Introduction: Pirate Folding Knife / Tentacle Opinel Handle

About: I'm a mechanical engineer in the Eindhoven region. In my spare time I like to make random stuff, both usefull and especially useless.

About a year ago I started making my own pirate costume. Never done any sewing before, but just started and in the end I will see what it has become. Together with this new project I got completely into pirates. Now, when I want to make something, half the time I want to incorporate something which got to do with pirates. And this time was no exception. During my usual internet search for awesomeness, I found many people modding an Opinel (popular French folding knife). Never before did I do real carving, so that was about to change.

I used an Opinel No. 8 Carbone for this Opinel mod. My pirate inspiration was the Kraken, the legendary sea monster bringing fear to even the most fearsome pirates. Since this is my first time carving I wanted to keep it simple, so I went for a tentacle. As a small extra, the shape of the tentacle makes the Opinel fit your hand better due to the curve of the handle. Let's get started.

Step 1: Design the Knife

Start out by making a sketch of your idea. For this first trace the knife handle followed by the blade when folded in. This way you're able to see what material needed to stay so the blade won't penetrate the handle. Depending on your design and knife, make multiple views such as a top and side view. Complex designs can benefit from detailed view of difficult areas.

In case of the Opinel I wanted a little more blade to stick out of the handle when folded in to make it easier to grab the blade and fold it out. This can be a great starting point for many folding knifes available. Since my design isn't that complicated, 2 views was more than enough to start the carving. At this point I wasn't sure whether to do an etch or patterned patina on the blade, so I didn't add that to the design.

Step 2: Carve the Handle

Begin by drawing some guide-lines on the handle. These indicate the first large areas that can be removed from the handle. This step can be repeated to further remove handle material up to the point that more details can be added. Also fine details can be drawn on the handle before carving them out. But remember, material can only be removed, so don't take away to much material to fast.

I started by using a belt grinder to remove the bulk of the material. After drawing on the position of the suction caps I hollowed them out using a Dremel tool. After that I removed material around the cups to let them stand out of the tentacle. The last step is to remove the left over material between the cups and make the transition to the rest of the tentacle as smooth as possible. All my carving was done using the Dremel.

Safety first!:

  • Wrap your blade so it can't cut while carving.
  • Use protection.

Step 3: Finish the Handle

After carving your handle can be quite rough. So get some sandpaper and start smoothing all the rough surfaces. Additional tools can be used such as files, dremel, etc. When done smoothing the surface, the handle can be treated. There are multiple options for finishes, just choose something you like. Think of staining, oiling, painting, burning, etc.

I finished my handle using some needle files and 120 and 240 grid sandpaper. After that I finished the handle using a wood oil based on tung oil. In order to give it a little more of a dull shine I used wax oil as my last layer.

Step 4: Force Patina on the Blade

Rust can be bad for your knife. However, there also is something like good rust. This type of rust is what can be forced on a blade and is called patina. Many tutorials on this can be found on the internet. I'm not an expert, this is also a first timer, so I won't go into detail on how it is supposed to work.

I tried to finish the blade by forcing a patina on the blade using vinegar. Therefore I wrapped the blade in a paper towel and wetted the paper with vinegar. I kept the blade in the vinegar paper for about an hour and then thoroughly rinsed the blade with water. Make sure the blade is dried properly afterwards, or the parts of the blade that didn't get patina will get the wrong type of rust, red. Turned out it didn't work, only a couple of spots were blackened, the rest was as clean as before. (I did clean my blade before the vinegar bath.) After the fail I oiled the blade for protection.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Handywork

All finished and ready to enjoy you new knife. I always like to share my new toys, so I grapped a camera and tried my best at making some nice pictures. Clearly I'm not a photographer, but at least I tried.

Next time changes:

What would I do different next time, that's a list which starts to form right at the beginning. Here are some.

  • Create a surface texture around the suction cups, such that there is a difference between the suction area and the rest of the tentacle. This can be done during carving and saves a lot of time during sanding.
  • I made multiple designs, most I found to difficult as a starters carving, maybe do one of those next? Suggestion in the comments?
  • Test some more with forcing patina.
  • Etch the blade, and make the etching an extension of the carving.
  • Start with a nicer wood (olive, oak, bubinga) since Opinel also sells more luxury wooden handles.
  • Use an Opinel No. 9 or No. 10, which are bigger. I find the No. 8 a little small in my hands, plus a bigger knife is easier to carve.
Before and After Contest 2017

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017