Working in a 9-to-5 office job, I was always intrigued by the Wenger's Business Tool, as it seems to combine all of the most frequently used stationery tools in one relatively compact package. My curiosity was also helped by the fact that Business Tools is sometimes "credited" for Wenger's financial troubles, and subsequent rescue and take-over by Victorinox. I simply had to see what it was all about! The trouble was to find one of these curiosities sold for less than a king's ransom. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to buy one from Dennis (WH867 on Multitool.org forums), and here are my first impressions.
My Business Tool came in a black cardboard box with the picture of the fanned-out tools on the top, and description of features on the bottom.
Inside the box were the tool itself, 2 boxes of staples, and an instruction manual. My Business Tool has a Boeing logo on it, and, while I am usually not a big fan of logos on my SAKs and multi-tools, this one I actually enjoy. It is done very nicely, in light-silver paint, and does not look out of place at all.
A word about the staples. They are the No.10 size, standard for the "mini-staplers". While in today's digital world the 2,000 staples (plus some inside the stapler itself) would probabaly last a lifetime, it is nice to know that replacements, if needed, can be bought at any office supplies store.
The tool dimensions are 123 x 45 x 36cm (4 7/8 x 1 3/4 x 1 3/8 inches), and it weighs in at 211.5gm (7.46 oz). Both sides are inscribed with "SWISS BUSINESS™ TOOL by WENGER", with one side also having "PAT. PEND" on it, presumably for either the whole concept, or the blade locking mechhanism.
This is one of the very few non-electronic tools (if not the only one), for which I was immediately compelled to look at the manual. I resisted the urge and played with the levers and buttons with some success, but ended up reading the instructions anyways and finding them quite useful.
The manual is printed on a single sheet of paper, in 5 languages, and outlines the use of all the features in a very concise but informative manner. The holes in the manual seen in the picture are the result of previous owner's successfully testing of the hole punch function of the tool!
It's a Stapler...
The largest component of the tool is the stapler, which is deployed in two steps. First, the jaws of the tool are unlocked by moving the slider at the top of the tool. Then, pressing the button at the front lowers and "arms" the stapler cartridge.
After each use of the stapler function the stapler cartridge is locked in the closed position and must be released again for the next stapling. This would have been very annoying to anyone doing a lot of stapling, except for the clever positioning of the cartrige release button - it is easily pressed by the thumb without shifting the hold of the tool.
Loading of staples is performed by first pressing the smaller button at the tail end of the tool when it is in "ready to staple" position. This causes the stapler cartridge to slide forward, and allowing new staples to be loaded into the cartridge. Once the staples are loaded, all you have to do is push the cartridge back, and it locks into place, ready for action.
...It's a Hole Punch...
Hole punching is where reading the manual came most useful. It turns out that the proper way to punch holes is by holding the tool upside down!
When the tool is held "bottom up", there are two visual aids for paper alignment. First, there is a little window with a black line marker that can be aligned with line drawn beforehand at the edge of paper (see red line in the picture below), marking hole positions based on the binger loop spacing. Second, there is a little point at the end of the tool body, which can be used to align the punch hole with a "template" sheet of paper (the one with the existing holes) and repeat the holes in the same place on the new sheets.
A gentle squeeze of the tool is all that's needed to make a nice punch hole. Since I positioned the black marker line to the left of my red mark on paper, the resulting hole is offset to the left as well.
The punched-out circles of paper are collected inside the tool for no-mess operation. The waste compartment is emptied by hooking the tray with a fingernail and swinging it open. The alignment window is actually a part of the waste tray, and swing with it. However, it is separated from the actual waste compartment, so the punch-outs do not block the view, even when the compartment is full.
I did not do a "stress-test" or "proper" capacity test on the stapler and punch (as the "proper" test is the one that takes the tool to the point of breakage...), but the Business Tool easily stapled together, and punched a clean hole through, an 8-sheet fold of 24lb-weight paper.
...It's a Swiss Army Knife!
In addition to the stapler and a hole-punch, the Business Tool 60 includes a blade, paper clip remover, and 2" scissors, located on the bottom of the tool. It was not clear to me whether the large plastic spacer between the blade and the staple remover covers an important internal component, or it is simply there because Wenger could not come up with more tools to include in the package.
I was also a bit surprized by the absence of toothpick and tweezers, but then again, Wenger seems to be less keen on those than Victorinox - none of Wenger New Ranger SAKs have T&T, while the Vic.'s Travel Alarm has them!
In order to get the tools out, one has to push down on the two black levers that are sticking out on both sides of the tool. This lifts up the front of all 3 tools, so that they can be grabbed and pulled open.
The knife blade is just under 50mm (2") long from tang to tip, and has an interesting fish-like shape with lots of belly. The tang is stamped "Wenger Delemont Switzerland" on one side and "Rostfrei Stailess" with the crossbow on the other. Blade, as well as the other tools, is locking. The lock is released by pressing on the same black levers that lift the tools for opening.
Staple remover works very well on the small staples that the tool uses. The end of the tool is thin enought, without being sharp, to effortlessly slide between the staple and paper, and pushing on the tool unhooks and extracts the staple with little effort.
There is a nail file on the back of staple remover arm, and the remover tip could act as a decent nail cleaner in a nail-cleaning emergency.
Fold-out scissors on the Business Tool have a 38mm (1 1/2") cutting edge, and work as well, or better, than any other compact scissors. They are best operated by holding the tool upside down and pressing on the swing arm with the thumb. There is a small pad at the end of the swing arm, which helps distribure the pressure on the thumb to a larger area and make the scissors less painful to use. I was able to make good straight cuts on a 4-fold of 24lb-weight paper.
The short arm and relatively small thumb pad could make cutting heavy materials difficult. However, as an office tool, the expectation is that it will usually cut a single sheet of paper or some packaging tape, and for those tasks it is more than adequate.
Wenger is known for their innovative designs, from co-operation with F.A.Porshe to special-purpose sports and trade-specific SAK models (Soccer, Mountain Bike, Watchmaker, Bernina, etc.) to fold-out pliers and scissors on New Ranger SAK series. Swiss Business Tool is a great example of such innovation - a multi-tool for the office desk. And, while there are some engineering compromizes and the serious issue of price, I expect it to replace dedicated scissors and stapler in my regular office use.
All-in-one office tool - a perfect combination of tools for the office desk.
Dual alignment options for paper punch make the single-hole punch very accurate and easy to use.
Compact design - the tool is smaller than a typical desk stapler.
Good quality scissors.
Locking knife blade.
Small staples - with all the space limitations in mind, the "mini" staples are still a minus, compared to the regular size staples in a dedicated stapler.
Awkward tool fold-out mechanism - while quite innovative and functional, the two-step lift-and-pull mechanism takes getting used to.
Considering that for the street price of a single Business Tool, one could buy 4 or 5 complete sets of dedicated tools, it is no wonder that the sales of this Wenger innovation have always been less than stellar, and that all but one of variations (Series 60 in red) have been discontinued.
Leaving the issue of money aside, I still cannot see this tool replacing a dedicated full-size stapler and large scissors on the desk of a secretary, shipping clerk, or anyone who needs to use any of these tools more than once or twice a day.
As a result, the market for this engineering marvel seems to be limited to people, who, like myself, only use stapler and scissors now and then, enjoy the multi-tools for their versatility and compact size, appreciate the art of industrial design, and have fun pressing buttons and levers to make things slide out, lock, unlock, fold, and unfold... I only wish I could bring it with me to all the boring meetings!