By Gene and Katie Hamilton
Even the best knives will lose their edges if not stored properly. Our knife block offers knives protection and makes a wonderful gift. This block is sure to put a smile on the face of any chef and will handsomely grace the fanciest of kitchens. It looks expensive, but it isn't, because the design is simple and the block is made of layers of common lx8 pine boards and lattice glued together. Except for cutting, all of the work can be tackled by an inexperienced apprentice.
The block is 10 1/2 inches high, 5 3/4 inches wide, and 7 1/2 inches long. It was designed to hold five knives and a sharpening steel, but you can design your knife block to hold more or fewer knives.
All lumberyards stock number 2, lx8 pine. When shopping for materials, select boards that are flat and knotfree along their edges. Knots in the center of a board are all right since the interior laminates are hidden. If your lumberyard doesn't stock lattice 3 3/4 inches wide, purchase what is available. You can glue several pieces edge-to-edge to make the 7 1/2 inches width. Please note that you can't have the pieces cut at the lumberyard; they have to be cut after the block is partially assembled.
Measure your knives before you begin cutting; a height of 10 1/2 inches will house most knives. If you have a large chef or bread knife, change the height of the block to fit it.
Begin construction by cutting 3 3/4-inch wide lattice into ten 24-inch long pieces. Glue these pieces edge-to-edge to make the thin pieces (B), which are 7 1/2 inches wide. Edge gluing longer pieces of lattice together saves time. After the glue is dry, cut these pieces in half to form two B parts.
Gluing the lattice together is easy. Apply glue to the edges of the pieces, and then place four rubber bands around them. Put them on wax paper or aluminum foil, and place a heavy object on top of them. You can stack both assemblies on top of each other to dry, but insert wax paper or foil between the pieces.
While the glue is drying, cut the thick laminate pieces (A) from the lx8 stock. Use a combination square to draw straight cut lines across the board, and keep your saw cuts to the waste side of this line.
After the glue has dried, cut the thin pieces into five equal sections 10 1/2 inches long. The cutouts for the knives are laid out next. Decide the order in which you want the knives to be arranged in the block, numbering each one. Then lay a knife on piece B, and trace around the blade. Do this for all the knives. After tracing all the knives, number the laminate parts so they can be assembled in the right order come gluing time.
Remove the wood inside the knife blade outlines with a coping saw. A saber or jig- saw can also be used. Securely clamp the pieces to the table, or place them in a vise. Have one team member support the wood while the other makes cutouts for the large knives. Don't worry if the piece breaks at the bottom, since it will be glued between two thick pieces of pine.
Gluing up the block is easy but messy. Protect your table with plenty of paper. Begin by selecting a knotfree thick piece for the outside. Place it on the table with its better side facing down. Take the first thin piece with knife blade cutouts, and smear plenty of glue on one side. Put it in place on top of the thick piece, sliding it around to spread the glue. Then spread glue on its other side, and place the second thick piece over it, again sliding the piece around to spread the glue.
To keep the sandwich in alignment when you are clamping, drive several number 3 finishing nails through the pieces. One team member should hold the pieces in alignment while the other is nailing. Do this after the second thick piece is in place and to each layer thereafter except for the last laminate piece; don't nail this piece in place, because the nails will show.
You now have a gluey mess. For best results, clamp the laminates together with four bar clamps, making sure the outside laminate pieces are in alignment. Use scrap pieces under the clamp jaws to prevent mar- ring the sides. If you don't have clamps, place the block on its side, and put something heavy on top of it.
After the glue has dried, the block must be sanded smooth. Use an electric hand drill equipped with an inexpensive sanding disk. The older carpenter should take charge of grinding the block. The apprentice can finish the sanding by hand or with an orbital sander. Fill any slight gaps with wood putty, and sand them smooth. Then wipe the dust off, and apply several coats of mineral oil. Mineral oil is nontoxic and a better choice than a toxic finish because the wood surfaces may come in contact with food.
Four hours for cutting, building, and assembling, plus drying time for glue and finish.
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Find helpful advice and tips about tools, finishing, safety practices and a glossary of woodworking terms at Before You Begin