Custom maker Chuck Gedraitis combines the classic Swiss Army knife profile with an uncommon automatic deployment mechanism for one of his latest models, the Switch Army. According to Gedraitis the Switch Army is just the latest result of his ongoing fascination with making custom automatic knives.
The idea for the Switch Army stems from a common request Gedraitis received from his customers. “For years I had heard people asking if Swiss Army knives cold be converted to autos,” he says. Sadly, the mechanical peculiarities of a Swiss Army knife meant this wasn’t possible. “Other single blade knives have been converted but unfortunately there is just not enough room inside the knife for a spring.” But with nearly two decades of automatic knife work under his belt, Gedraitis decided that instead of converting Swiss Army knives, he would build a new knife with the Swiss Army style, but adapted for automatic deployment from the beginning. “I have been building autos for close to 20 years and I had recently started building scale release autos,” he explains. “This led me to the idea of building the Switch Army auto as a scale release.”
The Switch Army in action
Gedraitis’s scale deployment works much as you’d imagine: by pushing the show side scale to the right, the 3.25-inch blade fires out. Unlike many other single action automatics, which incorporate their lock right into the button deployment mechanism, the Switch Army’s lock is separate from its automatic component. It’s a titanium liner lock, built into the off-side scale, as it would be on a manual knife. Gedraitis admits there is a lot going on beneath the clean Swiss Army knife stylings. “The scale release is moderately difficult to produce, adding additional moving parts to any knife increases the difficulty.” But he says the extra work is worth the effort, creating something that is not only fun to fidget with, but offers real benefits for the conscientious knife user. “The advantage of the scale release is that it is more covert than other release mechanisms. There is no visible button or latch, and if you don’t know how it opens you can’t open it. It also keeps the design very clean and close to looking just like a Swiss Army knife.”
The Switch Army comes with the classic toothpick/tweezer combo
Right now, Gedraitis makes the Switch Army with four different blade shapes: drop point, clip point, dagger, or barlow-style spear point. Just like their Swiss inspiration, each Switch Army knife comes with toothpicks and tweezers – but generally there are no versions with additional tools beyond that. “I have made one variation that is called a Magic knife,” Gedraitis notes. “This one has two tools, a bottle opener and screwdriver/ pry bar tool which opens manually and is a liner lock.”
The Magic Knife variant
Currently, Gedraitis is not taking orders for Switch Army knives. Instead, he prefers to release pieces through his Instagram page as they’re finished; this gives him the freedom to experiment and riff as he sees fit. As far as the rest of this year goes, Gedraitis looks forward to attending some upcoming shows. “My first show in over a year will be the Nashville Custom knife show, May 29th-30th in Nashville TN. I will also be attending the Blade show (table 5-E), June 4th – 6th for my 20th year.” The focus on automatics will continue in future work, too. “As far as knife builds go, I think I am going to concentrate on building more elaborate autos as well as converting some of my older designs into autos. I appreciate the challenge of making an auto and it keeps knife making exciting for me.”
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