Wenger EvoWood 14

Concept: 5 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Almost my perfect knife.

The Long Version: There are two brands that make "Swiss Army Knives", Wenger and Victorinox, and I've always gravitated to the latter. I bought and reviewed the four-layer Wenger EvoGrip18 a few years ago, but while it's a nice enough knife I never liked it as much as I wanted to. Four layers is a bit too thick for my taste, and even when it was broken in a little the plastic-and-rubber handle never felt as nice as it should.

What a difference a material change makes. My most recent acquisition, and SAK of the Month for November, is the Wenger EvoWood 14.

The handle scales on this EvoWood knife, which are made of walnut, are fantastic. It might not be as hard-wearing as celidor or nylon, but it feels great to hold and it really takes advantage of the sculpting in the Evolution-series handle shape. Not only is it easier to hold than flat plastic, it also gives a tactile cue to the orientation of the knife. I often have to take a second to figure out which end is which on my Victorinox SAKs, which I didn't even realize was a problem until I noticed that the Wenger always seemed to be the right way around.

The Evo 14 is a three-layer knife, and its 85mm length puts is just a touch longer than October's SAK of the Month, the Small Tinker. That makes the Wenger just about perfect. Its blade and tools are just as useable as on the larger 91mm knives, but it's easier to carry, while three tool layers offer a lot of versatility without becoming too fat. Yes, the proportions of the EvoWood 14 are just about perfect.

The tool set is a useful mix that doesn't match any other knife. It has only one blade, with a nail file where the small blade would usually go. The middle layer is scissors, which Wenger does better than Victorinox. The third layer is the cap lifter, which lacks the right-angle detent of a Vic knife, and the can opener, which is the largest difference between Wenger and Victorinox tools.

The Wenger can opener cuts with the tool moving forward between strokes, with the can rotating clockwise, while the Victorinox cuts in the oposite direction. This lets the Vic have its small screwdriver, while the hawksbill cutter of the Wenger works as a secondary blade for rough cutting. Another great feature of the Wenger opener is that the curved back works on all of those coin-slot screws that the flat blade of the cap lifter can't turn effectively. It's nice to have variety in the world.

The wooden scales don't hold tweezers or toothpicks, but the Evo 14 does have an awl and corkscrew on the back. The handle next to the awl has a cutout, making it easy to deploy, but the awl doesn't have a sharpened edge or a sewing eyelet, making being pointy its only atribute. The corkscrew is the same as those on Victorinox knives – they're the same company these days – so the little Vic accessory screwdriver will work on it, but I don't have a big need for corkscrews in my life.

There is another model – Evo 16 – that is identical except that it trades the corkscrew for a Philips screwdriver. That's almost certainly the model I should have bought, and if I see it with a wooden handle, I almost certainly will. But in a pinch the tapered tip of the nail file can drive a Philips screw, making the EvoWood 14 very nearly my perfect knife.

last updated 6 nov 2013


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