Quick Shot review 7:
Review date: 26
I reviewed a knife with a light the other day. Here's a knife with a lighter.
The Victorinox SwissFlame and its cousin the CampFlame are both Swiss Army knives built around a butane lighter.
The SwissFlame's about 91mm (3.6 inches) long not counting the split ring on the end, and it's about 28mm (1.1 inches) thick, from the translucent red scale on one side to the one on the other. Even without any gas in it, it weighs 141 grams - around five ounces. So it's certainly pocketable, but you're unlikely to forget you're carrying it.
This size and weight is what you expect from a stacked everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Swiss Army knife, but the -Flame models don't have that many tools; they're made around 10mm (0.4 inches) wider, and considerably heavier, than they'd otherwise be by the lighter in the middle.
It's a good lighter, too. None of your yellow-flame disposable nonsense; a proper air-mixed high-temperature wind-resistant blue flame, which you ignite by pulling back a protective cover on the end of the knife with your thumb. That turns on the gas and clicks the piezoelectric igniter.
The end of the lighter doesn't get particularly hot (with normal use, anyway), the gas outlet is protected from pocket fluff and other crud by the cover when it's not in use, and there's a window in the side through which you can see how much liquid butane (or 2-methyl-propane, as I've explained before) remains.
You can see the window to the right of this picture, and you can also see the combination filler valve and flame power selector. You fill the SwissFlame like any other butane lighter, and you turn the surround of the filler valve to change the flame height. The turning part was very stiff on my SwissFlame, but a screwdriver could move it.
Like all normal blue-flame butane lighters, this one isn't completely windproof, but it's pretty darn good. If you keep the shielding sides of the knife lined up with the airflow, you'll get a useable stub of flame in all kinds of weather.
Victorinox warn that the lighter won't necessarily work properly at more than about 1500 metres above sea level (because the air mix isn't adjustable), and the piezo igniter won't work if it gets wet. But for most people's setting-stuff-on-fire purposes, it's more than adequate.
The SwissFlame comes with clear tape on each side of the lighter. The tape on one side warns you about the flammability of the contents of the flame-creating device you probably already know you're holding, and the other side's tape doesn't have anything printed on it. My knife's tape wasn't terribly well aligned. It's easy to peel it all off, though.
Apart from the lighter, the SwissFlame is almost the same as the Spartan, an excellent mid-range Victorinox model which sells for well under $US25.
There's a big blade (with about 60mm of edge), a little blade (less than 40mm), a corkscrew with one-point-not-much-millimetre flathead eyeglass screwdriver wound into it, a can opener with a small flathead screwdriver that'll also fit many Phillips head screws, a bottle opener with 6mm flathead screwdriver and questionably useful "wire stripper" notch, a reamer with thread hole in it (for those moments when you're mending sails, boots or motorcycle jackets...), and a "multi-purpose hook", often employed for the carrying of shopping bags.
You also get not-too-useful tweezers, a toothpick (Geek Dating Hint: Yes, Swiss Army toothpicks work well. Don't use them in front of girls, though), a super-slim ballpoint pen, and a small stainless steel pin, whose location is not revealed in the little pamphlet-manual and which it took me a little while to find.
And scissors. This is a Victorinox Swiss Army knife, not a Wenger one - see the last review for more on the difference - so it's generally a bit better made, but has lousier scissors. These are the standard Victorinox externally-sprung, non-serrated type. Since this isn't a mini-knife, though, the scissors at least have about an inch of cutting length, which makes cutting things of non-minuscule proportions less of a daunting task.
The CampFlame, by the way, has one of Victorinox's excellent little wood saws instead of the scissors, and a 3mm flathead screwdriver instead of the hook; it's otherwise the same as the SwissFlame.
There's no nail file, no cuticle pusher, and no thing for getting stones out of horses' hooves. You get fire instead. Accept the hand that fate has dealt you.
(If you want more glamour shots of the SwissFlame, by the way, you can grab 'em from Victorinox's press photos page. The CampFlame's there too.)
Now that I've got you all excited: You can't have one.
Well, you can't, officially, if you live in the USA or Canada, or apparently the Caribbean as well. Because, as mentioned on the Victorinox product page, the SwissFlame and CampFlame are not sold in those places.
I don't know why this is. I've asked Victorinox; if they tell me, I'll update this review.
There certainly doesn't seem to be much in the way of grey market importing going on; as I write this, Froogle has almost nothing, and eBay's US site lists only three available to the States, none of 'em from US dealers.
It's not hard to find the SwissFlame mentioned all over the Net, but not on the US knife and gadget sites.
Here in Australia, the SwissFlame's thoroughly available, and its list price is $AU130. I bought mine (having run out of people from whom to scam one from for free - Photon don't sell SwissFlames) on eBay, and got a decent but not amazing deal, at $AU93.18 - about $US65, as I write this.
Of the non-auction online dealers, Swiss-Knife.com looks like a good source for the SwissFlame and other not-sold-in-the-USA models. They've got the SwissFlame for $US74.46 plus shipping, as I write this.
Assuming that you can buy a SwissFlame in your country, it's an obviously desirable device. Hey, you've got a bottle opener, corkscrew and lighter in one unit - that's already a party looking for a place to happen, even before you take the scissors into account.
Pocket-tool manufacturers walk a tightrope between making products that don't stand out from the crowd, and making silly gimmicky gadgets whose core market seems to be desperate people looking for a present for their father on the day before his birthday. Yes, a certain segment of the market will always pay for two things stuck together that ain't never been stuck together before, but the Swiss Army brand ought to be above all that; they don't make knives with laser pointers, tape measures, battery testers or dog whistles.
(It's now been pointed out to me that Wenger actually do have a laser pointer knife, among the other liberties they've been taking. Sigh.)
Some gimmicks are so cool that gadget-appreciators feel obliged to buy the thing just to reward the designer; I, for instance, know that the Gerber Recoil I bought a while ago has skinnier pliers than the standard Gerber multi-tools, and also has fewer fold-out tools, but that's because they had to make room for the darn thing to be able to click out its plier jaws when you press a button.
All of the slide-out Gerber tools are like gravity knives for nerds, but this one's a nerd switchblade. Respect!
A lighter in a knife, though, isn't anything like that gimmicky. It just has to work properly.
The SwissFlame lighter certainly does, and I'm very pleased with mine. Recommended.