Opinel Mods

11 min


Opinel Mod

Opinel Mods

Lately I had the itch to modify some knives that I had in the drawer, it is not a knife maker job but to perform customizations / customizations and improvements to cheap but very famous knives as can be Victorinox / Opinel / etc.

These are the classic European pocket knives that some more, some less have populated the pockets of knife enthusiasts and those who frequent the mountains and trips out of town.

Now it is something that can be done with a few tools but a lot of imagination and continuing to respect the tradition of the knife on which you decide to work.

The Opinel seems to be the simplest (and cheapest) design to start with.

If you have an Opinel that has been modified or customized, let’s see it for some inspiration, it can also be something as simple as in the image below where it was only rendered the blade with a profile plus drop point.

Opinel Mods

The modification of a knife can take place in all its parts and can be done with “a few tools”:

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Detailed analysis of the Opinel knife

Before performing a modification of a knife study its history and make a technical analysis of the parts that compose it.

Understanding how it was built, the materials, the construction choices, etc. allows you to make the changes by adding a new aesthetic sense but maintaining functionality and safety because it is always a knife, it is not a game.

For the Opinel I’ll give you an example of technical analysis of the knife:

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The blade

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

In the universe of cutlery, there is no ideal steel, but there are numerous variants more or less suitable for the use for which the knife is intended.

Steel is, by definition, an alloy of iron and carbon

When steel does not include other additional elements, it is usually called “carbon steel”.

This type of steel is very sensitive to oxidation.

To compensate for this sensitivity to corrosion, a chromium percentage of 10.5% and more is added.

Steel then takes the generic name of stainless steel or “stainless steel”.

This addition involves the formation of a very thin surface layer of oxides, called the passivation layer, which protects the blade from corrosion.

The richer a steel is in carbon, the more it is able to harden by heat treatment.

Hardness is conducive to the longevity of cutting power.

As a result, it would be tempting to use a type of steel with a high percentage of carbon.

However, as the percentage of carbon increases, there are two limitations:

The harder the blade, the more fragile it is.

This rule applies to the two types of steel: carbon or stainless.

A high percentage of carbon in a stainless steel reduces corrosion resistance.

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, due to the same hardness, the presence of chromium carbides gives stainless steel greater resistance to abrasion.

This property is conducive to the longevity of cutting power.

The hardness of our blades is between 57 and 59 HRc.

The choice of steel type is always a compromise between mechanical strength and corrosion resistance.

In this matter, the know-how related to the manufacture of Opinel, led to the choice of mainly two types of steel.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Carbon steel

At its creation, the blade of the OPINEL was made of carbon steel.

Easier to resuffle, this allows you to have, with regular maintenance, a cut that is always perfect.

Even today, a similar type of steel is used, with a carbon percentage of 0.90%, which retains advantages over stainless steel.

Opinel carbon steel is processed in Germany and completed in France before being processed by OPINEL.

This type of steel is easier to resuffle, this allows you to have, with regular maintenance, a cut that is always perfect.

When used, during the cutting of a soft and abrasive material such as wood, paper or cardboard, the thread erodes and tends to re-sharpise naturally on its contact.

On the other hand, the wire deteriorates more easily in contact with a hard material such as the ceramics of a plate.

This type of steel also has the advantage of being cheaper than stainless steel.

The carbon steel blade is sensitive to corrosion and requires more care than a stainless steel blade.

Its use is not recommended in humid or acidic environments.

Opinel Steel

Stainless steel

Stainless steel appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century in its current forms.

The stainless steel of OPINEL blades is a type of steel optimized to achieve the best compromise between corrosion resistance and mechanical characteristics.

Its carbon and chromium percentages are 0.5 and 14.5% respectively.

12C27MOD stainless steel is processed and completed in Sweden, by the SANDVIK group, known all over the world, in the world of cutlery.

This type of steel gives the blade a strong resistance to abrasion (wear) that allows it to face regular contact with hard materials such as ceramics, before requiring re-sharpening.

On the other hand, re-sharpening requires know-how and suitable tools.

Stainless steel also has the advantage of not requiring any special maintenance under ordinary conditions of use, unlike carbon steel.

However, it can have limitations if put in prolonged contact with an aggressive atmosphere (acid, salt water, cleansing agent,…)

Opinel Steel

Heat treatment

Heat treatment is a key element of the quality of a blade.

It is predominant in obtaining the mechanical characteristics.

The steel is processed in the so-called “annealed” state, i.e. at a low level of hardness.

To obtain its characteristics of use, the blade must undergo a two-step hardening heat treatment.

The first, called “hardening“, consists of bringing the blade to a temperature of over 800 ° C and then cooling it quickly.

At the end of this operation, the blade is very hard, and consequently too fragile.

A complementary operation called “tempering” is carried out.

The blade is again brought to a temperature below the hardening temperature, and then it is cooled slowly.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The rounded profile

The domed profile of the OPINEL blade offers great shear resistance compared to a flat blade of the same height and thickness on the back.

The contact between the sides of the blade and the cut material is minimized, this helps to reduce rubbing and consequently, shear resistance.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The cut

The sharpening angle is also the result of a compromise.

If too sharp, the blade thread is fragile and quickly damaged.

If too obtuse, cutting is made difficult.

The OPINEL sharpening angle is around 40°.

The sharpening operation is the last operation of the knife manufacturing process.

It is made by hand, passing the blade between the grinding wheels whose diameter is controlled at 1/100 mm to ensure the regularity of the cutting angle.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

A high percentage of carbon in a stainless steel reduces corrosion resistance.

Carbon tends to combine with chromium to give chromium carbides.

In this form, chromium loses its protective power against oxidation.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

It should be noted that, due to the same hardness, the presence of chromium carbides gives stainless steel greater resistance to abrasion.

This property is conducive to the longevity of cutting power.

The hardness of our blades is between 57 and 59 HRc.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The choice of steel type is always a compromise between mechanical strength and corrosion resistance.

In this matter, the know-how related to the Manufacture of Opinel has led the Opinel company to choose mainly two types of steel.


The handle

The shape of the handle of the traditional Opinel has remained unchanged since its creation in 1890 by Joseph OPINEL.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The wood

The wooden handle of the Opinel knife has a large slit.

Only the most robust wood can be processed and withstand everyday use.

That is why, the most widely used type of wood is beech, locally called “fayard”.

It is a fine-grained and homogeneous wood that offers excellent mechanical resistance.

Some ranges use more noble types of wood such as olive, oak, walnut, boxwood… While birch and hornbeam, clear and little veined, are used for colored handles.

Wood is a living material that balances and reacts according to its environment.

It is subject to swelling or shrinkage depending on the humidity of the air.

Opinel Handle

Exposed to UV rays it lightens or darkens.

The appearance of wood can vary significantly from one tree to another for the same species.

Thus, each handle is unique for its gradations, veins and knots.

OPINEL is in favour of protecting the environment, so we prefer local supplies from sustainably managed forests.Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The main supplier of wood that contributes to the manufacture of Opinel is located in the Jura.



To protect the handles from external aggressions, we offer two finishes: wax and paint.

The handles processed with rare and precious woods are polished by applying a wax with a cotton disc.

For all other woods, we apply a paint chosen for its high protection properties against moisture and stains.

The paint is colored for the carbon range, and colorless for all other ranges.

For colored handles, we apply a colored water impregnating lubricant on the wood and paint it.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Maintenance of wooden handles

To clean a wooden handle, we recommend using a sponge or a clean and damp cloth with warm water (20 ° C), and then dry it immediately with a dry cloth.

Avoid at all costs to put it under the water and let the water penetrate the crack, this would cause deformations of the handle.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Maintenance of horn handles

For the care and maintenance of the horn handle I do not recommend using any product, to polish the handle is enough a soft and clean microfiber type cloth.

In case of slight cracks, you can dry the handle with a soft, clean cloth and a few drops of Petroleum jelly oil, but it must remain an exceptional treatment.

Any contact with hot or cold water is not recommended, any temperature difference between hot and cold and too abrupt wet-dry environment.

The bezel

The rotating bezel, invented by Marcel Opinel, was added in 1955.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The fixed bezel is necessary to be able to solidly rivet the blade to the handle.

In 1955, with the intention of improving the safety of use of the knife, Marcel Opinel invented the Virobloc system®.

It adds a rotating bezel that sliding on the fixed bezel can close the slot and thus lock the open blade.

The idea is simple but the realization is complex.Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Conical shape, balance between strength and elasticity of steel, taking into account the variations in size due to the wooden handle, riveting… A real challenge!

In the 90s the Virobloc® system was modified to allow the blade to be locked in a closed position.

Initially reserved for some models, in 2000 it was applied to all models.

Opinel, 20

A bit of History of the Opinel knife

The company French Opinel produces cutlery and in particular the Opinel knife, an inexpensive pocket with a beech wood handle that was invented in 1890 by Joseph Opinel (1872-1960) and is produced by the company of the same name.

The company’s headquarters are currently in the town of Chambéry in the Savoie region.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

A pioneering inventor

In 1890 Joseph Opinel was 18 years old and worked in the family cutting instrument workshop.

Passionate about new machines and techniques, he builds a camera himself and quickly becomes the photographer of weddings and events in his country.

His passion for machines and production processes led him to invent an object that he intends to make with modern techniques.

Against the advice of his father, who loved craftsmanship and was wary of machines, he spent his free time refining the shape and manufacture of a pocket knife: the Opinel was born!

The traditional Opinel knife

The structure of the knife is very simple, consisting of only four or five components: the blade, the wooden handle, a metal pin on which the blade rotates, a split metal tube that fixes the pin-blade-handle and (except in the case of small models) a swivel ring called Virobloc that locks the blade when the knife is open, to prevent it from closing in the hands of the user.

This safety device, introduced in 1955, is necessary because there is no spring that keeps the knife open; in the 90s it was slightly modified to lock the blade even in the closed position, in order to prevent even accidental openings.

The traditional model has a beech handle and the sharp XC90 steel blade at an angle of about 22°, which provides an excellent wire but needs to be cleaned and oiled periodically to avoid rust.

However, there are also models with a stainless steel blade that make the knife practically free from any maintenance.

Opinel knives are produced in eleven different lengths, numbered from 2 to 13 (models number 1 and 11 are no longer in production since the thirties).

Model number 8 (with a blade of 8.5 cm) is perhaps the most widespread for general purposes, while longer models are often also used as kitchen knives.


The logo of the Opinel knife

The logo with crowned hand – in French La Main Couronnée, formed by the symbol of the city of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to which is added a crown in memory of the Duchy of Savoy – appears on the blade of each model starting from 1909 while on the previous models only the inscription OPINEL appeared.

The terms CARBONE and INOX were added later to distinguish the blades produced in the two different materials.

Logo Opinel

Some artists use Opinel knives as a support for their work, pyrographing or carving fancy figures on the handle.

In 2012, a specialist version called “Outdoor” was introduced, which features a new handle made of waterproof plastic material that is resistant to extreme temperatures.

This version has 3.5 cm of serrated blade for an effective cut of ropes, is thicker, and has been designed for sports practices in the mountains and at sea, in fact it has a turner-crickets and a whistle integrated into the handle.

It corresponds in size to the classic number 8 with stainless steel blade, and mainly it is an improvement over the poor moisture resistance of the homonymous version.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Sizes and variations

Opinel knives are currently available in various models of which, however, the traditional one is still the most widespread.

The 10 sizes of the classic series of 1911 still in production

The traditional model invented in 1890 was presented at the International Alpine Exhibition in Turin in1911 in a series of 12 variants of different lengths of which only 10 have remained in production to date and to which the giant model was added in 2010 (N°13“Le Géant”).

From N°6 onwards there is the locking ring of the Viroblocblade, introduced in 1955 and subsequently modified in the 90s to allow the blade to be locked even in a closed position.

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

The system has been applied to all models since 2000.

modelblade lengthViroblocnotes
N°12 cmdiscontinued since 1939
N°23.5 cm
N°34 cm
N°45 cm
N°56 cm
N°67 cm
N°78 cm
N°88.5 cm
N°99 cm
N°1010 cm
N°11?? Cmdiscontinued since 1935
N°1212 cm
N°13″Le Géant”22.5 cmin production since 2010

With the 8.5 cm blade, the N° 8 Opinel is perhaps the most used format.

Opinel Size

Opinel Mods coltellimania.com

Examples of Opinel Mods knives

Let’s get to the part where I want to show you some examples of modified and customized Opinel knives, you don’t need much equipment to perform these customizations.

Opinel Assembly

Opinel ModsOpinel Mods Opinel Mods Opinel Mods



Clearly it is not about Knife Making that of the modification of knives built but it can be a beginning to this passion as simple and complex at the same time as it is the construction of knives.

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Andrea F

Maker and Enthusiast of Knifemaking. Other: Engineer / Professional Blogger / Bass Player / Instructor of Boxing / Muay Thai / Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling / CSW / MMA / Self Defence / FMA / Dirty Boxing / Silat / Jeet Kune Do & Kali / Fencing Knife / Stick Fighting / Weapons / Firearms. Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport! State Of Love And Trust!


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