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How to Open Your Opinel and Old Bear Knives With One Hand

Updated on February 25, 2018
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Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives, and has a martial arts background.

When it comes to non-tactical knives, the Opinel is a favourite. It’s dirt-cheap and a certified utility performer. Talk about getting more than what you paid for. I got a No. 6 and I plan to get a bigger one. Then last Christmas an interesting peasant’s knife caught my eyes going by the name Old Bear. Made by Antonini, this lovely folder has nice oil treated handle and a mix of copper and steel made it appealing to the eye. Aesthetically it is nice looking, but the blade bites like crazy. Its razor sharp blade made it a performer much like the Opinel.

With low costs and a hard working edge these blades are almost perfect. But then if you are used to tactical folders, you might find these knives a bit hard to open. That’s expected, as they are traditional blades after all. But would it be great if there is a way to open it with one hand?

There is already a way of doing it, as what you will find below. Many people in the knife community knew Coup du Savoyard, but after playing with these knives, I just found out that there are other ways of opening it.

But First...

In the end, the best way to deploy these knives is by using two hands. Again they are not meant to be quick flicking tactical folders. Anyone using these knew how stiff the joints are, especially for brand new knives. I mean when these blades first came out centuries ago, one hand deployment was never considered.

Now why am I saying these?

Because making these knives do what they are not supposed to do could damage the knives or worst, cause injuries. In fact I got cut several times as I attempt to do those one handed opening feats. In one occasion, I dropped the Old Bear and it landed on my foot! It was a good thing that the knife is not heavy or I’ll be heading to the emergency room (the knife bounced off, though it left a nasty cut).

And lastly some of these feats might not be possible if the knife is wet, or the weather is cold. We all know how the wood swells and the joints tighten when temperature drops or if it got soaked.

Oiling, Thumb studs and Long Usage

But before moving on, there are other ways to turn these knives into tactical folders. For one thing the joints will loosen due to repeated opening and closing. Time will come that one will be able to flick it open with a speed of an assisted folder. But why wait if you can just oil the joints. Just an injection of mineral or olive oil will speed up the blade deployment. It won’t be as fast as any tactical folder, but it is quick enough to be deployed out of the pocket. Then there are these clever devices known as removable thumb studs. Kwik thumb studs could be screwed to any traditional folders, turning them into tactical folders. Nevertheless it is also possible to do a one handed opener even with unmodified knives.

Kwik thumb stud on a Buck Knife
Kwik thumb stud on a Buck Knife

What is the Coup du Savoyard?

Again I know a lot of you Opinel users already knew that. For the sake of the newbies I will demonstrate the best way to deploy your peasant’s knife with one hand. I said the best because unlike the stuffs here, it is

  1. The safest to pull-off.
  2. Won’t damage your knife.

Now let’s get started. Just refer to the video below (from my Youtube channel):

Too fast? Let’s do it step by step then.

  1. After unlocking the locking collar, grab your closed knife with the rotating lock in your palm. Make sure that the spine of the closed blade faces downwards.

2. Tap the end of the handle on a hard surface.

3. The sharp tap will release the blade, and you may lever the knife open on any available hard surface.

Now it works on Opinel, but it also works on Old Bear knives too. I mean it will work on anything that uses the basic penny knife design.

The Pull

I saw some guys do this, and it is possible even if the knife is not lubricated. It does require some practice and do be careful when doing so. It is responsible to some nasty cuts on my fingers. And this method becomes ineffective when the wooden handle becomes wet.

  1. Now firstly hold the closed knife with your middle and thumb. Make sure that the spine faces your palm.

2. Using the fingernail nick, pull the blade out with your forefinger.

3. Finish by swinging the blade open with your thumb. You may push the edge on your hips when you are wearing jeans (or use your booted foot) to swing it open but again do be careful when doing so.

Again it works on both knife models, but I found out that it works better on my Old Bear knife. I’m not sure if it is simply bigger or the joints are looser.

The Blade Pinch

This one works best when the joints are becoming looser. In the case of the tighter Opinel, I advise lubricating the joint. Because of the design of the Old Bear, where more blade is exposed when closed, you might find this easier to use on Antonini folders.

1. Pinch the blade which will cause it to partially open.

2. Then swing open the blade with your thumb, or by using any surface for leverage.

The Reverse Blade Pinch

Perhaps the flashiest of my knife opening moves. This scared a lot of my co-workers as they thought I’m prepping for a knife fight:

  1. Hold your knife with the bottom up, your three fingers pinching the blade.

2. The pinch could partially open the blade, but push the handle back with your middle finger while giving the knife a flick. Now the blade is almost fully open.

3. Now push the handle against your hip or pocket to fully open the knife. Adjust your grip then.

Again it is easier to apply these moves on the Old Bear knife. The problem with Opinel is that there is little to pinch and you want to brace it against your hip for support.


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