BTWC

Monday, 5 October 2009

Opinel and a word about blades




The Opinel knife from Savoy in France is undoubtably a design classic, and is certainly suitable for whittling. In fact, my first whittling was done with an Opinel, and it was that same Opi No. 7 with which I first gashed my thumb, spilling warm red blood on dry summer grass. I digress; the Opinel is a folding knife which locks shut and (on newer models) open. The locking-open is a handy feature and the handle is comfortable to hold, though as with many folding knives, the slot for the blade can lead to blisters where pressure on the skin is concentrated. I became most acutely aware of this after hacking my way through a 4cm limb of birch one afternoon, though it is testament to the quality of the knife that I could even do so.

The Opi is very cheap and cheerful, but prospective buyers will wish to be made aware of recent developments in the manufacture of the knife. The classic model features a beech handle and high-carbon steel blade (oil it to prevent rust with, say, mineral oil). This blade in particular is strong and tough and will sharpen easily and take a good edge. By way of contrast, newer stainless-steel models (and stainless blades in general) are much harder to sharpen and many will not hold that eye-wateringly sharp edge which we all hope and strive for in our knife-care.

In conclusion, an excellent tool, as suitable for whittling as it is for cutting up a fine block of cheese whilst on a picnic.

7 comments:

  1. Hi Jack. I am about to order an opinel # 7 and want to get a sharpening stone too. They seem to vary so much in material and price. Do you have any advice on what I should be looking for?

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  2. Dear Lizzie, sorry for a very late reply. I have only just uncovered the function which allows me to see all of the comments in one go and therefore reply. Your Opinel blade may have lasted long enough for you to hold off sharpening until now, in which case, I would recommend a Japanese water-stone. You absolutely won't go wrong with a two-sided combination stone; about 800-1000 grit on one side, for sharpening, and 3000-6000 on the other for fine honing the edge. King brand sell such a stone for about twenty pounds. This is what I use, and compared to oil-stones it is quicker and cheaper (initially -- it will eventually wear down while oil-stones last for ages).

    Your comment has got me writing a more detailed post on sharpening, so look out for that. Happy sharpening, whittling, and all.

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  3. locks OPEN and on newer models locks SHUT

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  4. Are opinels suitable for creating batons?

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  5. Hi Jack, Which size of the Opinel knives would be most appropriate for whittling sticks? I know you mentioned you use a No 7. Would the Opinel No 8 knife be appropriate even though its slightly bigger?

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  6. I prefer the No 6 for fine work and use a drag through sharpener which gives a razor sharp edge to the blade

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  7. You should really keep that blade sharpened. Try the DMT knife sharpener, probably the best sharpening tool on the market.

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