BRANDS WE LOVE: Opinel

DISCLAIMER:  Our "Brands We Love" entries are not paid advertisements in any way.  We have no financial involvement with the brands we discuss here, and in almost all cases, have never even spoken to a representative of the company.  We don't receive free products or any other form of compensation.  Quite the opposite, actually.  We are buying this stuff with our own money because we love it.  And we put our gear through the wringer here at Autology Motors, so when we find stuff we really love, we feel the urge to share it.  That's all. 


RUGGEDLY SIMPLE

With all the online hoopla about “EDC” this and “tactical” that, it’s important to remember that most of us, even the outdoorsy, Land Rovery types among us, are not getting dressed every morning expecting to have to survive a nuclear attack or scavenge for food in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. We’re just going about our days as usual. But that doesn’t mean we don’t benefit from some everyday gear that is as tough as it is functional, and here at Autology Motors there are two things we find pretty indispensable for everyday use. A quality flashlight and a quality pocket knife. More on flashlights later, but for now let’s focus on our favorite little daily cutter, the Opinel No. 8.

This particular No. 8, a gift from my father, features a red SCUBA slash painted on the beech wood handle.

The Opinel family has been making edged tools in the Savoie region of France since the early 1800’s, but it wasn’t until the late 1890’s that the young Joseph Opinel hit on the idea of making a high quality folding knife that could be produced inexpensively and in high volumes. Available in various sizes to suit different tasks and even different hand sizes, the Opinel quickly found favor with chefs, outdoorsmen, fishermen, and French nobility alike. The idea hit home and the company rapidly expanded, selling kitchen knives, boning knives, and other specialty cutting tools as well, but it was the small folding pocket knives that were Opinel’s bread and butter. With a well finished and exceedingly sharp edge housed inside a simple wooden handle, and a swiveling lock ring that can secure the blade either open or closed, the Opinel was a no frills knife that could get the job done. Today, more than 120 years later, not much has changed, and part of what makes Opinel pocket knives so appealing is their faithful adherence to those early, simple design specifications. Sure, you can buy Opinels today in a variety of combinations and colors, with exotic wood handles and even some speciality adventure styles with integrated whistles and such, but our favorite remains the basic little No. 8 with the standard beechwood handle. Simple, clean, cheap as chips, with a perfect size and shape for daily carry, and the kind of handcrafted look that develops a lovely, personal patina with age.

So how does it work as an everyday blade? Very, very well, thank you very much. Few knives come from the factory anywhere near as sharp as an Opinel, and fewer still will hold that edge for as long. Available in both carbon steel and stainless blades, both have their subtle advantages, but we lean toward the INOX models for purely lazy reasons. When the edge goes off a bit, just a few swipes on a simple whetstone brings it back quickly, and our No. 8’s are slicing open boxes of Defender parts and trimming door weatherstripping and hacking through leather hides all day, every day, with remarkable ease, and still have plenty of sharpness left over to surgically cleave through an apple or a hunk of good cheese. Or both. From quick and dirty repairs underneath a Land Rover to a picnic on the beach, our trusty little No. 8’s never let us down.

They all have their own character, these Opinels. They all open a little differently, and the lock rings all swivel a little differently, giving each individual knife a feel of its own. And if the handle gets wet and swells a bit, or the the action gets tight for any other reason, you’ll have a chance to perfect your “coup de Savoyard.” Google it.

So, how much will all this charming French history and quality set you back? For the classic No. 8 with the basic beech handle, about ten euros. Not bad, eh? At that price you can buy a handful of them, but you really won’t need to. With even a modicum of care, one will last you a couple decades.

To see more, visit www.opinel.com/en