Introduction: World's Largest Utility Knife? the 16x Scale Maker Knife
You wouldn't believe me if I told you I could build with a material other than pallet wood! Well I can... European pallet wood. So what’s with the change of scenery? I visited my friend Giaco earlier in the year to spend some time in his shop in Italy and built stuff. He’s the man behind the Maker Knife, a super sexy utility knife that he designed and manufactures, so really I had no choice but to create this beast. It’s 16x scale which works out to a little over 8’ long when the blade is extended and takes 2 people to lift up. What’s Giaco going to do with it? I'm back in the US now, so that’s his problem to figure out ;)
Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: Materials & Tools List
Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:
- European pine pallet wood
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/33RTqjU
- Misc wood screws
- Giant bolt and rubber washer I found on Giaco's floor
- Double sided tape https://amzn.to/387nCLl
- Plywood scrap for faux screw heads
- Bluetooth hearing protection - http://bit.ly/2YrnMsN
- Respirator (use code "PekePJ5" for 5% off!) - http://bit.ly/PEKEPJ5
- Thickness planer https://amzn.to/33QaqY7
- Miter saw https://amzn.to/387gu1C
- Aluminum bar clamps http://bit.ly/2Yg8GWV
- Glue roller bottle http://bit.ly/2PrcvVh
- F-style clamps http://bit.ly/33RpvbC
- T-track table http://bit.ly/2rit7Gm
- Track saw Festool https://amzn.to/2ritPn0
- Spindle sander https://amzn.to/2RlL2Xi
- Drill press
- Forstner bits http://bit.ly/34QvL4V
- Table saw https://amzn.to/2YguwcG
- Jig saw https://amzn.to/34QZTgw
- Belt sander
Step 2: The Inspiration
This is the original Maker Knife... honestly it look tiny after looking at the giant one for so long. It's a really slick aluminum and stainless steel design with a super clever locking mechanism. The knife will retract or collapse when your finger is in the ring, but you can still stab things with it and it'll stay in place. You can adjust the sensitivity of it too simply with a couple of set screws. This honestly isn't a sales pitch even though it sounds like it is, I really just love it. I actually learned a ton about how the whole thing worked thanks to this build.
Besides the Maker Knife itself, this was the 2nd piece of inspiration behind this build, the classic Stanley utility knife. This project was made entirely out of wood (minus the blade) and it's 3.3x scale made for my buddy Jimmy Diresta to fit a blade that he made (which was the reason that I built it). Why go even bigger? I like to make things difficult for myself... stick around.
Step 3: European Pallets
Hanging out in my friends shop in Italy, I couldn't help myself but to work with some foreign (to me) pallets. I'm not used to working with European pallets, but I assume you have to treat them a little differently. Disassembly of a traditional EPAL pallet is actually much easier than a standard pallet in the US, requiring just a pry bar to pop them apart. This one required a slightly different technique however.
Now the giant Make Knife is going to be made up of a bunch of different pallet wood laminations. The wood in European pallets is almost always pine, but because of that the pieces are much thicker. This is exactly what I want here though because it is going to take a large mass of material to make this thing happen.
Step 4: Milling Down the Pallet Wood
After disassembling the pallets, I start by squaring up one edge of each slat on the jointer. Then for the big side plates I'm going to do a lamination with the pieces standing on edge, so I rip the slats down to a bunch of 2" wide strips. The slats needed for the internal parts are left full width because they'll be glued together on the edge to make a few sheets. It's actually fun for me to work with this non-ideal material to make it work for my needs. Some would call me a control freak... and they'd be right.
All of the strips are sent through the thickness planer until the face of each of them is smooth. The size of the giant scaled up knife was actually determined by the length of the pallet slats. A one slat long knife (~46") just didn't feel like I was compensating enough, so I decided to split the length of half of the slats in half to make the knife 1-1/2 pallet slats long. You can see here the staggered joints on top of the clamp at the back of the photo. Glue is applied with a glue spreader bottle and then they are all clamped together until the glue is dry.
Step 5: Milling After 1st Lamination
Taking them out of the clamps is easier than putting them in. Now I actually glue these up in multiple sections, leaving glue out of the center joint so I can pop them apart once they're removed from the clamps. There is a large oval cut out in the original knife, so I actually planned ahead to build the side panels out of a strip on the top and bottom with a wider panel spanning the gap on either end.
After all of the laminations are done and removed from the clamps, I square up one edge on the jointer and cut them down to width on the table saw. The dimension of the wider panels will be the exact height of the oval, so this is a finish cut for those panels.
Each of these laminations is then further cleaned up but running them through the thickness planer so clean up each of the faces and also bring them down to a consistent thickness that is just shy of the finished thickness.
Step 6: Cutting the Oval and Laminating
I mock up the sides of the knife on the workbench. It's too bad you can't see my face really, this is the exact moment that I realized just how massive this thing was going to be. You might think to yourself that I should have realized this before this point, and you would be correct, but I don't think that far ahead (reference: my entire portfolio).
I use a compass to trace out the half circle cut out on one of the end pieces and then cut that out on the bandsaw and clean up the cut on the spindle sander. I can then use this piece as a template to trace on the other 4 pieces and then do the same cut & sand.
Then the sides are carefully glued together. After this point the side panel will be much too large to send through the thickness planer so I need to make sure that the lamination is done very clean. The long aluminum bar clamps hold everything together while the small bar clamps hold the sections even with one another so they don't slide out of alignment when I'm applying clamping pressure.
Step 7: Cutting the Side Plates to Size
Once again, I wait for that wood and glue sandwich to dry and then remove it from the clamps. This time I can just clean it up by scraping the glue off with a chisel and giving the surface a quick sand with a palm sander.
I use my 16x scaled up dimensions of the knife side place and draw them out on the side and then use a track saw to cut the panel down to size. It's at this point that I really appreciate the shape of this Cybertruck knife because it makes the task of cutting these 6' tall panels refreshingly simple. The first side panel is used as a template and traced out on the other one which is then cut to size with the track saw.
Step 8: Building Up the Sides
Now I can start building up the knife in the other direction building up from the side plate. Just like the original, the top plate is just flat, but the bottom one has a border around it. I glue up some more pallet wood laminations to create this blocking and then cut the angles to match the bottom plate of the knife. Once I'm happy with the angle an length, I glue it in place.
While that glue dries, I can start preparing the top plate. This plate has some screws countersunk into the top side of it, so I drill out now for the head of those screws. This is one of the few times I'm going to take creative liberty and just drill out deep enough to put in some fake screws at the end of the project, more on that later.
Pretty exciting, it's now starting to look like the knife which is the perfect time for some totally candid photos with the 2 halves of the knife.
Step 9: Preparing the Internals
Off camera I glued together the panels that I was talking about earlier that would be glue together edge to edge from the pallet slats. These pieces will all be built up in layers to create the internal mechanism of the knife which holds the blade.
I cut first cut these panels down to width on the table saw and then use the dimensions that I scaled up and transfer those onto each of the panels. I was able to make it work out so that instead of cutting out a bunch of different depth pockets I instead build up the part in layers -- additive manufacturing instead of subtractive manufacturing like the use for the metal part of the knife. See, school did teach me something after all.
Step 10: Cutting Internal Panels & Lamination
Through a combination of a track saw for the straight cuts and a jig saw for any curved or internal cuts, I'm able to cut it down to size along the lines I just traced out. This is the main section here and the bottom notch actually is what holds this from sliding out of the body of the knife and the top cut out is what holds the blade in place. I promise this will make slightly more (or less) sense later.
Part of the lowest panel actually needs to be made thinner to allow for this tab to flex a bit to let the blade be inserted. I cut most of the material away with a bunch of cuts from the track saw and then remove the excess with a chisel.
Now you can see the 3 layers that I've been talking about. Glue is spread between the layers and they are layered up and clamped together with a few clamps while the glue dries. This looks like some sort of weird wooden spaceship at this point, but I guess this project wasn't very relatable in the first place so it can be whatever you want it to be.
Step 11: Cutting the Ring
Once dry, I can then remove the few clamps that I used to hold thing thing together... In my defense, this was a really wide glue up and I needed to make sure that the joints around the edge were all tight along with the middle of the boards being held together too.
The back side of the inner portion of the knife has a circular cut out where your finger usually goes, but now I guess you can just use your head instead. I cut that circle out with a jigsaw and then cut these 2 relief lines towards the front of the knife. The remaining wood between these lines actually connect with the circle shape on the back side of the knife and it's thin enough to allow for it all to flex a bit. This flex is actually what trips the retention mechanism and allows you to retract the blade.
Just another photo op break for a sense of scale in case you missed out on that somehow...
Step 12: Finishing the Internal Mechanism
One more side plate is added which actually sandwiches the blade which is currently just a void inside of this whole pallet wood panel sandwich. I hold that together with some real screws and countersink out a large hole for some fake screws later (just like the outer plate).
Now for a test fit, the outer body is assembled and so is the inner mechanism and then they join together for the first time and make a bunch of baby Maker Knives (this actually saves a fortune on manufacturing). For now we cut out a mock utility knife blade from plywood, I'm still trying to convince Giaco to make one out of steel! The fit is perfect and it slides nicely, so now I just need to add the retention mechanisms.
Step 13: Preparing the Spring
The part that keeps the blade extended from the knife is actually spring loaded, which is a really thin piece of EDM cut steel in the original. For mine, I build up a giant L lamination of pallet wood (surprise?) with an overlapping joint at the corner to make it as strong as possible. Now say it with me, clamp it up, wait for it to dry, and then remove it from the clamps, you know the drill by now, it's the reason for my existence.
I use the track saw to clean up the long bottom edge and the miter saw to cut a square cut on the end of the giant L to give me a perfect square reference surface to work from.
Step 14: Trimming and Planing the Spring
Placing this L on top of the knife allows for me to trace out the final shape based on the pieces that are already glued to the body of the knife. I sneak up on the cut until the outside edge of the L lines up perfectly with the outside edge of the knife on both sides.
It's still a little thicker than it needs to be, so I use the thickness planer to bring it down to thickness. This is quite the maneuver, but I'm able to twist the piece through the planer to get it to cut the entire surface. I was hoping this would work when I was gluing it up because if it didn't I would be doing this by hand...
Step 15: Cutting Out the Spring
Now that the L fits in all dimensions I can insert the internal mechanism and then trace that out on the L so that the round part of it fits snugly against it when the knife is retracted. This section is then removed by cutting it off on the bandsaw.
The long end of the L is a little bit trickier to figure out. It needs to constantly be in tension so that it's spring loaded when you extend the knife, but I'm not sure at this point how well that will translate from the metal to the wood. I sketch out a rough shape based on the dimensions of the original knife and hope for the best.
I remove this material with the track saw and fine tune the cut on the bandsaw. This needed to be trimmed up a couple of times to sneak up on the cut because you know the best way to scare wood is to sneak up on it. I was able to get it to have enough flex so it was springy but also remained flush with the bottom edge of the knife when the blade was retracted.
Step 16: First Dry Run of the Knife Mechanism
The L is clamped temporarily in place and I let Giaco take it for the first test drive! This is a lot of fun to watch back, but you really have to watch it back in the full video to be able to hear the very satisfying and rewarding clunking sound that it makes when you use it. You can also see how the release mechanism works when you pull back on the handle, just like the original Maker Knife. I'm honestly still a bit surprised with how well this whole thing works.
Step 17: Installing the Retention Bumper
That L mechanism is screwed into the body of the knife with everything else and now I just need to figure out a way to keep the internals from flying out of the knife when you extend it. I found this rubbery plastic washer thing kicking around and it was the perfect size for what I needed, plus it offers a bit of cushion which honestly was required once I saw how much moment that thing has. I mark where the internal mechanism stops when extended and line up the hole in the plastic piece with that and drill and tap a hole for a bolt.
The hole is drilled just undersized a bit for the bolt and then I screw it through a couple of times which creates a nice set of threads to hold it in there. I cut the head of the bolt off so that I can put a fake screw head over it later and cut a slot in there so I can use a flat head screwdriver to thread the bolt into the plastic piece that I trimmed down a bit shorter.
Step 18: Testing the Whole Mechanism
There was nothing more gratifying then doing this for the first time, you get to hear the clunk of the spring loaded wood mechanism lock it in place and a thud at the same time when the rubber stopper stops it in place at the end of it's ride.
Step 19: Installing the Faux Screws
We cut out some pieces of plywood on the laser to look like star head screws, they're just a couple of layers of 1/4" plywood where one is a circle and the other has the star hole cut out and they're glued together. Since the real screws that hold the knife together are under these fake screw heads, I just mount them in place with some double sided tape in case anyone wants to take the knife apart down the road. How do I cut double sided tape? With my Maker Knife of coarse! (custom with pallet wood side plate because if nothing else, I'm consistent)
And with a little help from my friend, the useless giant Maker Knife utility knife is all wrapped up!
Step 20: Glamour Shots
And that's a wrap, a 8' long wooden knife that takes 2 people to lift and could probably total a car. Now I just need everyone to bug Giaco so that he decides to actually machine a metal blade to go with it. As always, checkout the build video for the full Jackman experience!
Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!
My Website: Essentially my entire life
YouTube: Me, in moving picture form
Instagram: Preview my projects as they progress #nofilter
Twitter: Riveting thoughts, in very small doses
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting what I do!
Participated in the