Tuesday 2 February 2010

Pocket knives.

The two iconic pocket knives of France are The Opinel and The Laguiole.

The Opinel (the ones with the wooden handles) are probably the most common pocket knives in France. Hardly a home in the entire country would be without at least one. Invented by a M Joseph Opinel in about 1895; well over 20 million have been sold (I myself currently have at least 4). They have simple beechwood handles, and traditionally a high carbon (not stainless) steel blade. They are still made by the Opinel family in the town of St-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Savoie. Personally I always buy the No 8 size knife; they seem 'just right'.

The other classic pocket knife of France, and produced much closer to home, is The Laguiole. Not a single factory, but a group of manufacturers in and around the town of Thiers in the Aveyron who all produce knives of a similar design. This knife was invented by a M Jean-Pierre Calmels in 1829; the small corkscrew being added in 1840 as a result of requests from local waiters. The Laguiole usually has a simple horn handle with a stainless steel blade.

I am hardly ever more than a few feet away from an Opinel (there's usually one in my pocket), and it's my knife of choice for everyday usage. Surprising how many times in the day that one has use of a length of string and an Opinel, a man and his knife should never be separated..
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  1. I have been carrying a lock-knife for about 40 years, ever since I folded an un-locked knife onto my fingers, and my first was an Opinel - they remain the best, peasant knife, in my Opinelion.

  2. Knowing your love for such things, I'm not surprised. One of life's little bonuses.

  3. Someone gave me a French mushroom knife last year - the curved ones with a brush on the end. It has a crude measure on the handle in centimetres - 5, I think. Would they be to measure caps?

  4. Yup, those mushroom knives are quite popular over here too. I presume yours is an Opinel. I think the cms gradation is to measure any wound an accident (or fight) may cause whilst out gathering.

  5. Hi,

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  6. I'm a huge fan of Opinel, I think they make a great folding knives and I love the fact they are steeped in tradition. I have however found a new version of the famous Opinel No 8 Knife. It appears to be made of plastic, comes in a range of colours and has a whistle. Not made my mind up as I'm a traditionalist, however I'm sure the younger generation will love them.


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