As simple and small as it is, the Classic SD is actually the most popular, prolific, and affordable Swiss Army knife of all time. It is no exaggeration to even say that it is among the top 5 most popular knives of this generation(in terms of sales volume.) So, in this Classic SD review, we’ll examine the secret of why this tiny multitool has remained such a viral success for generations.
This pocket knife has been in production for an impressive 84 years. It has been the first pocket knife of countless little boys, and within that time it has gathered hordes of adoring fans.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an item with so many positive reviews on Amazon before–check it out it’s crazy! (commission earned)
Whether you buy it through a licensed Swiss Army Knife dealer like BladeHQ or you buy it through Amazon(commission earned), you’ll be very hard-pressed to find much negative feedback on this multitool.
In This Classic SD Review:
- Pros & Cons
- Build Quality
- Model Variants
For this classic SD review, I’ll be focusing on the basic inexpensive model. You can usually pick up a regular Classic SD for around 15$
The SD has a cult following of collectors and Victorinox has a huge range of colors, patterns, and materials. The SD has become very popular for corporate gifts too. Some editions can cost over $250! One such example is made of hammered sterling silver and another has an imbedded 1gm ingot of pure Swiss gold(below).
- Weight: 0.8oz (21g)
- Length: 2.3 inch (58 mm)
- Width: 0.4 inch (9.9 mm)
- Tools: Blade, Scissors, File, Flat screwdriver, Toothpick, Tweezers
- Blade steel: DIN X55CrMo14 stainless steel
- Handle material: ABS / Cellidor
- Very affordable
- One of the best EDC keychain tools out there
- Very light and discreet
- Easy to sharpen & takes a keen edge
- Rust-proof, maintenance-free metal.
- For light-duty tasks only
- Limited tools
- non-lockable blade
- Sometimes awkward to use when on a keychain.
Classic SD Overview
“The best tool is the tool you have”
That is the single greatest reason for the Classic SD’s viral success: You don’t have to remember to bring it. It’s already with you!
The Swiss Army Classic SD is small and light enough to always be right there for you in a jam. That defines the very purpose of a good EDC multitool.
In fact, I use my Classic SD far more than my Leatherman Wave. Even though my Leatherman is far more capable, it’s heavier, I have to remember to put it on my belt and it’s far less discreet.
On the other hand, the SD only weighs 3/4 oz(21g), sits on my keychain, and can still handle the vast majority of random tasks I need it to.
The best place for the Classic SD is on your keychain. In general, your keys go everywhere you do. The SD is actually .15oz lighter than my Honda Accord’s key (Yes, I did actually measured it.) So, this tool adds no noticeable bulk to your keyring at all.
The History Of the Classic SD
You can peruse more old photos at SAKwiki’s archive
The Swiss Army Classic is not the oldest Swiss Army knife model, but it has had a heck of a long production run(84 years!) It is very likely the most prolifically produced Swiss Army of all time.
The Classic’s design actually debuted in 1935. While the size and tiny form factor have remained largely unchanged since then, my research indicates it originally only came with a nail file, nail cleaner and knife. However, I can’t be sure. The toothpick and tweezers are said to be have been added in 1942.(source.)
The knife went through several name changes and refinements over the years until finally settling on the name “Classic” somewhere in 1970’s. The name, “Classic SD,” came a little later when the nail cleaner on the end of the nail file was swapped for a flathead screwdriver.
US and German patents were applied for in 1952. This was likely a move to protect profits because Swiss Army knives suddenly became very popular after WW2, especially among allied troops who were bringing them home as gifts(source.)
Interestingly, a pencil eraser was among the original proposed tools on the patent:
“Between these shells there are pivoted a number of implements e. g. a blade 2, a nail file 3, an eraser 4, or the like such as scissors etc, on rivets. “US Patent # 2718695
At 1 1/2 inches long the knife blade is best suited for random light-duty tasks like slicing an apple, sharpening pencils and opening packages or letters
The knife uses a Swiss-forged stainless DIN X55CrMo14 steel. This steel is very popular in the cutlery industry for its exceptional corrosion resistance.
The blade has an aggressive drop-point. In other words, the spine curves downwards at the point. A drop point really comes in handy for opening packages without damaging the contents.
With the dull side facing the package contents, you can safely slide the blade upside down to open packages without accidentally damaging the contents.
Its good quality for a light-duty blade and there is no side to side play on the hinge at all. The blade does not lock in place, so strict knife safety rules apply. The knife extends and closes smoothly aided by a light spring tension.
The scissors are handy for dealing with loose threads, product tags, and snipping random things like twine.
Besides the knife, the scissors are the most used tool on the Classic SD Swiss Army knife. The blades are sharp, the action is smooth, and there is no pinching or slippage.
The scissors are also surprising ergonomic for such a tiny tool. Your thumb operates the top spring-loaded lever while your other fingers can grip the body of the tool for better stability.
Replacement scissor springs are available if you ever manage to wear them out.
A nail file is a handy tool for a quick manicure, but that’s not a huge priority in my world. I don’t use the file much.
My most common use for the file is actually as a letter opener. It’s faster than the blade since I can be more “reckless” with it. There’s no need to be careful about cutting myself or the contents of the envelope.
I’m more also apt to use the file for cleaning corroded battery terminals or sharpening small instruments such as the onboard tweezers.
The “SD” in Classic SD stands for the “Screw Driver”
You’ll find it integrated into the tip of the file blade. The screwdriver is a small flathead(roughly 1/8″(2.5mm) wide.) In a pinch, the head is narrow enough to also work on certain Phillips head(star-shaped) screws.
This screwdriver is no “torque monster,” but it’s plenty enough to open random battery compartments on your kid’s toys etc.
Having a toothpick is handy. They can spare you a lot of embarrassment after lunch at work. I admit I’ve used it for this purpose a few times.
The toothpick is also handy for:
- Cleaning crevices in your dashboard
- Clean crumbs from your keyboard,
- Pressing those tiny reset buttons on electronics
The toothpick is not sharp and is made from a very soft and flexible plastic. Its held inside the knife-handle slot by friction and small notch near the base.
The toothpick and the tweezers are also easily replaceable. If you ever lose or damage one you can easily order new ones on Amazon.(earned commission)
With a square cut tip, these aren’t exactly the most precise tweezers ever, but they are certainly adequate for common slivers and minor hair removal.
Like the toothpick, the steel tweezers find their home in the end of the Classic SD’s handle and are replaceable if need be.
As already mentioned, the base version of this knife can be had for as little $15. (check latest pricing at BladeHQ) Obviously, at this pricepoint the SD is not the highest-end quality pocket knife out there. However, it is remarkably well-built for its price point. The nice thing is, you won’t cry if you lose it, which, being so small, is a distinct possibility.
As with all Swiss Army knives, the body of the Classic SD is made from rust-resistant aluminum alloy. Brass rivets and bushings that hold the knife together and separate the components.
The plastic scales(outer plastic handle) aren’t very scratch-resistant, but, in my book, scratches tell stories. It’s street cred. They show that the knife is actually used.
Variants of the Classic SD (58mm size)
I don’t think it is possible to do a Classic SD review without also pointing out Victorinox’s large wider family of 58mm multitools inspired by the Classic SD.
Since size and weight is a restriction, each 58mm variant has its benefits and tradeoffs compared to the Classic SD. Typically, the tools are interchanged to make the tool more suited for specific purposes.
Here are a few of the major 58mm variants and how they differs from the original Swiss Army Classic SD:
How many times have you been caught without a pen or light? The midnight manager ditches the tweezers and toothpick for the LED, pen, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener and wirecutter. That’s pretty good for 10 extra grams. However, if you just want the pen and LED the Swiss Lite version may be best for you.
- Additional Tools: Phillips 0/1 screwdriver, bottle opener, wire stripper, pen, led light
- Removed Tools: Toothpick, tweezer
- Additional Weight: 10g (31g total)
Available in men’s and women’s colors/patterns, the NailClip 580 is a very handy(pun intended) manicure tool. The only thing you lose from the classic SD is the flathead screwdriver (plus 15 grams.)
- Additional Tools: Nail Clipper, nail cleaner
- Removed Tools: Flat Screwdriver
- Additional Weight: 15g (36g total)
With no sharp instruments, the Jetsetter series are designed to be air travel-friendly. You may still get an extra level of screening from curious TSA agents since it still looks like a pocket knife, but you should be good.
- Additional Tools: 16GB USB 1.0/3.1 drive, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener, wire stripper
- Removed Tools: Flat Screwdriver, nail file, blade, tweezers, toothpick
- Additional Weight: 7g (28g total)
Midnight Mini Champ
It’s much thicker than the Classic SD and twice as heavy but it has a pile more tools on-board. The Midnight Mini Champ has the most tools of all of Swiss Army’s 58mm pocket knives.
- Additional Tools: Phillips screwdriver, ruler(inches/cm), bottle opener, wire stripper, orange peeler, cuticle pusher, nail cleaner, small blade, pen, LED light
- Removed Tools: tweezers, toothpick
- Additional Weight: 24g (45g total)
Larger Keychain Knives
Swiss Army carries larger sized key chain knives for folks who are looking for a bit more muscle. The Cadet Silver Alox is a good example of that. It has a 2.5″ blade and weighs 1.6 oz. (.8 oz heavier than Classic SD)
“Simple is best” and the Classic SD epitomizes that old adage. It’s one of those little companions that you’ll grow to love. This little tool has a way of endearing itself to your heart as the VW bug once did. It’s just there for you- a little hero on your keychain.
If you enjoyed this Classic SD review, you’ll probably enjoy browsing around here at WellRigged.com where I focus on simple, practical and durable products that just work.