Saturday, February 14, 2015

Alex's Austrian Projects for Kids: The Knife Block

The knife-block was invented for children in the age of 12. And it would be no problem, if they are not precise - the function is always the same, even if the joint is loose.
So here some thoughts about inventing this knife-block:
First: I wanted to make something handy for the time, when the project is done! Everybody has a knife in the kitchen to store and so the thought of a knife-block was born. 
Second: The project should be easily prepared - organization of materials should be no big deal, therefore it should be handy in preparation-time.
Third: It should be handy for the time during the education in woodworking classes. Therefore you need in this project the basic tools and the basic techniques for this tools: sawing, chiselling, drilling, filing, nailing and a little planing and sanding - beside of measuring and marking out and using a square. 
These woodworking abilities are mentioned in the curriculum for children age 12 here in Austria.
Here is my plan of attack for this project: First you cut the five long rails to size, make a package and drill in a hole for the dowel you instantly put in (this is nice for working all rails together at the same time by planing the edges on the shooting board or sawing the top joint with the two crossing rails - first you set the depth of the crossing rails with a marking gauge and sketch the position with a square; cut in several times that you can easily chisel out; round the edges of the block with a rasp and a file). 
Afterwards you cut the 7 short rails (use a miter box for sawing-beginners). Now you put out the dowel and chamfer all the long rails everywhere - a perfect exercise for chamfering: long side with the plane, short side with a chisel. Put between the long rails distance-plywood-strips and clamp the block together and nail down the bottom-rails with a triangle-sketch that you don´t nail parallel to the grain because of the danger of splitting - afterwards sink all 25 nails a little bit. 
Glue in the top-rails and sand the sides on level. Break all sharp edges with sandpaper.

Fourth: You should have a choice to make special features in your individual knife-block, that you can put in some ideas of design of your own. You can take different kinds of wood for design and for teaching different qualities and types of wood. You can change the shape of the knife-block - just some ideas: make out of the rectangular edges round edges or take a 45 degree angle on one side or both sides, file in a curve in the middle.... you can change the level of difficulty of the joints for individualisation (some kids are fast, some are slow) - downgrade: instead of chiselling in the two top-crossing wooden rails just nail them down or glue them (think about making the top-rails not flush, it´s easier); upgrade: chisel in the 5 bottom-crossing wooden rails. And I am sure that there are many more possibilities for own ideas!
Click to enlarge.
I hope my thoughts are helpful for school or blogs
and I am curious which project you will make.
-Alex Karu

Alex is Austria's most famous woodworking guru.  At least he's the one I know best!  If you like projects to do with children like this, leave a comment and I'm sure we'll be able to talk Alex into sharing more.  -Brian


  1. Alex I do hope you share some more tips like this. I recently made some utilitarian knife guards for my knives and it reminded several friends that they needed some too... I like this design a lot better and I can put my kids to work on making a small batch of these to share. Thanks!

  2. Great looking project.
    I like the idea that every knife will fit in every space. The knife blocks where there are different sizes of holes never seem to match all the knives in a household.
    Thanks for sharing.