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The story of the Opinel knife begins in the small hamlet of Gévoudaz in the Arvan valley in Maurienne (Savoie). It was here, in one corner of his father's sharp tools workshop, that Joseph Opinel (1872-1960) first developed his pocket knife in 1890.
Although Opinel knives have been manufactured near Chambéry since 1916, the Opinel family has always remained firmly attached to its roots. So it is with great pride that the Opinel Company and the Opinel Museum have opened a new tourist road, leading right to the source of the famous knife: The Opinel Road.
The route follows the Arvan valley, linking the Opinel Museum in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to the Place Opinel in Albiez-le-Vieux (about 16 km).
The itinerary includes five main waypoints:
The museum is housed in an historic building which used to be home to the factory of Jean Opinel (1877-1943), brother of the Opinel brand founder, Joseph Opinel (1872-1960).
Jean Opinel learned the cutlery trade in the family workshop. In 1932, he built the factory at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, where knife manufacturing would be handed down from father to son right up until 1985, when production transferred to the factory in Chambéry.
With the original factory closing, Jacques Opinel, grandson of Jean, the former cutler, decided to convert it into a museum and keep the memory of Opinel alive in the valley where it all started. Today, both permanent and temporary exhibitions bring these former manufacturing sites to life, while a gift shop, terrace restaurant and café complete any visit.
The museum welcomes nearly 60,000 visitors for free each year. Nowadays, it is run by Jacques' son, Maxime Opinel.
The first waypoint you see on the Opinel Trail is the Opinel roundabout. In 2000, the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne decided to honour Opinel by renaming a roundabout on the road leading to the original hamlet!
Discussing this with Jean-Claude Opinel, he offered to produce a giant replica of an Opinel knife which was later erected in the centre of the roundabout in 2002. The knife, measuring 383 cm, holds the world record as the largest Opinel knife, recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.
The third waypoint is located a few kilometres outside Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, at Combe des Moulins. Here, within the Versus skatepark, is a unique spot: the Opinel volcano!
This skating structure, almost 6 metres tall, is an artistic take on an Opinel knife. Erected in 2018, the sculpture serves as a local reminder at this park, which now enjoys national and even international renown.
In the spring of 2019, the Opinel Museum has called upon the Lyon-based artist Chufy to give color to the handle. His work in the style of street art encourages visitors to seek the meaning of the hidden letters.
The short walking loop starts at the original Joseph Opinel factory, founded in 1901. This fount of Opinel history is not to be missed, and now houses a series of illustrations depicting ancient cutlery trades from the time of Joseph Opinel and two information boards retracing the development of Opinel from the beginning of the XXth century, as well as a picnic area.
Next comes Joseph Opinel's family home, a building which stands out from the traditional rural farmhouses in the hamlet, with its bright colours and wrought iron decoration.
On the approach to what's left of the original Opinel workshop, visitors can admire the communal oven and small chapel dedicated to Saint Grat.
Soon, we arrive in front of what's left of the family workshop, the true birthplace of the Opinel knife. Joseph Opinel forged his first blades using the hammer, traces of which can still be seen today!
Following a new path through the forest, visitors complete the walk while enjoying the natural surroundings.
The final stop is in the centre of Albiez-le-Vieux, where a sculpture inspired by Opinel was put up in the Place Opinel 2011.
Designed by Jean-Claude Opinel, this monument is located just a stone's throw from the cemetery where the original Opinel blacksmiths are interred.
For a fun visit, younger children are welcome to pick up a free booklet of games, available at the Opinel Museum! Once completed, young explorers can pick up a reward medal at the museum!
To delve even further and discover more secrets of Opinel's history, head to the Grand Salon de l’Ancien Evêché (Former Bishop's State Rooms - 73300 Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne) for the summer 2022 temporary exhibition: Behind the Scenes on the Opinel Trail.
The history and development of the trail are depicted: from original concept, through excavation of the historic sites, and on to the major development work in 2021. For the curious, there is also a chance to study various objects hidden below ground for more than a century, and to visit places which are usually inaccessible (such as the underground channels at the original factory and the interior of Joseph Opinel's home, a real true time capsule)!
Children are invited to look for clues on the boards, solve riddles and contribute to the future of the Opinel Trail with a booklet of games available free of charge on site.
25, rue jean jaurès
Phone : 0479640478
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