Most knife blocks that are offered in the shops suck. The cheaper ones are made of blocks of (often tropical) wood glued together in some factory of far far away (I don’t want to think by whom), and the slots are subsequently cut out in some automated process. Most of them look shabby and are in fact too expensive for what they represent in terms of woodwork and functionality.
Then there is a huge variety of high-end design thingies, which only seem to be better, but are they really? First of all, even the chef’s knife blocks (ought to be ‘knives’ really: blocks for several knives owned by one chef) might have been assembled in places where we wouldn’t want to visit – who knows these things? And even here, there is always a slot of a size missing and a bunch of another size too many. How annoying isn’t it to spend a fortune for something gleaming in stainless steel and plastic only to have to keep the cleaver, the boning knife and the standard size chef’s knife in the drawer in any case?
Knife blocks ought to be made after requirement. How else? Only in this way we can add enough slots for all our knives – and making one isn’t very difficult. Okay: one needs to know how to use a saw and a drill, and how to make a glue-up, using dowels and white glue. One will need a bunch of glue clamps. If one wants to be picky and prepare the parts really nicely, one needs a medium sized plane with a sharp iron.
The first step is to take stock: how many knives are there, and how wide are their blades? Which two (or three) slot sizes would accommodate all these knives? I ended up needing 11 slots, five of which had to be 3,7cm deep, five were 5cm and the single slot to accommodate the cleaver 8,5cm. The overall height is a little more than 26cm, according to the length of the longest knife. The distance between the slots is a function of the average knife-handle width. If we now count all this together or make a scale drawing, we’ll be able to buy pre-cut, planed strips of hardwood at the DIY store. Don’t panic, drawings and a picture are further below. For my model I needed:
Six lengths of 26cm x the required thickness x the longer slot depth.
Six lengths of 26cm x the required thickness x the shorter slot depth.
One plank of 26cm length that can function as a sort of spine in the middle of the block; it can be as thick as one likes, but should be as wide as as the long side of the assembled block is going to be, minus the cleaver slot.
One plank for the cleaver slot (which is added at the end to one side of the whole block) of 26cm that is as wide as the whole assembly is going to be.
Two narrow strips, measurements according to taste, for the bars on either side that prevent the knives from falling out.
One narrow strip of 26cm length that defines the width of the cleaver slot.
Standard dowels and a suitable drill; glue.
Here’s the un-assembled sketch, showing the parts but only one of the six planks on either side for the sake of simpleness: knifeblockparts.pdf
Put together, the whole looks like this: knifeblock.pdf
The knife block I made for Robin last week is made of oak, of which I had a supply at home. Here a picture of the finished product in place: