The Opinel Knife company is no ordinary company, and its knives are themselves not ordinary. The history of one of the worlds best-selling knives extends back beyond 1890 when the first Opinel factory was established in Savoie, France. Since then, the company has sold more than 15 million knives a year and the range has extended from a simple, folding knife loved by farmers, soldiers, and outdoorsmen to a range of practical knives for most edged applications. The knife has become a symbol of French culture, was used by Pablo Picasso to sculpt, and continues to be used by Michelin Star chefs and the ordinary working man. The knife has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum alongside the Porsche 911 and Rolex watches as one of the “100 most beautiful products in the world” and has been exhibited in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Yet, you can own your own for less then $20 or even as little as $12.
We first discovered Opinel knives when exploring the French Alps on our way down to Africa. A friend invited us to lunch and we ate delicious cheese, a baguette, cured meat and fruit, all carved with a well-used and loved No.8. While the meal was fantastic, it was the knife which held my attention. Elegant, beautifully made, and practical, the stainless steel (or carbon) blade curved by experience, the wooden handle shaped to be an extension of the hand. We sought and bought our own knife and, while it never did replace my Leatherman as an EDC (everyday carry), it became a constant companion used for food preparation and general cutting duties. The folding knives range from the smallest No. 1 to the largest No. 12 and the range has expanded to include a small saw and specialist outdoor, kitchen, and catering knives.
No.8 Carbon Steel Folding Knife
This is the knife which started it all, the original. The No. 8 is the most common size and over 300 million have been sold. The 3.28-inch blade locks either open or closed with a simple Virobloc twist locking mechanism. The varnished beechwood handle fits a large hand comfortably and this size configuration is most practical as an EDC knife.
I made the mistake of cutting limes for Mexican drinks and not cleaning the carbon blade. The next morning the acidic lime juice had etched the blade. At first I was annoyed but I grew to appreciate the weathered look, once I had cleaned and treated the blade. The sharpness of the blade was not affected at all and it remains sharp and ready to serve. At $18 it will not break the bank to replace the knife, but I have no reason to replace it, and do not suspect that I will any time soon. The stainless steel No.8 folding knife which I have owned and used regularly since 2018 has shown no significant wear, and the knife has only grown more beautiful with use and age.
No.8 Black Oak Folding Knife
At $49, the Black Oak is priced for the collector and connoisseur and has a specific, modern aesthetic. The blade and Virobloc locking ring have been anodized for a matte-black finish but the process leaves you with a knife that is still food and re-sharpening safe. This handsome knife is one of our favorites and is as practical as the original, particularly useful for wood carving. It’s also our go-to when cutting meat for and from the fire.
No.12 Explore Outdoor Folding Knife
As an outdoor/survival knife the No. 12 Explorer is on par with any survival knife we have used. The short robust blade ensures accurate cutting and the multi-material handle is fiber-reinforced to withstand extreme temperatures, knocks, and exposure to water.
The heel of the handle features a 110-decibel whistle, a flint fire-starter to rub on the back of the blade, and a steel cutting hook for twine and large game. The hook is detachable for easy cleaning and features a hole allowing you to secure the knife with a lanyard or clip.
We have used the knife for a variety of purposes and it scores high theoretical marks in all environments and uses. Due to its length, the large No.12 is not a common pocket knife size but that is not a disadvantage; in fact, it’s size is one of its greatest strengths.
Priced at $55
No.18 Carbon Steel Folding Garden Saw
We opted to test this saw as a woodworking tool which would allow us to limb logs and cut medium branches for the fire. The blade is 7 1/8 inches and designed with sharp teeth which allow for clean and easy cutting.
It is an ideal tool for sawing all branches with a diameter of up to 5.75 inches (12 centimeters) and packs conveniently into our woodworking tool roll. My only criticisms are that the locking mechanism can be fiddly, requiring precise operation, and the teeth catch on the handle when closing. A little extra effort and regular use eventually leads to smoother operation.
Priced at $56
Essential Small Kitchen Knife Set
The essential kitchen knife set is an excellent addition to our overland mess kit. It features three knives and a stationary peeler which are made entirely in Europe, from high-quality materials.
The knives small but incredibly versatile, perfect for precise slicing and dicing. The peeler is also diminutive but peels better than any peeler we have ever owned. At first glance, the painted handles seemed vulnerable, but after a few months clanging about in our camper cutlery drawer, they are still in excellent condition.
Priced at $40
Almost all Opinel knives can be personalized with engravings, and most knives have matching sheaths and accessories which can be purchased separately or as a bundle. The range extends to professional kitchen knives, gardening, hunting, fishing, sailing, DIY, and wild camping.
If you still do not own an Opinel knife, we encourage you to make the small investment; you will thank us.
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