Opinel Knives: Convenient and sharpen well


sharpening a knifeI was raised on Opinel knives. They come in different sizes; I think the biggest one we have is #10 but before the whole country went mad with paranoia I kept my #6 in my purse, mainly to cut fruit, but also to whittle if I was bored, cut twine, and in case I had to walk through a dark parking lot or something. (Yes, they are French. I’m not going to apologize. After all, I taught French for 12 years. I like to be able to cut up delicious baguettes, camembert, and saucisson.) They make a nice simple folding knife which is very affordable, has a nicely shaped simple wooden handle, and the blade takes a very nice edge. My father said the steel was a little softer which is why it takes such a nice edge. (A stainless steel one might not be as easy to sharpen.) Low-tech but perfect.

To open, tap the back end, which has a little flat point just for that purpose, and the tip will pop out of the end, so you can open the knife. When it is opened all the way out, turn the circular piece of metal (hasp, tang, whatever you would call it) to lock the blade in place. When you finish using the knife, wash it if necessary and fold it back up when dry.  Like any pocketknife/folding knife, if you fold it up encrusted with blood and guts, it will be nasty and maybe hard to open next time you want to use it. Obviously with a handle like that you don’t want to leave it soaking in water for days. Respect your tools and they will perform for you. Oil it occasionally with olive oil.

To sharpen, see Sharpening Your Knife.

They come in different sizes and also with different handles. My husband got one with an olive wood handle in Andorra. It has always stayed very nice. I like how the handle fits my hand.

This is the knife I use for butchering and meat processing, along with my big old Chinese cleaver.

11 thoughts on “Opinel Knives: Convenient and sharpen well

    • Ben alors, en sachant bien que c’est un avertissement, j’ai ete regarder votre site-web, et je n’ai rien vu d’Opinel. Laguiole je n’en connais pas, mais ce n’est pas dire que c’est mauvais. Ce dont je parle ici, c’est mon couteau pour tout, emplucher mes poires et les cerfs aussi….

        • Totally. That softer steel takes a nicer edge that makes skinning and butchering a big deer a lot less tiring. Although as a violinist I hate when it easily takes off a piece of my left index fingertip….Just keep a good stone handy for touchups.
          Thanks for commenting. I really want this feedback to improve my eventual book as well as add to the information, and have been disappointed that most comments are spam, so thanks for making the effort!

  1. Hello,

    Opinel are probably the best value for money, period. While they lack the comfort features found on modern pocket knives, they are well constructed and the steel is good, for an extremely cheap price (often cheaper than knives which are absolute junk). It’s abit of a shame they’ve stuck to their basic range; the blade is somewhat kitchen-y, and sometimes I’d wish for a heftier blade.

    I have a stainless Opinel and the blade is indeed noticeably harder to sharpen. Still, for the tasks I actually use Opis for, such as slicing fruit, I prefer stainless. Most fruits are quite acidic, which is bad news for carbon steels. I can’t say I’ve tried skinning a deer with an Opinel. Interesting to read that you seem to do just about everything with it.

    The Laguiole mentioned in the comments is actually a traditional style of French pocket knife, not a brand, so the quality is variable. Unfortunately, the good ones are generally way overpriced. The big advantage is if you live in France (as I do), the local laws on knives are very open to interpretation, and French judges love the Laguiole so you can get away with one when another knife would be confiscated.

    If you like cheap French pocket knifes with a ‘soft’ steel blade, you could look at a Douk-Douk as well. It’s similarly a cheap, solid, working folder, and it will take a razor edge—as in, an edge you could comfortably shave with.

    P.S. I’d just call the lock a collar lock in English. The French call it a virole, and Opinel a virobloc—I believe that was the name on their now expired patent. In any case, it does the job quite well, in my experience.

    • Thank you so much for this very helpful and informative comment- exactly what I was hoping for. Blog responses make my blog- a future book, so much more interesting and useful.
      It is hard to see the world taken over by fascists who confiscate penknives because of the actions of a miniscule few- I remember having a pair of scissors less then an inch long taken at the airport, and twice we have forgotten and had to send Opinels home from the airport, nearly missing the plane. I am glad that the French have the cleverness and imagination to consider it a patrimony issue, sort of the way indigenous people in America can have peyote buttons…. We hope to be in the Languedoc Rousillon this May so perhaps I will look out for a Douk-Douk.

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