Call that a knife?
The new Swiss Army knife contains 85 devices, weighs 2lb and costs nearly £500. But can you actually use it for anything? Andrew Martin puts the ultimate tool to the test
Wednesday December 6, 2006
Swiss Army knives are obviously good things to own. They're standard equipment for Nasa's astronauts, and feature in the Museum of Modern Art in New York as an example of outstanding functional design. When Chris Bonnington headed a Himalayan expedition in 1970, he used every one of the blades in his Swiss Army knife except the fish scaler; as he apologetically pointed out to the manufacturers, there are no fish on the south face of Annapurna.
In 1989 Professor John Ross, a doctor in rural Uganda, wrote that he had used the saw blade attachment to perform six emergency amputations, his surgical saw having been stolen. I myself have brought many a seemingly desperate situation to a happy conclusion by the employment of the corkscrew on my own Swiss Army knife. The only downside to owning one is running into somebody whose model features more implements than your own.
If, for example, I owned the Swiss Army knife called a Scout, humbly equipped as it is with only a can-opener, a large blade, a nail file and nail cleaner, a cruciform Phillips screwdriver, a reamer, another screwdriver, a cap lifter, a wire bender, a toothpick, tweezers and a keyring loop, and I went on a camping holiday with a man who owned the Engineer, which incorporates everything in the Scout knife plus tag clamp, wire cutter and pliers ... If that happened, then I'd probably pretend that I didn't have a Swiss Army knife at all, rather than be revealed as someone who could bend wire all day long but not actually cut it, and who was completely unable to tag any clamps - or clamp any tags, as the case may be.
Just as you can't be too rich or too thin, I'd always thought, so you can't have too many tools on your Swiss Army knife - but that was before I took delivery of the new Giant Swiss Army knife. Grotesque, if superbly engineered, the Giant weighs nearly a kilogram and features 85 devices in all. Unload this mother into the plastic tray as you walk through security at Heathrow and just see what happens.
Do you fly with that? I mean, can you push a button and fly?
posted by Steve @ 1:04:00 AM