Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carbon Steel Opinel Folder

So, it turns out, for the first time in several years, I have to make a trip on a plane.  This makes me unhappy, but I really have no choice.  It is beyond reasonable driving distance.  I just don’t feel like two very hard days on the road each way. 

I started looking at what I might take along.  Some recent prudent additions seem like good choices.  I’ll discuss the first one which is, of course, a blade.  I’m not going to try and sneak anything by in the carryon, but because I’ll be gone for a week, I’ll check one bag and just carry my laptop with a few essentials in it.  I was thinking about what knife might be appropriate for a bag that could end up getting lost or ripped open and certainly abused.  I have several typical tactical folders I could include that it wouldn’t kill me to lose, but I settled on something a little different.

That’s the classic carbon steel Opinel folder with birchwood grip and the locking ring.  The overall folded length is just a tenth under four inches.  The blade is three and one-quarter inches, and it is incredibly light. 

You can see the locking ring in place above.  The Opinel is a working knife, a farmer’s knife.  The blade is flat-ground and, because it is carbon rather than stainless, it takes an edge easily and holds it well.  This is not a terribly strong knife, but it is innocuous, which is a plus in the area I will be visiting. 

The blade was sharp when it arrived in my hand, but it lacked polish.  After a short turn on the fine ceramic stone and the strop, I neatly sliced my thumb checking the edge.  It’s easy to get this little “Carbone” Opinel literally razor sharp.  The locking ring is hardly “tactical” in nature, but it will keep the blade from closing on one’s fingers in use. 

I paid $6.99 for a nice, light, compact carry knife that isn’t going to scare anyone, cuts clusters of grapes and eggplant stems better than a box-cutter, and has “France” on the grip instead of “China”.  These are classic, useful tools, excellent for general applications and food preparation.  If you get in a jam and need to use it as a weapon, it will work.  As I said, it is not terribly strong, but it will probably hold together to do some damage to an attacker.  It is less than ideal, but you use what you have. 

I review another item that might serve for self-defense in the next post. 


  1. Yay Opinels! My father in law started giving them as gifts to my wife and me about 25 years ago. I think I have 4 different sizes. Cheap, simple, and takes an edge.

  2. Glad you mentioned that. They make great gifts, not expensive but quality that you can feel good about sharing.

  3. Hi mushroom, I am thinking of buying an opinel knife as I like the traditional feel they have. You mentioned the carbon knife, but I have also noticed the stainless steel ones like this- ( What is the difference between the two? I get one is carbon and one is stainless steel but what benefits would each offer?

  4. Hi, Kris, stainless has the obvious advantage of corrosion resistance, but that comes (generally) at a price of not taking and holding an edge quite as well. John Lien described it in the comments on another post as a "gumminess". That's a pretty good descriptor. Sometimes we will say that carbon steel is more brittle or glass-like.

    I'm not familiar with the Opinel stainless, but I suspect it is similar to Victornix and Wenger steel used in Swiss Army knives. I also have a "French" stainless steel skinning knife that is high-carbon stainless. The more carbon in the stainless gives the best of both worlds -- other than it will be hard to sharpen. It will hold an edge.

    I love good old carbon blades. They are more traditional, more easily take and hold a true, razor-like edge, and are, for want of a better word, satisfying to use.

    However, I have a lot of stainless blades. For example, most of my so-called tactical folders are stainless because they are not the knives I pull when I actually want a cutting tool. They can be sharpened and rarely used.

    Conversely, the Swiss Army Knife I very often carry has stainless blades, but because of the thin blade dimensions and flat grind, they are easy to sharpen and maintain, and I can use it for all kinds of ugly work, drop it back in my pocket, and not worry about the fact that it is wet or dirty until later.

    Since the Opinel has a similar configuration to the SAK, I would guess that the stainless Opinel -- not quite as traditional -- would be fairly easy to maintain and be an excellent working tool.

    I'm 700 miles from salt water. If I lived in Louisiana, I'd be awfully tempted to try the stainless.