Knife Block -- Free-Standing




Introduction: Knife Block -- Free-Standing

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

 My wife wanted a better set of kitchen knives.  I wanted to make a free-standing knife block for her knives.  Free-standing knife blocks like this were very popular at the time, also comparitively expensive. 

Step 1: The Knives and Sharpening Steel

 Here you can see the knives laid out with the sharpening steel.  You can also note the arrangement for the slots in the block. 

Step 2: The Basic Pieces

 I made this knife block thirty years ago, so I will use images created in Google Sketch-Up to describe its construction.  

This is the basic piece I used.  Five are required.  Each is made up from strips of oak scraps taken from old church furniture destined for someone's fireplace.  The strips were glued together for a butcher block effect.  I used a rotary planer attachment on my radial arm saw as a thickness planer to make pieces about 5/8 inch thick and smoothed them a little with a sanding block before gluing the five layers together.  But, that gluing operation comes later.

The five pieces are in the shape of an elongated trapezoid.  The long dimensions are 10 1/2 inches.  The longer end is five inches.  The shorter end is two inches.   

Step 3: Hole for the Sharpening Steel

 I did not have a long drill bit for drilling a continuous hole for the sharpening steel.  (The steel is ten inches long plus the handle.)  So I marked one of the five pieces to show where the steel would be inside the knife block.  Then I cut a trough with a router while using the router free-hand.  

Step 4: The Rest of the Steel's Hole

 Then I drilled a hole from the outside end of the piece into the trough.  No one would know by looking that the space for the steel is not one continuous drilled hole.

Step 5: Make Recesses for the Knife Blades

 I placed each knife on the wood surface of its respective piece and drew an outline of the blade.  Pay some attention to how you want the handles to be positioned when the block is finished and in use.  I used my router free-hand to make a recess for each blade.  

Step 6: Glue Up the Five Pieces

 Here you see the five pieces glued up.  Do not let too much glue run into the recesses for the knife blades.  I scraped and sanded the laminated faces of the knife block to make a smooth surface on all sides.  

I rounded the corners on all horizontal edges.  A file or a belt sander works well.  

Step 7: The Base

In the photo you can also see that I put a 45 degree chamfer on all edges of the knife block that were not rounded in the previous step.

The upright portion of the base is two pieces of oak glued together for a total thickness of about 1 3/8 inches.  Before cutting it, I used a fulcrum and experimented with where the fulcrum should rest to achieve the angle I wanted and to find a balance point so the knife block would be stable when standing on the counter.  The upright portion of the base holds the knife block about two inches over the top of the flat horizontal part of the base.  The flat horizontal portion is 4 3/8 inches square.  I used the router to make a quarter round profile on all four sides.  

The curves in the upright portion were done with two sizes of hole saws.  I smoothed them with a sanding drum on my radial arm saw.  

A long sheet metal screw (head recessed) goes from under the flat horizontal piece through the vertical part of the base and into the knife block.  The pieces are also glued.  

After sanding, I rubbed on mineral oil.  It does not become rancid and makes a pleasing finish.   

Step 8: The Finished Knife Block

 Here you see the finished knife block from a side view.  This knife block holds the knives at an angle that makes the handles easy to grasp.  

Do not insert knives with food particles on them into the recesses for the blades, or it could make a nest for bacteria.  



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    20 Discussions

    Thank you. Before those in your link came to be popular and available, what I have shown was an option, as I mentioned in my longest reply to 'shooby' below. That was about 1978.

    If you put your knives in sharp side up they will they will stay sharp longer because there is no drag on the cutting edge from the block, believe me all that taking and putting back adds up..........

    1 reply

    One could certainly do that. You probably have a very valid point. The bigger problem in many households is a failure to give a knife a couple of licks on the sharpening steel almost every time it is removed from the knife block. Knives like these should also always be hand washed, not placed into a dishwasher where they bang around against silverware.

     I'm confused about the purpose of a knife block. why can't you just put your knives in a drawer, and use counter space for other things? or is it to make access to knives quicker, or just for looks?

    3 replies

    A nice knife block adds to the good looks of a kitchen.  But, the main purpose of a knife block is to keep the knife blades from contacting one another, and yet have the knives available and easy to grasp when needed.  If blades contact one another, they nick and dull the cutting edges.  People who make the investment to have quality knives also want to protect their cutting edges. 

     oh. so it's like a sheath that you can put multiple knives into, essentially.

    That is a good analogy.  Some knife blocks are made of wood, even different colored woods in the same knife block.  Some are made of creative things, like Plexiglas. 

    While this is "free-standing", the nose appears to be very close to the counter, eliminating the space beneath it for other uses.  Why bother having such a small stand, if the space it saves can't be utilized.  Aesthetically it's slick though, and I appreciate designs that intentionally appear precarious despite being stable. 

    4 replies

    "Free-standing" was the only term I could think of to describe this knife block.  Perhaps there is a better term.  The space under the nose is not really useful for other purposes, and really was not intended to be useful for other purposes.  If space is limited, this may not be the design to use.  I think the important feature for this knife block is the convenient angle at which the handles are held.  Thanks for your interest.

    Right, that's why I use your definition of free standing.  I guess my point is that given this angle angle and elevation, you might as well forfeit the "free standing" feature for a conventional base/stand.  Essentially, your design is very similar to conventional knife blocks, other than being slightly less stable.

     This knife block is not a design that originated with me.  When I made this knife block it was one of two fairly common styles.  One was a vertical block with quite a few slots for knives of different sizes.  The other was very similar to what I show here.  Since that time, manufacturers have added a wedge-shaped piece to the side of the vertical blocks so that they can stand at an angle and they no longer make the style shown in this Instructable.  But, what I believe you are describing as a conventional knife block did not exist when I made this one.   

    If you read paragraph 2 in step 7 again, you will notice I tested the block for a balance point before attaching the base.  Because the block is mounted over its balance point, it is very stable.  You would need to work at tipping it over. 

    Fair enough! If it works it works.  I wasn't aware that this was one of the standard types.

    I read the title in my RSS feed, and thought it was a technique to stop someone from attacking you with a knife while you were standing up.  LOL!

    1 reply

     I can only hope you were not disappointed.  Thanks for looking.

    You do not need nice larger pieces of wood.  I glued together small scraps to make the larger pieces I needed.  But, the wood was nice straight-grained oak, which is quality wood for furniture.  One problem is that this knife block cannot be expanded later for more or different knives.  That means it is best used for a set of knives you really like.    

    Nice ible! Really good instructions and drawings. I've never seen a free standing block like that before, it looks really nice, though might take up more space in an already tiny kitchen!

    2 replies

     Thank you.  I am glad you like it.  It does take more counter space than flat magnetic strips mounted on a wall.  Thank you for not minding that I used Sketch-Up drawings rather than photographs for some of the steps.