In this article, I’m going to provide you with a lot of in-depth information about the Opinel Carbon Blade Number 8 (No8) folder, and I’ll also compare it to a variety of other Opinel knives that are on the market today, as well. By the end of the article, I hope you will feel that you have a lot of quality information about the Opinel brand, and are better in a position to make a purchasing choice between the No8 and other great knives that are available.
Please use our interactive table below to compare the Opinel No.08 to a handful of other great knives.
|ESEE Knives 3P||$$$|
|SOG Flash II||$$|
|Ka-Bar Fighting Knife||$$|
|Kershaw Shuffle II||$|
|Spyderco Paramilitary 2||$$$|
Opinel, Folding Knives, and History
There are lots of folding pocket knives out there. For convenience, it’s hard to find anything better. Fixed knives can get in the way while you are entering and exiting vehicles, sitting behind a desk, and the mere sight of a blade on someone’s belt, regardless of size, tends to freak a lot of people out.
Opinel knives have earned a certain mystique, and a reputation for being ultra-sharp, and ultra-reliable. Most knife aficionados have at least one, and usually more, of these unique examples of artistic cutlery.
The artistry lies in their simplicity, and all at a price just about anyone can afford.
Bushcrafters like their reliability and ruggedness. Craftsman like their outstanding performance. And everyone loves their prices—almost all models can be had brand new for under $20.00 (US).
Since Opinel knives have been in continuous production for well over 100 years with little change, and they sell an average of over 15 million knives each year worldwide, it’s obvious that they must be doing something right.
So, what’s so special about these knives, the No8 in particular? Well, let’s take a closer look.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling fixed blade knives currently for sale on Amazon:
|1) Mossy Oak|
|2) Ka-Bar USMC|
|3) Cold Steel Survivalist|
|5) Camp Lore PR-4|
|4) Cold Steel San Mai SRK|
Breaking Down Opinel Knives
The key to Opinel knives is simplicity. The knives are functionally all the same, except for size. They only have 5 parts. You read it right—only 5 parts total:
- Blade: Either XC-90 high carbon steel (Carbone), or Sandvik 12C27M stainless steel (Inox), with an HRC of 57-60.
- Handle: 1-piece, usually of beechwood, but oak, bubinga, olive-wood, and other woods are available. The handle is ergonomically shaped and made from sustainable wood supplies.
- Shell Ring: A metal ring around the front of the handle that allows the rivet to be securely attached.
- Rivet: Holds the blade to the handle and allows it to pivot from open to closed position. The blade was originally held in place by the friction of the wood handle. These were all the parts on the original Opinels.
- Viroblock Ring: A metal ring that rotates on top of the shell ring to close the groove in the handle, locking the blade either open or closed.
As you can see, there are no liners, springs, screws, pins, or scales—nothing to fail. The only way an Opinel can fail is to physically destroy one of the 5 well-made parts. There is little question that an Opinel is the toughest, most reliable cheap pocket knife you can own.
Opined Sizes: No.1 to No.12.
The standard Opinel knife was originally made in 12 sizes, from No.1 to No. 12.
- No. 1– discontinued in 1932, it had a diminutive .787 (2 cm) inch blade. While technically a knife, it was really meant to be used as a smoking pipe scraper and nail cleaner and could be attached to a pocket watch fob or keychain. It was too small to really catch on as good as the other models.
- Opinel No. 2 – with a blade length of slightly less than 1-1/2 inches and no lock ring even on such a small knife. Great for small chores. The only drawback is that it’s small size allows it to become lost very easily.
- Opinel No. 3 – this model has a blade a little longer than 1-1/2 (4 cm) inches, and no lock ring.
- Opinel No. 4 – 2 inch (5 cm) blade with no lock ring.
- Opinel No. 5 – 2.4 inch (6 cm) blade with no lock ring.
All sizes larger than No. 5 have the lock ring.
- Opinel No. 6 – 2.75 (7cm) blade
- Opinel No. 7 – 3.1 inch (8 cm) blade
- Opinel No. 8 – Opinel’s most popular size, with a 3.34 inch (8.5 cm) blade…great for camping, fishing, DIY, etc.
- Opinel No. 10– 4 (10 cm) inch blade (my favorite)
- No. 11 – discontinued in 1935, it had a 4.13 (10.5 cm) inch blade. It was considered too close in size to both the No. 10, and the No. 12 to be worth continuing.
- Opinel No. 12 – this one jumps all the way to a whopping 4.7 (12 cm) blade. A great heavy-duty folder, but perhaps a bit too large to be comfortable in a normal pants pocket.
All of these are also offered in stainless steel (Inox), and with bubinga, oak, olive and other hardwood handles. They also offer a few in other materials like horn and synthetic. They are available as a full set, with 1 of each size.
These sizes are also offered in their Slimline Series that feature skinnier blades suitable for slicing meat and veggies so thin you can see through them, or for filleting fish. They have one larger size in the Slimline Series, the No. 15, which has a 5.9 (15 cm) inch blade with a lock, suitable for filleting Bluefin Tuna or even larger things.
Opinel also makes a line of Kitchen and Table knives, and Specialty knives for shucking oysters, processing mushrooms, gardening, and crafting.
There is one more model worth mentioning. It is the Outdoor model, and only comes in No. 8 size. It has a partially serrated stainless steel blade with a thumbhole for one-handed opening, and a built-in whistle for emergencies.
The Opinel In Action
When you first pick up an Opinel of any size, one of the first things you will notice is how light they are. They can be used all day with little hand fatigue.
The next thing that becomes apparent is how good they feel in your hand, almost like they were custom-made just for you. Nothing feels as good as a grip made from real wood. It feels alive. The ergonomic-shaped handle feels secure and stable. The knife never tries to twist, no matter what you do with it. The grip is comfortable in any position, from the Ice-Pick, to the Hammer, and the Reverse, either edge-in, or edge-out.
They also feel good in your pocket. There are no sharp edges on the handle, so you are seldom poked in any tender spots when you sit down. It just nestles naturally in the pocket, waiting for the time when it is needed.
Some people are put off by the belief that an Opinel cannot be opened with one hand (I will dispel this myth shortly), but remember, this is not a tactical knife. It is a work knife. Also, pocket knives were around for several hundred years before anyone made one that could be opened with one hand. In fact, one of the most famous pocket knives of all time, the Buck 110 Folding Hunter, cannot be opened with one hand, without serious modifications.
Opinels actually can be opened with one-hand using one of two methods:
- The Opinel “Thump” (Coup de Savoyard) – Simply rotate the lock to the open position with your thumb, then sharply tap the rivet end of the knife on a hard surface. The blade will pivot out a few centimeters, where it can be opened the rest of the way using the Pinch-Grip with a finger and thumb.
Once open, you simply rotate the lock back to the closed position with your thumb. To close, rotate the lock open with your thumb, then move your fingers away from the blade groove in the handle, and place your index finger on the back of the blade.
Push the blade closed, then rotate the lock to the closed position with your thumb. It takes about 1-1/2 seconds, or less to open or close the blade this way. Granted, it’s not lightning fast, but good enough for 90% of any situations you may find yourself in.
- The Pinch-Grip – This is the same way you open a ring-lock knife, like an Okapi, Kudu or Eland, with one hand, except it is much easier. Just rotate the lock to the Open position with your thumb, then pinch the exposed blade near the nail nick with a finger and thumb, and lever the blade open.
Rotate the lock back to the closed position with your thumb. With a little practice, you will be able to rotate the lock open, and just flick the blade open with a ‘snap’ of your wrist. To close, rotate the lock open with your thumb, then move your fingers away from the blade groove in the handle, and place your index finger on the back of the blade.
Push the blade closed, then rotate the lock to the closed position with your thumb. It takes about a second to open or close the blade this way…good enough for all but the most extreme circumstances.
Once you have your Opinel open, you will quickly find that the blade is wickedly sharp, on the same order as a Mora (which comes surgically sharp). Opinels take a better edge than even a Cold Steel knife. Slicing and cutting with an Opinel is a pleasure. They make short work out of most tasks. They hold an edge well, and even the stainless steel blades are easy to sharpen on any stone, steel, or sharpener.
Both the clip point and drop point versions perform well beyond their class. Tomatoes and onions can be sliced transparent-thin, and meat almost as thin. They are a little light for cutting frozen meat, but it can be done with some very light batoning with the larger sizes.
I have dressed out small game—frogs, turtles, large fish, deer etc with my No. 8, with no problems at all. Was it always the best knife for the job? Of course not, but it was what I had at the time, and it worked. That’s what counts.
I have also trimmed piles and piles of brush, small tree limbs, and vines with my Opinels with no trouble. I live on top of a mountain in a wilderness area, and encroaching vegetation is always a problem, especially in spring. During the growing seasons, I almost always have to trim, prune, and crop some green invaders every time I leave the house, so my Opinel is always handy.
The only drawback to an Opinel is that the blades are true high-carbon blades, which is why they can be made so sharp. Some acidic fruits and vegetables can stain the blade in as little as 30 minutes, so you want to be sure to always wipe your blade off immediately after each use.
I always spray my blades with a good penetrating oil, like Break-Free or WD-40, then let them set for 10 minutes, before wiping the excess oil from the blade. If you will be using the knife in especially wet environments, or around salt water, you may want to opt for a stainless steel version. The handle should be wiped with a thin coat of olive oil. Rub the oil in real good, and let it dry. Wipe off any excess, and your handle will stay looking good for a long time.
No matter how good you take care of your Opinel, the handle will eventually turn dark, and the blade will develop a patina, but that just adds character. It shows your knife is well-used, and well-loved.
I have known people who make modifications to their Opinels, and this is very easy to do. However, I do not recommend it because, well, Opinels are perfect the way they come (in my opinion). But, with that said, the wood handles can easily be sanded to a custom fit if desired. They can easily be stained or painted any color you want. You can even force a patina on a Carbone blade simply by coating it with brown mustard, letting it set for 30-45 minutes, and rinsing it off. This will create a patina similar to an old, well used Opinel.
Be sure to oil the blade well after drying it off.
You can also etch the blade, similar to the etching on a Samurai sword by dipping it in hot vinegar for a few minutes, then rinsing it off. Doing this several times will mimic the etching on a Damascus steel blade.
You can rough up the spine of the blade to make it spark better with a fire steel just by filing it with a Medium metal file. You can create jimping on the back 1/4 of the spine with a Dremel Tool and cut-off wheel.
These are just a few of the modifications you can do to an Opinel. If you’re in to customizing your blades, you’ll really love Opinels.
There is one mod that I do like. You can drill a small hole through the rear lower corner of the handle for a paracord lanyard. I use 275 (3/32”) Tactical Paracord for mine. Just make sure you drill the hole low enough on the handle for the blade to clear the cord when closed.
Strangely, there are not many companies that make knives similar to Opinels. To be fair, Opinels should only be compared to knives with a similar design. There are less than half a dozen companies in the world that make knives similar to Opinels, and most are way more expensive. They are:
–Nontron Knives – Another French company, they have been making knives for over 500 years. They have a system similar to the Opinel’s locking mechanism, but every Nontron Knife is a hand-made tool made by one of 6 artisans. They are beautiful, and are almost as sharp as an Opinel, but the prices start at around $100.00. You wouldn’t want to use one of these for any real messy jobs. They are more valuable as a collector knife, rather than a work knife.
–Mam Knives – Made in Portugal since the 1870s, these are the bottom-end for this type of knife. They are cheaply made, with an off-brand stainless steel of uncertain origin. I had one a while back, and it was horrible. The blade would not take an edge for anything, and there was all kinds of play between the blade and handle. I was never confident enough in it to actually try to use it for anything. They can be had for under $6.00 + shipping (US).
–Taramundi Knives – Made in Spain, these are very beautiful handcrafted knives made by master artisans. The steel is not bad…not as good as Opinels, but not bad. They are a bit more complicated, with an automatic locking mechanism. They can cost anywhere from around $20.00 to well over $50.00 + shipping (US). These are nice knives, but probably not as tough and useful as Opinels, which are meant to be used, and used hard.
–Cold Steel Knives – One of my favorite manufacturers, but even they don’t always get it right. For a brief time, CS made their version of an Opinel called the Twistmaster. I bought mine around 20 years ago.
It is huge, compared to an Opinel. It has a 5-/12” Carbon V blade, which is very sharp, but still not in the same class as the Opinel. It has Zytel scales which are more massive than an Opinel. It feels chunky, clunky, and unwieldy compared to my No. 8, but all-in, all, a good solid work knife.
However, for several reasons, I prefer the Opinel. The Twistmaster just doesn’t have the same “feel” as an Opinel. Cold Steel discontinued the Twistmaster series in the early 2000s, most likely due to lack of sales. When you can find one, they sell for about double what they were when in production, around $40.00.
Opinel really has no competition within their price range. For an inexpensive work and utility knife, Opinels are a hard act to follow.
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