Opinel Knife Tuning and Mods




Introduction: Opinel Knife Tuning and Mods

I recently purchased an Opinel No6. It is the Stainless (Inox) version with Bubinga wood. It is a great little knife. However, when it arrived it was way too tight. I had a very difficult time opening the blade and had to force it the last few cm's to fully open it. Opinel's wood handles are known for swelling, but the recommendations for fixing the problem range from leave it in the sun for several days, to bake in the oven. And even then the results are mixed.

My solution was to take it apart, sand the inside a little bit and put it back together. Luckily, Opinel's are very simple knives and are easily modded and repaired.

Off to the garage, to loosen up my Opinel's handle.


You will be handling a SHARP KNIFE. Use caution while working with your SHARP KNIFE. Did I mention this is a SHARP KNIFE THAT CAN AND WILL CUT YOU?!? Please be careful.

Step 1: Tools

The tool set is pretty simple:


Flat head screwdriver - Large with a smooth head, used for spreading open the Collar

Flat head screwdriver - Small, used for prying off the Lock Ring

Punch - used to drive out the Pin and as a temporary pin during the tuning process

Spring Loaded Punch - my secret weapon to start removing the Pin

Sand Paper - I had a piece for ~300 grit from a previous project. I would suggest ~100-300 grit

Step 2: Dissassembly

  1. Remove the Lock Ring
    1. There are a few methods for this and it is well documented on Youtube and elsewhere on the interwebs.
    2. I pried the ring off with the small screwdriver
  2. Remove the Pin
    1. This was the most difficult part. It is awkward to hold the knife and Punch in one hand and try to hammer out the pin with the other hand.
    2. Secret Weapon - I used a Spring Loaded Punch to start the removal. I had to "hit" it a couple of times with this punch to get the pin started. Then I followed it through with the regular punch and hammer.
      1. This will leave a small dimple in the pin, but it does not impact the function of the knife and is not seen when the knife is reassemble.
  3. Remove the Blade
    1. Wiggle the blade out of the wood.
    2. This releases the pressure on the Collar for the next step
  4. Remove the Collar
    1. Pull the Collar off the end of the handle

Step 3: Tuning the Knife

  1. Sand the Handle
    1. Fold a piece of sand paper and sand the gap at the end.
    2. You want to sand it evenly and square
      1. TIP - I placed the knife blade inside the sand paper to ensure I was sanding the gap evenly.
  2. Test, Test, Test
    1. Sand a little bit at a time
    2. Reassemble the handle, blade and collar
    3. Use the punch as a temporary pin
    4. Test for the tightness of the blade.
    5. YES, you need to completely reassemble the knife each time. The Collar actually pinches the wood around the blade. So if you are just testing with the Blade and Handle, you may not sand enough
    6. I also erred on the side of a little tight, inside of too loose. I can always repeat the process in the future if needed
  3. (Optional) Spread the Collar
    1. This step is totally OPTIONAL
    2. You can wedge the flat blade screwdriver in the Collar to spread it open a bit.
    3. This part scared me, so I didn't spread it that much.

Step 4: Reassemble and Polish

Reverse the Disassembly Process

  1. Place the Blade in the Handle
  2. Add the Collar
  3. Align the holes with the Punch
  4. Hammer in the Pin
    1. I very slightly beveled the leading edge of the pin on my bench grinder. This helped guide the Pin through all the holes
  5. Push the Lock Ring onto the end. It will snap into place over the Pin

Optional - Polish the Metal Pieces

  • I have a bench grinder with a big polishing wheel on it. While I had everything open I polished all the metal pieces.
  • Before Reassembly, I polished the end of the Blade that rubs against the wood. I also polished the Pin
  • Once assembled (before the Lock Ring was put on), I polished the Collar. This helped remove some of the scratches from the disassembly process and helped smooth out the action of the Lock Ring
  • Polish the Lock Ring once it is back in place. This just adds to the luster of the knife.

Step 5: Admire Your Work

My knife now works wonderfully. It opens and closes smoothly and is much safer to use.

Step 6: Sealing the Wood

In my research, it was recommended that you seal the exposed wood to prevent it from swelling. Many people recommend Mineral Oil or Boiled Linseed Oil. I haven't done this step yet, but will be purchasing some oil in the near future.

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    2 years ago

    I really like the design of the locking mechanism & plan to replicate it for a spear point I plan to install on my hollow thin 1" metal walking stick (EMT). I will round the base of the wood handle to just fit inside the pipe a couple inches then use a removable pin (the kind with the little spring-tensioned ball on one end) to affix it to pole. Instant spear for whatever purpose, probably sticking feral hogs plus defense to ward off feral dogs or even a feral human if need be? ;-)


    3 years ago

    i use beeswax that have been mixed into mineral oil... works good


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Opinel are made to be tight, you've to learn the French way (should say Savoyard) to open it !

    I'm from France and I've seen plenty of Opinel used in all kind of situations but the way we open is always the same. You've to knock the bottom of the knife on something. It'll push the blade out enough to grab it.

    On the new Opinel you can lock the mechanism when the knife is closed. it's an addition of the modern days. Before the locking mechanism had a notch only for the open position (on the top of the ring). So the handle of the knife was made tight enough that the knife doesn't open by itself in the pocket. You old the knife by the metal ring and you knock the bottom on something hard. That's the way to go .

    I remember when I was kid, in big family dinner, each men used to have a knife like that and when it was time to eat, everybody was knocking their knife on the side of the table :)


    Reply 4 years ago

    First of all you will not always have something to knock the handle against, other than your head! second, my Opinel has arrived by mail and and straight out of the package the knife is VERY difficult to open and its nearly impossible to rotate the locking cuff without ripping the flesh off of my thumb. So no, unfortunate its not as simple as "Opinels are made to be tight". My knife is unusable at this point and also very dangerous because of how "tight" the components are.


    6 years ago

    Boiled Linseed Oil

    For Opinel knives that are not too tight when dry, but get stuck and awkward to handle after some time outdoors, you can skip the steps above and simply do as follows (also, of course, it works perfectly after a mod such as the above).

    Sand the handle to remove the slight coating that Opinel adds. This will also remove the logo, if any, but you'll can likely live with that as you open up the wood for being treated.

    Place the knife with the blade open (or only handle if you have dismantled it) in a glass or any other container that allows the entire handle to be covered by oil.

    Fill the glass/container with boiled linseed oil until all the wood is covered. Probably there will be a slight difference in result between different quality linseed oil, the extra little bit you pay for a fancier brand may or may not be worth it. I used an upper-end one myself as I have quite a lot of it at home for other purposes.

    Leave for three days. I shifted the blade slightly once a day or so (from fully open to half closed) as I was thinking this would prevent the blade from covering any wooden parts, but in retrospect I'm thinking this can well be skipped.

    Take out, let drip off, wipe of thoroughly with a paper towel (don't worry about removing all the oil, you won't). Leave on another paper towel to dry entirely for about a week to avoid sticky hands. Wipe off any remains you have on the metal that you missed the first time.

    Your knife should now be working nice and smooth. To test my Opinel 10 I left it submerged in water for 5 minute intervals and tried opening it. As it now opens fine after half an hour under water I'm considering it functional for outdoor use. Will likely repeat the steps once more for good measure. Am also thinking this might need to be redone every few years if used a lot, but have nothing to back that statement up with at the moment.

    (Note: the container you will use for the oil will be a bastard to clean. Also, paper towels with linseed oil may spontaneously combust, so don't leave them anywhere a fire will cause issues.)


    7 years ago on Step 4


    I solved the difficult unfolding problem in a much easier way. I just put a little vegetable oil on the handle-blade joint and moved it a few times.

    This has to be redone when the knife gets dirty with time


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    I tried oil first. That seemed to make the problem worse for me.


    7 years ago

    Love my opinel knives. can't beat the value. I've found they eventually loosen up, except for that locking collar that you can barely turn. surprised to see this, seems like no one else knows what they are. Nice instructable, I'm sure new owners will find it handy