Down the rabbit hole with a pocket knife.


I love how the further you explore the rabbit hole, the deeper it can become. Even something as simple as replacing something lost can lead you through an interesting path of discovery and adventure. Such was the case when I tried to replace my lost pocket knife.


The pocket knife prelude

That’s my ‘lost’ pocketknife up the top there. A Victorinox Pioneer. Or so I thought.

We all will be familiar with some form of the SAK1. The red multifunction knives would boast every tool for every situation, all in one ready-to-go unit. I watched MacGyver, wanted one, had several as a kid, lost them, and wish I still had them now. As I grew older, I started to appreciate the stripped-back versions. I didn’t need a wood saw for most things, living in town. If I did – I had bigger, better, purpose-made saws to serve that purpose.

I found myself gravitating towards the above pocket knife. It became my EDC2 knife. The silver ‘checked’ scales and thinner profile worked better. Felt a little less MacGyver3

I have had this knife for close to eight years. Generally, if I am out and about, this is in my pocket. It is a small, unassuming, inoffensive, classic pocket knife. Carrying enough to cover 99% of all the needs I have for a pocket tool. There are four parts to it – a knife, a reamer or punch, a can opener and a bottle opener. Both the can and bottle opener also work as small flat-blade screwdrivers.

I haven’t used the wire stripper at all, but all the other tools have, at some point, come in useful to me.

To lock or to not?

I have long gone between a smaller multi-purpose pocket knife and a larger single-bladed lock blade. Still, I will, depending on my mood, swap out the smaller knife for something like the Mercator. Sometimes, I carry the SAK in my pocket (week side pocket for some reason), and a Spyderco Dragonfly clipped onto my belt.

pocket knife options

For certain tasks, I still like the security of a locking blade. For the vast majority of what I use it for daily – it doesn’t matter.

It gets to the point where you are so used to having it in your pocket that the day you realise it isn’t there, things feel a little strange. As was the case recently when I noticed it had gone AWOL. After doing a thorough 4 check of all my pants, my dresser and normal EDC bags – I couldn’t find it.

Pioneer – or is it?

After a little pondering (about five minutes), I ordered another one. But I couldn’t. As far as I was aware – I was looking for a Pioneer. Looking on the Victorinox site, the form that I wanted wasn’t available – the Pioneer had a keyring hole on it!

Now, I realise this might sound like a trivial point. But if you don’t have it on your keys, why would you need a keyring hole? The whole idea of this SAK was minimalism. Having something extra on there didn’t appeal.

two great options for a pocket knife

I questioned the difference – and had pointed out to me that the Pioneer has always had a keyring hole. But there have been occasional other versions that didn’t.

I needed a new knife and figured I would learn to deal with it5. I ordered it and, at the same time, picked up a RangerWood 55. I liked the unit’s look – not as an EDC knife, but as a potential bridge between the Pioneer and my hunting knives. A little bigger, with a locking blade and a wood saw (that was big enough to be useful).

Research on variations

While I waited for the knives to turn up, I did a little research into what exactly the differing Pioneer versions were. As it happened (as is always the way), my original knife also turned up. So, I had my original to compare to and research. Down the rabbit hole, I went.

Like any iconic design – there is a massive online community based around the history and many variants of the SAK knife. I was soon reading forums and sites feeding me a lot of interesting info.

Not a Pioneer, after all

And lo and behold. I never had a Pioneer in the first place!

As it turns out, what I actually had was a Soldier 1961. A true ‘Swiss Army Knife’ in that this was the official design issued to the Swiss Army since 1962.

A couple of things were different from the new version I received. The logo wasn’t the Victorinox logo; it was the Swiss Army Logo. The knife itself had 08 stamped onto it (as it turns out, that is the year of manufacture). Finally, the scales were missing the blank, flat section that is on the new knife.

In fact, it turns out, the one I had must have been near the last ever made. The model got replaced in 2008 with a new knife; it had a keyring added to it and got renamed, you guessed it, the Pioneer. My 08 stamped knife was one of the last manufactured before the swapover.

So there you have it

If you have made it this far, well done! You must have as an inquisitive mind as mine!

I have ended up with both knives (not a bad thing) and a little bit more insight into the history of my old knife. I think I can remember where I got it from as well, so I am going to head back and see if they happen to have any new, ‘old stock’ still sitting around. I think it may be the case that what I have is the last of them. But you never know!

More reading

Soldier model 1961

  1. Swiss Army Knife 

  2. everyday carry 

  3. not hating on MacGyver though! 

  4. even more thorough than normal 

  5. oh, the problems!