Maple Knife Block
My wife and I both enjoy home cooked meals and have acquired all manner of utensils to help us in the kitchen. At the heart of every kitchen is a collection of knives, and if like me, you prefer the heft and balance of a fine kitchen knife, you’ll also want to protect your investment by keeping your collection in a custom made knife block. I still use the same professional Henckel knives that I bought more than 20 years ago, but the knife block has seen better days. When I recently picked up a new DMT ceramic hone (see sidebar) and found it would not fit in the slot the old sharpening steel had occupied, I decided that a new knife block was in order.
The spacing I’ve used for the knife slots will accommodate a common range of knives. If you are building your block for a specific set of knives, adjust the placement of the grooves to suit the knives you have. If you are unsure of the spacing, experiment using some styrofoam to be sure that there is adequate clearance around the handles.
This is an easy project, consisting of a couple of glue-ups, shaping the two pieces and then the assembly. Select a dense, tight-grained hardwood such as maple, beech, hickory or birch, while avoiding woods like yew, cocobolo or black locust, that are considered toxic.
Both of the main pieces for the knife block are laminated from thinner stock. While you could make this out of a solid block of maple, structurally it would not be a good idea. As the solid wood moves from one season to another, it would deform more than a version glued up from thinner stock. Also, as you work with a solid piece of material five inches thick, there is a good chance that the piece will not be equally dry all the way through. Exposing the inner core with its higher moisture content as you cut the knife slots will allow the interior to begin drying unevenly, which would also lead to deformation.
If you have a board with some defects, lay out your pieces so that the defects are hidden inside the glue-up. You only need perfect boards on the top and bottom of the stack for the main block and one on the front of the wedge block. The edges need to be clear of defects on all pieces.
The DMT Ceramic Hone
Most woodworkers are familiar with the range of fine sharpening products DMT makes for the workshop (dmtsharp.com). Their diamond and ceramic triangle sharpener (#CDT62) brings the same impressive sharpening technology into the kitchen to give you a perfect edge when preparing your feasts.
The triangle sharpener gives you three flat faces, each with different grits for sharpening. There is a coarse diamond surface to transform a dull edge, a fine diamond surface to give you a razor sharp edge, and the ceramic surface for a finely polished surface. This sharpener works dry or with water, and only requires a few short strokes. The three corners are each of a different radius for sharpening your serrated and folding knives. Simply hold the sharpener with one hand and place the knife edge on the surface of choice at a 20º angle and draw the edge along the sharpener as you move it down the length of the sharpener. A couple of strokes on the three grades are all that it takes to put a razor sharp edge on a dull knife in less than two minutes.
Now all that’s left to do is slip your knives in the block, and place it on the countertop. Your knives will be handy in a new block that will give you years of trouble free service.
When it comes to food related projects, allergies are a very real concern for many people. Nut allergies can be among the worst and can be life threatening for those affected. For this reason I recommend avoiding all nut woods (such as walnut or pecan) when making this project. Also, be aware that some finishes contain nut oils as part of the product formulation. I was intrigued when I noted that the NaturOil specifically mentioned that it contained no peanut oils. As my wife has extreme nut allergies I contacted Eric Chaimberg at Swing Paints and he was able to confirm that there are no nut oils of any kind in NaturOil and that it is completely safe for those with nut allergies.
If you decide to make this knife block, or if you’ve made a different style of block, we’d love to the results.