Why I don't like back tools.

Discussion in 'Multi-tools & Multi-purpose Knives' started by jackknife, May 9, 2020.

  1. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    I will admit that my 'default setting' as it may be is the old scout knife. My dad gave me one when I was a kid and joining the scouts, so it became very ingrained into what there was of my mind. That scout knife saw me through my adolescence and misadventures and high school graduation. Not long after I enlisted in the army and picked the Engineers for the purpose of posable learning of a trade that was usable afterward. I didn't think at the time that there would. be much call for snipers, sentry removal, or blowing bridges in civilian life.

    Lo and behold, the army in its infinite wisdom issued me a scout knife. They didn't call it a scout knife, but a MI-L-K-818D, knife, pocket utility type. It had plain steel handle scales with a pattern stamped into it, but it was a scout knife for all intents and purposes. One spear shaped blade, screw driver/bottle opener, can opener, and awl. It even had a shackle for attaching a dummy cord so it wouldn't get lost. A scout knife by any other name.

    I carried that MIL-K-818D knife through a tour in the Southeast Asia fiasco some call the Vietnam war, and it was good. Then in Germany, in a little knife shop in Rothenburg, I discovered SAK's. My world was never to be the same again. There were big SAK's, little SAK's, and I left the shop with a small assortment of SAK's. A huntsmen, a Pioneer, and a secretary for just slicing.

    It didn't take long to find out that I didn't like the huntsman. I didn't really need a saw, and it was too think for my fatigue pants pocket. The pioneer was just like my scout knife and my MIL-K-818D. It got to be my first pick of pocket knives. But what annoyed my about the huntsman was the back tools. The awl was like floppy. if you leaned to much into the drilling motion, it moved over to the other way a bit like it was unstable, for lack of a better word. It just didn't work out as well at its intended task as the inline awl on the pioneer. And it's position on the knife didn't make it work as well as an alternate cutting edge like on the pioneer. The corkscrew was just okay, as I'm not a wine drinker but stick to beer and/or whiskey. Just didn't need a corkscrew that bad.

    Then I discovered the tinker. I liked the tinker, it had an extra knife blade, and still had an awl even if it was on the backside. I thought the dedicated Philips driver would be handy, and it was for light duty, but soon I discovered a flaw. A potential fatal flaw.

    I'd bought a slightly used 1966 VW bug. The former owner was another young soldier that was shipping out and he sold it. I was getting his old plates off he car and the screws were a bit rusty. I was using the tinker and a small pliers. As they were rusty, it was hard to unscrew them from the nuts on the back of the plate mounting, and had to put some elbow grease into it. Halfway through the job, notice a weird feel in the tinker as I twisted, and found out the Phillips driver was now having almost a quarter turn of 'slop' in the tool. The pin that was holding it had twisted and deformed and pushed out the liners and had almost had come part under the twisting torque. Not good.

    This was all a longtime ago, and I'd almost forgot why I had a slight mistrust of tinkers. Yesterday I get a call from my grandson in California, and in the course of conversation he told me about a project he was working on with a friend, and his tinker was being used. Some wood screws being put into some treated lumber for the outdoors had done the some thing. The fatal flaw in the design had got Ryan's tinker. He noticed the slop before it got too bad, and finished the job using the larger flathead screw driver/bottle opener using the inner corner like it was a combo tool. The flathead used that way suffered no damage.

    Apparently the back tool pivots are notably weaker than the regular tools, let alone the tool rivets on the alox models like the pioneer. So with the awls not as good as the inline, and the Phillips driver being a weak point, why bother with back tools? I think about the few decades of steady use my old Wenger SI has stood up to, and I have no complaints, and its never suffered any damage in spite of me asking more from it that it was designed for. Like the army issued MIL-K-818D, it seems pretty bomb prof.

    Maybe the Boy Scout knife had it right in the beginning.
    Last edited: May 9, 2020
  2. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    I don’t care too much for the back tools, either. Although I used my Spartan’s corkscrew for loosening overly-tight knots and holding my eyeglass screwdriver, I never liked its awl. I never used it much, and when I did, it felt ‘loose’.

    Also, one day when I needed a new hole on my belt, I first tried the Spartan’s awl, which wouldn’t even pierce the leather. I didn’t have much patience, so I then grabbed my Pioneer and used its awl. It immediately made a perfect hole with ease. The Pioneer’s awl has a different grind that I feel makes it more effective for several types of tasks, besides the fact that it’s an in-line awl.

  3. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    Jim, thats why I love the alox awl sooooo darn much; its not only a great wood drill, leather awl, but with its chisel grind it makes a great alternate knife blade of sorts. It cuts like a knife, and if you wiggle it under a zip tie, then it can cut the plastic tie like the dickens. Its a very very vesicle tool, and unlike the backside awl, it doesn't have that unstable feel.

    The pioneer is one knife that I feel is a great backup to the executive. Between them, they do cover most basis.
  4. shopdoc


    Mar 24, 2020
    Indeed. I just so happen to have an Electrician in one front pocket with the CYS in the other. Great combo. Small flashlight hanging from a suspension clip. Small bic in watch pocket. In the wallet there is some twine, p38, 2 paperclips, a safety pin, and a Victorinox quatro. Rounding it all out is my ever present buff in the pocket. Come at me life. Im ready.

    i never trusted that back scale phillips. You can really crank down on it in a T grip and it won’t stand up to hard use. I like the inline phillips on the Explorer but that knife is just too thick for me. With my other tools in pocket, I really don’t need the back scale tools anymore. I loved having a pin behind the corkscrew, but now that I carry a safety pin in my wallet, I’m content.

    Alox all the way. Plus the CYS of course.

    Carl, has the Electrician never struck your fancy? A bigger fan of the Pioneer?
    Storm 8593 and jackknife like this.
  5. jackknife

    jackknife Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    I'm more of the pioneer fan. I have found the can opener to useful for things including staple removal, and the hook for things like pulling the big cotter pin from the trailer hitch and such jobs.

    I've used the Wenger SI and the Sear's 4 way keychain screw driver for rusty old Phillips screws with good luck. With the Wenger/pioneer bottle opener, I use the inside corner of the flat screw driver for bigger Phillips with no problemo.
    Lee D, Storm 8593 and shopdoc like this.
  6. SteeleJ1976


    Jan 24, 2020
    I see your point about the backside tools. I like the Phillips on my SuperTinker but it does have limitations. I will say your grandson using it on pressure treated wood is probably beyond its rated abilities, heck even some drills have trouble with pressure treated wood. I mainly use my Phillips for recessed electronics screws that aren't usually torqued real heavy. I am looking at a Farmer X because I do agree the backside awl is no where near as good or functional. I don't know; I still like the back tools but I also realize their limitations and could live without them if I had too.
    Lee D, Storm 8593 and shopdoc like this.
  7. shopdoc


    Mar 24, 2020
    Points for using a ;. I still haven’t figured out when to use it. I’m a ... man nowadays...
    Storm 8593 likes this.
  8. comis

    comis Gold Member Gold Member

    May 17, 2013
    I agree each tool has it's limitation. Personally, I do appreciate the backside tools, some of them may not be ideal, but it's still way better than nothing.
    paulhilborn likes this.
  9. Storm 8593

    Storm 8593

    Jan 4, 2019
    I'm also firmly in Carls camp regarding back tools. I much prefer the smooth feel and find the backside tools much more fiddly to use than the utility they provide.
    The inline dedicated all on the Pioneer is vastly better at drilling/ reaming for my uses than the reamer/awl on tinkers/Spartans etc . But then again I've never needed to sew heavy duty stuff together, so for someone else it may be their go to tool. That said the small blade is the one tool I miss most when carrying the Pioneer
    Regarding breaking tools, I would be so bold as to venture that most of us know damn well when we are asking much more of a tool than it is designed for. My take is that you are of course free to do so, but never forget that when you throw your money on the table, you dont everytime get it back, and you went into it knowing that.
    It'd be a boring word if we were all the same eh?
    Sawl Goodman and James Y like this.
  10. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    I don't really like the backside tools either.
    The T handle operation makes these tools much less versatile and in the case of the Philip's driver annoying to use. And I'm talking 2 layer models here as I don't need any more than that in a pocket knife, if I need more functions I'll put a multitool on my belt.
    For me the awl is useful for scribing lines or de-burring PVC, and a backside awl sucks for this.
    Not to mention the fact that the can opener works well enough for Philip's screws, it's not like high torque applications are within the capabilities of the backside screwdriver anyway.
  11. paulhilborn

    paulhilborn Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    This applies to me as well:thumbsup:
    315 likes this.
  12. Tony_A


    Sep 14, 2004
    Has Victorinox ever made 91mm class stuff with full size tools on both front and back? (I mean like the 74mm Executive with separate end pivots for the top and bottom full length tools)
    Last edited: May 10, 2020
  13. comis

    comis Gold Member Gold Member

    May 17, 2013
    For Victorinox, AFAIK, only 74mm or below has setup as you've described, 84mm and above all have main tools opened from the front, and few back tools if the backspring could accommodate.
  14. DocT


    Mar 25, 2012
    It is a reamer and it is better for the kind of work as you found out. That is why I carry a Pioneer X all the time...the tools work.
  15. DocT


    Mar 25, 2012
    I do not care the the back tools, either, excepting the cork screw. It is handy if you want to open a bottle of wine or something and it works. Otherwise, I prefer the tool set on my Pioneer X because I know they will hold up and actually work. The large screw driver is too large, it was for a gunstock, originally, I think. But it makes a great scraper and still works on very large screws.
    Storm 8593 likes this.
  16. Stelth


    Jul 15, 2007
    I've never had problems with back tools but then I've never hesitated to use a real screwdriver when a job required one. Back awls aren't as good as in-line awls but they still can poke holes in things.
    Plainsman, Storm 8593 and jmh33 like this.
  17. CraigTbone


    Mar 4, 2019
    Tony_A beat me to it. For a long time I have felt that an 84mm and 91mm size tool with the Exec configuration would be a great tool. 4 hinge pins, full size back side tools.

    I believe it would have a large market. But Vic has their own decision making process.
  18. Stelth


    Jul 15, 2007

    Maybe if I understood the manufacturing process I'd understand Victorinox's decisions, but in my opinion they are not very responsive to customer suggestions. To the point of being stubborn. How hard would it be to put scissors on a Cadet? People have been begging for that option for years yet they continue to ignore that demand.
  19. Lee D

    Lee D Basic Member Basic Member

    May 27, 2013
    Yes, PLEASE listen to us Victorinox, I vow to buy a dozen and gift half of them to friends and family who normally don’t carry a knife. I personally know three old timers that I’M positive will see the wisdom of a Cadet X. You are missing the boat on this one, guaranteed.

    I apologize for derailing your thread Jacknife, frustration is starting to get the best of me.
    Storm 8593 and jackknife like this.
  20. Lee D

    Lee D Basic Member Basic Member

    May 27, 2013
    *nevermind...too much coffee this morning lol
    Last edited: May 11, 2020

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