Sune EhlersSune Ehlers is an illustrator and art director. He lives north of Copenhagen and works from anywhere.
I bought the knife around 1987. One of my mates is a keen fisher and he taught me the value of having a small but bloody great knife in your luggage at all times. I got it in a shop with equipment for scouts. I’d been a scout for one month exactly as a small kid and I swore to myself never to do anything scout-like ever again after endless nights in cold tents, wet wellingtons and trying to light a fire in a ridiculous rain. But there I was gearing up for a canoe and fishing trip.
In the shop I instantly fell in love with the 4-inch Opinel knife with the hardwood handle, the way the knife folds up, the beautiful metal, the little stainless stell ring you turn to make the blade of the knife stay open or folded up. And the brilliant detail that you have to give the shut knife a little tap on a hard surface in order to make the blade fold out – just enough for you to open it up with the tip of two fingers. And so it came to be that I cut the head of the first and only pike I’ve ever caught. And I did it with this knife. I ate the fish too. I also remember we brought canned tuna fish but forgot a can opener. I cut the metal open like it was butter with my ripe new knife.
The knife has been with me and used in most of the significant periods of my life where I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. The stuff you have to go through. Jobs and dubious hobbies. I used it when I was a graffiti kid. It was great for making a fat cap – cutting the nozzle bigger to make for a fatter line. I’ve used it working as a bike messenger in so many situations – changing impossible tires, cutting up the bizarre quantities of chocolate I ate everyday, unwrapping stuff for people, scraping dried up mud of my pants. And in the wintertime when I rode my bike in the snow and stuff froze and got stuck, I used my Opinel knife. I used it when I worked at a salad factory, on a farm, in a kitchen, at a cafe, rebuilding my granddad’s house, tearing down a wall in my old apartment. I used it the other day to cut garlic. I use it to sharpen my pencils when I draw – which I do a lot. It’s been a handy companion in so many situations. I’ve used it as a screwdriver, a hammer, a beer opener, a cheese and sausage cutter in Toscany. Also I’ve used it to cut books open (which is a great feeling).
Whenever I go on trips that are longer than the ordinary commuting to and from work, I bring my knife. It’s been with me on a volcano climb in Chile, a painting trip to Skagen in Denmark, repelling in Tignes, and a 500 kilometer long bike ride through Sweden where I learned how to open up a bottle of cheap red wine with a knife for the first time.
There’s just something immensely satisfying when you’re using something so utterly brilliantly designed as for instance this knife. It’s not something I expect in stuff (most things fall apart) – but when it’s there and it just works again and again – I can’t help but think: this is a great feeling slicing this chicken up or cutting this branch off my apple tree. I’m a fan of how the handle fits perfectly into my hand, the point of the knife with it’s perfect pointyness and the way the blade works sublimely on all kinds of material. Yummie. Also, the logo is great.
I have very few objects that give me that sensation. My pepper mill give me the same thrill. A certain brush when I’m painting. These things – maybe five or six in all – are indeed a relationship. Good friends.
Thinking about why this knife is important to me – why it matters – is exactly the reason why I think it’s great to surround yourself with long-lasting objects. The stories that pop into my head: Where I was when I did that thing I did. Putting the thing into context. Stories are important. It’s what drives us, inspires us, makes us go forward. The many scratches on the knife tell stories. It’s great to have a little mini movie going inside your head about all the situations you’ve used the knife when for instance you’re destroying an aubergine. It just feels great. Like hanging out with a mate.