Opinel has been producing knives since 1890. Their basic design, a penny knife with a wooden handle and stamped blade, is iconic and is even part of the permanent collection at New York Museum of Modern Art. I bought for its history and have found it to be one of my most useful tools, whether it’s to sharpen pencils, cut meat, or start a fire. Today, we’ll be looking at a recent production version of their No 8 knife with a stainless steel blade.
Blade length: 3.75”
Overall length: 7.5”
Weight: 1.6 oz
The knife came in a simple cardboard box. I have long since thrown out the box but will revise the post to include the packaging from other Opinel knives if I purchase any.
Fit and Finish
At this price range, there is not too much to be expected from the fit and finish. The blade is not centered and the contours of the wood are far from symmetrical. However, in the hand, it does not feel as though anything is wrong. Further, it is actually quite difficult to tell that the knife is not perfect by just glancing at it.
The blade is made of Sandvik 12c27 that has been modified by Opinel to have more carbon. Opinel knives originally came with high carbon (0.95%) steels. However, these would easily rust. The Sandvik steel that is used is pretty easily sharpened for a stainless steel. I frequently use my Opinel Sharpening Stone to touch up the blade when needed.
The locking ring is hit or miss. Of my two Opinel No8, one has a tight locking ring while the other is very stiff. I have adjusted them slightly with a pair of pliers (with tape on the tips of course) but still do not feel equal.
Opinel sought to create a working man’s knife and they did. The knife is cheap and sharp. The main advantage it has over competitors is the fact that it locks. However, there are many disadvantages. For one, the wooden handle is susceptible to moisture which can cause the wood to swell. When this happens, the knife can become difficult to open.
As the knife is made of stamped steel, some edges are sharp. Most notably, the top edge of the knife is sharp enough to cause discomfort.
That being said, with some simple DIY skills, most of the issues can be solved. The moisture issue can be addressed by disassembling the knife (which will require tools) and coating the knife in linseed oil, polyurethane or something of the like. The handle is easily customized with some sand paper or, if you want a more distinct shape, a saw or knife. There are some custom Opinels with exquisitely filed blade spines (here’s a great example).
My carry version, seen above, has a few coatings of oil on the wood and the edges have been naturally rounded with time. The lock has become a bit loose although I could easily pinch the opening a bit to tighten it. I actually prefer the looser lock as I can lock and unlock it with one hand. This particular knife has been accidentally soaked in water, used to cut sheet metal, and been dropped many times. It still does its job very well and hasn’t given up.
One of the most common tasks I do with this knife is sharpen pencils. The convex edge can slide through the wood with ease. It does need to be stropped and honed in order to readily do that though. There are many other knives that can sharpen pencils better (including my Warther wood carving knives and Whale Knife, reviews coming soon), but the Opinel has the advantage of being a folding knife and easier to bring places.
The Opinel is a fine tool to have. Its cheap price and reliability make it a staple for anyone requiring a sharp knife that might be lost or damaged. It has a few shortcomings that can be addressed. This will go in my backpack, for now, but I will be checking other models that Opinel has including different blade lengths, handle materials, and steel types.