Introduction: Bamboo Knife Block

Well, I have been leeching this site for over two years and I'm finally comming out of the woodwork for (ironically) the Craftsman contest. My grandfather was a Craftsman Man, and I am too, and it intrigued me enough to enter a submission.

My girlfriend's birthday was approaching and I wanted to make her something really nice, unique, and inexpensive. This project has a significant price range, depending on how much equipment/tools a person already has.

This design is fantastic. I have seen the concept floating around the internet. While traditional blocks offer solidarity, a very sterile and precise look, this skewer design offers extreme flexibility and is able to be deep cleaned, a very tedious experience for a solid block. As your knife collection shrinks and grows, this block can accomodate any variation.

I should have seen this comming, given the bamboo, but the block ends up having a slight asian feel to it, and since we both appreciate that, it was an added bonus.

These instructions are most helpful to beginners and casual craftsman. The elite woodworkers and SuperNoobs won't find this too helpful.

Disclaimer: There may be abundant compliments to Craftsman, but I assure you it is not an attempt to win the contest. I am a fan, and have genuine opinions about the company.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

You will need:


I used 1 6ft plank of pine 6 inches wide by 3/4in thick . Your exact lumber needs will depend on your specific knife block. My block was 10.5 in high, 6in wide (on all 4 sides.) I chose these dimensions based on 1) maximum anticipated length of knives to be owned and 2) ease of buying the lumber I did. I beleive the board cost me around 7 dollars from Home Depot.

Bamboo Skewers. LOTS . I could not believe how much this project's cost began to inflate after buying the skewers. I spent around $35 on them. Don't be discouraged, I seriously miscalculated my needs and upped my order to get a discount. I ordered about 3000, and ended up using 1000? 1200 tops. I did extensive searching and the best place I found is here:
 Plan to spend $2.00 to $2.50 in the store per 100 skewers. Make sure you are aware of the length and thickness of the ones you order. You want the block top to be slightly taller than your long pointies.

Tools: Here's where it gets good.

I have a crappy work surface so clamps are my lifeblood. I use these from Craftsman. you are going to replicate this project exactly, get a size bigger because these don't quite clamp the larger dimensions of the block.

Power Drill. A light weight one will be fine for this project.

Power Palm Sander. My grandfather used the one in the photo when I was a kid. He has since passed away, but the sander still sands. This is what they have today.

Sand Paper. Ranging from 120-600. The higher you go, the better and better it gets.
Finish. Not pictured, its up to you. I used simple polyeurethane. Paint or stain will work great as well.

Power Sabre Saw. Unless you're really good with a hand saw. This is mine

Combination Square. Absolutely necessary unless you want a crooked unsqyared behemouth.

1in Brass Wood Screws are what I used, though brass are for show. Regular will work fine.
Wood Putty.
Paint Brush.
1/8th in Drill Bit and Phillips Drive Bit.
I forgot, a 1/4in bit as well, or anything big enough to sink the screws you are using.

Step 2: Determine Dimensions and Cut Lumber

Once you have decided on the dimensions for your block, cut the wood. Always use eye protection. What you don't respect will hurt you.

Think ahead! You will notice on my block, I counted on each side overlapping the next on one edge. I felt this was the simplest, and in our opinion, added to the peice. The hardest part of cutting will be cutting the bottom of the block to fit the hole. Measure twice, cut once, and move carefully, and it should work out fine. Note though, that mine is not perfect, but its a pretty good job.

Step 3: Fitting and Assembly

This step will show you how well you did your cutting. If you were exact, it will be a breeze. If you did it like me, watch out. Please note that if you choose a different design, this part may not apply. This is how my design is assembled.

First, dry fit your peices. Place the bottom square on your table and put each wall around it how you want it. Put your best peice in the front, worst in the back, etc. Make sure everything is square and even.

Then, use your combination square to mark where you will drill your holes. The screws will go 1/2 way through the face of one wall, into the edge of another wall. Each wall will be drilled on one edge and one face. The bottom will have one screw into each edge for each wall.

Once spots are PRECISLEY marked, clamp the face wall to the edge wall at 90 degrees, or as square as you can. This is where I said the bigger clamps would come in handy.

Drill small pilot holes with the 1/8in bit through the face and edge on the marked places. Very CAREFULLY drill at least 1/8in but no more than 1/2 into the FACE of the wall you are dilling. This will hide the screws from obvious sight.

IMPORTANT: do not tighten completely as you go around the square. This will exaggerate any offsets present. Tack in all screws. THEN tighten each side a bit at a time to ensure maximum squareness.

Squeeze some light color putty into the holes left by the screws. I use an old credit card/ID to scrape across the surface of the wood, getting rid of the excess putty. Check putty directions for drying times.

Special consideration: put the bottom inside as you assemble. Or, if you perfer, just cut/sand the bottom to fit once the walls are together. Whichever you decide, make sure it does not make the block wobble.

Step 4: Optional Beautification and Enhancements

As you can see with my pictures, I added some flare. The rectangular portal is for showing off the classy bamboo, as well as storing smaller knives that don't need anywhere near the full height of the block. Paring knives and vegetable peelers are great here. The square portal is for the pair of kitchen sheers I bought her.

To cut these out, I drilled through the corners with a large drill bit. 1/4 or more if I remember right. Be careful, make sure the bit is completely within the desired cutout area. I used my sabre saw to get the most of it. Use a rotary tool like (Dremel, Craftsman) to remove the rest.

Step 5: Sand, Sand, Repeat

This project will give you what you put in (as most things do.) The more attention you give it sanding, the more beautiful it will be. The board I got was pretty smooth, but you may have to start with a 100 grit. I sanded twice for each level. 100, 220, 300, 400, 600. The highest I have found in stores is 600. I ended up with a very glassy surface, but I can only fantasize over a 1000 grit finish.

Make sure you sand down the putty bumps and the edges. The more you sand and sand, the more the faces and edges tend to blend together. Some edges on mine ended up invisible thanks to the grain lines.

Step 6: Finish and Stock

Pick you finish, mine was a clear gloss polyeurethane. I was very pleased with the color turnout. The finished pine looked great with the bamboo. I am not the best finisher. I am not yet patient enough to finish well, but I am learning. Make sure the surfaces are clean and smooth. Apply very thin coats each time. Lightly hand sand between coats. I used at least 2, maybe 3 coats. Watch runs along the edges, I think I caught a couple in the photos here.

Once dried as per the instructions of your particular finish, its time to stock it with those bamboo skewers you ordered. As I said, I used between 1000 and 1300. I gave my girlfriend an extra 100pack to replace dirty or broken ones. As you add knives to your collection, it may get a little crowded. So what? Remove skewers as needed. Someone steal all but 1 knife? No problem, just add some skewers to fit.

My girlfriend had just moved into a new apartment and didn't have an established kitchen yet, and she loves Paula Deen. So I ordered her some Paula Deen knives and a best-I-could matching kitchen sheers and vegetable peeler. These knives are SHARP. The sound the make as they slide in and out of the block is titulating. (Be careful googling that if you don't know the definition.) Be creative with the formations you stock the block with.

It really is beautiful in person, and if you give it a try, I would love to see it. This design is workable for many variations.

Lastly, I am entering this in the Craftsman Contest, so if you liked it please vote for it.

Enjoy and Be Safe! 

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