Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As French as the beret, the classic pocket knife by Opinel is a simple, wooden handled knife manufactured since 1890 in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Savoie region of France.

Invented by Joseph Opinel as a simple working man's or peasant's knife, it proved popular with the local farmers, herdsmen, and paysans-vignerons (peasant winemakers) of the area. In 1897, a series of twelve sizes, numbered 1 to 12, was developed. From 1901-1903, Joseph Opinel built his first factory in Pont de Gévoudaz and produced a machine for mass production of the knife's wooden handles.
Joseph Opinel
To distribute his new range of knives, Opinel utilized the time-honored method of hiring peddlers to sell the knife, installing a small shop near the Chambéry railway junction, where the knives became popular with PLM railroad workers, who in the course of their work spread word of the new knife all over France. By 1909, Opinel had registered his first trademark for the Opinel knife, choosing the main couronnée ("crowned hand") as his emblem. A few years later Opinel annual sales were in the hundreds of thousands, and by the start of World War II as many as 20 million knives had been sold.
The original work crew
The Opinel Virobloc or safety twistlock mechanism was invented by Marcel Opinel in 1955, greatly increasing the safety and versatility of the knife by allowing the blade to be locked in the open position. In 2000, the Virobloc locking mechanism was improved to allow locking the blade in either the open or closed position.
The company is still run by the Opinel family, and Opinel sells around 15 million knives annually. A museum dedicated to the Opinel knife (Le Musée de l'Opinel) is located at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. 
Now available here.


  1. I have one in my pocket at all times...Its an oldie but a goodie. Picked up an engraved Tour de France one when I visited the museum whilst cycling towards the Col du Telegraph..

  2. Opinel Knives are great. I have 3 and are handy for all sorts of little tasks around the house or garden. I also obviously have one for picnics with the missus.