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Growing up with a Swiss Army Knife

Like many other Swiss adults, I grew up not only with the songs of Mani Matter but also with my very own Swiss Army pocket knife. I remember my dad teaching me and my siblings to carve a branch of a tree into a beautiful walking stick or create a bow with a flexible but strong branch.

Although I haven't carved a wooden stick with a knife in a very long time, having done it many times as a child definitely enriched my childhood. The sweat and blood - and sometimes tears - shed to create a work of art with a simple knife were definitely well spent.

Yes, I must have cut myself several times, slipping the blade off the branch and into my finger, arm or leg. Luckily, the memory of those cuts has disappeared into a foggy cloud labeled 'childhood forgettables'. Is that a uniquely Swiss childhood memory? Probably not. However, there is a definite connection between good pocket knives and Switzerland.

Switzerland and Army Knives

I believe the Swiss Army Knife is be the most famous pocket knife in the world. Most people in Switzerland own or have owned a Swiss Army Knife at some point in their life. But why are these useful pocket knives called Swiss Army Knives? What makes them so uniquely Swiss? I've heard several stories over the years but here is what I found after some research.
Swiss Army Knife - wrw  / pixelio.de


Short History of Swiss Army Knives

The first Swiss Army Knife was produced for the Swiss Army in the 1880ies. It was small compared to todays versions and contained a knife, can opener, screw driver and a bodkin. Also, it was black and not yet its typical red. Even today, every Swiss soldier receives a Swiss Army Knife as part of his/her basic equipment. Sadly, the new knives are not red anymore but in good old boring army green.

The first Swiss Army Knives were actually produced in Germany. The Swiss company Karl Elsener (who later became Victorinox) started producing it in 1891. Wenger started producing two years later in 1893.

How Swiss are Swiss Army Knives?

In regards to the 'Swiss-ness' of the Swiss Army Knives, I only could come up with a theory: The obvious reason for the knives to be called 'Swiss' is that they were originally manufactured only for the Swiss Army. However, I believe the knives' characteristics match the traits of the average Swiss citizen in many ways: orderly, practical thinking, compactness and a great sense of design.

If you want to buy your own Swiss Army Knife and take it on adventures around the globe or your backyard I have to following tips for you:
  1. Never carry it in your hand luggage while traveling by plane. It definitely will be confiscated.
  2. Never try to close the blade from its sharp side. I've seen and done that and it's not pleasant!
  3. Always keep it clean. It is rust resistant and dish washer safe! 
You can order your knife - be at a Victorinox or Wenger Swiss Army Knife - online at Amazon or buy one at the local retailer or airport.





Source:
Schweizer Taschenmesser - Swiss Army Knives


© 2011 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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