WARNING: Messing with knives is intrinsically risky, and modifying knives involves usage outside the manufacturer’s intended purposes. Take safety precautions, use common sense, and only attempt the process below at your own risk!
If you buy Opinel folding knives with the intention of customizing them, one of the first things you might want to explore is the basic disassembly. The wonderful simplicity is one of the aspects of this design that made it innovative for it’s time and an enduring style to be carried even today. Completely disassembled, this folder is composed of only five distinct pieces – the wood handle, the blade, an inner collar, a pin, and an outer collar/viroblock.
Right away, I was drawn to the carbon blade over the stainless for purposes of easier sharpening and use with a firesteel, but Opinel only sells the carbon(e) blade paired with a beech handle. Nothing wrong with beech wood, I just prefer more grain contrast and darker wood myself, so it was an immediate project to swap blades between a couple Opinel No.6 models to end up with an oak handle and carbon blade.
I find a couple basic tools to be useful.
– Hammer and nail for drifting out the pin
– Pliers to assist in the pin removal if necessary. They can also make the outside collar removal easier too, which I’ll explain in a second.
The first step in disassembly is to remove the outer collar. There is a tool designed specifically for this type of hardware removal, but to avoid having to add tools to the collection, the collar can be removed by closing the blade, setting the collar to the closed lock position, and then carefully forcing the knife open again. The opening of the blade will push the locked collar up and out of the way, eventually causing it to pop off. This is probably the riskiest step, and I find it easiest to grasp the blade with pliers. It’s tough to exert enough force to pop the collar off using just the fingers. When the collar pops of, it’ll come off with enough force to fly across the room, so mind the trajectory!
Outer collar removed, the pin can be drifted out with a hammer and nail. The pin can only be drifted out in one direction, so inspect the pin first and drift it out from the narrower end. A punch also works well for this.
After drifting the pin out, the blade will typically slide right out, and the inner collar can be tugged off of the wood handle, though that step is not really necessary for a blade swap.
Reassembly is pretty much just the reverse 🙂
Once again, the outer collar presents the greatest challenge here, but to make it simpler, line up the collar braced against the ground and force the knife down into the collar until it snaps on.