Using Onions to Patina Your Opinel?

8 comments by Igor Shteynbuk

Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions

Folks typically associate patina with years of use, visible wear, and long-term care. There is an aura of warmth and satisfaction when you see a beautifully patina'd Leica, lock-up bike, vintage car, tool chest, or leather bag. But not everyone has a few years to work a patina into their widget! Adrian found a fun article describing different ways to patina Opinel carbon steel and so we had to try it out. Some techniques involved chemicals, solvents, and such, but we decided on a more natural method - stabbin' onions. 

VO has been carrying Opinel knives for several years now. They're popular for their affordability, simplicity, and storied history as the go-to for French farmers, backpackers, and foragers. The carbon blade option does require more care and sharpening than their stainless steel offering, but carbon can take an edge easier. And because carbon is uncoated, they develop a nice patina over time. From Opinel: "Patina is completely normal and will help aid rust resistance of your carbon blade."

Here's what you need to create a beautiful patina on your carbon blade Opinel without years of use:

  • Opinel knife
  • Onion - white or red will do (we found no discernible difference in our test). Keep in mind you will be disposing of the onion once this process is done, so don't expect to use it in your next French Onion Soup or sandwich.
  • Water
  • Towel
  • 48 hours

Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions

Literally, stab the onion in the middle - all the way down the lock. We tried orienting the blade horizontally and vertically with respect to the layers of the onion and found inserting parallel to the root produced a circular pattern, while perpendicular was more wavy. Each of them is very cool. 

Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions
Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions

Now, the hard part. Put it down somewhere safe and where someone won't ask, "Why is there a knife in this onion?" Now leave it alone. The original recipe called for 24 hours, but we forgot and did 48 hours.

Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions

When the prescribed time has elapsed, pull the knife out. I will warn you, the knife will smell like onion. If you lived in an onion for 48 hours, you'd smell like an onion, too. But trust me, rinse it off with plain water and wipe it down. The smell will dissipate over the next day or so.

Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions

Behold your newly patina'd Opinel! 

Opinel Carbon Knife with Patina from Onions

After doing this experiment, Adrian found some more articles about creating patina on Opinel knives. My favorite was simply drizzling McDonalds spicy mustard sauce over the blade and letting it sit for a bit.

I'm thinking about how to patina the Blue Lug Brass Spacers. Any ideas?


  • Matte

    Interesting! I used vinegar and salt to kickstart the oxidation on the brass bits I got from you.

  • Brent

    I tarnished a brass bell by putting it in one of my cat’s litter box for couple days. Send me a brass spacer and I’ll try it again.

  • monroe

    I used ammonia to patina my blue lug spacers .I will post on your facebook page later a photo .Also hot vinegar gives your blade a even dark finish .

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