glOwpinel, Making of
If you are like me and have more pocketknives than pockets, but still want more (knives, not pockets), you surely own at least one Opinel, a french made folding knife that is simple, robust, affordable and highly customizable.
And that’s what we are going to do today: customization, we’ll take an average Opinel No.9 and turn it into a glOwpinel No.9.
For this mod we will need an Opinel Carbone (obviously) and tools like a set of needle-nose pliers, a file, a rasp, a rotary tool, a blowtorch, an electro-etcher and a scalpel. Materials we are going to use: glow in the dark powder, epoxy resin, vinegar, rust and vinegar solution, linseed oil, salt and water solution, nail varnish and sandpaper.
Disassembling the Knife
Disassembling an Opinel pocketknife isn’t exactly rocket science, first we need to take off the safety ring using needle-nose pliers, then we will remove the pin that holds the blade; for this operation I used a pointy steel rod and a hammer. For some of the knives I disassembled I needed to file off a bit of the pin’s head (this was the case here) to be able to take it out, for the others no filing was needed. Once we take the pin out the other ring and the blade can be removed by bare hands.
Modifying the Handle
At this step we will reshape the handle a bit, nothing too extreme, just flattening the round parts and rounding the flat parts basically. We start by roughing out the desired shape with a rasp, as you can see from the pictures I flattened the sides a bit, then I rounded the butt. To finish the shaping we should use sandpaper (grit 60) and remove all the rasp marks as well as all the varnish from the handle. Removing the varnish is important, even if you decide to keep the original handle shape.
Making it Glow
Once all the varnish is removed from the handle we can start preparing it for the “glow treatment”. I’m not that good at freehanding so before I started carving with the rotary tool, I drew the desired pattern on with a pencil. Now the secret to why I chose this cracked like pattern: I own the cheapest and worst rotary tool replica ever made, the carving bit wobbles so much that it’s impossible to carve straight lines, not to mention fine details; so I needed a design that is basically made out of random wobbly lines.
Besides the carving, at this point we can install the lanyard hole too, for this I used a piece of 4mm inner diameter copper pipe. After the glue hardens we will use a small file to smoothen the edges of the hole and grit 220 sandpaper to clean of the burr left by the carving bit.
Next we will lightly char the handle using a blowtorch, sand off the brittle charcoal from the surface with fine sandpaper, then wipe it clean with a moist cloth and we’ll let it dry for a few minutes while we mix the glow in the dark powder with the epoxy resin.
Before we start mixing, a few words about these materials: unfortunately I can’t give you a brand name for glow in the dark powder, I buy mine from aliexpress, but as a general advice you should buy the best quality you can afford, look out for good reviews, not product descriptions; also you should know that the green powder glows brighter and longer than other colors. As for the epoxy resin I used Devcon 2 Ton, I have a few years experience working with this brand and I recommend it.
So, back to our business: since the resin I used had about 5 minutes working time I mixed only 3ml resin, 3ml hardener and 3ml glow in the dark powder in one batch. We need to make sure that the resin is thoroughly mixed, else it won’t cure, then apply it to the grooves on the handle, I used a bamboo skewer for this operation. To cover the entire handle I used four batches of epoxy, that means 12ml part A, 12ml part B and 12ml glow in the dark powder. The epoxy resin fully hardens in 24 hours, so we need to make sure to leave it cure at least overnight.
Now, for the worst part of the build, a.k.a. sanding off the excess epoxy resin, to remove the bulk of it I used a small metal file, then once I got really close to the wood, grit 220 sandpaper and finally grit 600.
As you can see from the pictures, along with the epoxy resin we removed most of the charring too, to re-stain and darken the handle we will apply 2-3 coats of rust and vinegar solution, let the wood dry then sand it lightly with grit 1000 sandpaper.
That’s about it, 2-3 light coats of boiled linseed oil and the handle is finished, but no time to sit back…
Etching the Blade
For this step we will need an electro-etcher, check out this tutorial on how to make your own, or just use a phone charger, like I did.
First we need to draw the pattern on the blade using nail varnish, the parts covered by the varnish will remain un-etched, then we begin the etching process.
For this I used an old phone charger (5V, 1A), a big nail, a cotton makeup remover disc, electrical tape, two alligator clips, a cup of saturated salt-water solution (to make this solution I added salt to a cup of warm water until the salt wasn’t dissolving anymore).
To make the etcher I cut off the micro USB port from an old phone charger, stripped the wires and attached alligator clips to both. Next I wrapped the makeup remover disc around the head of the nail and secured it in place with electrical tape.
The actual etching process consist of clipping the positive wire to the blade, the negative to the nail, dipping the cotton disc in salt water and pressing it against the blade, hold it there for 15 seconds then remove, repeat 3 times for best results.
Next we use acetone and soapy water to completely clean the blade, then we place it in a jar of white vinegar for a hour or so, every 15-20 minutes remove it for a few seconds. Once we have a consistent dark patina we wash and dry the blade then use grit 1500 sandpaper wrapped on an ice cream stick to lightly sand the surface and give it a contrasting look.
Now we reassemble the knife and take the mandatory glamour shots.