March 26, 2010
2010 Victorinox / Swissbianco Damascus Pioneer History
This web page is dedicated to the Victorinox/Swissbianco collaboration on the Damascus
blade Swiss Army Knife, its background, history, and future direction.
The journey started about
10 years ago, when a poor blacksmith, now known as Swissbianco, had a dream about the Swiss Army
Knife made with Damascus steel blades. Damascus steel is a unique material which
not only has the unique and attractive pattern, but, as a blade, it often outperforms
the "standard" blades of comparable steel in edge retention and cutting performance.
First prototype Damascus SAK (red G10 scales, mokume bolsters) with 2007 Pioneer prototypes.
As I further explored the possibility of a factory-made Swiss Army Knife with a Damascus
blade, I discovered that, at the time, Victorinox was not interested in
manufacturing such a product.
Not ready to give up, I developed the first prototype, sporting red G10 scales
and mokume bolsters (shown in the picture on the left, together with the
later-edition prototype Pioneers). Additionally, in collaboration with a
German company, we produced the first test run of Damascus Spartans, with
frosted brass liners and white ivory micarta scales. There were only an handful
of pieces produced at that time.
From the very beginning, I selected Damasteel from Sweden as the material of choice.
It is made using high-tech powder metallurgy process and has all the benefits of stainless steel.
The result is a high quality material which outperforms the steel currently used
in Swiss Army Knives.
The pattern I chose was Odins Eye, and the blades were heat treated to HRC 60. The owner of
Damasteel, Mr. Billgren provided a lot of help to this project, and I am very
thankful to him and his great work in Sweden.
In my pursuit of factory-produced Damascus Swiss Army Knife, I approached Wenger in
Delemont, Switzerland, but Wenger management decided they were not interested in the
Luckily, at about the same time, my Damascus-bladed prototype caught the
attention of Mr. Carl Elsener Jr., who later invited me for the first time to
visit Victorinox factory in Ibach to discuss possible collaboration on this and
other projects. The Victorinox / Swissbianco collaboration, which started from
that visit, resulted in many special products you see in Swissbianco
newsletters, including new Yeoman, Plain Edge One-Hand Trekker, Alox Lumberjack,
Splash Alox, 111mm Pocket Clip, Alox Bushcrafter, the upcoming Alox Rambler, and
Looking back, I am amazed at how much we managed to accomplish in the last few
Damascus Spartan with ivory micarta scales
Damascus small blade
Development of the factory-made Damascus Swiss Army Knife, however, took
some time. We worked on translating the handmade version into something that
could be produced by Victorinox on a larger scale. At the start of the project,
Mr. Elsener introduced me to Mr. Erwin Muller, Victorinox manufacturing plant
manager. Together, we worked on creating the Damascus blade, in the 93mm pattern
for the start. In the first prototype run of 22 blades, they were laser-cut, which,
while not being a feasible approach for large-scale
production, worked well as a proof of concept.
2007 Damascus Pioneer blades
2007 Damascus Pioneer reverse with engraving
We treated the blades with deep etching, not only to show the Damascus pattern, but
also to make it feel like a file surface, with
the know-how coming from Warren Glover of bubbaknives.net, who is my long-time friend in my
new home country, the USA. Thank you, Warren!
This first 22-piece run was assembled into Silver Alox Pioneer configuration, with the
year (2007) engraved on the scales. Mr. Elsener kindly provided me with the 3
assembled pieces, and they will forever stay in my collection. Swiss Army Knife
collectors can take a look at these during the shows, such SHOT, IWA, and Bladeshow, where
Swissbianco exhibits regulary.
The next step in the process was to get the feedback from sales and marketing people, so some
of the 22 Damascus Pioneers made it to the USA, where they were shown to dealers.
Among the questions asked was the preferred scale colour, which resulted in Black Alox
being chosen for the 2010 edition.
The final result was shown to me this January at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas by Mr. Kurt Arnold, whom I
previously met in Ibach during my frequent visits to the factory, and Mike Smith from Swiss Army Brands, USA. This Pioneer was assigned
model number 0.8201.J10, in compliance with Victorinox numbering scheme. I was absolutely delighted by
the finished product that took us about 10 years of hard work!
When the 2010 Damascus Pioneer Swiss Army Knife is made available for sale this
year, it will come as a Limited Edition, with the presentation-grade box,
containing a removable inlay with the paper describing Damascus steel material
used in this unique Swiss Army Knife (see text below).
In the meantime, the idea of a Damascus version of 111mm One-Hand Trekker is already in the works,
with a single prototype handmade by an certain Swiss blacksmith...
My continued gratitude goes to Mr. Carl Elsener Jr., Mr. Erwin Muller, and Mr. Kurt Arnold, as it is
these fellow Swiss Eidgenosse who made this dream possible!
Swissbianco with Victorinox 2010 Damascus Black Alox Pioneer
English version of the text included with 2010 Damascus Pioneer reads:
There are only 2,010 of these special Damascus knives in the whole world. Congratulations, you now own one of them!
Damascus steel - the fine steel of the swordsmith
Damascus steel represents craftsmanship that goes back more than a thousand years.
Even in antiquity, a few resourceful swordsmiths knew how to create blades of unusual toughness
and hardness from different kinds of steel. The multiple folding and forge welding led to a
homogenization of the material, and required a great deal of skill and dedication.
Then as now, the crowning highlight in the production of a Damascus blade was the finish.
Because only the grinding, polishing and etching reveals the characteristic pattern, and thereby
provides a glimpse into the soul of the steel.
(The blade of this knife is manufactured from stainless high quality Damascus steel, 60 HRc)
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