Ever wondered why Victorinox has added a corkscrew to the Swiss Army Knife? It is a tool that is (mostly) seen in a SAK, but not in any other pocket knife or multi-tool.
The Swiss Army Knife has a corkscrew so that the army officers for whom the first Swiss Army Knife, originally called the ‘Officer’s and Sports Knife’ was designed, could use it to uncork and enjoy wine. Drinking wine is common in the Swiss culture and lifestyle, and as such a corkscrew was added to enhance the utility of the pocket knife.
Note that the ‘Officer’s And Sports knife’, commonly known as the Officer’s Knife, never became a standard issue in the Swiss Army.
The Soldier’s Knife Does Not Have a Corkscrew
The model ‘Soldier’ which each recruit in the Switzerland army receives as a standard issue does not have a corkscrew.
In 1897, Karl Elsener, the founder of Victorinox, improved upon the original model of the Soldier’s Knife by designing a new folding pocket knife that employed special springs. The corkscrew was one of the two new tools he added to the knife, the other being a second blade.
Karl Elsener wanted this ‘Officer’s Knife’ to be adopted by the Switzerland army as a knife to be issued to the officers in the army. The main difference with the model ‘Soldier’ was the presence of a corkscrew in the knife.
The ‘Officer’s Knife’ never became a standard issue. The model ‘Soldier’ has been redesigned and improved by employing the springs that Karl Elsener invented, but the corkscrew was never added to the ‘Soldier’.
Till today, no Swiss Army Knife model with a corkscrew has ever been officially recognized as a standard issue in the Swiss Army.
Some models of the German Army Knife (commonly referred to as the GAK) which is a standard issue in the German army do have a corkscrew. Incidentally, the GAK is also made by Victorinox.
The Corkscrew is a Distinctive Feature Of The Original Swiss Army Knife
Though the Swiss army did not officially commission the Officer’s Knife with a corkscrew to the army, it was nevertheless available for purchase by anyone privately at cutlery shops along with the Soldier knife.
The ‘Officer’s Knife’ caught the imagination of the people and became very popular. The model is credited for saving the company from bankruptcy.
The original versions of the corkscrew had five turns and also had groves cut into the sides. It was later redesigned to have four turns. Also, the groves were removed in the new design.
The corkscrew became a distinctive feature of the ‘Officer’s Knife’ which later went on to be referred to as the first ‘Swiss Army Knife‘.
Today, Victorinox Spartan, a 91mm SAK model, is considered the direct descendant of the original Swiss Army Knife – the ‘Officer’s Knife’.
The Spartan has retained the corkscrew as one of the tools.
Difficulty in Adding the Corkscrew to the Swiss Army Knife
It is said that Victorinox had to change the initial design of the knife significantly to accommodate the corkscrew. Unlike other tools in the SAK which are flat, the rounded spirals of the corkscrew were difficult to fit in a layer of the knife.
Ultimately, it was intelligently incorporated into the spine of the Swiss Army Knife.
Also, the corkscrew is a forged piece of metal, a process in which Victorinox does not have much expertise. It was ultimately decided to import the corkscrews from a supplier in France.
The corkscrew is located at the back of the Swiss Army Knife, usually referred to as the spine of the SAK. Since Alox Swiss Army Knives do not have spine tools, so there cannot be a corkscrew in an Alox SAK.
As such, the corkscrew is the only tool in a Swiss Army Knife that is not made in Switzerland.
Criticisms Of The Corkscrew In The Swiss Army Knife
People have often joked about having a corkscrew in the Swiss Army Knife. They argue that the Swiss Army Knife, which by its very name means a knife to be used by the army, is not supposed to aid a soldier in drinking wine in the field.
This argument doesn’t hold ground, however, as all pocket knives that have spawned from the Officer’s Knife are mainly designed for civilian use. The one that the Swiss army officially uses does not have a corkscrew.
With time, corks became less common in wine bottles. Also, wine is not a very common drink outside Switzerland and Europe, especially in the US. As the Swiss Army Knife spread all over the world, the corkscrew became a less appreciated feature, almost a useless one, for many.
Victorinox responded by replacing the corkscrew with a Philips screwdriver in some models of Swiss Army Knives.
It is often said that Victorinox did this keeping the US market in mind where beer is preferred over wine.
As the Swiss Army Knife already has a bottle opener, so replacing the corkscrew with a Philips screwdriver was a logical alternative.
While the addition of the Philips screwdriver has been appreciated, there are also many who still value a corkscrew more than a Philips screwdriver.
There are a few Swiss Army Knife that has both the corkscrew and the Philips screwdriver. The Victorinox Explorer is one such model (reviewed here).
In fact, ‘corkscrew vs Philips’ is a popular discussion topic among SAK users.
Many Uses Of The Swiss Army Knife Corkscrew
Over time, SAK enthusiasts have discovered many innovative uses of the corkscrew apart from uncorking wine bottles. Have a look at this post explaining some of the practical uses of the corkscrew that can be useful in day-to-day life.
Victorinox has also introduced two accessories that enhance the usefulness of the Swiss Army Knife corkscrew, even for non-drinkers.
The first one is a mini screwdriver, useful for eyeglasses and electronics, that can be stored in the corkscrew. The second accessory aids in starting a fire, and is called the ‘Victorinox Mini Tool FireAnt Set’. It consists of very small fire steel and tinders that can be attached to the corkscrew.
It is much more practical to carry a Swiss Army Knife in the pocket than a dedicated corkscrew. Quality wines still use traditional corks. If you are a wine drinker, having a Swiss Army Knife with a corkscrew will often come in handy.
Even if you don’t drink wine, the various ways by which you can use the corkscrew in a Swiss Army Knife make it a worthwhile tool to have.