A couple years ago I saw one of these in a camping store. It looked really plain, and kind of cheap, so I passed on it. Then I ran across a thread on an Internet forum talking about the brand, and I was intrigued by them. Compared to countries like the US, Japan and Sweden, the French aren’t really known for their cutlery prowess. But they have a lot of followers, and they have a very distinct look, so I ordered one from Amazon. This one was from a seller who bundled it with a small leather sheath.
It looks like Opinel has attempted to distill the pocket knife down to its very essence: simple, practical, inexpensive, maybe even elegant. This locking pocket knife with a real wood handle comes in lots of different sizes; this one is a number 8, which seemed the ideal size for EDC. All the different sizes feature pretty much the identical design with the innovative locking collar which they are known for.
Official Specs (From Amazon)
- Opinel #8 Carbon Steel Folding Knife
- Beechwood Handle
- USA made top grain leather sheath
- Locking collar
The seller I bought this from included a sheath, which is decent quality. Unlike some of the reviews I read, my sheath fits the knife perfectly. It was a pleasant surprise.
Taking the knife out, it almost looks like some well-kept antique. Its design reminds me of another, simpler era. The blade is beautiful, the wood handle is nice, but the knife itself looks hastily put together upon further inspection.
Everyone calls me cocky, but I haven’t cut myself once since I started collecting knives a few years ago. The locking collar locks the knife either in the open or closed position, so you have to move the collar to open and close it. The first few times I opened and closed this Opinel, I came close to cutting myself. The collar on my sample is really hard to move. I guess it would be worse if it was loose. But the overly-tight collar is kind of a deal breaker for me as an EDC.
As I said, the blade is beautiful. High carbon steel with a full flat grind and a drop point. I’ve always been a fan of full flat grind blades, so it scores some points here. My sample even came with a good edge on it. This is a very utilitarian blade style that would work well for EDC tasks such as food prep, opening packages, cutting down cardboard, etc.
Not being stainless, the blade must be maintained or it will rust and corrode. That’s fine with me. Some of my best knives, like the Moras are carbon steel.
The handle is made of real beechwood and decently made. It’s roughly finished, which I can’t decide if it gives the knife a nostalgic feel or just makes it look a little cheap–maybe a little of both. Either way it looks solid. This is a real wood, functional handle. And just like the blade, the handle has to be maintained as well. Also, the slightly rough handle makes it grip better.
The locking mechanism of the Opinel is a rotating collar of their own design. There is a slot in the collar which allows the blade through as you rotate the collar, kind of like a child proof safety cap where you have to line up the arrows. Except that a safety cap does not leave your appendages close to the blade when you open the container, which is why I’m not a big fan of the design. What I do is leave mine unlocked, which basically makes it a slip joint folder.
When I was looking at Opinels, I noticed that some sellers on Amazon were selling theirs with a USA made leather sheath–more of a leather pouch really. The quality is decent. Nothing special, but it fits well (unlike a few reviews I read) and appears to be durable. I’m not a leather worker, but it seems like there would be some oil or treatment to make this pouch look less dull.
The locking mechanism seems be sturdy, even if it is a little clumsy to work with. It’s a functional knife. I didn’t use it much, but based on the design, if you don’t mind working with the locking collar, this knife seems like it would be very usable. The handle has a good, ergonomic feel and the blade is built well and has a good geometry for an EDC / small camp knife. This is a legit knife.
It’s a beautiful knife and I can understand the following it has. But the locking mechanism just isn’t my thing. Any serious collector will want to own one of these, if only to give a nod to the large following it has. I’m sure the collar would wear in about the 100th time I almost cut myself, but I just don’t like having my fingers that close to the blade when I lock and unlock a knife. I very much want to continue my streak of not being cut, and there’s just so many other great locking mechanisms out there.
|At 1.6 ounces, it’s a great weight for EDC|
|The 3-ish inch blade is a good size and geometry|