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OR - Victorinox Soldier - Leif LeBaron

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  • mistlail
    This is my second owner review, posted for editing. HTML version: http://tinyurl.com/36drkwb Thanks, Leif ... ================================== Victorinox
    Message 1 of 2 , May 3, 2010
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      This is my second owner review, posted for editing.

      HTML version:



      Victorinox Soldier

      A versatile and durable, folding pocket knife and multi-tool.

      **9 Feb 2009**


      ---------+ +---------------------------
      Name: Leif LeBaron
      Age: 37
      Gender: Male
      Height: 183 cm (6')
      Weight: 70 kg (155 lb)
      E-mail: this@example\.org ("example" -> "bb9")
      Home: West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

      I began backpacking in my teenage years, and hiking, years before that. I backpack while travelling in both urban and wilderness environments. My travels have taken me through a wide range of landscapes, both in North America and overseas. I generally feel at home in the wilderness and I enjoy extreme terrain and weather but I'm not an ice climber nor a peak bagger. In 1999, I became interested in reducing my load and I now go more or less ultralight. I sleep in a hammock.


      [Photo: Victorinox]{style="margin-right:2em"}
      {style="float:right;text-align:right;margin:-32px 0 0 1.5em"}

      -------------------+ +--------------------------------
      Manufacturer: Victorinox
      Year of Manufacture: 1989
      Manufacturer's Website: www.swissarmy.com
      Listed Weight: --
      Measured Weight: 70 g (2.47 oz)
      Dimensions: 93 x 12 x 23 mm (3.6 x 0.9 x 0.5 in)
      Description: small folding pocket knife


      I used this knife while backpacking during three separate trips on the Hawaiian islands, and numerous small trips in British Columbia. I used the knife throughout a wide range of varied conditions.

      It was given to me almost 20 years before I wrote this report, though only for the past three years have I used it extensively as my primary backpacking knife.

      The quality of construction is excellent. The blades are superbly finished; sharp edges are only found where they ought to be, and the finely polished surfaces are easy to clean. Victorinox "guarantees a life time against any defects in material and workmanship" but I have not tested that guarantee.

      The Soldier has "Alox" handles (or scales) which are made of hard-anodised, solid aluminum alloy, rather than the thin plate covered by red plastic as seen on most Swiss Army knives (by Victorinox or Wenger). The blades are thicker than the regular red-handled versions. Victorinox makes several knives with Alox handles; those which include a reamer, use a special design only found on the Alox knives.


      The knife has four folding blades which provide the following:

      - knife
      - reamer
      - cap lifter, large flat-head screwdriver, wire stripper
      - can opener, small flat-head screwdriver (also fits Phillips #2)

      I have found the reamer to be very useful. Unlike the more common reamer/awl, which is mounted midway and perpendicular to the handle, the reamer on Alox knives extends inline with the handle. It is also much stronger and stiffer with an L-shaped cross section. The length of the reamer has a steeply ground edge which I found to be quite useful for carving and scraping. The reamer also excels at making precise holes, even in the hard thick shells of mature coconuts.

      I have no need for the bottle cap lifter but it also serves as a large flat-head screwdriver and pry lever. This blade opens fully but it also catches firmly at 90 degrees (for greater torque). A small notch on this blade serves as a wire stripper/bender. I used the large flat-head screwdriver only rarely; however, it can be reground to make a gouge for carving (which would be more useful to me).

      The can opener worked well for me (as long as the cutting edge was kept close to the rim). The small flat-head screwdriver also fits Phillips #2 screws and works well enough if the screws are not recessed, although the fit could be tighter.

      The knife blade easily cut a variety of materials from fresh fruit to hard wood and coconut husk. The factory edge was sharp and, with care, the knife held its edge well; however, edge retention is lower than many other knives but the steel sharpens more easily.

      Accidental damage to the edge (by dropping the knife on rocks and cutting into sand/soil) prompted me to try sharpening it in the field. Some smooth river stones brought the edge back without much difficulty.

      Some might complain that the steel is not harder (the knife blades are RC 56), but it has excellent corrosion resistance, and it appears that Victorinox has good balance on metallurgical compromises.


      My knife is somewhat different from the newer model still in production since the early 1990s. The blades are slightly thicker. It also has a tubular rivet in one end to which a bail or lanyard can be attached, but models made after 1992 have solid rivets. If hollow rivets were used at both ends, the knife could be more securely lashed to a pole, &c.


      Eventually, the Soldier (like most any folding knife) will require cleaning. I found that fruit juices were especially effective at gumming up the hinges and attracting particulate debris. The knife was easily washed in water (but don't use salt water) and soaked if necessary. I prefer to lubricate the hinges (after cleaning) with some olive oil or another edible non-drying oil.

      I also found that by blowing a short, concentrated blast of air on the hinges, both before opening and before closing any blade, the knife required cleaning much less often. In any case, it seems prudent to keep a folding knife clean.


      While prying some mature coconut meat out of its shell, I folded the blade onto my finger; a combination of operator negligence, compound curves, and sticky hinges. Fortunately, the cut was clean and it did not damage subdermal tissue, but I was lucky; be careful. I've often been warned (as I imagine we all have) about this danger of folding knives but there's nothing like personal experience to temper one's mettle.

      Other Options

      Since acquiring the Soldier, I discovered that Victorinox makes several other Alox knives which may be more useful. The following knives have the same tools and Alox handle as the Soldier, with the following differences.

      - *Farmer* - 86 g, adds saw and small split ring
      - *Pioneer Rancher* - 70 g, pruning blade replaces can opener
      - *Pioneer Harvester* - 84 g, Pioneer Rancher plus saw

      The pruning blade is especially interesting to me for carving, and it's useful to have two blades; one can be reserved (kept sharp) for special purposes. I'm not sure how much use I would find for the saw, but the increased weight is negligible and the wider handle seems easier to grip. I look forward to getting the Pioneer Harvester and writing another report. The absence of the can opener can be solved by opening cans crudely with the main blade, or by using an ultralight [P-38 can opener].

      [P-38 can opener]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-38_can_opener

      In 2008, the Swiss government called for a new knife to be issued to Swiss military. Victorinox won the contract and the new Soldier has significant differences, almost all of which are contrary to my purposes. In any case, the Alox Soldier remains in production and should not be confused with the new Soldier (2008) model.


      The Victorinox Soldier is not a conventional "survival knife" but for my purposes (I don't want to carry a heavy knife cut out for chopping wood and carving up large animals), it provides excellent utility for its size and weight. It augments my hands in various ways which certainly improve my survival.

      I developed a significant appreciation for the special reamer. The Soldier has served me well but I intend to replace it with another Alox model (the Pioneer Harvester). In any case, the Soldier remains the classic origin of the Alox family, not to be confused with its popular plastic-handled cousins, and I have no qualms in recommending it.

      --- Good

      - compact and lightweight
      - excellent multipurpose reamer (strong and useful for carving/scraping)
      - sharp from the factory, holds edge well, and sharpens easily
      - high-quality materials/construction/finish

      --- Bad

      - bottle cap lifter (I don't need a special tool to lift bottle caps)
      - blade does not lock
      - weight (it could be lighter; not much, but somewhat)

      Further Reading


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    • chcoa
      PLEASE READ THIS EMAIL IN FULL. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT! Thanks for your Owner s Review. It has been added to the Owner Review Queue and will be picked up by an
      Message 2 of 2 , May 5, 2010
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