The steak knife block is an easy-to-build accessory that prevents cut fingers, dull knife edges, and gouged totes. It can be made from any hardwood. Traditional choices include beech and maple. The one pictured is red oak.
The basic construction is shown in the illustration below. The block starts as two pieces. Dadoes for the knife blades are milled in one half. The two halves are glued together. The block is ripped to final width, planed to thickness and cut to length. Then a finger recess is drilled near the top of each end. The block is drawn to accommodate steak knives with blades up to 4-1/2”. It is worth measuring the blades of yours — length and width near the handle — and adjusting the plan if necessary.
Step by step:
1. Start with a board about 18” long and 5” wide. Joint one edge and one face if they are not already straight and flat.
2. Plane the stock to a thickness of 1/2”.
3. Crosscut the board in half.
4. Choose the faces you want to show and mark the orientation. On the back of one board, draw a centre line and lay out four dadoes, 7/8” wide with 1-1/4” between them. Carry the lines around the top and bottom faces.
5. Set the dado blade on your table saw to 7/8” wide and 3/32” deep.
6. Using a miter gauge with sacrificial fence, cut the dadoes. A stop attached to the fence will keep the part precisely positioned.
7. Sand the inside faces of both pieces lightly, just enough to remove any planer marks and fuzz from the edges of the dadoes. Remove dust.
8. Apply a very light coat of glue to both pieces. You want to avoid having excess glue squeezing into the knife slots.
9. Clamp the two halves together, keeping them perfectly flush along one long edge. (This should save you from having to joint this edge.) Wipe off any glue squeeze-out with a damp cloth. Allow to dry.
10. With your flush edge (Step 9) against your table saw fence, rip the block to its finished width, 4-5/8”.
11. Plane the block to its finished thickness. (The plan calls for a thickness of 7/8” but if you measure against your tote, you can achieve a snugger fit.) Because the knife slots were cut in only one half of the block, they are slightly off centre. Centre them by planing more from the side without the dadoes.
12. Crosscut your block to its finished length, removing a little from each end. You want the block to be symmetrical, with the end-to-slot distances equal.
13. Drill a hole, 3/8” in diameter and 1/8” deep, on each end face of the block. The holes, which give your fingers some purchase when pulling the block from the tote, should be centred 3/8” from the top and midway between the sides.
14. With a 1/8” round-over bit, route radiuses on the outside edges of the knife block.
15. Sand the front, back, top and bottom of the block through 220 grit. Sand the ends of the block through 320 grit. Finer sanding of the end grain helps offset its tendency to hold more oil than the long grain, which can leave the ends darker than everything else. Remove the dust.
16. Apply Danish oil, following the manufacturer’s directions.