Savoie, France-based Opinel have been around since 1890, selling their simple wooden handle "peasant knife" for over a hundred years. According to popular folklore, Picasso was believed to have used an Opinel knife for sculpting - you can only speculate if he used it for a little ear-cutting as well. Poor sod.

The Opinel design is celebrated in the Victoria & Albert Museum, The MOMA as well as in the enormous coffee table book series Phaidon Design Classics.

Opinel offers plenty of limited edition models, kid's versions, engraving and accessories, as well as an expanding line of other wood-handled kitchen cutlery.

Doing my research I stumbled across a community of modders who rebuild and redesign these blades - there are some pretty awesome mutations to be found on Flickr. You also find different painted options on Etsy - very inspired by Best Made Company's painted axe handles.

I was drawn to the shape and simplicity of this knife, I love the no-bullshit wooden handles and countless sizes on offer. Not to mention that this is a very cheap knife. I got mine for $12.00 on Amazon with free shipping.

Let's see what the price of a New York sandwich gets you...

Phaidon Design Classics, 2006 (Image from opinel.com)


The clever twisting Virobloc lock system , invented and patented in 1955 by Marcel Opinel - here in the half-closed state.




I love the look. The wooden handles are not very consistent in color, so getting the nicer, lighter versions is a bit of hit and miss project.

The black printed brand mark on the scales and the engraved "fingered crown" logo on the blade add to the iconic look.

The lines are curvy and attractive and end in that distinct flared butt shape, also known as a fishtail





Feels pretty good. The No7 is a wee bit too small for me to get a proper grip. The butt of the handle and the front bulge lock your hand in nicely. I am never a huge fan of handle shapes that are too barrel-shaped, just like I am not a fan of very thin knives. This one is a bit too round for me - which means you can't judge which way the blade is facing just by holding the knife alone.





I was a bit disappointed with the finish on this. It is not high-end custom shit, that's for sure. However, what do you expect from a $10 knife?

It does have the quality and feel of something you'd pick up at a souvenir store. 

The knife reviewed here was the most basic model - I have not had a chance to fondle any of their more premium versions, like the olive wood-handled No8 with a 12C27 Sandvik steel blade, providing a substantial upgrade to the poor-man's version at only $20.00. I am curious if trying this model out would add an extra star to the overall impression.



Reviewing this knife against, say, a high-end Fox knife or Strider would be like me getting in the ring with a mid-1990's Mike Tyson. The Opinel is simply never meant for anything more than simple cutting and slicing. 

Holding it in your hand, the weight of it alone sends a clear message to chill with it. Like, don't stab car doors. One thing it does have going for it, is the clever Viroblock system, which locks the blade safely whether it is folded or unfolded.





A very, very light folder with a thin blade, it really is great for food prepping and other light tasks. It is difficult/impossible to clean though, so after a while you'll have nasty gunk growing inside the wooden crevasse. The lack of steel liners is charming and minimalist, but I personally prefer the added structural support (and weight) that steel liners provide.

The No7 is very discrete in a pocket and would be a great kitchen drawer knife as well. The X90 "carbone" blade is sharp, and easy to keep that way.





Compared to many other, better made folders, this one is not particularly enjoyable to "play" with.

Some hardened wine farmers might disagree. Apparently there's a thing called the "coup de savoyard" - knocking the butt of the handle on the table to flip out the blade just a tad. Something to practice.

Sans Savoyard, opening requires two hands, as does handling the lock. The locking mechanism is very cool, but does feel a bit "made in China". 



Cute knife, many options, cheap cost. You get what you pay for. Great history - unique to hold a knife that has maintained the same design, more or less, for a hundred years; through 3 generations of Opinels. Talk about timelessness.

The quality is just good enough that it doesn't feel like a throw-away piece, and the materials make it look cooler with age.

Opinel on Youtube

Opinel on Youtube

Opinel gives you a lot of options to customize their classic knives, but I think that could be taken even further with a more modernized process (think NikeiD). The site is a bit wonky, the engraving typefaces are faddish and they have very limited color options. There's so much cool stuff you could do with this brand! Anyway, they probably don't feel a burning urgency to push innovation, selling a staggering 15 million knives annually.

Competing knives in this price range and style include the Baladéo Terroir with a similar shape, but with steel liners and no lock and Svörd's peasant knives which is technically a friction folder and a bit more expensive.

You can buy the Opinel on opinel.com, Amazon, BladeHQ and more.

  • Handle: Varnished Beech Wood
  •  Blade: X 90 Carbon Steel
  •  Size open: 7. 1/16" 
  •  Blade: 3. 3/16"
  •  Weight: 1.3 oz



Review by Sir Pierce Heathrow

Review by Sir Pierce Heathrow

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