The Opinel, a Good Office and Field Knife
Collecting EDC gear is more as a functional hobby for me. I also collect toys, but then you can’t bring them in the field or in the street. Knives are my primary EDC, as I need cutting tools all the time to open boxes and cut straps. I could say that I have a blade addiction because I already had three blades in addition to some key-chain tools. I know I needed a flashlight, but the temptation to get blades is too much! With the knife addiction taken aside, I prefer single handed opening pocket knives. When my other hand is not free, say because I need to hold on to something, I could still deploy my blade in a flick of a wrist. Yet I always consider getting a traditional folder, the one you open with two hands. They will be a good complement for my assisted openers, and an extra knife could save my other blades from being worn-out. My first choice is a Victorinox, but I found out that I never needed it. Guess what I got instead.
Why I needed a beater knife
Why I needed a beater knife
Before getting an EDC gear, I first ask myself why I needed one otherwise it would just eat an extra space in my organizer kit. I already had a couple of knives, plus a mini blade in my keychain, so why bother asking for another one? Both of my blades are one handed openings, yet there are scenarios where I can’t just use them:
- They are not food grade. You heard it right, both of my knives can’t be used for cutting fruits and cakes thanks to their manner of use and how I cleaned them. I mean you have a knife you take to the field, it got dirty, it got covered in gunk and mud and the last thing you want to do is to slice cheese with it. You are giving your officemates diarrhoea, and yes you could just wash the thing, but I wash my pocket knives with strong alcohol and silicon oil. These stuffs are not something you want to put in your mouth.
- My knives look threatening. Though their blades are less than 3.5 inches, but with a black tanto tip, and a cruel looking spear point it scared a lot of people in my office.
- Those things are expensive, I need an extra blade I won’t regret loosing
What’s more like what I said earlier, I need an extra knife to save the edge of my other blades. I won’t let my expensive knives dull their edges doing everyday chores like opening boxes and cutting tapes. I’ll save their edges in more important stuffs and let my beater blade do the boring jobs. An inexpensive indoor blade is what I need and I have several models to choose from.
My choices for a beater blade
Firstly I saw this neat Cold Steel folder Kudu. It’s a hefty knife with a shiny 4 inch blade. Based from online reviews the thing is a performer, but with a large blade it will send my folks running. I also love the Victorinox, but the thing is expensive and my Leatherman Crater already has extra tools. Thankfully I saw this lovely traditional blade in a local outdoors store that is both inexpensive and functional.
My chosen blade, the Opinel
Based on my needs, I chose the Opinel for my complimentary back-up blade. Now the Opinel is a proud traditional knife, a French folder dating back to 1890. Designed by Joseph Opinel, it is marketed as a peasant’s knife and it became popular with the working men of that era. Eventually it became an iconic blade, and Pablo Picasso even used one. Now history taken aside, I was informed that this folder, despite looking meek has more bite that bark. It is a working knife after all and I’m about to find out.
Opinel specs and features
The model I chose is a decent Opinel no. 6. Yes, the knife is rated according to sizes. We have the petite Opinel number 2 through number 5, with a blade length ranging from 3.5 cm to 11.5 cm. As the number rating got up, so is the blade size. When we get to no. 8, it means the blade is 19.5 cm long. And a no.12 has a 28.2 cm steel. Mine, the no.6 is a humble 16 cm. I could have gotten something bigger but since I already had two folders, I simply don’t need bigger blades. 16 cm is all I need.
Opinel knives have common features. All sports wooden handles though specialized model could have plastic or other materials as well. If you ask me, I love wooden handles as it looks neat and less gimmicky. I mean the knife looks like it meant business with those wooden handles. Then there is a question on how the thing locks. Small models (from nos. 2 to 5) are friction folders. No mechanism is needed to lock the blade, just good old friction. But larger models, including mine also use Virobloc locking rings. When the knife is opened or closed you could twist a metal collar to lock the knife. I love this feature because it prevents the blade from accidentally opening or closing. Speaking of blade, it sports a Yatagan (a Turkish sabre) style curve, which is curved forward. Overall I think it resembles a more a gracile Bowie blade.
Opening and closing
My Opinel will have an easier time in the office, though I might bring it to the field to back my other blades. But first I did a few paper-cutting tests. Before that I noted that being a new knife, the joints are pretty tight and it is a challenge to open. Yes I know that it will loosen up with prolonged use but it could have potential safety issues. When a folding knife is too stiff, you could slip and end up cutting myself. I suggest oiling the joints to make the blade looser or playing with the blade for some times. And it was a good thing that it had a locking collar. The problems with friction locks are that it might close in unfortunate events and suddenly you have bandaged fingers. And the locking collar will prevent such messy accidents from ever happening. And with the collar engaged the knife is pretty sturdy. No plays, no shakes, and fully locked. Overall deploying this knife and locking it took me a total of three seconds, slow compared with my other blades. But the thing was never meant to be a single handed opener and I’m not intending to attempt opening it with one hand. So it was never a problem.
The handle of the Opinel no. 6 is flared at the butt end; it is a fishtail design. Having small hands, it fits well and the handling is comfortable even though it doesn’t have a rubberized grip or any fancy curves. Being a traditional design it also lacks jimping but it’s not much of a problem since it is already secured in my grips. Now you won’t slip when you cut and slash, but without any guard it is risky to stab with it. This, together with the slow deployment already made it into a lousy weapon which is a bad thing as it had a fine blade. You heard it right, the thing cuts like crazy. Mine is a stainless steel version so I don’t have to worry about it getting rusty. And when I did the paper cutting test, it shreds the papers effortlessly and cleanly. Then I tried cutting cardboards, meat, fruits, anything I could lay it’s blade to. I could attest that the Opinel is an absolute performer.
And now the moment of truth, can it perform in the office and in the field?
Again office life won’t torture your knife. If all it does is to open box, cut papers, tapes and cardboards then it is no challenge at all. I got curious and I brought it in the production line, the field and the warehouse just to see how it will go. It cuts heavy plastic straps, foam paddings, ropes and it kept its edge well like it is asking for more. I took it home and cleaned it before applying oil on the blade and petroleum jelly on the handle, thinking I got more than I bargained for.
On the upside, the Opinel is a cheap and functional knife. I got one in the local outdoor store for just 10 dollars, the price of a counterfeit folder yet it outperforms those cheapos. In fact even though it endured considerable abuse, I have a feeling that with proper maintenance and oiling you could keep this knife forever. The thing also looks non-threatening, perfect for an office environment. As I said before, it may look meek but with a wooden handle and a sharp blade it meant business
On the downside it is hard to open even with two handed opener standards. I borrowed a Victorinox from a friend to see how it feels. The slip lock do aid with the opening, unlike the stiff joint of the Opinel. Safety is also an issue when opening and closing the knife. Try too quick and you will slip and cut your finger. But then again those are minor flaws compared to the benefits this knife offers.