Introduction: How to Rehandle Ceramic Knives

Picture of How to Rehandle Ceramic Knives

Ceramic knives. Some people like them, some don't and most haven't tried them. I decided not to be one of those people who have a strong opinion about something they don't know anything about.

Thing is, the cheap (~10$ each) knives I ordered from China didn't hold up too well. The blades were fine, but the plastic handles suck (see 3rd picture). It's not fun to have one break under pressure either (white one did that) and they don't seem to glue in the handle any good either. That's why I figured it's a good idea to rehandle them properly giving them nice wooden handles.

This could also be used as a way to change the handles on brand new knives and avoid paying absurd amounts of money for fancy well made ceramic knives.

As this is the first time I made handles for knives it's normal if you will cringe at some of the methods I used here, but please, if you do so, write a comment and tell me how it's done properly. Thanks!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

The list is for the stuff I used many of which can be avoided/replaced. To make it all easier, consider skipping dowels and therefore hole drilling completely with what I believe to be minimal losses in strength and probably better looks.

Materials:

  • Ceramic knife blade (duh)
  • Dowels (I used Ø8mm beech dowels)
  • Wood blank (used ash for both)
  • Epoxy glue (disregard E6K in picture)

Tools:

  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Angle grinder w/ sanding disc
  • Eccentric sander
  • Dremel
  • Sandpaper
  • Diamond crown drill bit (Ø8mm)
  • Drill bit for wood/metal (Ø8mm)

Step 2: Drilling the Blade

Picture of Drilling the Blade

If you've drilled glass with crown bits before and looking at this think something along the lines oh it's thin, won't be big deal you better think again. The blades are absurdly hard to drill.

As with anything done with diamond tools - keep it wet. As seen in the picture I used a plastic container designed for painting with a roller and filled it with water so the blade submerged just a little bit. This gave the bit enough cooling action not to overheat and melt or stress something.

While drilling glass it's a good idea to keep the drill speed on the low side. Forget this advice here and feel free to go full speed. You may be shy at first, but the shyness will fade soon after you see no results on a lower speed setting.

I suppose a drill press might help a lot, and as mikeasaurus suggested, something like a waterjet cutter even more so, but it's not like we're building a spaceship here, handheld tools are still fine!

Step 3: Making the Handle

Picture of Making the Handle

A lot of pictures in this step, but the process is pretty straightforward.

Having two wood pieces with at least particularly flat sides was challenging for me and I used some sandwiched walnut veneer to make the form I want and see if that makes for an interesting look. It doesn't. Then I outlined the piece of blade which was supposed to sit inside the handle. I made it so there's more of it sitting in for added strength. After that I measured the thickness of the blade and removed the necessary amount of wood from the marked area. A Dremel tool with some sort of flat bottom routing tip and 576 attachment was used for most of the work and then X-acto knife and chisel to trim the edges neatly. The 576 attachment is crap by the way, don't buy it.

With the place where blade sits done it was time for drilling which is pretty straightforward. I just mark the holes and drilled. If you're feeling adventurous and know how to stop bleeding effectively, drill through the existing holes in the blade. With holes on one side, I drilled the other side through the existing holes which resulted in holes facing each other well enough to put the dowels in. It's a good idea to see if dowels fit the holes in the handle and blade nicely since it's not something one wants to do with glue already on. If you need to widen the hole on the blade, Dremel with a diamond engraving tip will do the trick.

By now the blade is actually ready to have the blade glued in, but it's not such a bad idea to give some sort of shape to it since sanding now is a bit easier. I used an angle grinder with a sanding pad (which can cut fingers too, by the way), then an eccentric sander with 120 grit pad and everything after that was elbow grease up to 500 grit on the front of the handle to avoid the difficult spots when the blade is in there.

Step 4: Glue It Well

Picture of Glue It Well

If you need to sharpen your blades - do this now, it's easier!

Epoxy was used for gluing the handle together. I applied it generously everywhere since it sands down pretty well and doesn't stick to the blade that bad anyway. Better not mess this part up, because there won't be any taking apart once the thing dries. That's what clamps are for of course.

Step 5: Finishing the Handle

Picture of Finishing the Handle

Once the handle was all dry and nice it was time for sanding it nice and smooth.

For removing excess epoxy almost everywhere a Dremel with a sanding drum works pretty well and for the blade and any corners in general I used a sharp flat chisel.

After most of the unneeded stuff was removed it was once again time to apply elbow grease. While I could've gone higher, I decided to stop at 800 grit. It was smooth already and grain is going to lift anyway after you apply mineral oil or other sealant.

The finish I applied was several coats of mineral oil first, then some beeswax polish. Although I'm now thinking that I should have mixed up some danish oil for this. Not really sure what the folks doing this professionally use as a handle finish though, can anyone comment about that?

Step 6: Slice and Dice!

Picture of Slice and Dice!

As for ceramic knives themselves - for me they're great as something to make that cut or two on the go, but for serious food preparation I still prefer a decent steel chef's knife, mostly because it's easier to keep extremely sharp all the time.

If doing this again I'd definitely consider not making one of the handles from a ridiculous piece of wood with randomly placed thin contrasting dowels and veneer, but as you see I fixed that in the second one I made (the black one). I'd also either find a drill press or skip drilling the holes altogether. There are some smaller considerations as well, but I guess most of them are just beginner issues.

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Until next time!
Raitis

Comments

helljumper94 (author)2015-03-24

I've seen a lot of axe makers use boiled linseed oil to finish the handle. The boil one is better because it absorbs faster into the wood.

Raitis (author)helljumper942015-07-26

I'll have to try that, thanks!

_soapy_ (author)2015-02-10

I'll say this, because no-one else has.

Brace that knife blade! If your drill catches it will spin that blade around far faster than you can get out the way, & a razor sharp ceramic knife will mean lost fingers at 3000rpm.

I've had bits of blunt but thin steel slice my fingers at even low drill speeds when they grab. I've even put a cut into my leather safety boots down to the steel. Don't make that mistake with a knife blade.

Raitis (author)_soapy_2015-02-17

Thanks for noticing. That was one of my concerns as well and that's why I drilled while the blade was in the worst possible position for that: It was positioned so that I hold it on the non sharp side, the drill spins the sharp edge towards the border of the compartment so it's essentially stuck there.

There are also other things to note. While I've had some not exactly pleasant experiences with metal drills catching and now always clamp the metal plates I drill. These are a bit different though - they are basically grinding the material away and the diamond dust on these is pretty fine. It's also worth noting, that these blades being hard as hell and drilling being done a bit diagonally, a tiny hole will appear along the edge first and it will still take a long time from there to get the drill through all around, simply put, there's no sudden stuff, you just can't shed the material fast enough for that. All of this said, playing it safe still makes sense.

MichaelAtOz (author)2015-01-26

Is/was there a law requiring a piece of metal in the handle for weapons detection?? I have a vague memory...

amorarun (author)MichaelAtOz2015-02-14

I have seen a show on Discovery channel about ceramic knifes and if I recall correctly, they mentioned that they add steel powder in the ceramic itself to make it detectable by metal detectors. Though I am not sure if every manufacturer does that.
Perhaps running a powerful magnet against the ceramic knife might show if steel powder is mixed or not.

Raitis (author)MichaelAtOz2015-01-29

I have no idea, but wasn't the TSA doing full body scans anyway?

simplied (author)2015-01-25

I've done a lot of ceramic knives (with fancy handles!) & found there are a few tricks here & there to get a nice product. Start with taping the blade - painters tape works well - & wrap it with several layers. No blood! I avoided the Chinese blades due to the short shank so your idea to drill is interesting. Nice job!

Raitis (author)simplied2015-01-26

Thanks! Where do you get decent ceramic blades though?

The tip with painter's tape is great, should've done that. Common sense really.

I'd love to see pictures of your knives!

simplied (author)Raitis2015-01-26

Ceramic blanks both white and black available at Woodcraft.com. Black ceramic is a bit pricey though.

dan.blake.7583 (author)2015-01-25

Ever ceramic blade I've had, chipped away a little at a time, then broke one way or the other. People see the fact that the blade will continue cutting even with all of these chips as a plus, but.... I got to wondering....where do all of those little sharp pieces of ceramic go ? Wellll in your food, then into your body ! That's why Pro kitchens don't use ceramic, liability !

dirizary (author)dan.blake.75832015-01-25

Oddly enough, I began using ceramic knives when a professional chef I know showed me how incredible they are, several of the chefs he works with used them.

You have to have better than average skills to use them properly, you also must use them as intended, they are not for hacking. There is also a world of difference between a $400 professional grade ceramic knife and the kind people buy at the dollar store.

Raitis (author)dirizary2015-01-26

While these don't chip as Dan described, I have no doubts that professional ceramic knives are amazing for their purpose. Any resources or tips what's best done with ceramics according to pros?

simplied (author)dan.blake.75832015-01-25

Ceramic is inert. I have a piece in my shoulder holding a tendon in place.

dan.blake.7583 (author)simplied2015-01-25

Yes, but is the peice you have in your shoulder sharp, and jagged ? Consider those sharp little peices going through you digestive system on their way out.

simplied (author)2015-01-25

Lol - no, no it isn't. But it is screwed into the bone & hurt like the dickens for a bit. We have been using ceramic blades in our kitchen for over 5 years now - both Kyocera & ones I made. No ill effects at this point & no FDA issues either that I am aware of. To each his own I reckon. I won't buy or use chinese anything if I can help it - don't trust them a bit - especially with my stomach on the line! The chips are very small & you risk more with a chicken bone or bones left in ground beef I should imagine. If one should see a big chip missing, the obvious thing to do is stop & find it - same as if anything else tried to contaminate ones food. Free country still - don't like it, don't use it. Easy enough.

dirizary (author)2015-01-25

Very nice instructable!

Fikjast Scott (author)2015-01-22

beautiful handles, ;nice job

Raitis (author)Fikjast Scott2015-01-24

Thanks!

Phil B (author)2015-01-19

I would like to get a ceramic knife for use in the kitchen, but my wife wants no part of that. I did read ceramic knives cut lettuce without causing the edges to turn brown. I have seen ceramic folding lockback knives. I know a person does not want to pry with a ceramic knife because it will break. Thanks for your Instructable.

ironsmiter (author)Phil B2015-01-20

same principal as the plastic lettuce knives, but in a much sharper, more durable blade :-) They also work great for citrus fruits and onions. Fruits, because the acid isn't going to hurt your ceramic blade, even if you let it sit on the side of the sink for a day(may etch 'lesser' steel blades). Onions, because the uber sharpness slices through the cell walls instead of crushing them.

I have/had one of the folding ceramic knives. They are great, except for one small problem.When folded shut, the tip of the blade edge rests on one of the brass cross bars(that hold the scales). If you happen to drop the blade from any significant height(and from your pocket to the ground is "significant" so don't miss) it may land on the exposed back of the blade, and break in two!

Now, it's not the end of the world, since even half a ceramic knife is useful, and sharp as anything, but it is worth considering before making one your EDC. Mine is now relegated to box cutter duty, in which capacity it serves very well. And back to good old steel blades for my pockets.

ironsmiter (author)ironsmiter2015-01-22

here is a pict of what you are left with when you drop your ceramic folding knife.

Raitis (author)Phil B2015-01-19

You're right about prying. One should also avoid meat with bones and not use it as a flat screwdriver. I also read, that lettuce, apples and other stuff doesn't stain after cutting with a ceramic knife. Haven't really managed to observe this myself since I eat whatever it is soon afterwards.

With the price of these knives now, I see no issue of just getting one and trying it out. Wife may turn out pretty satisfied after trying one.

ironsmiter (author)Raitis2015-01-20

Definitely avoid prying ESPECIALLY after you go and cut two relatively massive holes in the thinnest(width wise) part of the blade. If it breaks, it will be right there by your poor fingers.

Sadly, this means that avocado becomes a pain, since you can't whack'n'twist to remove the pit.

Raitis (author)ironsmiter2015-01-20

It's not as bad, as you see in the picture the blade gets sandwiched in a place where there is a lot of material and holes are primarily for avoiding blade movement in handle when cutting. So there's no stress on the drilled part while prying. Knowing the blades though, I wouldn't use any ceramic knife for pitting - nice way to make the blade serrated.

ironsmiter (author)Raitis2015-01-20

Definitely avoid prying ESPECIALLY after you go and cut two relatively massive holes in the thinnest(width wise) part of the blade. If it breaks, it will be right there by your poor fingers.

Sadly, this means that avocado becomes a pain, since you can't whack'n'twist to remove the pit.

gunguru (author)2015-01-21

These knives are nice looking! The darker colored one doesn't even look ceramic!

Raitis (author)gunguru2015-01-21

Thanks, I haven't seen that black blades of non ceramics though, maybe you have a link or something?

Carmelite (author)2015-01-20

This was interesting for me, thanks. I am currently working on making a burn-fit handle for a traditional chef knife.

If you were to do this again, I would highly recommend trying out a slightly tapered octagonal handle, Japanese style. The flats really with intuitive understanding of perpendicularity (is that a word?), and the sharp angles aren't uncomfortable; instead I find them a good compromise between a triangle (too sharp) and a circle (no twist resistance). I'll link you to my instructable when I finish it!

By the way, how useful are ceramic knives for someone with a nice steel knife and who sharpens obsessively?

Raitis (author)Carmelite2015-01-20

Just googled octagonal handles and I think I started feeling an urge to make an extra knife with that - sure looks unique and as you say - there's added function as well!

If you enjoy sharpening that much - there's no real need for ceramics, unless as a novelty item to try?

Carmelite (author)Raitis2015-01-20

They're also my go-to shape for chisel handles.
I think you could just carve your existing handle into an octagon, maybe with a belt sander!

Raitis (author)Carmelite2015-01-20

I'll just leave these as is, don't have a belt sander anyway. I have one small 3" ceramic knife I never really use though, might try to take the handle off that one and make a new octagonal one.

PowellMade (author)2015-01-20

You make some cool stuff. I like the wine stopper and the photoshop art. Real talent. Some ceramic knife companies put steel in the handle to be picked up by metal detectors but I think it would detract from the balance. Well done keep up the good work.

Raitis (author)PowellMade2015-01-20

Thank you! I think it's normal among makers to look at each other's creations and feel like damn, he/she is making some cool stuff since I feel the same looking at your projects here.

You dug deep to find the wine stopper I guess, but what is the photoshop art you're talking about?

Professor-Mousedude (author)2015-01-20

a lot of knife makers use gun stock finishes. they tend to be very durable for things that get handled a lot. Tru-oil is popular.

Thanks for the idea, I'll do my research!

The Rambler (author)2015-01-20

This is a great idea and the result looks fantastic. Honestly I rather like the look of the "ridiculous piece of wood with randomly placed thin contrasting dowels and veneer".

Raitis (author)The Rambler2015-01-20

Haha, thanks! The idea originally was to drill and then turn a piece with evenly spaced thin contrasting dowels getting some sort of polka-dot look. After the first hole I understood, that I have no way of drilling them properly and just drilled randomly. I didn't even intend to make a knife handle out of it, but figured that would still make a use of that piece of wood.

to'bryant (author)2015-01-19

I have the same ceramic knives and I recently broke the handle just as you did. I was thinking about doing the same thing. thanks for sharing!

Raitis (author)to'bryant2015-01-19

Well, since the blades seem alright, it would be a shame not to at least try. Share how it turned out when you fix them.

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