A Knife Factory Celebrating 130 Years of History




Opinel是創立於1890年代的法國刀廠品牌,出生自鐵匠世家的Joseph Opinel,熱中於各種科技和新發明,在19世紀九十年代,Opinel忽發奇想要生產一把堅固,耐用又安全的小刀,於是利用簡單的打鐵工具,在自家工坊裡打造出一把木柄折刀,而在甫推出後,即受到薩瓦省當地的農民,牧民和工匠的熱愛,他於是在1897年再下一成,一口氣生產12款尺寸大小不同的木柄折刀;最小的可以掛在懷錶上隨身繫帶,最大的可以應付狩獵及農務作業,而幾乎只要折刀能派上用場,就會有Opinel的一席之地。在進入20世紀,Opinel開始添置現代工業設備,並接著進行標準化的大量生產,而直至二戰早期,據統計Opinel銷量已經這到二百萬把,可能是當年全世界賣得最好的刀具品牌。

回頭說來Opinel的個人之處,除了那標誌性的木頭刀柄,大概也在於它獨門的鐵環設計。無論尺寸為何,要打開一把Opinel折刀前,必須旋轉鐵環,轉到缺口的部位並對準刀刃,方可開刀、收刀;完成開、收刀作業後,再把鐵環轉至非缺口處,刀就不會意外被打開,同時也不能隨意解鎖,設計聰明之餘,更令人讚嘆這是一百多年前,在那個缺乏電力和機器情況下產生的創意,令人想起一句話 —— 「好的設計是堅固耐用的」,而在這條誡條出現的半世紀前,Opinel早就已經把這句付諸實行了。

Sharp-edged tools date as far back as more than two million years ago. What originally began as sharpened stones, slowly evolved over the course of time and became the modern counterpart of which we called knives. Knives are beloved by different cultures and nations, and there is never a shortage of quality knives produced by talented crafters from all over the world. Take for example, Opinel from France has been making pocket knives since 1890. With 130 years of history in knife making, Opinel is synonymous with high quality and sophisticated craftsmanship. It is said that even Pablo Picasso sculptured wood figurines with an Opinel knife. It comes as no surprise if someone is to name Opinel knives as France’s “national knife.”

Joseph Opinel, founder of Opinel, came from a family of blacksmiths. Since a young age, Joseph Opinel was passionate about machines and innovative technologies. In 1890, the idea of producing a small, durable and safe-to-use pocket knife came into his mind. Using the simple tools found in his family’s blacksmith workshop, he designed and produced his first folding knife which, later on, became an instant hit among the locals in Savoie, France. Seven year later in 1897, Joseph Opinel decided to make his knife into 12 different sizes so that they could be used for various tasks; the smallest knife included a ring that could be attached to the chain of a pocket watch, while the largest knife could be used for hunting and farming. Moving into the 1920s, Opinel began to manufacture large quantities using industrial machines. By the start of World War II, two million Opinel knives had been sold.

Talking about the unique features of Opinel knives, there is the signature natural wooden handle, and, of course, the iconic Virobloc safety ring. Cut out of stainless steel, the Virobloc safety ring is fitted to all Opinel folding knives. To open or close the knife, the rotating ring must be slided until the groove is opened. Similarly, to keep the blade securely opened, or closed, simply slide the rotating ring until the groove is closed. As the saying goes, good design is timeless. Even though the Virobloc mechanism was invented back in 1955, a time when there was no electricity supply nor production by machines, it is still considered as one of the most remarkable designs in the world of knives.