is unmatched. You may like to have a look at my detailed review of the Victorinox Swiss Champ here.
In the 111mm category, there are two other SAKs that can be compared to the Work Champ:
It has all the tools of the Work Champ except the metal saw. This can be an ideal tool if you are sure you will not need the excellent file/metal saw.
Victorinox Work Champ XL
The big brother of the Work Champ that adds more tools to an already big multi-tool. Yes, the XL is even heavier and wider than the Work Champ.
Work Champ or Work Champ XL?
I know what you are thinking! If the Work Champ is so effective, why not go for the Work Champ XL which has even more tools?
What are the extra tools in the XL? These are the seatbelt cutter, hoof cleaner, marlinspike, gutting blade, and another flathead screwdriver.
If you find those extra tools useful, then maybe you should seriously consider the XL. And yes, you need bigger hands.
I think the Work Champ XL is more of a collector’s item. The extra weight and thickness because of those extra layers of tools makes it very uncomfortable to hold it with a firm grip. It almost takes away the effective usability of an otherwise excellent toolset.
I have always found thicker SAKs, especially, those having more than three layers, difficult to work with. But the Work champ with its long and ergonomic handle somehow makes me feel much more comfortable. In the hand, it feels less thick than it actually is.
The excellent toolset almost makes it a do-everything multi-tool, something like the Swiss Champ. In fact, the Work Champ is the Swiss Champ of the 111mm category.
Anything bigger than this, and the usability starts decreasing.
It is the most optimum set of large tools that you can have in the most compact form factor.
I will prefer the Work Champ over any plier-based multi-tool during camping or bush-crafting any day. The large knife and the wood saw alone will handle almost anything that you are supposed to do in such situations. Add to this the other tools that the Work champ has and you have a near-complete toolset in your belt, ready to tackle any situation.