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Waterproofing Opinels? (yes, again)

Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Messages
5,782
I'm admitting defeat with my Opinels relative to keeping them working in wet conditions.

I need ideas and advice on uping my game and getting them waterproof. As in really, I'm not kidding waterproof.

To date, I've been using Carl's (aka Jackknife) advice and that of many others. I lube the joint with Vaseline and use heat to push it in. For example, I keep a tube of Vaseline and often leave the Opinel baking in the sun on my Subaru's dashboard. I suspect the oil leaks on my driveway are really from Vaseline dripping out of my vents.

Still, when I rinse off my knife when preparing food (several times a day), the knives seize up.

To make matters worse, BigJonHoss gave me a wonderful Case Sodbuster this spring and dang... easy breezy clean up. I can wash it in hot soapy water wipe it off and put it away, no issues. Sigh.... I'm carrying the Sodbuster most days now. It's been a humid summer and it's just been easier to deal with.


Some specific questions...

Has anybody tried soaking Opinels in boiled linseed oil or similar?

Has anybody tried heated (goes bang) type of wood stablization tricks?

I've got a jar of pine tar I use for waterproofing wood skis (yes, I own some and use them). I'll try just about anything at this point.


Thoughts, ideas and experiences?
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2004
Messages
16,673
Okay Dave, I wish this could be a bad news-good news thing, but it ain't. In the end, Opinel's are a case of "it is what it is." Great cutters, but quirky.

I've tried the sanding and linseed soaks, Vaseline swabbing, Snow Seal melted with the 'ol ladies blow drier. I've got them to withstand 20 minute submergence, but with some binding. I've never had one totally unable to open, or close. In the end, Opinel's are a good knife for urban/suburban use in temperate climates. This is why I have had a love/hate relationship with then since 1982. I've always thought them a dynamite slicer and dicer, and I will aways have one around in the kitchen drawer, and maybe one in the tool kit in the truck. But their Achilies heel for water in any form is why I would never use one for my main knife when off someplace.

It was easy to forgive them when they cost about why the number on them was, but in recent years, with the climbing prices, I've shied away from them little by little. The Case sodbuster is, and always was in my book, many times the knife. Good CV steel, metal liners and synthetic scales, no effect by water in any amount, and only the cost of two new Opinels. Not too heavy either. In the sodbuster, you've got a knife there in your pocket to go down the river with. Or in your case (okay, a little pun intended) over the mountain and through the snowy woods with. In the end, there's really nothing like having metal liners of some sort. My little Remington peanut was pivot deep in trout guts, swished around in the lake to wash it off, and dropped back into the pocket. Yet after all that, my 6 years granddaughter could pull the blade open with no trouble.

I like Opinel's, I really do. But if I'm walking out my front door and not coming back for a while, and not really knowing what I'm going to deal with until I come home, an Opinel ain't gonna be my choice.

Believe me, I've tried everything, including sanding the wood down around the pivot, sanding the blade slot wider, but there's always some binding when wet.

Take care of that sodbuster, and you'll have one heck of a knife to take care of you. :thumbup:
 
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Joined
Jul 2, 2013
Messages
7,037
Have you tried Snow Seal and a hair dryer? I use it on shoes, sheaths and my untreated wood Mora handles....

Still beads up water 2 years after I treated it...

Bead_zpsx3ibncug.jpg
 
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afishhunter

Gold Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
10,621
Make a new handle from Micarta or G10 from a block intended for a stick/rat tail tang knife?
Transplant blade to a different knife with metal liners?
Get one of the "modern" Opinel's with the factory not wood handle? (or just the handle and do a blade transplant?)
 
Joined
Mar 13, 2006
Messages
329
Being the lazy sort, I remove the metal, strip the finish and reshape if desired, then submerge the handle in a bottle of tung oil. (If I were set up for it, I'd use a vac rig to ensure further penetration of the oil.) After a few days, remove the handle from the oil, and allow to drain, frequently wiping off excess oil.

Once the oil is dry (takes a few days or longer, and sunlight helps), I re-assemble the knife and adjust the blade fit to the handle. No more problems, or at least, no more problems before I loose or break the knife. . . .
 
Joined
Jan 20, 2006
Messages
4,834
I have to agree with what was all said. Wood without liners will always be a problem. As afishhunter said get one of those "modern" Outdoor ones that are made out of plastic.

 
Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Messages
5,782
Being the lazy sort, I remove the metal, strip the finish and reshape if desired, then submerge the handle in a bottle of tung oil. (If I were set up for it, I'd use a vac rig to ensure further penetration of the oil.) After a few days, remove the handle from the oil, and allow to drain, frequently wiping off excess oil.

Once the oil is dry (takes a few days or longer, and sunlight helps), I re-assemble the knife and adjust the blade fit to the handle. No more problems, or at least, no more problems before I loose or break the knife. . . .


Coffeecup,

1) What amount of water exposure can your Opinel's withstand with this method?

2) Is blade/metal removal necessary? The one time I tried this I ended up busting the handle.

3) You're talking straight tung oil, not tung oil finish, which combines some varnish, right? Better penetration than BLO?
 

Will Power

Gold Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2007
Messages
28,116
The linerless construction is always going to be a swell up area.:mad:

But, I use one in the kitchen a lot. If you keep the blade open after use (providing you're not carrying it :eek::D ) it quicky dries up without trapping the blade.
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2013
Messages
89
I have to agree with what was all said. Wood without liners will always be a problem. As afishhunter said get one of those "modern" Outdoor ones that are made out of plastic.


I think a little bit of me just died looking at those. I know it's a good solution, but it feels so, so sad.
 
Joined
Jun 29, 1999
Messages
8,291
I melted in some hard floor wax. Worked it into the blade slot and melted it with an old hair dryer until it ran down into the pivot area. Also treated the outside of the handle. Have had no problem whatsoever with the wood swelling even after using it extensively for food prep, and rinsing it with water after.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Messages
5,782
Alberta Ed,

Can you tell me more about this type of hard wood floor wax? I'm not familiar with it.
 
Joined
Mar 13, 2006
Messages
329
Coffeecup,

1) What amount of water exposure can your Opinel's withstand with this method?

2) Is blade/metal removal necessary? The one time I tried this I ended up busting the handle.

3) You're talking straight tung oil, not tung oil finish, which combines some varnish, right? Better penetration than BLO?

1) Back in '08 or so, I had an Opinel so-treated in my hunting bag for use as a patch knife. I was canoeing and had a minor "wreck"; my gear stayed under water for several days before I was able to recover it. Knife was fine. (I may be slightly paranoid about wterproofing: even my powderhorn as dry inside. The only significant damage was to some un-treated leather.)

2) I've always removed the metal, but it may not be necessary. I do so for two reasons: first, because the metal ring will impede penetration of the oil in the area covered; second, because an oil build-up on the metal surfaces of the pivot will cause as many problems as the (untreated) wood swelling.

3). Yeah, pure tung oil. In '88 or so, I managed to break the first knife I had so-treated. Oil penetration was approximately 1/4", so it was clear though the wood in places. Since then I've refined my approach a bit, and often leave the untreated wood on the truck dash to heat up (in summer), or heat it to about 110-120 degrees F with a heat gun (in winter) to encourage better penetration as the wood cools and suck air/moisture back in. What passes for "boiled linseed oil" these days will not penetrate as well, even when thinned with various sollvents.

Note that I've only used this approach with the original handles (what are they--beech or similar?). I've not tried it with the other woods offered. I'd expect it to take significantly longer with woods such as olivewood.

Jim
 

Camillus

Gold Member
Basic Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2015
Messages
2,028
The synthetic handles knives are nice, comfortable in the hand too. Dont like the whistle but the synthetic handles are not to shy away from.

As for waterproofing, it simply isn't possible.
 
Joined
May 30, 2009
Messages
2,280
You sir are Mr. Opinel and I would be honored if you tried my method.

Maybe sand it a bit, I dunno. Then dry it well, as in the hot car method. It would be nice if it were noticeably looser.

Then toss it, completely submerged not just the joint, into a jar of oil, mineral oil if you want it food safe. Leave for weeks. It would be nice if it tightened up.

Try to drive out the moisture in it and replace it with oil.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Messages
5,782
Heya Dave!!! I'm trying hard to maintain the faith!!!

CoffeCup, what do you use for pin stock when putting them back together? Source?
 
Joined
Mar 13, 2006
Messages
329
I've used finishing nails. The head is close to the size I want, the metal is soft and upsets easily. And I've usually got a bunch around. . . .
 
Joined
Jun 29, 1999
Messages
8,291
You could use either Treewax Clear Floor Wax (Home Hardware) or Johnson Paste Wax; there are probably other similar brands. Used to be used to seal/polish wooden floors (before laminates). Comes in a big tin, like a gigantic shoe polish can. It's a stiff wax, dig it out with a butter knife, fill the blade groove, heat until it melts. A can lasts practically forever.
 
Joined
Sep 3, 2013
Messages
928
Sounds to me like a lot of effort for a $15 knife. I get the tweakyness part for those who like to tinker. But.

If you have a damp Opi-operating enviroment, maybe go for the plastic handles...? Or leave it open and locked as a paring knife? Or....

I have five Opis, one stored in a dry-dry climate (Arizona), but the rest are in the upper midwest when the air is damp-damp often. I guess they're not EDC enough to worry about these things, perhaps because it's a tweaky problem and I'm not a tinkerer? Fact is, I use my Opis, but not under conditions where they are likely to get wet and stick on opening or closing.
 
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Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Messages
5,782
I'm a former bicycle mechanic. I use klister on my XC skis. I knit.

Opinels barely move my tinker needle. (Which sounds awful in retrospect.)
 
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