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Weekend project: Fixing up a 30-year-old Swiss Army Knife

My Swiss Army Knife -- a 30-year-old Victorinox SwissChamp -- is looking a little worse for wear. Time to fix it up and get it ready for the next 30 years.
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Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

Time to take a break from thinking about coronavirus.

I work my tools hard, and one tool that seen more than its fair share of hard work is my 30-year-old Victorinox SwissChamp. That thing has been used and abused, and it's still going strong. But it's looking a little worse for wear. The scales are broken, it's full of grime and schmoo, and the blades are getting hard to open because of said grime and schmoo.

Time to fix it up.

Update: A few of you have reached out to tell me that I could have sent my SwissChamp back to Victorinox for free repair under the lifetime warranty that is offered. Good point. I forgot to mention that, however, for me it was a peaceful way to spend a couple of hours, I didn't have to be without the knife for days, and I got the satisfaction of doing the job myself.

Note here that this is a fix-up, not a restoration where I sharpen and polish everything and get it back to looking like new. If this were an old car, it would be less of a restoration, and more of a "rustoration." But I'm certain that after an hour or so of work, it'll be ready for the next 30 years.

First off, the plastic scales are busted. A quick search on eBay pulled up a lot of listings for replacements -- I needed 91 mm scales -- for about $20. However, the scales on my SwissChamp have slots cut in for a toothpick, tweezers, and a pen. Since I don't use the pen -- it leaks ink and makes a mess -- and I couldn't find replacement scales with the three slots that would arrive in a timely fashion, I'm losing the ability to have the pen.

You can also find spare toothpicks, tweezers, and springs for the scissors and pliers too. Mine were all functional (I have spare toothpicks as it's something I use a lot and change regularly).

Fixing up a 30-year-old Swiss Army Knife - in pictures

The scales are a press fit, so I pop the old ones off with an iFixit opening tool. And I use the tool to clean off any random bits of scale that remain around the holding pegs.

It's a bit filthy under the scales, so into a bath of warm soapy water the naked SwissChamp goes. I carefully open and close the blades and tools (being careful not to cut myself) to remove the grime from the pivot points and use a brush to get into the nooks and crannies.

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I let the SwissChamp air dry for a little before moving on.

I didn't oil any pivot points, because oil attracts gunk and makes the problem worse. If the pivots needed lubrication, I would use graphite from a soft pencil instead. It works well, and doesn't encourage the build-up of debris.

It's said that every tool has a hammer side, and my Swiss Army Knife has been used as a hammer many times over the three decades. Some of the liners are a little bent, and that makes opening some tools a bit tricky. I used my Leatherman P4 multitool (which I like a lot too) to fix up the liners a little before moving on.

The scales are a press-fit, and a bit tough to get on by hand. I wrapped the Swiss Army Knife in a thin cloth -- to prevent damage -- and pressed them in place with my knee. You could use a vice or pliers, but just be careful not to damage the new scales!

A quick sharpen of the blades, and the SwissChamp is ready for work!

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