Mfgr: Opinel S.A.
Handle: Tapered Beechwood with stainless bolster
Blade Construction: 12C27M Sandvik Stainless Steel
Blade Length/Style: 3.25 in. (83mm), drop-point
Blade Thickness: 0.065 in. (1.66mm) (measured at spine)
Blade Lock: VIROBLOC twist-barrel double locking ring, locks blade in either open or closed position
Edge: Flat grind, convex double bevel
Length (open): 7.625 in. (194mm)
Weight: 1.4 oz.
Packaging: Boxed (optional sheath available at extra charge)
Retail Price: $13.95
Introduced in 1895 by Joseph Opinel in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Savoie region of France, the Opinel (pronounced ‘oh-peen-el’) is a simple wood-handled, folding ‘peasant’s knife’ that utilizes a unique, twist-barrel blade lock mechanism. Over 210 million of these knives have been sold over the years, and in Europe the Opinel has been a perennial favorite of amateur chefs, gardeners, picknickers, vineyard workers, hikers, alpinists, and fishing enthusiasts. In recent years, the manufacturer has sought to expand their market in North America.
Opinel numbers their folding knife models in progressively larger models - the greater the number, the larger the knife, and the longer the blade. The No. 8 is a medium-size folder with a yatagan-style carbon or stainless steel blade that has been popular for many years. It is small and light enough to serve as a pocket knife, while still providing a long enough blade to serve as a useful working tool for many tasks around the house and yard.
After evaluating customer responses for a slimmer, sturdier pocket Opinel, the company introduced the Opinel Slim series. These knives feature a slimmer profile with a thinner, more flexible blade (something akin to a short fillet knife). The traditional fish-tail wood handle of the original Opinel was also changed to a curved, tapering design that fits well in any pocket.
The No. 8 Garden Knife (Stainless, Model No. 133080) is a little-known variant of the standard No. 8 Opinel. It is something of a hybrid, incorporating the graceful curved handle of the Slim series with the thicker blade stock of the standard No. 8, but using a drop-point blade made of stainless steel.
The stainless steel used by Opinel for the No. 8 Garden Knife’s drop-point blade is Swedish Sandvik 12C27M. This particular steel contains a bit less carbon and more chromium and manganese than the standard 12C27 alloy. Sandvik states that 12C27M is a step up in corrosion resistance from 12C27 and the number one choice for edge applications where increased corrosion resistance is important together with high demands on edge performance and toughness. It is designed for use in kitchen knives, high-end scissors, gardening tools, and professional butcher and fishing knives. As used in the Garden Knife, the result is a wear- and rust-resistant blade high in tensile strength that is still flexible enough for many smaller cutting chores.
The No. 8 Garden Knife uses the 1/16" (1.6mm) thick blade stock of the original Opinel No. 8. Less flexible than a paring or filet knife, its flat-ground blade slices impressively.
Operation and Usage
Compared to modern one-hand folding knives, the Opinel Garden Knife hearkens back to an earlier age. Normally it takes two hands to operate. Use the thumb to unlock the twistlock while holding the knife, and use your other hand to pull the blade out of the handle (two fingers or a fingernail will extract the blade). The knife is then locked open by rotating the twist-lock with the thumb.
One can also imitate the French vignerons of old and employ the ‘coup du savoyard’: unlock the folded blade, then tap the heel of the handle on a hard surface. Et voilà! The blade will partially emerge from the wood handle, where it can be fully opened with the ball of the thumb, all while using only one hand. Mind the edge!
I have two of these knives: one is useful as a gardening knife for tasks such as removing unwanted growth from flowers and shrubs, cutting twine and rope, notching wood stakes, etc. The other serves as a general utility knife. In the kitchen the little Opinel's cutting ability is surprising given its size. It's great for slicing fruit, cheese, or vegetables, cutting steak, or cleaning fish. I even used it to debone a chicken after I couldn't find my deboning knife. Of course, as with any pocket knife, it should not be subjected to extreme uses such as prying or chopping, and it's not designed for cutting through dense items such as beef bone joints or heavy cartilage.
With its blade locking mechanism and razor-sharp flat ground blade, the No. 8 Garden Knife also makes a great outdoors cutting tool. At only 1.4 ounces, its light weight makes it a natural choice for backpacking; two knives can be carried with no weight penalty. With its light weight and lanyard hole, secure carry is no problem, whether in a pocket, belt sheath, or around the neck on a lanyard. It is also one of the few folding knives that can lock its blade in a closed position, preventing inadvertent opening. And while its construction is on the light side, the Opinel blade and twist-lock have proven to be surprisingly durable over the years.
Care & Maintenance
If the blade opens and locks out of the box, leave it alone! New knives may be a bit stiff to open, and the twist lock mechanism may be a bit stiff as well. Regular use over a couple of weeks should cause the blade to open and lock more easily. Opinel advises that the knife should not be left for extended periods in damp or humid environments, and that the blade must be wiped dry after each use.
In case the twist lock continues to prove difficult to operate, carefully oiling ONLY the lock’s metal bolster with a light mineral oil will help the ring to rotate more smoothly. Do NOT oil the wood itself, which can swell and cause the blade to stick in the handle. As the blade is stainless, it should not need lubrication as long as the knife is not soaked in water and put away wet.
Opinel advises that the No. 8 may be sharpened using a diamond whetstone or a fine-grain natural stone on a dry, degreased blade. Move the blade from the base towards the tip, at an angle of 18/20 degrees. I keep my knives honed using a compact diamond sharpener, and have never needed more than an occasional touch-up to keep the blade edge razor-sharp.
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