How to Make Your Opinel Pocket Knife Last Forever

How to Make Your Opinel Pocket Knife Last Forever

With the right care, you’ll be passing your knife onto your grandchildren.

By Laura Fenton

Opinel pocket knives are iconic—Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso both carried one. The Victoria and Albert Museum deemed the Opinel one of the 100 best designed objects in the world and Opinels reside in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. The wood-handled, folding knives have been manufactured in Savoie, France since 1897, and their simple, timeless design has remained unchanged in all those years. Opinel is known and loved around the world because with many sizes and shapes they can accommodate many tasks from pruning bushes to opening a cardboard box. Their light weight and gentled tapered handles make them a dream to use. Plus, they are also relatively affordable.

Opinel knives are made to last a lifetime (or even two), but they do require some simple maintenance (the ones with a carbon steel blade, in particular, need special handling). Here’s how to keep your Opinel in tip-top condition so that it stays in use and out of the landfill:

Cut consciously

While Opinel are meant to be used wherever you happen to be, they’re not meant to cut on every surface. Hard materials like marble, glass, and ceramic will dull your blade. Instead stick to natural wood or bamboo cutting boards, if you need to cut against a surface.

Remove debris in the field

Most Opinels are on-the-go knives, which means they get used far from the kitchen sink. Whether you are using your knife to harvest wild mushrooms or cut an apple on a picnic, it’s always a good idea to wipe down the blade with a clean cloth, like a bandana, before refolding the knife for transport.

Wash it right

Stainless blade: Cleaning a stainless steel Opinel is simple: Wash it with soap and water, taking care not to submerge the wood handle. Let it dry completely before refolding. 

Carbon steel blade: These are more sensitive to water: Do not wash it in running water like a regular utensil. Instead, wipe the blade with a lightly dampened cloth or sponge and just a pinch of dish soap. Rinse your cloth or sponge in water and wipe the blade again to remove any soap residue. Dry the knife immediately and thoroughly.

Prevent oxidation with this trick 

Some people like the patina of an oxidized blade, but if you prefer to keep your carbon steel blade looking new, rub a drop of plain vegetable oil onto the blade with a clean cloth after cleaning to prevent oxidations. (You can also use mineral oil on a blade that does not touch food, like a pruning knife.)

Store your knife properly

Don’t stash your Opinel in a damp or humid environment: the wood handle can swell up and make it hard to open. For safety, always store the knife with the blade folded and the rotating lock in the closed position.

Sharpen your blade 

You can use a whetstone to sharpen your Opinel knife, but make sure the blade is completely clean and dried first. Lubricate the blade as described above after sharpening. If your blade has gotten seriously dull and you are not confident in your sharpening skills, bring it to a local knife sharpener.

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