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Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge) 351

Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« on: February 11, 2018, 08:19:08 PM »
This tool review is part of a challenge, to find the best multitool I could for $10, tax and shipping included. The main thread to the challenge is linked below, if you want to see the other contestants.

I purchased this tool used on ebay, as part of a lot. It was worth about $9 of the lot that cost $17.50, and I added $1 of additional parts, in the form of new (ish) scales, bringing the total cost to $10.

So, here it is. A Victorinox Explorer. Ain't she a beauty?

Well... that's NOW. This was, without a doubt, the grossest thing I've ever gotten from ebay. When I received it, it was crusted shut with a stinking, oily mud. I was actually VERY angry when i first opened the package, and had liquid dripping out, and a foul mildewy smell. Since I have mold allergies, I had the joy of having my head swell shut. Then it took three washings to get it to a point where it stopped leaving a greasy ring in the big bowl I used to wash it in. But slowly, from one wash to the next, the tools that I feared were never going to even open slowly got their snap back.

And thanks to Syph007's affordable replacement scales, I pried THESE ones off...

A good oiling, and now it's serviceable. It's far from immaculate.Some of the tools have some scratches, and i think there's a spot of surface rust on the can opener. But this thing is in shockingly good shape considering what it looked like when I got it.

Now, snap is good for all tools. There is no damage to cutting edges, on blades, awl, or scissors. There is one tiny speck in the lens of the magnifying lens, but it otherwise doesn't seem to have any scratches. The replacement scales, which had been removed from a new Swiss Army Knife, only needed to be snapped into place, and held firmly with no wobble, and didn't require any glue to hold them firmly in place.

Before I begin the review of function, I have to say that I've now had a good number of utterly grungy Swiss Army Knives come into my possession, and I have been UTTERLY amazed at how well they recover, with nothing more than a good cleaning. This incredible ability alone makes me really appreciate the quality of these tools.

Review of function coming along shortly. Stay tuned.

Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 09:15:41 PM »

The Victorinox Explorer comes with two blades, which is very common on the 91mm line.

Both blades, as received, were just sharp enough to cut standard paper.

I gave both blades 20 strokes per side on ceramic rods. After this, both cleanly cut light receipt paper,and the small blade did it effortlessly. I mean, it would cut the paper just under the weight of the tool itself.

I then took the large blade to a piece of cardboard.

I cut ten strips, across the corrugation. Not only did the knife cut well, but knives at this thickness (4 tool layers) seem to be about the sweet spot of a good grip. That's for me. I have medium hands. It felt very secure. While these aren't locking blades, they both have good, strong retention, and there was no sense of problems controlling the blade, or fear of it collapsing closed.

After the cardboard cutting, I took it back to receipt paper. It again cut cleanly. There seemed to be a bit of hesitation on two spots cutting the receipt paper with the large blade, even before the cardboard cutting. It seemed slightly more noticeable after the cardboard, but would still cut the receipt paper. I looked at the blade edge under magnification (maybe ironically, using the magnifying lens on another Explorer). I couldn't see any nicks in the blade, and didn't feel like going through a long search.

Since the small blade is a bit small for cutting cardboard, I didn't really know what to do to test it. It was so sharp after running it on the rods, though, that I decided to give it a leather stropping to see how sharp I could get it, with minimal effort. 10 strokes on the back of a belt, and it was shaving sharp. I saw a video of a guy cut through a phone book with a SAK, and thought that might be neat.

Well.. the GOOD news is that yes, the small blade went right through our (admittedly not very thick) phonebook. It sliced the corner RIGHT off. Foom!

The BAD news is, when it did, the paper that had been cut off exploded outward onto the floor of my dining room, leaving a blizzard of confetti, like someone had a tickertape parade all over my dining room.

As I'm banging around picking up a zillion little paper triangles, hubby's in the living room watching Olympics, looks over.
Hubby:"What are you doing?"
Me (sheepishly):"Nothing..."

I also ran the small blade through a piece of ash, trying to make firestick wood curls. It worked VERY well for this, making easy work of the hardwood.

There might be a slight bend at the tip of the large blade. I can't so much feel it as see it in the reflection. It didn't affect performance in cutting or closing the tool, so if it's there, it's nothing more than a cosmetic issue.

Blades: Pass

Both are good, take an edge easily, and hold it pretty well. It has all the limitations of non-locking blades, but for the price, these are fantastic.
Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 09:59:07 PM »

So... I HONESTLY don't know what happened here. I posted this already and it just disappeared.

So, let's try again, I guess.

For those who've never read any of my stuff, I kind of made a rating system for multitool scissors. Here's the thread.

Here's a summary of the scale:"The materials tested were paper, corrugated cardboard, T-shirt, The seam portion of old khakis (4 layers thick), suede leather, PETE plastic bottle (as a stand-in for blister packaging), Cardboard box (non-corrugated), heavy gauge screw-on plastic lid (from a container of ‘country time lemonade’, about 1mm thick), and 550 paracord. I scored these in one of 4 categories: Fail (-1), Barely Adequate (+0), Pass (+1), Pass with distinction (+2)"

How did these do?

Pass: Corrugated Cardbaord, T-Shirt, khakis, Suede, PETE, regular cardboard, heavy plastic, and 550 paracord
Pass with distinction: paper.

Total score: 10

That makes these fantastic scissors for being used. There's a slight nick on the right blade of the pic below, and had that not been there, it would have done smooth pushcuts through t-shirt, and snipped 550 cleanly with one stroke.

No Life Club Posts: 2,921
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2018, 10:02:25 PM »
Good stuff, LL.

No Life Club Posts: 3,245 It is what it isn't.
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2018, 11:00:49 PM »
I will be following this for sure since I have EDC'ed the Explorer for quite a few years now!  I like the tool set vs size and of course the inline philips too!  I use the small blade the most probably for opening packages, etc. where it is easy to control the blade vs the main blade!  :)
Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 01:56:08 AM »
Thanks, gentlemen.  :salute:

On to the Drivers.

And the Explorer has a lot of them, with the large flathead/caplifter, small flathead/can opener, and inline phillips.

The large flathead slotted well into my standard test screw, which holds the faceplate onto a lightswitch. I moved on to the large flatheads holding the hinges on our door together.

It did fine, but I think this is close to the top end of this driver's abilities. Much harder, and I'd fear stretching the pins that hold it together.

I moved on from there to the crusty-paint-can pry test.

And this is REALLY at the edge of the tool's ability. Depending on how crusty, I suspect the tool could give way before the paint can lid. In this case, the tool won, though.

I love the 91mm SAKs. They are AMAZING tools, but they do have limits, and this particular task is one place where you have to understand and accept that limitation, or you're going to wreck your tool.

After that, I took the phillips through its paces, first testing the screws in my cabinets.

It slotted in cleanly, with no sense of camming out, so I moved on to a tougher task. This is a screw in some shelves.

This still held well in the screw, and I didn't feel any sense that it would collapse. Aside from this tool, I have owned another Explorer for years, and have never really pushed the Phillips. I was pretty impressed with its performance against a harder task.

For the record, this was the same shelf that i used to test the Aitor (from the $5 challenge), and crunched my finger. Here's a link to that 'fond memory'...

And one more issue. There are occasionally screws that require more reach, and the reach on this Phillips is pretty excellent. It has all the reach of the Tinker line of tools, but a bit more versatility in fitting the tool in tight spaces.

That just leaves the small flathead on the can opener.

So I gave it a go on the screws of m cabinets as well.

In places where reach isn't an issue, I think the small flathead is an excellent light-duty Phillips. I would try this in a long woodscrew, but for light stuff it's fine. It also slots into the screws in lightswitch plates and such.

Drivers: PASS for light duty
Flathead as pry tool: PASS for light duty

Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2018, 02:56:52 AM »
The awl.

The edge was pristine on the awl, so I jumped right to the 'hard' test, boring a hole through 1/2" aged Ash.

I've said in previous reviews, but the awl on the 84mm/91mm/111mm SAKs is the best awl at the task of boring a hole in hardwood that I've come across. That scoop edge makes them the best at drilling.

This one was no different. I also can't help but notice that the t-handle configuration has never collapsed on me and sent me running to the sink with blood running down my hand. Juuust sayin'.

Awl: Pass with distinction.

Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2018, 03:28:31 AM »
The magnifying glass.

This is the older version, with the gray plastic housing.

I looked at it very closely (with the magnifying glass of another Explorer). It has a small scratch in it. If I look at it at certain angles, it also looks like it has fine scratches all over, but I think that might just be oil from touching it. In any case, it's still absolutely functional.

I have been a fan of the Super Tinker. It's my EDC tool, because I like the phillips more than the corkscrew. But, as just tested, the phillips on the Explorer MIHGT be better than the t-handle version on the Tinker line. And sitting across from that in-line phillips is the most useful tool any SAK has... when you get over 45 years of age. :D

I'm serious. My eyes are going. I went into a pawn shop the other day, and tried to read the date stamp on an old Leatherman PST. If I'd had an Explorer with me, I would have succeeded. I have an Explorer sitting on my coffee table. I use it to read tiny print. I ALSO use it to see problems on the edges of blades when they're not sharpening easily.

One thing I have never been able to do with the magnifying glass on an Explorer is get fire to ignite from sunlight. Not once. I've tried a lot. And I've tried in the middle of summer, at noon, with the highest sun power I'll ever get. So, every time I see a video of someone say 'you can use this to start fire', I want to say 'yeah? SHOW me.' And I HAVE seen it done on video. Once, using tinder fungus. But it won't ignite paper, even black paper. It won't get an ember in a piece of charcoal. I can get smoke, but no ember. Be advised. I'm happy to hear if others can manage this feat, and how they go about it. It has thus far eluded me.

Setting aside fire starting, the tool works great, with a fairly clear image and really good magnification. Sorry to say I've never owned one of the newer style lenses, so can't compare. But this old, glass lens, got packed with mud, cleaned off, and survived in good shape. That's pretty amazing.

Magnifier: Pass
Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2018, 04:15:46 AM »

I've opened a lot of cans, with a lot of Swiss Army Knives. It's a little hard to get excited about testing one. They work. This one is in fine condition, with no damage to the cutting edge, or rim hook, and it performs like every other Victorinox can opener I've ever tested. It works well, cuts cleanly, without leaving gouges on the inside of the can, and potentially creating metal splinters.

Yes, that can has been over a fire. It was a billy can I used for testing wood stoves. I ran out of other cans to test on.

And the cap lifter.

The cap lifter on this (and all Vics I've ever tested) works great. I have... uhh... 'extensive experience' using these. I use a 91mm Vic on Friday nights, when I hang out with friends. My adult beverage of choice is 1554, a beer that requires a cap lifter. I have pulled, I think easily 500 bottlecaps with this style caplifter. And under conditions of 'decreased manual dexterity' due to the contents of previous bottles. :D

And even in such conditions, they work great. This specific one is in (functionally) perfect condition.

But... hey, did you know what ELSE the caplifter can do? It's ALSO a wire stripper.

I used the can opener edge to score the sheathing, then the wire stripper notch to pull it off. It worked fine. This was 12 gauge wire, and would probably work equally well for 14 gauge.

And, you can use the wire notch to bend wire as well...

I don't normally think of this function, but it's there, and I usually forget to test it. But it works.

There's also a corkscrew on the backside. It's in good condition, and the peening is solid on the tool, so while it's going to go untested (sorry to say I have no wine bottles to open), I'm confindent in saying it's perfectly functional.
Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2018, 04:16:54 AM »
And there's a hook on the back side of the tool.  :D
No Life Club Posts: 3,245 It is what it isn't.
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2018, 04:18:18 AM »
I like the inline way better than any back philips.  I was able to get to some odd angled battery holding compartments that that were on some kids toys this past Christmas that the Wave could not.  My wife's nephew had one.  FYI, the bit adapter that Leatherman makes for the ST300, Rebar etc with fit on the end of the inline philips to give you the option to use bits!
Regarding the mag lens, I also started carrying the Explorer because of the mag lens and needed the help reading dates on coins, looking for the gold "K" value on chains and rings, etc. as well as very small print!  I have not tried to start a fire with it either but I should give it a go sometime this summer and I too have seen vid's on folks that say they have done it!

Keep up the great review!
Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2018, 04:28:43 AM »
Thank you, sir.  :salute:

Sorry, that last post of mine was an attempt at humor. It's just hard to come up with a good test for the hook. It's a hook. It works, and the one on this tool is in good condition. Use limited only by imagination.

The toothpick and tweezers are both present and in good condition. I would have to boil the toothpick before even considering using it, considering the condition of the tool as received. The tweezers cleaned up well and are in great condition.

Unlike a number of used Swiss Army Knives I've gotten, this had the split ring with it, and in good condition.

After a lot of additional inspection, one small bit of damage became clear. one of the liners on the outside of the tool is bent a bit.

Final thoughts to come shortly.
Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 7,599 Any tool is better than nothing. Some not by much
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2018, 04:45:58 AM »
I forgot to mention this in the initial post. This tool weighs 103g (3.64oz)

So, where does this tool sit when compared to the others reviewed so far. I'm going to limit my comparison to just the other knife-based tools, the Marbles Camp Knife and Camillus Mil-K knife.

I had to replace the scales. okay, I didn't HAVE to, but it sure made the tool look (and smell) better. I also had to sharpen it, but I had to sharpen the other two as well, and those required much more than basic sharpening.

The only function that the Marbles and Mil-K knife do better than this is as a pry tool. In every other way, the Explorer is either equal to or outclasses them in the functions they share. Better blade, better awl, better can opener, phillips function on the can opener, sewing eye on the awl. Then there are the additional functions of the Explorer, inline phillips, corkscrew, scissors, hook, toothpick, tweezers.

You might also make an argument for the clevis on the other two knives being added value. Maybe. The stainless outside scales are obviously more rugged. And that's kind of the single word that's important here. Do you want more function and less ruggedness, or vice versa? I prefer functionality, but I'm not that rough on my knives.

I kind of have this feeling like the seller of this tool is laughing at the idiot who shelled out good money for a stinking, greasy, drippy, mud-encrusted tool. I'm kind of laughing at the seller for letting it go at this price, because if you don't mind cleaning it up, it is a great tool, and this thing will serve me faithfully for a lifetime.

This is a serious contender.
Also... I was absolutely AMAZED that I could get a 4-layer SAK in this condition at this price. Minus being dirty, it was in pretty excellent condition.
Hero Member Posts: 964
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2018, 11:31:19 AM »
Awlsome clean up, test and review!

But I'm kinda double on it. In one hand I think it i fair to compare the explorer to others in this series in the perspective of what you can get for the money (if you don't mind a used tool and some work to get it working) but on one hand if you compare a 10$ tool against a new explorer it might not be as fair..

But I think it is healthy to look in to this too and the fact that one is not limited to either buy expensive stuff or new to get quality and outstanding function and everything doesn't have to be of a specific brand to be adequate enough to get the work done.

I just woke up and might be off my own tracks here.. Anyhow, keep up the good work

[It's not failure if you learn something from it]

Absolutely No Life Club Posts: 8,149 Hook enthusiast
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2018, 12:55:43 PM »
I love this!  :like:

Show content
But one thing....
LIGHT duty pry bar?  :rant:
Come on, you’ve seen the 30 day Huntsman challenge haven’t you? :rofl:

I admit, not nearly as robust as the alox version, what with the bigger pins on those, but still!  :twak:


Hooked, like everyone else. ;)

All hail the hook!

Small knives can do what big knives do, just slower.

My 30 day pen challenge! Pretty(?) Pictures inside:
Official 30 Day Pen Challenge!
Hero Member Posts: 866
Re: Used Victorinox Explorer (Lynn's $10 MT Challenge)
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2018, 08:16:08 AM »
Nice write up Lynn.

Speaking of four layers on the cheap, last summer I was at a flea market and got a 1974 Mountaineer and a black 1989/90? Boy Scouts of America (metal inlay, not the cheapo hot stamp, mind you) and paid about $22 for both of them together.

Some dink had tried to sharpen the BSA Tinker using a stone and  circular motion, as evidenced by the circular scratches on one side of the blade. No doubt saw the technique on television or something. I pulled it through the Smiths Pocket Pal "V" notch sharpener four or five strokes and it is plenty sharp now.

They are both kick-@$$. The Tinker slips into my pocket and the Huntsman rides in my day pack, which I carry to and from work and on all hikes (but with different stuff in it)


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