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The Opinel No.6

Monday, 04 June 2012 23:42 Written by 

This day and age, it’s rare finding an inexpensive, yet reliable knife, made from high-quality materials. With the world-renown Opinel knife, you’re getting those qualities, along with a century-old design that is both classic and innovative. Opinel [pronounced: oh-peen-el] knives are a thing of beauty and one of the best examples of simplicity, where form meets function. They have a variety of styles and sizes, but, I chose to go with the No.6, because it’s one of their classic designs, and the perfect small folder for a prepper on a budget.

A Little History 

The first Opinel knives were manufactured in 1890 by Joseph Opinel, in a small family workshop in Savoie, France. A few years later they introduced a series of ten knives (numbered 1-12) which are still around today, although No.1 & No.11 are no longer being produced. In 1955, Marcel Opinel invented the Virobloc safety ring, which locked the blade in place with a simple turn of the metal ring. In 2000, the system was modified to be able to lock the blade in the closed position as well. 

In the last century, about 210 million Opinel knives were sold throughout the world. Their designs have been added to the Victoria and Albert Museum of London in their anthology of the 100 most beautiful objects in the world. They've been cataloged in the Modern Art Museum in New York and have been the objects of affection of people such as Pablo Picasso, who used his Opinel to carve small sculptures of nude women.

Opinel knives are still 100% French made, with 95% of the wood harvested from French forestry operations, to avoid the environmental impact from transport pollution and unregulated deforestation. 

C’est si bon

The No.6 is a good everyday carry size (3 5/8" when closed), perfect for a front pant pocket. And at 1.2 ounces, you’ll forget it's even there. This sucker is light. This is an excellent general use knife—perfect for small tasks, food prep, wood carving, etc. The No.6 is the smallest knife in Opinel’s arsenal featuring the Virobloc double safety ring, which is one of best things about the knife. After using it only a short while, I begin to instinctively flick the safety ring with my thumb whenever I opened or closed the blade. For people who aren't as concerned about the size of their knife, or if they have bigger hands, the No.7 & No.8 are very popular and have all the same features as the No.6.

The handle is made from French Varnished Beech wood--which can vary slightly in color from one knife to the next. It has a distinctive, classic shape which conforms nicely to your hand. It is a well-balanced knife for cutting and carving. The weight is distributed a little more into the handle, and the point of balance is right where the metal ring meets the wood, giving the user a lot of control.

A note on the handle: since it is wood, it does swell when it gets wet, making the blade a little more difficult to open and close. But, it eventually loosens, and doesn't leave any play in the blade or the main pivot pin.

Out of the box, the blade was very sharp. Sharp enough to cut a piece of paper in half while applying very little pressure, section a grapefruit with ease, carve a block of pine and slice through heavy rope. The blade of this particular knife is made from carbon steel XC90, which gives it a good cutting edge, and resists wear. The downside is that unlike stainless steel, it is more susceptible to corrosion, so it should be kept dry and greased after use. The very thin "Yatagan" (Turkish meaning sword-shaped) blade sharpened easily, taking a nice edge after a few strokes.

Because the blade isn't stainless, it develops a nice patina over time. There are youtube videos of people "forcing patina" by exposing the blade to substances such as horseradish mustard, lime juice and vinegar to name a few examples. The result is bluing that almost takes on the appearance of Damascus steel. I noticed after cutting a few limes and not wiping it off right away, it started to discolor and develop its own character. Some swear that the resulting patina actually preserves the metal and helps to protect it from dulling. Either way, it looks cool.

Cheap But Not Cheap

One of the best things about this knife is the price. You're getting a very stylish little knife used for generations by hobbyists and tradesmen for the price of a forgettable meal at McDonalds. For such a ridiculously low price, you can get one for your glove compartment, keep one in your tackle box, and get a few spares. After my experience, I'll be getting the next two sizes up, and perhaps another No.6, just in case I want to give one away.

In Conclusion

The Opinel No.6 is a winner for a light everyday carry knife. It's a stylish little pocket knife that will provide years of service with a sharp blade and a simple locking mechanism that works. What more can you ask for in a "cheap" knife?

The Specs

Handle: Varnished Beech Wood
Blade: X 90 Carbon Steel
Size open: 6. 1/2" 
Blade: 2. 7/8"
Weight: 1.2 oz

Amazon Product Link: Opinel No. 6

Last modified on Sunday, 19 August 2012 14:12
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