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So had I an old, damaged, food-stained knife block that was annoying me every time I looked at it. The varnish had come off after I used hot water to clear out some cockroaches that had taken up residence. It was ugly.

I've recently been introducing myself to woodworking, checking out different knife blocks I could make, and I saw one that had an iPad holder built in for when using recipes. I often use my iPad in the kitchen but on a separate perspex stand which means I'm taking up twice as much bench space. I'd just recently bought a laminate trimmer (hand router) and realised I could easily update my existing knife block to include an iPad stand.

That's what I did. It's not perfect, by a long shot, but it does the job.

Step 1: Supplies & Equipment

Supplies
  • Old knife block
  • Scrap timber for tablet support (I used a piece hardwood veneered ply I had laying around)
  • Wood glue

Equipment

  • Sander or sandpaper
  • Router/trimmer
  • Ruler
  • Clamps
  • Saw
  • Stain and varnish
  • Brush/rags for stain

Step 2: Sand Old Knife Block

Start by sanding the old knife block, making sure to remove any old varnish and stains that may be on the block. I used a random orbital sander for the majority of it but needed to use regular sandpaper to get into the corners. Be careful not to flatten the rounded edges of the knife block.

Step 3: Route a Groove in Tablet Support

Create a groove in piece of wood you're using as the support for the tablet. You could possibly skip this step, but I wanted to make 100% sure the iPad would not slip off the stand while being used.

To do this, I used at 12mm core box router bit. In hindsight I could probably have used the 6mm bit. I intend to embed the support 10mm into knife block (I measured the to the closest knife slot on the underside of the block), which means the centre of the groove needed to be at least 16mm from the edge of the wood.

Clamp a straight piece of wood (or other straight object to use as a fence) over the work piece so that you can get a straight route along that line. For my Ozito-brand laminate trimmer, the distance from the centre line to the fence was 45mm.

Then route using the fence to get the groove straight.

Step 4: Route Dado Groove and Cut Support

On the knife block, mark the centre line of where the dado groove for the tablet support. I chose 25mm from the edge.

Here's where I hit a snag. Whilst I could hold the knife block in a vice to get the surface horizontal, I didn't have any way to clamp a straight fence to the block. I ended up trying to use my left hand to keep it still. Bad idea. It slid far too easily, causing me to take a small gouge out at the start of the cut. In hindsight I should have glued it to the surface and waited for the glue to set, or used double-sided tape, then resanded the surface after removing the fence.

For you, secure a straight fence to the block and route out your dado using several progressively deeper cuts. Do not go the full depth on the first try because it will struggle to make the cut in one go.

Another issue I had was that my support wood was a smidgen thicker than 12mm, but I only had a 12mm straight bit. I used a chisel and course sandpaper to widen the groove, but it was still a very tight fit.

After the dado is cut, align one edge of the support with one edge of the knife block, use a ruler or square to mark the opposite edge on the support wood, then cut the support to fit. Also cut it lengthways to be the width you desire. I could probably have gone 5mm narrower.

Now's a good time to sand the surfaces to remove imperfections and slightly bevel the exposed edges (I secured my orbital sander in the vice, turning it into a small, fixed disc sander).

Step 5: Glue and Fit

Use wood glue to coat the surfaces inside the dado groove and fit the support into the groove. I needed to use a hammer to get the support into place because my dado was slightly too narrow.

Resand any surfaces that have marks on them (my vice left blue paint marks).

All of the sanding, routing, and bashing also loosened the wedge piece of the block, which I needed to glue back on.

Step 6: Stain and Varnish

Finally, stain and varnish the knife block.

I choose a Jarrah stain and varnish because I wanted to get away from the pine look. Unfortunately I didn't have any clean rags, so I used a brush. The wood didn't absorb the stain like I would have liked, so it's a bit blotchy/streaky. I'll probably sand it back at some point and reapply the stain.

Another day...

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