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    Build a Magnetic Wooden Knife Holder

    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    I wanted a way to store my kitchen knives that would free up counter space and protect the knives' sharp edges from getting nicked and dulled (I spend enough time time sharpening my woodworking tools!).

    Here's one solution: Find a nicely figured piece of hardwood, embed some high-strength magnets, rout keyholes for easy wall-mounting, then finish with mineral oil.

    If you're lucky to have a full shop like I do at Makeville Studio, you can start with rough lumber and mill to final size. Otherwise, start with 1x4 hardwood stock, available pre-milled from most home centers and lumber yards.

    Tool options:
    If you're using rough lumber, you'll need a tablesaw, planer, and jointer. Otherwise, if you start with pre-milled lumber (use 1x4 stock), you'll need a miter saw or handsaw.

    You'll also need a 1/2-in. Forstner bit in either a drill press or a handheld drill.

    Last, you'll need a stationary or plunge router with a keyhole bit.

    Download: Get a step-by-step PDF of this project here.

    How to Make

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeViewfinder

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled): If you're using rough lumber, cut a piece slightly oversize on the chopsaw (see tip, below). Mill your piece flat and square, taking the thickness down to 7/8 in. to 1 in.

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlarge

    Crosscut lumber: Cut your milled lumber to size on the tablesaw: rip it to 4 in. and crosscut it to 24 in.. Or, crosscut 1x4 stock to 24 in. on a chopsaw or with a handsaw. Tip: Before crosscutting, examine the board for defects such as checks (cracks running in from the ends), knots, and anything else you don't like the look of. Then look for areas with color and grain pattern that you do like. Your 24-in. length should exclude the "bad" stuff and include as much of the "good" as possible. A quick and handy tool for picking out the best area in a board is a simple homemade viewfinder like the one shown above.

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeDrilling

    Lay out for the magnets: Lay out magnet locations on back of board. The 1/2-in.-dia. holes for the magnets will be spaced 1.5 in. apart, centered in the board.

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeRouting setup

    Drill magnet holes: Load up the 1/2-in. Forstner bit in your drill press. Set the depth stop so that the center guide of the Forstner bit stops short of the front face of your board. You'll want the bottom of the hole to be at most 1/8 in. from the face of the board. Drill 15 holes. Tip: No drill press? Use a handheld drill with an improvised depth stop, made of cardboard and tape.

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeCard scraping

    Rout keyholes: Lay out and rout two keyhole mounting slots. Mark two 1.5-in. lines parallel to the long edge of the board, starting 1 in. from each side. Using a plunge router with an edge guide, plunge in about 1/2 in. and then rout out your 1.5-in. line. Tip: No plunge router? Drill a 3/8-in. hole about 1/2 in. deep, place your stationary router in the hole, turn on the power, and rout the 1.5-in. straight line from there.

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeInserting glue

    Prep the surface for a finish: Prep the board for finishing. Use a card scraper or sanding block to remove any scratches or other marks from the visible face and edges of the board. The card scraper will give you a smooth finish very quickly. If you're sanding, start with 120-grit and then change to 220- or 240-grit for a final finish. Tip: Soften sharp edges quickly using a block plane to create a light bevel (inset).

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeApplying finish

    Install magnets: Glue in the magnets. One hole at a time, put a couple drops of cyanoacrylate (super) glue in the bottom of the hole and push in a magnet. Make sure the magnet is inserted fully. Tap it in gently with a dowel if necessary.

    Mill lumber (or buy it pre-milled)click to enlargeFinishing slurry

    Finish the rack: Apply a mineral oil finish. This can be as simple as wiping on some oil, letting in soak in for 15 minutes, and then wiping it off. But if you want a buttery smooth finish, continue to the next step.

    Sand in the finish: Load your sanding block with 400 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper and sand with the grain. When you see a thick oil/sawdust slurry forming, you're done sanding. Let the oil sit for 15 minutes and then wipe off.



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    I just don't see myself hanging knives with magnets.  I know people do it all the time, but it just seems dangerous to me.  I would rather keep them somewhere where they aren't in danger of falling.

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    sean smith writes:

    Is the magnet wood knife holder going to work for all kind of knife blades? My knives have all gone through an Universal Edge Prep System, it makes them last longer, and I wouldn't want to complete the project only to discover it wouldn't work for them. I'll make sure to check out other wood knife holders though!

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    Don't like it.

    Keith Whitmore writes:

     While I read your article with interest, it's not for me. Magnets might have their place in other places but it the kitchen, I think not! For one thing when you hang a carbon steel utensil up with a magnet the object becomes magnetized eventually. By this I mean if there is a small minute speck or particle of carbon steel metal around it will be atracted to the magnetized utensil. And, maybe even end up in the food your cutting. Mmmm, I can picture a trip to the dentist, on that one. Anyways, if you have stainless cuttlery it might 'stick' to the magnets. It all hinges on how much chrome they put into the mix to make the cutterly. Some stainless is magnetic

    Magnetic Knife Holder

    Alfred Obst writes:

    my solution to getting more magnet strenght would be to rout a half inch (give or take depending on the size of your magnets) dado on the back.

    Without the point on the Forstner bit, you could put the magnets a 1/16 inch (or less if you are careful) from the front face thereby increasing the magnets strenght. Glue the magnets in the dado.  

    My thoughts on magnetic knife holders

    Robert Groh writes:

    I am by no means an expert in magnetics but here is my take on the subject based on some thought as well as making 3 knife bars for Christmas presents last year.  First point, as Stephen noted, size of the magnet does matter. The one's used here are massive - rated for 40 lbs each! Cost is a bit less than $2 each which is not bad.  You can use smaller magnets but you will need more of them. I used much smaller magnets but put them right next to each other (about 1/3" diameter x 1/4" thick). It worked but came out a little bit weak.  I did use a steel bar across the back to 'concentrate' the flux and it helped quite a bit.

    Frankly the overall magnetic design could probably be designed better for more 'grunt' for less bucks. You do want the magnetics as close to the knife blades as you can get them - the attractive force drops off strongly with distance. I think you also want some sort of flux concentrators  - without something to 'catch' the flux on the back side you are loosing a bunch of 'good stuff'.

    Time to do some more experimenting!  After you decide on the type of magnets and the arrangement then you can design an attractive wood piece to house them.

    Wish I'd seen this before I

    Stephen J writes: Wish I'd seen this before I ordered some magnets, which have proven too weak (15mm x 3mm, N40). How can you tell which strength magnet to use ? The ones I bought are rated at a 2kg (4.4lb) pull. But this is a fraction of the strength of the ones used in this project. Our heaviest knife weighs 200g - a tenth of the magnet rating, but just slides off (takes 5 of these magnets to hold it). I've drilled as close to the wood surface as I can, about 2.5mm with a Forstner bit but can't go any deeper as the pilot spike would break through. I can see daylight though the thickness left by the pilot spike as it is.
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