Saturday, October 17, 2009

Opinel Knives in the U.S.


Opinel.  For those who know it, the very name conjures up impromptu picnics in the French countryside.  Relaxed on a blanket in the shade, using your folding Opinel knife to cut a slender wedge of brie or saucisson, slicing a piece of crisp apple or juicy pear.  To me, anyway, an Opinel knife equals quintessential, classic France. Simple and perfect.

An Opinel was always a perfect inexpensive gift to bring home from France (tucked securely in checked luggage!) because, after all, Opinel knives aren't available in the U.S.  Right?

Wrong!  Opinel knives are now sold online through Opiknife.com.  Every kind of Opinel imaginable, it seems, from the blunter Opinel Jr. to more serious stainless steel folding knives to last a lifetime.

I spoke with Frederic, the owner/distributor of Opinel USA. "I had my first knife when I was about ten," he said.  "It seems most Americans don't give their kids knives to learn how to use them any more."  We agreed that this was a shame:  the joys of whittling and proper knife usage seem to be largely ignored.  On the other hand, maybe I just haven't met the right American kids.  Maybe they do still teach proper knife usage in the Boy Scouts?

But here's the extra-cool part, and the reason that I discovered Opinel in America in the first place.  Opinel France has made limited edition Lafayette-Hermione folding knives from the excess wood of the reconstruction of Lafayette's boat l'Hermione.  And the handle is stamped with the name.  Opinel is donating a percentage of the proceeds to helping l'Hermione make her voyage to the east coast of the U.S. in 2012.

16 comments:

Alison said...

Oh, that's very cool about the limited edition Hermione knife. I visited the chantier several times, as I lived pretty near Rochefort.

(My word is pendu. Awesome!)

Polly-Vous Francais said...

The chantier is so cool, and the whole Corderie.

When I was in Paris and told my coiffeuse that I was going to Rochefort, she said, "Isn't that where they made the movie "Les parapluies de Rochefort"? !!!

Starman said...

Americans don't give kids knives because they would end up in a bloddy mess at school.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Well, now, there's a cheerful thought, Starman!

I was a Girl Scout and we learned to whittle and use knives carefully and to respect them. Seems like a good approach, rather than viewing all knives as dangerous.

Starman said...

Poor girl...the world you and I remember, no longer exists.

Harriet said...

Hi Polly, We were just out in Colorado Springs visiting family and one of our granddaughters had this exact knife! (Seeing it on your post makes me think that we have a little ESP going on.) Emily is 10 and uses her knife for whittling. She is not in the Girls Scouts. She has made two small, pointy swords from fallen tree branches. She hasn't been to France, so I need to investigate how she came to have this knife.

Jeanne in MN said...

I've had an Opinel since my student picnicing days in the 60's. Thanks for the link, I've ordered a new one for myself and my French brother-in-law.

tishjett@yahoo.com said...

This is an outrage (!) How could I not have found you?

What a spectacular blog you have. I'll be visiting often.

Lucky me.

Warm regards,
Tish

Sietske said...

Ah, the famous Opinel. So much better than the Swiss knife. I remember my brother bought his four oldest children each an Opinel while on holidays in France. And he was going to give a demonstration on how “NOT TO USE A KNIFE”! After all, we never cut toward us, but always away from us. I don’t remember the name of the village doctor anymore, the one that stitched up his arm again. It was Madame ‘something’, but whenever we see the Opinels, her name comes up. His children never cut themselves. My son has an Opinel, and this year in France, I saw they even sell them in fancy colors, and they have the mini-Opinels as well, for your key holder. You’re right; Say Opinel, and I think of France. I love your blog, and hope one day you’ll be able to return to France. I go every year for two months in summer. I’m already looking forward to July, when I get to go again.
Sietske

Jackie at Phamfatale.com said...

This brings me back in time. I bought an opinel knife during my first ski trip in the Alpes. It must be somewhere in the attic now. I remember it was so useful during picnics.
I just found your blog through David Lebovitz. I love it!

Veronicahhh said...

i grew up with opinels, and to this day they are basically the only knives i use in my kitchen (good for everything!).
not sure it's a bad thing for them to be sold abroad.. i mean, more of a good thing is always good!

swords said...

this is the most handsome addition of opinel knives us. i like it very much thanks for sharing this with us.

Bill Sanderson said...

I love the Opinel, I have had one for years that I was given as a gift by my grandpa before he died. My grandmother is French and he got it whilst working in France in the 50's. I have still got it, though it gets very little usage, mainly because it has seen better days and I would like to preserve it as long as possible. I went looking for a new Opinel knife last week and found something quite remarkable... This - http://www.aboveandbeyond.co.uk/.opinel-no-8-outdoor-knife_3123840015786.htm It is pretty crazy an not the Opinel knife i expected to see. No perfectly varnished wood and it has a built in whistle. I think the new kids are on the block.

JM said...

That's a nice opinel! I love my number 6 for whittling, and always have it on my hikes!

Ted Mosby said...

That is very nice and sharp looking Opinel knife. I would like to buy one for my collections.
Medieval Armor

Daniel Kyle said...

The current Opinel knife consists of a blade, wooden handle, stainless steel metal clamping band, stainless pivot pin (axle), and (except in the case of the smaller models) a stainless steel Virobloc locking collar, which locks the blade open or closed.

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