Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why Did MacGyver Prefer The Swiss Army Knife Instead Of The Leatherman Tool?

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? 


April Rain said...

I've checked out the history of the Leatherman Tool on Wikipedia a few weeks ago and it shows that the Leatherman was about widely available across the United States by 1985. I too wonder why Angus MacGyver - and series creator Lee David Zlotoff - chose the Swiss Army Knife instead of the much more versatile Leatherman Tool that's actually works in actuall MacGyverism in compared to the over-rated Swiss Army Knife that can break and give up on you at the worst possible moment.

Venus said...

Even though Tim Leatherman's The Leatherman Tool had been used in a bomb diffusing scene in the first Speed movie that stars Keanu Reeves and in the movie Rush Hour, the tool was also used in the TV series The X-Files and in a bomb diffusing scene, MacGyver "borrowed" a Leatherman which happened to be just lying around in some enemy lab. Even though Tim Leatherman never endorsed his products used in movies and TV - most of the scenes I saw that featured the Leatherman Tool dates to the mid 1990s - as in after 1992 where the MacGyver TV series has already ended.

Frank said...

Guys! He got his Swiss Army Knife form his grandfather when he was a small boy.
So it ties some sentimental value to his way of getting out of situations.

So how could he use a Letherman when it wasn´t invented back then when his grandfather gave hin that Knife ;-)

Lunabelia said...

Accually the real reason is probably more like the tv people were offered so much money per episode that the swiss army knife was showcased in and that allowed them to have a larger budget on making the shows and a higher profit margin.

martin said...

Lol at the butthurt Leatherman comments.
Having owned both, I've broken two leathermans and no SAKs so, for myself, I'd trust the SAK to go the distance. Not that its of any statistical significance.

Probably they SAK was written in because its a much more elegant tool, with more finesse and ingenuity and history. They were invented in the 1800s the engineering is just more clever and classy compared to the bulky, brutish leatherman. The SAK for finesse, the leatherman for force. Macgyver is all about finesse.

G McD said...

The SAK had branding in its favor. Most folks didn't know what a Leatherman was at that time, but everyone knew a SAK when they saw it.

Also, as an avid outdoorsman, I carry a SAK Tinker with me on every outing. I have tried carrying multitools (Leatherman and Gerber models), but they are overkill. Around the house they are great. On the trail, they are too heavy and have a bunch of tools you will never use. As an EDC, I still have my Tinker with me every day. I'm not going to carry a leatherman around on my belt while at work (in an office), and it doesn't fit well in a pocket.

Besides, as any avid watcher of the original MacGyver series knows, he often needed that tool after being captured. If a bad guy saw a multi-tool on your belt, they would probably remove it from you. That would make it useless. The keychain multitools weren't on the market until the last decade, so they weren't even an option. The SAK would still be the best option.