Wooden Swiss-Army-style Silverware Set





Introduction: Wooden Swiss-Army-style Silverware Set

About: My passion for making has blossomed and expanded since its inception. The ability to realize my imagination and work as a part of a group is the most empowering and satisfying thing I’ve done, and I’ve made...

I go to art school, and our final project was to come up with our own assignment for a piece, and then make that piece. It was pretty open-ended, and there were more guidelines, but that's beside the point. My project was to make something that moved somehow (either the piece moved on its own or had moving parts) and was a usable object. I picked up a bunch of pallet wood (possibly mahogany) and decided a wooden folding silverware set would be awesome. So that's what I made :). You can see more about it here . Here's the breakdown...

NOTE: For this project, measurements are up to you.  Mine was definitely pocket-sized, about 3.5x1.5x1.5 inches in all, fully extended it was more like 5.5".  That's awesome, but it's pretty bulky for what it is; I'd love to try this with a harder wood, at a smaller scale, and with more finite tools, and make it even nicer and more convenient to carry around.  Anyway, here goes.

Step 1: Materials

All you'll need is your desired block of wood and a dowel at least long enough to run through the final width of your piece, and fairly thin.  Mine was about a 1/4 inch.

Step 2: Planning & Marking

Step 3: Cutting

Cut out your main piece (if you're not just using the end of your bit of wood), and cut out the 3 pieces (from your main piece or not, it doesn't matter).

Step 4: Planning & Marking Utensils

Take the width of your final piece, and divide that by 5, because you've got two sides, and 3 pieces coming out of the center. You can cut out the 3 pieces one at a time or all together. Getting a cut across the back of the shell was too hard for me, so I ended up just gutting the space and cutting 3 pieces from extra wood to fit into my shell. So just know that might happen to you.  Be as accurate as possible, but you will be sanding things down considerably later on, so don't worry if something's a little bit off. Chances are it'll get corrected.

Step 5: Cutting Your Utensils

Step 6: Marking Utensil Shapes

Now mark out your utensil shapes.  Here, I marked a fork, spoon and knife shape on my 3 pieces and know where I'm sanding to on the knife edge and spoon indentation.  If your pieces are thicker or longer than mine, your shapes might be different (you might actually have a fork instead of a thork).  I also went with pretty blocky shapes, mostly because the wood was soft and I wasn't sure how to go about this project at first, but with harder wood and more care and precision they could be much more elegant shapes.  Just remember that they have to be durable too.  Mine at least was meant for camping.

Step 7: Shaping Utensils

Alrighty, now cut and/or sand 'em down.  I'd recommend sanding for most of these, it's just easier to control and you're not really removing enough material to justify cutting into these pieces.  I definitely could have taken a bit more time to work slowly at and control the shaping of my pieces so they were a bit cleaner.  When sanding, though, try not to take too much off of the overall width of each piece.  The tighter these fit, the better they'll keep themselves locked in the closed position when the thing's not in use.  Unless you plan to make some sort of locking mechanism :).

Step 8: Hinge-Drill Prep

Put all 3 shaped pieces back into the shell and line everything up the way you want it when it's done.  Without disrupting that placement, clamp the thing down on the end where the fork tines and knife and spoon tips are.  Then mark on the other end a point that's directly in the center of the width of the piece, and that same measurement from the end of the piece.  Draw a circle (if you want) that's the diameter of your dowel.  This is where the hinge will go for the whole 'moving parts' idea to work.

Step 9: Drilling the Hinge Hole

- Make sure your drill bit is the same size as your dowel!!
- Clamp everything onto scrap wood so you don't drill into your work surface.
- You can even gauge the depth of the drill by figuring out exactly how far in the bit will be when you're through your shell piece, and putting some masking tape right above it there, so when you're drilling down and you reach the tape, you're done drilling.  That way you won't drill through your scrap wood.

You need to be drilling straight up and down, at a 90 degree angle to your piece.  A drill press is key in this step, if you can find one.  There are small portable ones that'll be just fine, probably running 20-40 bucks.  You could even make one by Googling what they look like, they're not overly complicated.  But in order for the hinge to work just right, the straighter of a hole as you can get the better.

Step 10: Dowel

Test the dowel fit and cut it to size.

Step 11: Sand for Folding

I don't remember the measurement I used to get the right amount of sanding done, but play with it and I'm sure you can figure it out.  At least just do a little bit and test it, keep going back and forth until you get something smooth and even that'll unfold and fold with no problems.

Step 12: Finishing

Congratulations! :)

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    I think this is a great idea, but as a woodworker I would recommend a few changes. First do not use olive oil as a finish. Over time olive oil and vegetable oil can become rancid ruining the finish product. A food safe mineral oil or walnut oil (just be careful because some people are allergic to walnuts) would be the best choice as these both look good and are food safe. Second a lot of pallet wood is not treated, but are various types of hardwoods. I have seen everything from cheap mahogany, cherry, oak, poplar, to even the walnut that it looks like you used. You mainly want to stay away from softwoods (pine, cedar, spruce, etc) and the exotic woods (many of these have toxins in them). Also certain types of wood like walnut and Ipe have been known to cause allergic reactions in people (I once saw a man swell up so much from using Ipe that his watch started to cut into his wrist). Cherry and maple are two the best readily available hardwoods for food usage (stay away from nut woods). Lastly you can get away with not using the epoxy by carving a piece of wood in a dumbbell shape (or turning it on a lathe would be easier), squishing one end with a clamp, sliding the piece squished end first through the hole, and then wetting the squished end. This will cause it to swell back to its original size holding securely.

    1 reply

    That squishing and wetting trick sounds awesome! I've come a long way since making this. I'd had very little woodworking experience, and have since worked on multiple projects and taken two classes, one of which I'm an assistant for this semester, I've also got a new woodworking furniture project Instructable in the works to be published pretty soon. It's a footstool, involving mortise and tenons, turning on a lathe, sliding joints for a hidden shelf and upholstering.

    Thanks for the feedback! Most people have said this wood was some type of mahogany. And I'm actually using the last of it on that footstool I mentioned, for the legs. I ended up finishing this piece with mineral oil, and would definitely avoid the epoxy in the future. The design would be cool to rework a bit too, make it smaller and more conveniently portable.

    Neat. Good job.

    However, be very careful using pallet wood like this... Most of it is pressure treated.

    8 replies

    Thanks! What does that mean? How would it affect working with it?

    If by pallet wood, you mean wood that was used to make pallets with, the kind that products are shipped on, yes it could be treated. Pressure treatment means it is put in a pressure container with poisons that prevent rotting and termites, pressurized to force the poisons into the wood.
    Using wood like this for eating utensils could be very unhealthy.
    If you mean something else by "pallet wood" it may be ok.

    It was a bunch of about 2.5' x 2" x 2" sticks that I got from a woodworking store. They said it was pallet wood, but I don't imagine it'd been used for anything, unless they'd cut off any parts where hardware had been. It's all just rough sawn. So I just say pallet wood because the guy from the store helping me did.

    I have a feeling he is just suggesting you keep it as a nice art piece and make it out of different wood if your going to eat with it. Nice work though

    Sounds like he was talking about the quality of the wood, not where it came from. Given that it's pallet wood, if it isn't pressure treated, it's going to want to splinter -- a lot. Cool Project.

    Thanks! It's definitely dry, and very light, it made me kind of afraid to work with it, it was so weak or thing feeling. It's pretty sturdy though, not that it's gotten much use, but it hasn't had any splintering issues. It's been oiled and kinda just kept on shelves so far.

    I don't think I'm gonna eat with it, not after some of these comments, but I'm definitely thinking of making more stuff, especially after the success of this and other (non-Instructables) feedback.

    But thanks for the input. I'll keep that in mind in future projects with this wood just in case.

    very good! i like the drawings. olive oil makes a great wood oil, i have used it many times with no ill effects.

    6 replies

    Thanks! I could have just used photos and explained it, but I didn't have any process photos, and got inspired :P. I'm definitely intrigued by olive oil. Maybe once I finally make a cutting board or something.


    i used olive oil on the project in the link.

    Sweet! I noticed this, I was checkin' that out. Cool idea.

    Thanks, i thought it was too. one of those ideas that gets into your brain out of nowhere, already fully planned out. i love those ideas, but they are very rare.

    Yea, they're pretty sweet. When they're not planned, I've got my sketchbook on me wherever I go though. :P

    i think my sketchbook was eaten by my dog.