Introduction: 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
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.
- Ceramic knife blade (duh)
- Dowels (I used Ø8mm beech dowels)
- Wood blank (used ash for both)
- Epoxy glue (disregard E6K in picture)
- Angle grinder w/ sanding disc
- Eccentric sander
- Diamond crown drill bit (Ø8mm)
- Drill bit for wood/metal (Ø8mm)
Step 2: 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
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
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
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!
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!