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ToolChest Plus vs SwissChamp

Starting off with a battle of the heavyweights, here is a shootout between the Wenger Tool Chest Plus versus the Victorinox SwissChamp from our very own UnknownVT.

In honor of being admitted to the SOSAK Asylum - here's something I wrote a while back and posted on the Reviews section -

[originally posted on rec.knives 1996/05/27]

SAK - battle of the giants - a comparison of flagships.

Caveat - I carry a Victorinox SAK and have preference for Victorinox SAKs.

I recently got a Wenger SAK (Swiss Army Knife) Tool Chest Plus - their everything model (for $70 with Wenger leather pouch) and thought I'd do a comparison with the Victorinox "everything" model - the Swiss Champ (which I have had for a while, best price I've seen is as low as $39!!!)

TCP= Wenger Tool Chest Plus (model # 16906)
SC= Victorinox Swiss Champ (model # 1.67.95, US# 53501)

Design -
TCP has 15 folding tools with 11 backspring/partitions at 1-1/2" thickness and 8oz weight, 3-1/4" closed.
SC has 16 folding tools with 7 partitions and 8 backsprings at 1-1/4" thickness and 7oz weight, 3-1/2" closed.
TCP total of 17 tools with claimed 33 functions
SC total of 22 tools and claimed 31 functions.
They are both too thick for a comfortable hold. I can just completely close my hand over the SC, but not on TCP. Both are way too big and heavy to carry comfortably in pants pockets, but not impossible, er-hum if you are trying to impress   

TCP, I have only seen in standard red handles. SC is available in the USA in Red or Black, but they are also available with white scales as standard.

Comparison by tools:

1) Main (large) Blade -
TCP - 2-1/2" with 2-1/8" sharpened
SC - 2-11/16" with 2-3/8" sharpened
I thought the TCP had a loose/wobble in the blade - this was not so, the blade is thin enough that its flex made me think it was loose. My sample came with a blade which was NOT sharp it had flats on the edge. By using a V-hone, I found that the edge angle was greater than the usual 22.5 deg. The V-hone was only grinding the shoulder between the blade face and the edge bevel. SC could shave.

I like the looks of the Wenger shape more, there is more of a curve and resembles a scalpel. But I have carried Victorinox since 1982 and can attest to the shape being very useable for all the normal tasks I put a pocket knife to. The blade(s) are very rust resistant, sharpen fairly easily (once I learnt how) - I don't think it is a super hard steel, holds a sharp edge reasonably well for the sort of cutting I use it for.

2) Screwdrivers - plain and Phillips -
The Phillips screw driver on both are in the main body - as opposed to the usual corkscrew replacement. The round end on the tang which rolls against the backspring, is actually squared on the both SC screwdrivers, so they are designed to be used at 90deg open position for more torque as well as the fully open straight position, and may be a deliberate safety design to give a mid stop point before shutting. TCP's round end are rounded, so although it is possible to use both TCP screwdrivers in the 90deg open position, I don't think they were designed to do this. Both TCP's screwdrivers are locking - this feature is patented - there is a notch in the backsprings and the back square of the tang (not like a lockback though). But I found that there is a side effect to this design - the TCP screwdrivers have play, in that they can be pushed passed the fully open position. Both plain screwdrivers are combined with cap lifters and wire strippers.

3) Other screwdrivers -
TCP has one other small one on the tip of the magnifying glass (see later).
SC has 3 more - on the tip of the can opener - this is about the width size as the TCP small, an even narrower blade on the back spring (corkscrew side) and a miniature/jewelers which is housed in the corkscrew. The latter is patented, and I think that's why you don't see this feature/tool on the Wengers.

4) Scissors and Pliers -
TCP uses a springless mechanism on both - an arm activated by the backspring. This is clever but a side-effect is that both the scissors and pliers move relative to the handle, whereas SC has one half that is rigid to the handle. TCP's scissors are finely serrated - said to be self sharpening, SC's plain - I could not discern any cutting difference. TCP has slip-joint pliers with wire crimper and cutter. SC has only wire cutters in addition, but has rounded corners and feels more solid to me, although they both are really only for light use.

5) Magnifying glass -
TCP - in metal body with small slot screwdriver tip. My sample was very disappointing - the magnifying glass exhibited large amounts of distortion. This could be a fault on just my sample, the lens did not have smooth well formed surface, it shows some concentric ripples and magnifies unevenly. Very disappointing.
SC has a larger lens in a plastic body, the optical quality is reasonable for its size. It is shorter and only occupies half length allowing the Phillips screwdriver in the remaining half, whereas TCP's uses the full length - IMHO that's a waste of space. Argument can be made for the length required for the screwdriver tip for reach in confined spaces, but the magnifying lens would be in the way defeating that intention.

6) Saws - Wood saw and Metal saw with Files -
Wood saws - both have the same sized double row of very pointed teeth, with the same spacing. The SC is slightly longer by one tooth. They both saw very effectively for their size, surprisingly so, but one does have to get the hang of using them. Although they both cut well in both directions, like any other wood saw it is better to start to score a groove in the wood first by using pulling strokes, once started, I think due to the double row teeth the saw does not bind in the wood. I have cut broom handles and rods to length with ease.
Metal saws - TCP has teeth right to the tip, SC has 7/16" tip plain - which is meant as a nail cleaner. I have used the Victorinox metal saw to cut rusted nuts away from bolts and cut clean through steel bolts. Again this is a surprisingly effective tool. TCP and SC are scored on both sides as metal files, the SC has one side finer than the other, the finer side doubles as a nail file.

7) The things to get horses out of hooves -
Awl/Reamer - TCP plain square cross-section of metal tapering to a point. SC has a sharpened edge very good for reaming or beveling holes, and has an eyelet for sewing leather.
Fish scaler - both have hook disgorgers, TCP also has a line guide built in, while SC's doubles as a ruler with both inches and metric measurements markings.

8) Tools "that I have and you don't" -
TCP - international wrench this looks really useful, compass - useful, but IMHO stupid design - the "needle"/"pointer" is actually a disc with orange and black line on it, but it is supposed to be aligned through a slit, which means that most of the time the indicator line cannot be seen! It is also NOT intuitively obvious that the orange half of the line is supposed to be North. This is mounted in a 1/4 thick Plexiglas/Perspex (transparent plastic) ruler. The thickness I suppose is for robustness, but it occupies the equivalent of two backsprings - I feel it is a heavy penalty to pay in added thickness and bulk for that added feature. Separate small nailfile/cleaner in place of a small blade.
SC - small knife blade, then all on the back side - that ubiquitous hook, wood chisel, small screwdriver, and miniature/jeweler's screwdriver store in corkscrew (both mentioned above); - in the handles/scales - ball-point pen, straight pin.
Both have tweezers and toothpicks built into the scales.

Comments -
As already declared I have a preference for Victorinox SAKs. I find that the overall design better - they seem to have models which pack more useful functions into the same thickness, or equal functions in less thickness.

This comparison of the flagship models illustrates my preference.
Even though Wenger claims the TCP is the largest SAK in the world - the SC actually has more tools in a full 1/4" less thickness, and a full ounce less weight, even when it is 1/4" longer.

I thought two tool designs on the TCP to be poor - the magnifying glass with metal body and built-in screwdriver tip uses up the full length of a slot when in functionality the lens negates the advantage of the longer screwdriver, as it would get in the way in the rotating motion. Then the compass - the design of the view of the pointer through a slit is stupid requiring you to rotate the compass body to see the pointer most of the time, then the Plexiglas blade/body's thickness occupying the wide of two backsprings a full 1/4" is a waste of space for the advantage gained. Of course this is just IMHO - you might think these are the bee's knees - I don't.

Victorinox could replace the small blade with the combo tool (screwdriver, cap lifter, can opener & wirestripper in one) and eliminate the two standard tools of cap lifter and can opener, and thus a whole backspring worth of thickness, about 1/8", but doing this one might lose the reamer/awl from the backside...

Then there's the question of quality - it normally goes without saying that SAK are synonymous with quality - I expect it, you probably would too. The sample of the TCP I got had two faults - the main blade came with flats on the edge (most can easily cure that) but the magnifying glass showed enormous and unacceptable optical distortion with concentric ripples in the lens surface - I think this is a fault and not a deliberate "design". Just so you don't think that I regard the Victorinox SC as perfection, there is a slight buckle in the front scale (the logo side) where it is not completely flush with the side liner. This probably will trap dirt/food etc. I only just noticed this, but my other Victorinox SAKs do not have this problem (I have about 11 other Victorinox models with cellidor handles - I have 5 other Wengers).

Other than the above "faults" the fit and finish of both SAKs are exemplary. All the tools open and close smoothly and are a benchmark for others to follow.

Having said all this, I would gladly have either SAKs rather than to be without a SAK - both are AMAZING. But since I can and do have a choice - I choose the Victorinox.