Opinel Folders.

Le 30 août 2002, par James

Cheap, good quality carbon or stainless steel folders.

A number 12

During my vacations, I bought a number 12 [1] Opinel.

As a French man, I have owned numerous number of these since I am 7, and in age of owning a knife, but I never really went for sizes over number 10.

Many of you probably know these cheap French folders, but what the hell, they are worth talking about them, no chauvinism involved.

Opinels generally have an excellent carbon blade, well ground, with a thin edge. They are sturdy and cheap too.

Anyway, here are the characteristics of a #12 :

Opinel Number 12 Folder 28 cm open [2], 12 cm blade [3], thickness 2mm. Carbon blade at RC 56-58, if I believe my file. Wood handle, turning lock [4], locks the blade in both open and closed position. 100 grams 10 euros [5] street price.

A picture of it, near a dozier to feel the size


"New in box" Inspection :

The blade is quite hard to open, but by experience I know that this will ease a lot. The lock is quite hard too, but, also gets better with age. The blade grind is flat V or slightly convex, with a very fine edge, But it is not very sharp.

Handling :

After two minutes sharpening on a ceramic stone, the edge got to an excellent razor sharp state, An it seems to keep an edge quite well.

This is indeed not a fast opener corresponding to the recent fashion on folders. You need two hands, and it is quite hard to open when new. A classical opening movement is to hit the handle from the lock side on a flat surface. Once the lock is in place though, this is almost a fixed blade, as nothing in the world will allow the blade to close anymore. Since this year, the lock also keeps the blade closed. The blade is thin (2mm) and quite springy to lateral flexion. There is a good length of edge flat [6], the belly is good, and the tip is sharp. There is no play between blade and handle and lock. Once locked, it really feels like a solid piece. I consider this lock to be one of the most solid ever made.

The number 12 is a size I like a lot. The handle is great, and fits my hand well, and can be used with a lot of force and would fit all hands, especially big hands.

Once sharpened, the cutting power is awesome, and wittling in wood is nice and easy.

These blades are sensitive to humidity, as the blade is carbon, and the wood has been dried for 2 years before the making. Any wetness going into the wood (varnish protected) will cause it to inflate, thus making the opening even more difficult.

Here in my hand


Blade locked. seen from edge side


Blade closed and locked


Shown with a brother Opinel effile [7] which is stainless, and has a very flexible blade, probably superb to fillet fish


I decided to modify slightly the look and handling of this big Opinel, as well as down sizing the handle to fit my hand, here is the result :


as you can see the handle got a finger hole, the blade turned into a drop-point, and the handle was thinned, and made less tubular.

Other models

The Number 8 inox, ash handle, an outdoor knife, par excellence


Some other sizes and models are really interesting. I like the #8 a lot, it is not too bulky and very light in a pocket. Opinel also makes some series in stainless steel [8], and this is a great steel too, almost as good as the carbon steel, though a bit more difficult to sharpen. The Number 8 are also produced with different woods handles, walnut, olive...

Opinel’s production is almost entirely robotized. Blades are stamped (cut), hardened in cooled oil, and only then machine ground. In parallel, handles are formed, and at the end the mounting is done by pinning the blade in the handle and adding the "virole" lock. Great attention is given to the thinness of the edge, and the blades are sometimes sligtly reground by hand to provide a thin edge. Very often you will find the the blades are convex ground, and it is specially obvious on the smallest numbers. They often need to be sharpened, even new, as the original sharpening is rarely good.

The Number 8 inox olive wood handle, here with a personal Celtic knot carving



In conclusion, these are cheap, resistant folders, almost as sturdy as a fixed blade, light, with an excellent cutting power, counter-balanced by being slower to deploy, can’t have everything (and actually, I write this for the review, because I do not care at all about the speed to open it) !

I like them starting at number 8 which is perfect for a pocket. The most useful being probably a number 8 or 10, probably in "inox" (stainless steel).

Post-Scriptum :

Added 19/09/2006 : I must add a warning, Never trust the locking of ANY locking folder. View them more as a last chance security than as locking systems. This applies to most locking mechanisms, if not all, as combinations of dusts, dirt, sand grit, cold, rust, water can make most systems inefficient without you knowing it.

Notes :

[1] The number stands for the length of the blade in centimetres.

[2] 12 inches open

[3] 4" 4/5

[4] called Virobloc

[5] =10 US $

[6] slightly recurved on this one

[7] slim

[8] "inox" for inoxydable, in French

par James



Le 3 septembre 2002

More Information at :

Opinel’s site .

Le 19 février 2005
After reading several articles on the Opinels, I decided to check them out. I ordered several used medium sized ones from Cheaper Than Dirt. They were all obviously used, but were intact, in reasonably good condition. I was impressed with how easy it was to bring the edge up. They do take a nice edge, and they hold it pretty well for such an inexpensive knife. I carried one with me on my last 3 backpack trips, and it did everything you would expect any good folder to do, in terms of routine camp tasks. At first I thought the locking mechanism was flimsy, but it isn’t : the knife will take pretty hard use. I didn’t torture test it ; I don’t consider it a survival blade or anything, but I do think it’s a terrific bargain in a light outdoor utility knife. It weighs next to nothing, and it’s easy to forget it’s in your pocket. I think you can pay ten times as much for a folder and not necessarily get a more useful knife.
Le 13 juin 2005
I owned one Opinel, quite liked it, but then had the locking collar fail when I tried to cut through a not very big tree root with it - the knife blade came at me very hard as a result. As far I can tell the knife is only as strong as the locking collar, which is a very thin piece of metal (and as I remember it it’s bent into a U shape, rather than being a complete ring, making it weaker still.)
Le 13 juin 2005
Yes, well, depends the size, and the wood itself may have defects. I know a lot of people that never had a problem, except the classical blocking of the blade due to wood wetness.
Le 2 juillet 2005
Well, I wouldn’t want to use an Opinel for baton use or anything, but I just picked up an Opinel #6 with a walnut handle. It looks good after 2 minutes shaping the handle a bit. It has a carbon steel blade. And it’s a great little pocket knife for a cost of $6. The thing is that any other knife in that price range has crap steel that you have to literally sharpen after each use.
Le 30 juillet 2005

Hey all

I got my first Opinel,a #10 as the #12 seemed a little too big :-)

I too had a very easy time of getting the edge to shaving sharpeness despite there being unsharpened flat spots on the blade. No fancy tools or methods needed here, just an ordinary 2 sided carborundum bench stone and a couple swipes on an old butcher’s steel......which is amazing coming from me since I’m one of the world’s worst sharpeners given the amount of practice I’ve had ! I can certainly see how opening the blade and engaging the locking ring would be a little difficult if your hands are cold and numb. Opinels would also certainly benefit by having a lanyard ring.

Le 11 avril 2006

I was working in the Mojave Desert and had my Opinel in my pack. This was before they had a way to lock them folded. The lack of humidity caused the wood to shrink and the blade opened unbeknownst to me. I reached into the pack and was cut by my Opinel’s very sharp blade. I used a rubber band after that but my new Opinel has the locking feature.

I’ve had several Opinels and have never had one break. I either lost them or gave them away. They are so easy to sharpen. For a quick sharpen I use the top of a car window as a whet stone. For everday pocket knives they are my favorite.

Le 9 août 2006
The Opinel is a knife I’d love to love, due to the ingenious simplicity of the design. Nonetheless, I had a No. 8 carbon which I used daily in the kitchen. Mistake. As the article mentions, it should be kept away from all moisture — not only for the blade but for the wooden handle ! After a few months of use, the handle snapped on a routine push cut (and thus fortunately not in the direction of my hand), and that was the end of the knife. The wood can rot really easily. Perhaps a soak in tung oil would remedy this, but I’d be careful anyway.
Le 10 octobre 2006
Opinels are fantastic knives. Alongside Swiss Army Knives they are some of my favorites. Another poster mentioned batoning with an Opinel. I’m confident in their ability to handle this task, as I’ve done it with my #10 many times. The #12 would work even better with a longer blade, but my #12 was defective so I have not gotten to try batoning with it. Here is a thread on Blade Forums about batoning with Opinels.
Le 9 décembre 2006

Three comments/recommendations concerning the Opinel knives.

1)NEVER let them soak in water. Rinsing is OK.

2) keep the wood maintained buy infrequent immersion in mineral oil. I sand off the factory finish to bare wood first. Polish with fine grit sandpaper. Nice finish and better grip.

3) "rustproof" the blade of carbon steel models by cleaning well with alcohol and then plunging into a fresh grapefruit. Leave for several hours. Polish with fine steel wool or Scotchbrite. The blade will be an ugly dark color but will resist corrosion quite well if kept clean and dry when not in use. (this is a basic acid etching process)

I use mine mainly in the kitchen as they take and hold a keen edge. You can find a couple in my knife block.

Bonus tip : use "crock sticks" for a nice edge.

Eric Strachan
Le 15 avril 2007
I use an Opinel with 10 cm blade to skin, gut and bone out red deer, fallow deer chamois, thar and pigs. I have learned to not use too fine a sharpening angle or the edge rolls over on contact with bone. I carry a small sharpening steel to maintain the edge. Also it’s important to rinse out the blood and meat fragments quickly or the locking mechanism seizes up. But overall its a practical knife that is good value for the money. Eric New Zealand PS I used the knife to cut a freshly tanned deer skin and the chemicals turned the blade black and it has never rusted since !
Le 15 décembre 2007
opinel knifes are a great value for the money.cheap sturdy comfy,well designed .the wooden handle fits in many hands,safety ring is a great invention, carbon steel blade are sharp and can be even sharper,( brand new ones has got a =1095 steel).stainless aren’t bad either. people use to trust n°8 opinel for general purposes, n°7 is the children’s one,or might be the city user for adults.n°9 is considered as a big knife and only used by a few outdoors men . n°10 hush... this is not a best seller. i have a n°7 i use a few ,my city use opinel is n°8, my general purpose is n°9, long hiking trip,outdoors stays ,requires a n°10. well sharpened those knifes are really good bushcraft folders,and wood carvers (beating many scandis of higher price range). [maybe i say so because i’m used to them since i was a child]. sometimes tip might break or wring but who cares ? opinel : the folder everyone must have !!!
Le 7 juin 2008

Well i am biased, as i own a website selling opinel knives !

Enjoyed your review of the no.12 - My best seller by far though is the also mentioned no.8. I have sold them and many other brands over the last 18 years, and can honestly say that I consider them to be the best value for money. I have also consistently found them to be very resilient, and very easy to sharpen to a great edge (particularly the carbon blades).

With a little care they will serve you well, for a very long time ! They are a must have, and for the price simply cannot be beaten !!

Le 25 juin 2008

I have just bought myself a No 6 as a general purpose EDC knife which works perfectly well for me even though i have quite big hands, and a No 8 for slightly heavier use, out in the garden for just one example.

The blade is not great out of the box and needs some attention but overall I am well impressed. I have used a couple of SAK’s in the past but never found any of them completely 100% satifying. These Opinel’s I like.

I would like to see some more of the handle modifications if anyone knows where I can find them on the internet (specific sites maybe ?) as I may have a bash at modifying my own.

Handle will get attention very soon as well, primarily for protective purposes, with boiled linseed oil being used to soak the handle for a while.

Le 15 août 2008

I use my no. 8 Opinel and no. 12 for just about everything while camping or boating— including carving, preparing food, gutting and scaling fish, making tent poles, cutting rope, and even trimming fingernails. They get used for just about everything, as I said. With all this they need to be somewhat easy to open, which as many here have pointed out is not an easy state to get an Opinel into, need to be very sharp, and quick to sharpen, need to not rot or rust too much, and need to not get lost. First, sharpening : there are all sorts of different strategies for actually sharpening a knife, and everyone does it a different way, so I’ll just talk about the bevel of the knife here, or the angle the blade’s at. For both my 8 and 12, I hold the knife at an angle to the sharpening stone so that when the sharp blade side is touching, the flat side of the blade is the height off of the stone that it is wide. The back side of a no. 8 blade is about 1.6 mm thick, so the angle puts the back side 1.6 mm off the stone. That’s the general rule I use to sharpen my Opinels because it’s simple and easy to remember and produces quite good results. This might not work on the smaller and therefore thinner knives though, for example a no. 3 would have too steep a bevel, I think, if you did this. Second : Being able to open them. This improves naturally with use of the knife, but if the knife repeatedly gets soaking wet (as it does if I’m carrying it on me while whitewater kayaking, that is the #1 way to get EVERYTHING on you soaked) opening it will be a long and drawn out affair involving smacking it on a rock for several minutes and then wrenching the blade open when you have more of it to hold on to. What I try to do is, when I am home and things can dry out (air conditioned rooms are good for drying stuff. I suppose an actual food dehydrator would do very well) is to dry it to the point where opening it is very easy. Try opening and closing the blade several times if it’s dry but still seems difficult, this will help free it up if the wood isn’t swollen but the blade’s sticking. AFTER you’ve got it to a satisfactory edge, drench it in vegetable oil. I rub some on and wait for it to soak in, leave it a few minutes and put more on, repeat until it stops soaking in. Then I wipe off the excess oil. This will create a barrier so that water won’t get in to the handle (oil and water don’t mix) and will keep the knife not too swollen. I don’t know why the handle soaking up water makes it swell while soaking up oil doesn’t make it swell, but it doesn’t. I’ve heard it said that the oil will make the blade not rust. There may be a touch of truth to that while the knife is soaking in oil, but unless you plan to have the metal blade covered in a coating of protective oil that somehow stays on while in use, this protection will not last long. Which brings us to not having it rust. The only way I’ve figured out how to do this is to dry it by the fire every night and polish the rust off— these knives need to be sharpened quite often, when I’m using them this intensively (scaling fish will REALLY dull a blade !) so I often have a stone out anyways to polish the rust off with. I have just treated my no. 8 as described by "Foster", and it makes sense that this should help— I know that where the black corrosion has appeared on its own the knife doesn’t rust and this did indeed turn the whole blade black (well, mostly black... I only had an orange which is less acidic than a grapefruit I think, and I didn’t leave it in for as long as I could have, but it did have some effect for sure). We will see if it has the intended effect. I’m treating my no. 12 now (I’ll need to stick it through the orange in stages. An orange does not accommodate a 6 inch blade). If nothing else it looks cool. As for the handle rotting, I’ve never experienced it. I do dry my knife every night by the fire if I’m on a wet trip, which is probably why. I drilled holes in the end of the handles of all my Opinels for cords/necklaces/loops to go... unfortunately my no. 8 is the Coghlan’s version with less wood on the end, and to not hit the blade I had to drill too close to the edge, making the hole unusable. I think I could have drilled a hole farther into the knife had I thought it through more carefully... this is a great trick for holding on to your knives but do plan out where you’re going to drill and be careful to leave enough wood for a sturdy hole.

Well I’ve gone on for too long, so I’m done talking now. I hope this addresses some of the maintenance questions here... a lot of this has been said before but not in one post. This is what I personally do, no guarantees, but it works well for me.

Le site est affiché en français avec ses sections françaises seulement, sachez qu’il existe cependant beaucoup à découvrir dans la version Anglaise.

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