Making a solid knife block

I have a bunch of nice kitchen knives, but have never liked the singular knife block I have in my kitchen. It came with the original kitchen knife set I bought 16-odd years ago. Since then I have added both vintage, German and Japanese knives to my kitchen. Now I have a magnetic wooden bar for under the kitchen counter (still to be installed of course), for the smaller knives, but what to do with the large knives, and the cleaver (also a vintage find)? Buying a knife block for a custom set of knives doesn’t work, and the heft and length of the knives means a magnetic knife block is out of the question. So a while back I saw a vertical knife block which seemed to fit the bill… a “solid” block made of walnut with enough room for about 12 knives. Only problem? C$270. Way too much, and on closer inspection, it was made with ¾” walnut joined to make it 12″ wide. So, I had a piece of walnut 1″ thick that was sitting around in the basement, so I made my own.

The finished knife block.

This block is approximately 10″×10″×4″ deep. The block is made of four pieces of walnut, all from the same slab of 1″ thick material. The knife slots are made by separating the pieces with ¼”×5/8″ strips of wood – some of darker walnut, others from a piece of pear I picked up recently. Pears and walnuts make a good combination right? I like the contrast, but you could use all walnut if you want, of any wood for that matter.

Pear, dark walnut, and pear again.

This gives six slots, which are large – one is for the cleaver, the others can be shared. Splitting the slots too much, takes away the generic nature of the block, and as the knives sit vertically, there shouldn’t be too much interference if two knives sit in each slot.

Making the block is a simple matter of making sure the four 10″×10″ pieces are all aligned properly then gluing the strips onto the back of each of three of the pieces. I made the separator strips, by running the pear and walnut planks through the planer to get the right thickness, then cut them to size on my table-saw.

The four segments after glueing the spacer strips.

Once the strips are glued on, the four individual pieces can be registered, and then glued together as a block.

The glued block before finishing.

When the glue is dry, I sanded it using my Festool RO125, using 120, 220, and 320 grit paper, and then gave it two thin coats of Tried and True, Original Wood Finish.Currently home to eight knives and a vintage cleaver (organized from largest in the back, to smallest in the front).

Overhead view of the finished knife block.

You could also incorporate magnets into the front of the block to hold a line of small knives if you wish.

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