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Simple Machines

During the 1920s and 1930s industrial designers took a new approach in the look, style, and creation of commercial products.


Victorinox Swiss Officers' Knife Champion (no. 5012)

Carl Elsener
(Swiss, 1860–1918)

1968. Plastic and stainless steel, 3 5/8 x 1 x 1 1/8" (9.2 x 2.5 x 2.9 cm)

The Swiss Officers’ Knife is a multitool object with 16 blades and attachments that can perform 29 functions. It is complicated to make: 450 different processes are used in its manufacture. Although the manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee, the knife works so well that only one in 10,000 are returned to the factory.

The first Swiss officers’ knife was designed in 1897 in Switzerland to replace knives imported from Germany. To distinguish the knives from copies, designer Karl Elsener placed a white cross and shield on the outside. They became internationally known when American soldiers started using them during World War II. Because the original Swiss name (Schweizer Offiziersmesser) was difficult for Americans to pronounce, soldiers called it the Swiss Army knife. Two companies currently manufacture these knives. The original company, Victorinox, was founded in 1884 and manufactures over 22 million knives and pocket tools a year, in over 100 different models. The older knives contained a blade, can opener, toothpick, tweezers, corkscrew, Phillips-head screwdriver, and magnifying glass.

Swiss Army Knife 2.0
Some newer models of the Swiss Army Knife might include a USB flash drive, digital clock, a device that measures altitude, LED light, laser pointer, or MP3 player.

Space Tools
NASA astronauts have a Victorinox knife as part of their standard toolkit.