Introduction: Wooden Chef Knife
Runner Up in the
Knives and Blades Challenge
It us been a very long time since I've made a knife. Knife making is what really inspired me to become a maker. Now I've been making since I was just a little chap but my present maker philosophy started with two knives.
I was flipping through a field and stream magazine when I saw an article about people making their own knives out of used saw blades. For one, I didn't know that people made their own knives, and for two, I couldn't believe that they looked so cool!
So I decided to try one. My wife and I had just bought our first house and it had a small carriage house that I was converting to a shop. A carriage house is just an old garage for carriages rather than cars. Mine was built in 1890 and I knew it would be a perfect shop. Sorry I'm getting off topic.
My point was I had a very limited supply of tools and I started my first knife. It turned out awesome!! I used a saw blade for the steel and a walnut branch for the handle. I couldn't believe how cool it turned out. I gave both of the knives to my male cousins for Christmas and they got a lot of attention. That is when I started thinking about making more awesome things.
That project led me down this path that I'm on now. I'm a maker and proud of it. That project was completed around 7 years ago and I finally made another knife. This ones an lot different but still pretty cool.
I wanted this to be a project that anyone can do just like my first knives, so I only used three tools and it took one afternoon to finish, excluding glue bet time.
So I made two wood chef knives. These knives are super sharp and cut produce and bread really well. I know they aren't super practical but they are super cool so I think that makes up for it. I hope you decide to give these a go, and please enjoy my wooden knives.
Step 1: What You Need
Like I said I only used three tools for this project. A joiner, bench sander and a scroll saw. The joiner was probably unnecessary but but I had it out so I made it easier on myself. All of these tools could be substituted for something else.
Small scraps of wood
Butcher block conditioner
Step 2: Where to Start
I've been doing this woodworking thing for a while now but I still don't have everything that I need. One thing that is hard for younger wood workers is having an adequate supply of wood. Hard wood is expensive and not readily available in all areas. It take years, no decades to build up a good wood collection.
I am privileged to have an older, more experienced woodworking mentor that helps me out with this. Last summer I got a very exciting call from that mentor. He was cleaning out his lumber rack and he had a TRAILER load of wood for me! Now it was a lot of different sizes and species but it was like Christmas to me. That is where this wood came from.
I have to admit that I don't know what kind out wood this is. At first I thought the dark stuff was walnut but the color isn't quite right and it doesn't smell the same. The light wood is probably maple but I'm not 100% sure.
Anyway I traced out a knife that I found in our kitchen, made a few slight modifications to it and copied it on to some of our dark wood. I couldn't decide which way I wanted the grain to go on the knife so I made two.
Step 3: Cut, Plane, Sand
I started with the blade. First I cut out a more manageable piece with my scroll saw so it was easier to work with. Then I sent that piece over the joiner to get one nice smooth side. I had already traced my pattern so I was carful not to plane that side.
After one side was smooth. I cut out the blade with the scroll saw and then ran the other side over the joiner. At this moment you may be asking yourself why I chose to do it in that order. The very well thought out reason is... I have no idea. That's just how it happened.
Once I had two smooth sides, I quickly threw it on the bench sander to smooth out the sides and flat surfaces. Right as I was taking it off, one of the blades flew out of my hand and wedged itself in the sander causing an unsightly mark. You can see it in the last picture. I was mad for a bit but then moved on and fixed it in a really cool way that I'll show you in a few steps.
Step 4: Initial Sharpening
Before I put the handle on I wanted to make the bevel on the knife. This was way easier to do without the handle. I set the bench sander up vertically and slowly sanded the bevel on each side.
Because this is wood, you don't want to sand a sharp edge with the bench sander. Get close and then finish by hand. You will be able to get a sharper edge and do a more precise job.
Step 5: The Handle
I used the maple or whatever for the handle. I had a scrap that was too think for a handle piece so I took it to the scroll saw. Usually I would have used the band saw but I was doing the only three tools thing.
I tried to make a nice smooth cut right down the middle but it didn't work very well. A scroll saw is not made for deep cuts like this but it worked and I was able to fix what I messed up with the sander.
Once I had the sides smoothed out, I placed them where I wanted them on the knife and traced a general shape. For the blade that and sanded the grove out of I made the handle longer to cover my mistake. I think I like that handle style better than the other one. I took the pieces back to the scroll saw and cut them out. The last step before the glue up was to taper the front edge of the handle. The rest could be done after it was all glued up but the front couldn't. I used the bench sander for that.
Step 6: Glue Up
The glue up was pretty straight forward. Use plenty of glue and clamp well. I let the glue sit over night so it would be nice and strong. I had to do this step inside rather than in my shop because it was too cold for the glue to cure.
I was thinking that maybe I would use some dowels for pins just to make the handle look cool. It really isn't necessary because it is wood on wood but it would have looked neat. Maybe the next one.
Step 7: Shape and Finish
After the glue was dry I took it to the sander. First I made sure that the handle and the blade were flush all the way around. Then I started to work on the contours. I wanted the top to be nice and rounded so it would be comfortable and slightly more square at the bottom.
Then I moved in to sanding by hand to finish everything out. I started with 150 and went up to 800. Going up that high was unnecessary but I wanted it to be really smooth.
I used a food safe butcher block conditioner to finish the knife. The finish isn't as glossy as I would like but this is going to be cutting food so it needs to be food safe. If it were just a decorative piece then poly would be fine. I put on three coats of conditioner. After each application I would wait for it to soak in for 20 mins and then wipe off the excess. After the 3 coats it was silky smooth and seems to be water resistant. After use I wipe it off with a damp towel and I haven't had any problems with raised grain or anything else.
Step 8: Final Product
I really love how these turned out. It was fun to make a knife out of wood and it still have it function like a real knife. Of course it doesn't cut like a steel blade, and it won't last as long. But that's not the point. The point is to see if I could do it... Make something in a different way and have it look really cool.
I really hope that you enjoyed this. It was a really easy project and with some simple tools, you can do it too. Please ask any questions you come up with and thanks for reading.
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