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The 21st Century Pen Knife.

Discussion in 'Multi-tools & Multi-purpose Knives' started by jackknife, May 7, 2018.

  1. jackknife


    Oct 2, 2004
    Knives. We knife nuts tend to elevate them to a cult worship status and fawn over them, collect them, and carry sometimes more than two at a time. We are the obsessed and afflicted. The knife knuts. And there’s no better time in history to be a knife nut than now. There’s a huge selection on the market, ranging from tactical wonder knives that you can flick the blade open in a blink of an eye, to vintage looking numbers from GEC and Case that your great granddaddy would be proud to own if he were still around. Then theres the multitools.

    Tim Leatheman started the modern craze in that direction, but they had been around long before Tim was conceived. The old Automobile knives of the early 20th century with little wrenches to adjust the carbide running lamps on the old cars, and the escape kives of WW2 for pilots shot down behind enemy lines. They had hacksaw blades, wire cutting capability, and a file or two. General Chuck Yeager used one to breakout of a Spanish jail when he got captured in Spain after escaping the Nazi’s when he was shot down in occupied France. Then there’s the boy scout knives. This was my very first knife, a gen-u-ine official Boy Scout knife with the motto “Be Prepared” on the handle. My dad gave to me on my 12th birthday and it opened many doors as did being in the scouts. Camping, hiking, not too mention a crusty ex-Marine scout master named Mr. Van who was be believed to be at least a minor God by the young scouts he led. He himself carried a beautiful old original Remington scout knife that to us young scouts was fully equivalent to Arthurs Excalliber.

    But then, there’s the SAK. The red handled wonder of the free world, and recognized all over that world. I read someplace that in a world wide survey of recognizable brands, the Red handle with the silver cross came in right behind Coca-Cola and Bic. Everyone knows the SAK. Everyone. It very well may be the only pocket knife that has been to the ocean floor and into space, and most places in between. It’s real explosion came after WW2 when returning GI’s brought them back to the U.S. and they got to be known. By the end of the 20th century, they were the worlds biggest selling knife brand, and the worlds largest knife company. Of these, the humble little classic has been the quiet crimson tide sneaking in and taking over the “pen knife” market.

    When I was a kid, there was always the little pen knife that people carried. Almost universally it was a small one or two bladed little slip joint that was used for normal pocket knife chores by the city folk or suit types. They even had them on standup cardboard displays up by the cash register in the five and dime stores. Almost always had some kind of white fake pearl or cracked ice celluloid handles and carbon steel blades. They even came with a little bead keychain to attach it to your keys. Literally a keychain knife. After a while, the term ‘pen knife’ came to mean any little pocket knife, the same way the term Buck Knife in the 1970’s referred to any large lock blade.

    Fast forward to now, and the old white plastic handle pen knives are long extinct. Gone the way of the passenger pigeon. But, a little knife you see everywhere is, the red handled wonder, the SAK. And in particular, the Vic classic. They’re sold at big box stores for the price of a lunch special at chain restaurants like Bob Evans, Denny’s, and Cracker Barrel. I see them pop up in the hands of all kinds of people in all kinds of situations that require a small sharp edge. The middle age couple at Home Depot garden center wanting to buy a few bags of some mulch, but that particular pallet didn’t have the shrink wrap off yet. The man takes out his keys and there is the red handled wonder he pulls the little blade out and slices open the stacked and shrink wrapped pile of 50 pound bags of mulch It looked like one of the 58mm SAKs. Then there was the young lady at the watch counter at Walmart. She just wanted a new band on her Casio watch, but the sales girl didn’t seem to know how to do it, so the young lady took out the itty bitty SAK from her purse and did the job herself. Then there was my neighbor, Morris. We were at our neighborhoods regular Thursday morning old farts breakfast when he decided he needed mustard on his mid morning burger. Being almost 80 years old, his fingers couldn’t quite get the grip to tear open the little plastic mustard pack. Muttering an “Oh hell,” he pulls out his keys and takeout the scissors of a little classic and neatly clips the corner off the pack and all ends well. I ask him how long he’s carried that little knife and tells me that he’s had one on him every since his navy days. They get replaced as needed, because he uses them for a lot of things, and it’s the smallest pocket knife that he can get that will do so much. Keep in mind his navy days were a bit more than 50 years ago. That’s a very long time to be loyal to a particular brand of knife and a particular model of knife.

    To me, it seems like the humble little classic, the smallest of the whole Victorinox line, could very well be the ‘pen knife’ of the 21st century. Lord knows I’ve given away a large number of them in my quest to enlighten the world, one SAK at a time. To me, the Vic classic is the Giddeons Bible of pocket knives. The entry drug of SAK’s. It’s certainly the pen knife of the 21st century.
  2. mnblade


    Feb 7, 2000
    My dad was a dentist and (to my great disappointment as a boy) never carried a pocketknife. Now, though, as an active retiree he carries a Classic on his keys and finds a million and one uses for it!

    I myself prefer the Rambler. ;-)
  3. Rupestris

    Rupestris Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 1, 2006
    My wife isn't a knife nut but has a penchant for all things dragon or dragonfly. We have more than a few of each around the house.

    The first real pocket knife that she carried on a daily basis was a Spyderco Dragonfly. She still does but only at work. She works Retail and is sometimes tasked with opening boxes or UPS packages. I can tell how busy it is where she works by the amount of clear packaging tape glue she asks me to clean from the blade. A heavy naphtha like Ronson or Zippo brand lighter fluid whipes it right off.

    Last year I bought her one of these:


    The Spyderco continues to get the dirty work but now stays at home when we're out and about.
    jmh33, Ace Rimmer and kerryle00 like this.
  4. RP13


    Sep 30, 2013
    Great post! I could go on all night about the Classic, but it’s late here and I haven’t had much time to relax today. I’ve carried a Classic for about a decade now, many times as my primary knife. If I’m honest with myself it can handle 90% of my daily cutting chores. I love it so much I’ve already started buying unique ones for my children to have when they are old enough. Every time they need something cut or fixed they ask me to get my Swiss Army Knife. I will always carry a SAK.
  5. jackknife


    Oct 2, 2004
    Purell hand sanitizer works well too on packing tape glue. Don't get the stuff with the aloe vera and any oils, just the strait up mostly alcohol stuff. Takes off glue and all kinds of stuff from the blade. I keep it away from celidor though, I'm not sure what would happen.
    Rupestris likes this.
  6. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I liked your story Jack knife. You are probably right about the SAK Classic becoming the pen knife of the 21st Century. I like a larger SAK personally and still haven't gotten comfortable with Peanuts or 3" long (closed length) traditional knives or the Vic Classic. I have two GEC #14's in waiting for the day I adjust to the small traditional. Bought a Alox Vic Classic and my wife kept it. She did the same thing with a small Leatherman multi-tool.
  7. WinchesteRalox


    Mar 26, 2018
    The 21st-century penknife I like the ring of it,I guess I’m going to have to correct the fact that I don’t have one on my keychain right now. I think my mother borrowed it because she liked the tweezers so much. I have to pick her up another sak with tweezers
  8. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    I like the Leatherman Ps4 Squirt better on my key chain just in case you're open to ideas WinchesteRalox.
    Minnesota Man and Superdave1 like this.
  9. Astronaut FX

    Astronaut FX Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 8, 2018
    @jackknife Very nice read! You have a very nice writing style!
  10. jackknife


    Oct 2, 2004
    I've tried the Leatherman on the keyring, and it's just a tad too heavy. I sometimes carry it in my coin pocket, but I've found that it wears holes in my coin pocket before the jeans wear out. So I think the Leatherman is best just dropped in the pocket to be used as needed. Just too square and heavy for the keyring. I worry about too much weight on the ignition lock, so I may even remove the Fenix from the keyring and carry it and the Leatherman in a belt pouch. Some of the one's they make for the Zippo lighter will fit the PS4 and the Fenix a little snug, but it stretches out. The Leatherman is my number 2 favorite pocket tool.

  11. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    IMO, the Classic was also the pen knife of the late 20th century as well. I remember seeing a lot of them on people's key rings back in the 1990s. I, too, carried a Classic for a while, before discovering the Executive, which I prefer.

    That said, there can be no denying the Classic. I believe it's the most common pocketknife on the planet. I remember back when Target carried a ton of different SAK models. Now, I only see maybe 3 different models in stock anymore, and the main one is still the Classic.

    WinchesteRalox and znapschatz like this.
  12. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    The Squirt is a tad heavy. I don't keep a flashlight on a key ring. The Squirt is the only thing hanging on. Used it the other day to cut some wire.

    Gosh. I haven't worn a pair of jeans out in 20 years. But then, I mostly wear khaki's these days or khaki-like jeans. I did wear a pair of those out after I tore holes in a pair crossing a barbed wire fence to take a picture. :D
  13. J D Wijbenga

    J D Wijbenga

    Oct 17, 1998
    Nice story about a great little knife. I have one on my keyring as well. The scissors are excellent!
  14. Rupestris

    Rupestris Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 1, 2006
    This is my current keychain.

    I really like the older style Minichamp. I haven’t tried the newer one with the bottle opener but don’t suspect I need to.

    On the rare occasion I’m out and have an unopened craft brew, I usually have a Recruit or SI/Soldier or something else on me that can open a bottle.

    More times than not I’m at home or the waiter brings it in a glass:p.

  15. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel

    Feb 11, 2016
    I think you're pretty much right about the classic.

    I rarely use mine as a knife or keep it on my keys, but they sure are useful little buggers.
    The driver, scissors and the toothpick and tweezers are so handy.
    They're also of course everywhere.
    Last edited: May 8, 2018
  16. NMpops


    Aug 9, 2010
    I jumped on the Classic bandwagon a few years ago and after carrying one on my key rings for several years, losing both toothpick and tweezers and one scale and then replacing them, I realized that I really never used it because I always had a full size one in my pocket. So it now resides in my box of unused knives.
  17. oldtymer

    oldtymer Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 7, 2014
    Like to see a nice neat tool box,also that pocket pal, one of my favorite equal end two blade knifes
  18. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel

    Feb 11, 2016
    Great knife, and what a great deal it was at $15.

    That's my house / go box, and I definitely try to keep it neat and comprehensive without being heavy.
    It's a 17" hip roof box that could get heavy, but I have mine clocking in at 15lb.
  19. Harayasu


    Jun 18, 2009
    The Classic is what I carry on my keyring too. I recently saw several colleagues using their Classic. One colleague used the scissors on his Classic to cut paper and an other colleague used her Classic to peel an orange. My sister also carries a Classic on her keyring. None of the colleagues nor my sister are into knives, just like most people, but it seems many, many people find their way to the Victorinox Classic.
  20. jackknife


    Oct 2, 2004
    That's the whole thing in a nutshell. I'll bet a whole months social security check that most the people that buy a classic are not knife nuts, don't even know much if anything about knives or multitools, but have heard that "Swiss Army Knives are good" so when they see the red handles in the case they buy the smallest lowest cost one in there. People who are not affictionado's don't want to be bothered by it, whatever it is. Knife, gun, whatever.

    I knew young lady that managed a knife shop and in conversation this subject came up. She talked about how some customers came in wanting to replace a little 'pen knife' that had got lost or broken, and two knives in particular flew off the shelves. One was the little Buck mini Buck, the tiny lock blade that weighs less than an ounce and costs under 20 dollars. The other was the classic. Both the smallest of the line up, but still get the job done.

    I grew up watching my old man carrying a little Case peanut with devotion that would make a monk look like a slacker. I asked him why he always carried a little knife like that ands reply was classic in itself.

    "All I want it to do is cut something when I need to, and not be bothered by it when it's not needed."

    Heck, the classic will do that, in addition to snip, screw, file or pluck. And you can drop it in a coin pocket and forget you even have it on you till it's needed.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019 at 9:36 AM
    A.L. likes this.

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