Though it doesn’t say in their official websites whether Angus MacGyver or the TV series creator Lee David Zlotoff had a beef with inventor Tim Leatherman, but why does MacGyver prefer to use the Swiss Army Knife instead of the Leatherman Tool?
By: Ringo Bones
After checking out their official website, it seems that MacGyver TV series creator Lee David Zlotoff doesn’t have a beef with inventor Timothy S. Leatherman and his invention the Leatherman Tool in the hopes of finding out the reason why Angus MacGyver preferred using the Swiss Army Knife instead of the Leatherman Tool. But first and as a benefit to those unfamiliar with both tools that are both worthily capable to be used in any form of “MacGyverism” in bailing one out of a sticky situation.
The Swiss Army Knife is known in various names in various languages of the countries using it as a standard toolkit of their military. The Swiss Army Knife is called “cocteu Suisse” in French, Schweizer Offiziersmesser (Swiss officer’s knife) in German, Sackmesser in colloquial Swiss German and Coltellino Swizzero in Italian is a brand of pocketknife or multi tool manufactured by Victorinox AG and Wenger SA. The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by US soldiers after World War II due to the difficulty they have of pronouncing the tool by its German name. Originating in Ibach, Switzerland, the Swiss Army Knife was first produced in 1891 after the company Karl Elsnor which later became Victorinox – the company that won the contest to produce the Swiss Army’s Model 1890 knife from the previous German manufacturers.
In the various scenes of the TV series, MacGyver’s most commonly used variant of the Swiss Army Knife was a “Tinker” model from Victorinox but throughout the show, he used several different models of both Victorinox and Wenger brands to match particular tools used in the episodes. Or what Swiss Army Knife variant was in “vogue” during that season of the episode?
In one episode, MacGyver uses an Orange Peele blade; probably from a Victorinox “Executive.” He may have used an older model “Explorer” from Victorinox later in the series. MacGyver also used the Sportsman variant of the Swiss Army Knife in the episode “Lost Love parts 1 and 2”, the Recruit in the “GX-1” episode and the Climber model in the “Three for the Road” episode. In the episode “Tough Boys”, he uses a Tinker - with the key-ring removed – to unlock a large padlock.
MacGyver also had a couple of non-production Swiss Army Knife models that were obviously modified specifically for the TV series. In the Wild West era episode “Serenity”, he has a knife with wood panels to stay in setting with that period of the episode. In the “Strictly Business” episode, MacGyver used a knife with the Victorinox shield on the back handle of the knife instead of the front. But the knife seen in the opening of each MacGyver episode is a Wenger as noted by its long keychain. And even though the Leatherman Tool was probably widely available via mail-order catalogues when the first MacGyver TV series aired back in 1985, it is somewhat inextricable why MacGyver chose the Swiss Army Knife over the Leatherman Tool.
The Leatherman Tool was invented by Timothy S. Leatherman – who later founded and became the chairman and chief executive of the Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. Tim Leatherman came up with the idea of a Boy Scout knife with pliers during a 1975 driving tour in Europe with his wife when he was unable to use his trusty pocket knife (a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife?) to fix his repeatedly malfunctioning car. It took Tim Leatherman several months afterwards to refine his idea and was then granted a patent on his first Leatherman Tool in 1980. Leatherman spent the next few years attempting to market his product to large companies with technical stall such as AT&T but was largely unsuccessful. The tool eventually gained popularity through mail order catalogues by the mid 1980s. Leatherman Tools have a 25-year no questions asked warranty and legend has it that Tim Leatherman was actually saved by his own invention back in 1989 when he used his tool to single-handedly fix his single-engine seaplane after it got damaged while performing an emergency landing in a remote part of Alaska.
As a MacGyver fan, I find it easier to perform “MacGyverisms” via the Leatherman Tool than the Swiss Army Knife. Although the kind of Swiss Army Knives most MacGyver fans here in the Philippines can afford during the mid to late 1980s are Chinese knock-offs that easily break. Genuine Victorinox and Wenger Swiss Army Knives are far more expensive to own by the average Filipino MacGyver fan and explains why genuine Swiss Army Knives here in the Philippines during the mid 1980s are sold and displayed in business establishments that also sell genuine up-market Swiss watches like Tag Heuer, etc. Though somewhat an unfair comparison, the original genuine Leatherman Tool I got at the time was something I won for free from a radio station contest. But – after all these years - I am still dying to know why Angus MacGyver chose the Swiss Army Knife as his trusty “tool” instead of the Leatherman Tool?