I've been using this $17 Opinel knife for 11 years and it's still just as good as when I first bought it
- Opinel has been making classic pocket knives since 1890.
- They make for a great personal investment or gift. Prices start at $17, so they're not expensive but they don't skimp on quality either - I've had mine for years and it works just as well as when I first bought it in Paris.
- There are various designs like different handles and special engraving, and even limited-edition styles - the hardest part is choosing just one to buy.
I was eight years old when my family first went camping in France. Aside from the discovery of Nutella, the only thing I remember from that trip is that I really wanted one of the penknives that the older French kids had.
But I was young, and my parents decided that it wasn't a good idea. Valid.I went back years later when I was 21 and realized that French adults had those knives as well. By that time though, they were well worn - still sharp, but beautifully weathered and bonded with their owners.
As soon as I got out of the hotel, I went and got myself an Opinel knife.
I still have it many years later. It lives in my car, and about once a week, it'll come out to strike a flint to start a fire, open an Amazon package, and more. There are a million things you can do with an Opinel pocket knife. It'll last you a long time, and it's very affordable too.
Opinel's knives haven't changed much in design since Joseph Opinel began making them in 1890 in Savoie, France. They have, however, come a long way from the farms and fields of the French Alps.
Opinel knives come in many sizes, but the No. 8 with its 3 1/4-inch blade and beech handle is the perfect size for just about everything you could want from a pocket knife. The blade is small enough to be legal in most states (though you should definitely check first), large enough to handle a sizable hunk of cheese or carving project, and so maneuverable in the hand that Picasso himself used one for his sculpture work.
The simple Virobloc safety ring, invented in 1955, locks the blade when it's in use and keeps it from opening when it's in your pocket, all with an easy twist. Many other knives use more complicated mechanisms, but this one has never failed me and the simple design with just one moving part is easy to maintain.At just $17, Opinel's No. 8 knife is a great gift for just about anyone too.
Outdoorsy types can appreciate the reliable and trustworthy performance, culinary enthusiasts can enjoy the sharp precision, and it's impossible for anyone with an eye for design not to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of a product which has been in daily use for more than a century.
Unlike using the knife though, picking the right one to buy is difficult.
Opinel offers different types of wooden handles from walnut to olive wood, as well as engravings of different designs from artists. There are also specialty blades, including the always-handy pocket oyster shucker, a knife for cutting mushrooms, and even a knife with an embedded corkscrew which serves as a one-stop-shop for those of us who might stage more impromptu wine and cheese picnics if only they were suitably equipped. I'll be taking that one as I cycle around Spain this summer.
The brand also recently launched a limited-edition version of the No. 8 knife in Black Oak. The oak handle comes from sustainably managed French forests and has a very attractive "natural" look when combined with the anti-corrosive black stainless-steel blade that carries Opinel's signature "crowned" hallmark. It comes nicely in a presentation box, but it will probably spend most of its life in your pocket, bag, or purse.
Opinel knives are a great personal investment and a great gift. But, if you're 8 years old and reading this, take my advice (and your parents') and wait a few years before you get one. It wasn't five minutes after I got my knife at 21 that I took the end of my finger off while slicing a baguette too enthusiastically.
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