The Swiss don't have a reputation for haste, so I suppose it's no surprise it took them a long while to enter the multi-tool market. One could argue that they invented the market with the Swiss Army Knife, but that product's lack of practical-sized pliers significantly reduces its utility compared to the multi-tool, no matter how many other useful odds and ends are packed into it.
Wenger introduced its SwissGrip model in 1996, essentially adding a blunt nose pliers to an extra large Swiss Army Knife (similar in form and function to the SOG Tool Clip, but larger and more robust), but it was over-sized, over-priced, and under-marketed. As a result, few retailers carried it and with the exception of a few SAK enthusiasts, most never realized it exists.
Now the other Swiss Army Knife manufacturer, Victorinox, has weighed in with their SwissTool. In size, it is virtually identical to the Leatherman Super Tool, its closest competitor and obvious design reference (4 1/2 x 1 5/16 x 5/8 inches), and at about an ounce heavier (9.8 oz.) it's no lightweight.
The pliers open in the same manner as do the traditional Leatherman, by unfolding the handles, but that's where the similarity ends. Blades and implements open out from the closed SwissTool, it isn't necessary to open the tool or pliers to gain access. This represents a significant improvement in ease of use and functionality. Unfortunately, Victorinox didn't take the next logical step and make the two excellent knife blades (plain edge and serrated edge spear-points - 2 15/16 inches long) one-handed opening. The blade (and saw) edges are aligned with the bottom of the tool.
The pliers fall about halfway between a true needle nose and blunt nose pliers, being neither fish nor fowl, the tool's biggest drawback from our perspective. All the blades and tools lock in place when open. The small knurled tabs that slide fore and aft to unlock the tools are easy to operate.
The SwissTool includes a course and fine double cut bastard file with a moderately aggressive (more so than the Super Tool) "hacksaw" on one edge. There is also a very effective wood saw and four slotted screwdrivers, if you include the little one at the end of the can opener. That one is always questionable since it is so stubby and at the end of a wide hunk of metal, so it is often unusable. The fine and large one are separate, the medium is at the end of the bottle cap lifter. There is also a Phillips that works on both #1 and #2 screws. Unfortunately, Victorinox, in its zeal to polish everything to a high luster, rounds off the edges of the screwdrivers. As a result, the rounded edges can lead to slipping, especially in shallow grooves.
There is also a chisel, a vee style wire stripper, a half-round wire scraper and an awl. The handles are ruled with metric on one side and English measurements on the other. Using the tool as a ruler is facilitated by the pliers tension mechanism that has a strong detent at the 90 degree point, keeping the handles aligned. A nylon sheath in included. Victorinox offers a limited lifetime warranty.
Sized the same as the large Leatherman Super Tool, Swiss quality and precision are evident throughout. This one is a winner, though it's not without its minor faults.
Check out our expanded review and evaluation of the SwissTool.
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Revision: 010 January 12, 1999
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