A Pioneering Inventor
It was in a corner of this workshop, a corner that was given to him by his disbelieving father, that Joseph Opinel developed his closing knife. Daniel Opinel believed in the craft of edge-tool making above everything because making tools was serious work. Of course, to keep customers happy, sometimes you could "knock together" a few pocket knives. But was there really a future in manufacturing them? Joseph thought so.
In knife making, there is no ideal steel but a multitude of grades that are suited to different knife purposes. By definition, steel is an alloy combining iron and carbon. When no other element is added, it is commonly called carbon steel. However, this grade is very sensitive to oxidation.
In cutlery, there is no ideal steel, but a multitude of grades more or less adapted to the use made of a knife. Steel is, by definition, an alloy of iron and carbon. When the steel has no other additives, it is commonly called "carbon steel". Such a shade is very sensitive to oxidation.
To compensate for this sensitivity to corrosion, chromium is added up to 10.5% and more. The steel then takes the generic name of stainless steel, or "inox". This addition leads to the formation of an extremely thin surface layer of oxides, called the passivation layer, which protects the blade from corrosion.
The more a steel is rich in carbon, the more it is able to harden by heat treatment. The hardness is favorable to the longevity of the cutting power. It is therefore tempting to use a grade with a high carbon content. However, there are two limits to increasing the carbon content:
The harder the blade, the more fragile it is. This rule is true for both types of steels, whether carbon or stainless.
A high carbon content in a stainless steel decreases its resistance to corrosion. Carbon tends to combine with chromium to give chromium carbides. In this form, chromium loses its protective power against oxidation. It should be noted that at equivalent hardness, the presence of chromium carbides gives stainless steel greater resistance to abrasion. This property is favorable to the longevity of the cutting power.
The target hardness of our blades is between 57 and 59 HRc. The choice of steel grade is always a compromise between mechanical strength and corrosion resistance. In this respect, our know-how specific to Opinel manufacturing has led us to retain two main shades.
A high carbon content in a stainless steel decreases its resistance to corrosion.Carbon tends to combine with chromium to give chromium carbides.In this form, chromium loses its protective power against oxidation. It should be noted that at equivalent hardness, the presence of chromium carbides gives stainless steel greater resistance to abrasion.This property is favorable to the longevity of the cutting power.The target hardness of our blades is between 57 and 59 HRc.
The choice of steel grade is always a compromise between mechanical strength and corrosion resistance.In this respect, our know-how specific to Opinel manufacturing has led us to retain two main shades.
The shape of the traditional Opinel handle has remained unchanged since its creation by Joseph OPINEL in 1890.
The wooden handle of the knife has a significant split. Only strong woods can be suitable for shaping and withstand use.
This is why the essence mainly used is beech, locally called "fayard". It is a wood with a fine and homogeneous grain offering very good mechanical resistance.
Some ranges use more noble wood species such as olive, oak, walnut, boxwood… As for birch or hornbeam, clear and slightly veined, they are used for the colored handles. Wood is a living material that balances and reacts to its environment. It swells and shrinks depending on the humidity of the air. Exposed to UV, it lightens or darkens.
The appearance of the wood can vary significantly from one tree to another for the same species. Thus, each sleeve is unique in its nuance, its veining, its knots.
OPINEL is sensitive to the environment, so we favor local supplies from sustainably managed forests. Thus our main supplier of wood contributing to the manufacture of Opinel is based in the Jura.
To protect our handles from external aggressions, we offer two finishes: buffing and varnish.
For the handles fashioned in rare and precious essences, we buff them by applying a wax using a cotton disk. For all other woods, we apply a varnish chosen for its high protection properties against humidity and stains.
The varnish is tinted for the carbon range, and colorless for all the other ranges. For colored handles, we stain the wood with a water-based stain and varnish it.
Maintenance of wooden handles
To clean the wooden handles, we advise you to use a sponge or a clean cloth dampened with lukewarm water (20°C), then to wipe it immediately with a dry cloth.
Absolutely avoid passing it under water and letting water enter the slot, this would cause deformation of the handle.
Maintenance of horn handles
For the maintenance of your horn handle, we advise against putting products on it, a simple soft and clean cloth of the micro fiber type is sufficient to polish the handle.
In the event of slight cracks, you can wipe the handle with a soft, clean cloth with a few drops of Vaseline oil, but this should remain an exceptional treatment.
We do not recommend any contact with hot or cold water, any hot-cold temperature difference, or too sudden a wet-dry environment.
The safety ring
The rotating safety ring was added in 1955, it was invented by Marcel Opinel.
The fixed ring is necessary to be able to securely rivet the blade to the handle.
In 1955, concerned with improving the safety of knife use, Marcel Opinel invented the Virobloc® system. It adds a rotating ring which, by sliding on the fixed ring, can close the slot and thus block the unfolded blade.
The idea is simple but its execution is complex. Conical shaping, balance between resistance and elasticity of steel, consideration of dimensional variations due to the wooden handle, riveting... A real challenge!
In the 1990s, the Virobloc® system was modified to block the blade in the closed position. Initially reserved for a few references, it was generalized on all models in 2000