Chef Knife Set WIP

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
As you might know, I'm a folder guy at heart, but that doesn't mean that I don't know how to make a full tang knife. Hopefully this WIP thread will prove that.

I promised my daughter that I would make her a set of kitchen knives, so no time like the present to get cracking. I have a full time job, a big family to care for, and I put in a lot of hours of service at my church. So, my shop time is quite limited, but I try to squeeze in a few hours on the weekends. Here are a few pics of what I got done this last weekend.

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The set will include a chef's knife, boning knife, small utility knife and a paring knife. Here is a pic of the four blanks after being cut out and profiled. I chose 440C steel which is a classic stainless that makes a great kitchen knife due to is stainless quality and it holds a super edge.

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After a while at the drill press, all pin holes are drilled to accept 3/32" pins. I also reduce the tang weight by drilling multiple holes to help balance out the finished knives.

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The next step was to taper the tangs. I think this step really makes a finished knife look classy and also helps to further balance out the weight and looks of the knife.

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I was able to get the initial hollow grinds done on the paring knife and the boning knife. Next week I hope to get the other two knives ground and all four polished up to 400 grit. Then it's on to the heat treating process.

I have some really nice boxelder burl that I plan to use for the scales on these knives and each will have front and rear bolsters that will be dovetailed with the scales. I haven't quite decided if I will do any filework on this set or not. I guess I will have to decide that before I move on to heat treatment, otherwise it will be too late. I'm kind of shying away from the filework as it might be difficult to keep the knives clean with too many nooks and crannies to get food stuck in. Oh well, I have a week or so to decide on that.

Let me know what you think so far and I'm always open to people's ideas and opinions.
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
Well, it's been a few weeks, but I'm back on track now with this project. I had a custom order come in that I had to get out the door. Here are a few pics of the progress I was able to make last week.

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I decided to take the first two blades through to the end before working on the utility and the chef blades. I don't like to get too many parts strung out all over the shop, and I get anxious to see a finished knife. Here are the paring and boning blades after coming out of air quenching.

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The next step is a deep freeze treatment, commonly referred to as cryogenic treatment, which completes the hardening process. This is not a true cryo treatment since I use dry ice instead of liquid nitrogen. Dry ice sublimes (changes phases from solid to gas) at about -110 degrees F and liquid nitrogen boils off at around -310 degrees F. But, since liquid nitrogen isn't readily available, and for me is cost prohibitive, I settle for dry ice which I can buy at the local supermarket. I've found that I get pretty darn good performance with dry ice, so I'll stick with that. I did have to build a bigger box to treat these blades in since my usual suspects are only 4 inches long. I used a piece of polystyrene insulation board that I picked up at the hardware store for a couple bucks, held together with the handyman's secret weapon - duct tape.

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In this photo I've begun the work on the bolsters. You can see the front bolsters have been ground to shape, drilled, and the back edges have been dovetailed. The scales will be made from this beautiful box elder burl. I found a large enough block to get scales for all four of these knives from with book-matched sets. Should make for a nice looking set of knives.

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I began work on the scales by fitting the front end to the dovetail of the front bolsters. I decided to try adding liners to the scales for a new challenge and to punch up the cool factor. These black liners are made from vulcanized fiber. How does everyone else attach their liners? I just used CA glue. You can also see from the photo that the dovetailed edge gets a liner attached to it as well.

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Next, it was time to finish out the blade and ricasso. I wanted a nice, hand-rubbed finish on these blades, so it was off to the vise for some hand sanding. My jig is just a piece of angle iron with a tapped hole to hold things solid with a bolt. I've been switching off between 3-in-1 oil and Windex for a sanding lubricant to test which works best. I'm still not sure which is better.

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Here's the blade after the hand finishing process. A nice 600 grit satin finish is hard to beat.

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Before I can go on, I need to get the front bolsters attached, and before I can attach them, I need to finish out the faces of the bolsters. Once they are attached, it's extremely difficult to finish out the font faces, so doing it before attachment is certainly the right way to do it. Here the two bolsters are pinned together, ground and hand sanded to a 600 grit finish.

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With a tapered pin reamer I ream out the bolster holes to give room for the pins to expand and lock the bolsters onto the tang.

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In this photo the bolsters have been pinned to the tang. It's a matter of smacking the pins repeatedly between a hammer and anvil until they expand to fill in all the holes. It relieves a lot of tension when you get to bang on something with a hammer.

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With the front bolsters attached, I can begin the process of fitting the scales. I know a lot of knife makers will install both front and rear bolsters first, and then try to fit the scales to the space between. I've found that doing it this way, I only have to fit one face at a time and don't have to try fitting two ends of the scales to two bolsters at once, which can get kind of tricky to get a tight fit. This way works for me.
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
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The rear of the scales get matched and dovetailed and the black liners attached. The rear bolsters get dovetailed and attached to the knife just like the front bolsters did. With this method I get a nice, tight fit. You might have noticed that the bolsters have not been shaped yet. I've found that leaving everything rough until assembled works just fine and cuts out a few extra steps.

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Here is the knife after a trip to the grinder. The bolsters and scales have been shaped and ground down to match the tang. It would actually look like a knife now if not for all that duct tape. I don't think a duct tape finish would be acceptable on a nice piece such as this.

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At this point, the scales are ready to be attached permanently. I mixed up a little epoxy and glued everything up. With the scales locked in by the dovetails, pins and epoxy, they aren't going anywhere.

More to come next week. Comments are welcomed, even encouraged. Feel free to share your way of doing things if you see where I can improve. Thanks.
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
[FONT=&quot]Well, from the lack of comments, I'm not sure if anyone is interested in following along with me on this build. Oh well, I might as well finish it off. This last week I was able to get the first of the four knives finished for my daughter's chef's knife set. When I showed it to her, her eyes lit up and the smile on her face was well worth what it took to make the knife. The other three are progressing well too. Here are some pics of what I was able to accomplish.
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[FONT=&quot]Above is a photo of the finished handle on the paring knife. The satin finish on the bolsters really sets off the box elder burl scales, and the black liners really define the scales as well. Dark liners look great with light-colored scales. The opposite is true as well; light-colored liners look terrific with dark scales.
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[FONT=&quot]Here is a spine view of the handle to show off the dovetails and the look of the liners. I like it![/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]I put an oil finish on the paring knife handle, and while it was drying, I got started on grinding the last two knives, the chef's knife and utility knife. Here they are with the initial hollow grinds completed. I got a new 8" contact wheel for the grinder this week and gave it its maiden voyage with these two. It worked great. I know a 10" or even 12" would have been even better, but it's much better than the 6" that I've been using. I've learned to walk a grind up the blade by applying different pressure to the wheel. Poor men have poor ways I guess.

After the initial grinds, they went into my heat treatment process. They'll be ready to go the next time I get out to my shop. I also got a good start on hand sanding the boning knife as well which I forgot to photograph.[/FONT]


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[FONT=&quot]Here is a photo of the finished paring knife. I designed the handle to fit my daughter's hand, which it does wonderfully. It's also very well balanced and screaming sharp. Should make her a great kitchen companion for hopefully the rest of her life. She was very happy with it and I can't wait to see what the whole set looks like together when finished.[/FONT]
 

Self Made Knives

Well-Known Member
I've been watching Brandant! I think these kinds of threads interest people, and they get a lot of views, but not many comments. Unless someone is asking for help on an issue, I think most of us just follow along quietly. We are all just watching the progress and waiting for more.
 

Ty Adams

KNIFE MAKER
Please keep posting. That has to be the nicest paring knife I've seen. I would like to see the finished set.
When you attach the bolsters do you use glue or just rely on the pins to hold them in place?
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
Thanks for commenting, folks. Knowing that someone is following along, I'll keep going forward with the WIP.

Please keep posting. That has to be the nicest paring knife I've seen. I would like to see the finished set.
When you attach the bolsters do you use glue or just rely on the pins to hold them in place?
No glue on the bolsters. The pins will keep them fixed solidly in place essentially for the life of the knife. Anyone who has ever had to remove pinned bolsters after botching something up like I have knows just how solid those pins will hold. No chance of them loosening or coming off. I do use epoxy for the scales, but pins only for the bolsters.
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
[FONT=&quot]With the paring knife finished up last week, I spent this week working on the boning knife for my daughter's chef set. I didn't get as much shop time as I had hoped, but I made some good progress on this knife and a little more work done on the last two knives of the set. I don't know how it happened, but I lost several of the progress photos I took along the way. My phone has been acting kind of weird lately, so that's probably the problem. Anyway, here's the progress.
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[FONT=&quot]Here is the boning knife attached to my hand sanding jig. you can tell that it's much too long for the small jig. I'm used to finishing 3" folder blades and most of my equipment is designed to suit those needs. This nearly 7" blade overhangs the edge by a couple inches, which was a little precarious with the point aimed at my gut, but I made due and came out the other side without any wounds. Well, at least not any fatal wounds.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]600 grit hand-rubbed finish accomplished. Pretty![/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]Onto the handle fittings. The front and rear bolsters are blocked out and scales book matched and ready to go. I'm not too proud or confident to confess that I skipped a step and messed up this set of scales, I got in a hurry and forgot to attach the black fiber liners before fitting the scales to the bolsters. A great big OOPS! If this knife wasn't intended to be part of a matching set of knives, I would have left the knife unlined and went on my merry way. But, since it's part of a set for someone whom I love, the scales were scrapped after a little tantrum throwing on my part. As luck would have it, I had enough leftover box elder burl to make a new set of scales from the same block as the other knives. I'm so happy the block was a little over sized to compensate for my boneheadedness.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Rule number one of knife making is take your time and think things through. When you get in a hurry, you end up making big mistakes. I still make my fair share of mistakes, but I try to learn from them and do better next time. I hope I'm not the only one who's hands work faster than his brains sometimes.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]The front bolsters get drilled to fit the holes in the knife tang. They then get pinned together, and the front faces matched and finished up to a 600 grit finish, just like the blade. Once these are installed, finishing the front faces is extremely difficult. That's why the faces get finished before they get installed.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]The bolsters get their dovetails ground in and are ready to be attached. I also use a tapered pin reamer which turns the cylindrical holes through the bolsters conical. This way the pin has room to expand as it's peened into the hole, locking it to the tang very securely.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]After some work at the anvil, the front bolsters are attached and the excess pin stock is ground away. I love it when bolsters just disappear like they are supposed to.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]The scales get their liners glued to the backs and the beveled faces where they mate with the bolster dovetails. I simply love how this black liners look against these blond scales. Sometimes things just work out right.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]Well, folks, that's the end of the photos, but not the end of the progress made on the chef's set. I lost the photos to document the rest of the work. I was also able to get the scales fit to the boning knife, the rear bolsters attached, the scales epoxied and pinned in place, and the faces of the handles ground flush after the epoxy had cured. I also made some headway on the hollow grinds of the utility and chef's knives post heat treat and started hand sanding the utility knife. If you want to see how these steps were done, everything was accomplished in the same fashion as the paring knife build, so you can refer back to the previous posts if interested.

That does it for last weeks work. More to come soon.[/FONT]
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
I spent most of the weekend with my son at cubscout day camp, so I didn't get very far on the kitchen set, but I did manage to squeeze in a few hours of shop time and was able to complete the boning knife. Here are a few progress pics.

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[FONT=&quot]Here's the knife where I left off last week with its chunky-state handle. Everything is glued and pinned together. Looks terrible, doesn't it?[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]The "chunky" bolsters and scales get profiled ground down to the tang. That's much better.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]After spending some time at the grinder, followed by some hand finishing, the knife is practically done. I know I said it before with the paring knife, but I really like the looks of the black liners with these light-colored wood scales. Very classy.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]An artist needs to sign his work, so here's the boning knife with my maker's mark etched in.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]And here's the finished knife. The handle got an oil rubbed finish with a coat of wax. The edge is crazy sharp and should make for a real nice meat slicer. Hopefully that meat doesn't turn out to be my daughter's finger. . .[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]In addition to the boning knife, I made some good progress on the utility knife, finishing the hollow grind and getting the hand-rubbed finish nearly complete. This weekend I should have a little more shop time, so I hope to get the next knife completed. If all goes well, I should be able to finish this set up and make a nice base for it in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for following along with me on this adventure into kitchen culinary tools. Comments are always welcome.[/FONT]
 

Dennis Morland

KNIFE MAKER
Brandant

"Knowing that someone is following along, I'll keep going forward with the WIP."

I have been following along . . . . silently.

The set is coming along nicely. Keep posting. I'm looking forward to seeing them all finished up.

DeMo
 

rlowery

Active Member
Brandant,
Great WIP. I am starting a couple of chef's knives for my daughters. What thickness 440c are you using and what material are you using for the bolsters.
Thanks,
Rickey
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
Brandant,
Great WIP. I am starting a couple of chef's knives for my daughters. What thickness 440c are you using and what material are you using for the bolsters.
Thanks,
Rickey
The thickness that I'm using for these knives is 1/8" and the bolsters are 1/4" 416. Good luck on your project.
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
[FONT=&quot]I hope everyone enjoyed their Independence day weekend as much as I did mine. It was nice to gather around with family, get a few honey-do projects taken care of, and to take time to reflect on the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy here in the United States of America.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]In between the celebrations and the projects, I managed to make a little progress on the utility knife of my daughter's kitchen knife set. Here are a few pics showing last weekend's accomplishments.

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I spent some time completing the hand-rubbed finish on the blade of this knife and covered it with the handyman's secret weapon to protect the finish from scratches. The bolsters have been blocked out from a bar of 1/4 inch thick 416 stainless and the inside surfaces have been ground flat on the disk sander.

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Here are the six pins for the knife made from 3/16 inch 416 stainless pin stock, cut to length and ready to be put to use.

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The front bolsters have been drilled and glued together so that the front ends can be ground to match. Here they are still glued together with a 600 grit finish on the faces. I use a small drop of super glue to hold them together while matching. A simple tap on a hard surface is enough to break the glue joint when the time comes to separate them.

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The back ends of the bolsters get a 30 degree dovetail ground in.

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After some work at the anvil, the front bolsters have been attached. No visible pins after a quick spin on the grinder means that the process was done right.

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Time to work on the scales. Here they are with the front edges fit to the front bolsters and the black liners glued in place.

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This picture shows the scales pinned temporarily in place. The front pin is way to far forward for my liking, but it's the price to pay after making the big mistake with the scales on the last knife. If you recall, I had to scrap a set of scales, which meant I only had just enough matching box elder burl for one more set so that all four knives would match. So, on this knife, I had to extend the back of the front bolster in order for there to be enough scale material for this knife. Since the holes were already drilled through the hardened tang, I was stuck with the pin location. It just goes to show that one mistake can ripple out in a large project. Oh well, I can live with it. Live and learn I guess.

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Here the rear bolsters have been installed and peened in place. You can see the heads of the pins here which will get ground off flush.[/FONT]
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
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[FONT=&quot]With the handle assembled, I ground the parts down to the correct profile. Even with that front scale pin a little forward, this should still be an attractive piece.[/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]Here's a spine view to show off the tapered tang and the look of the dovetailed bolsters and black liners. Pretty snazzy![/FONT]

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[FONT=&quot]The last thing accomplished was to glue the scales in place. Epoxy is always a messy ordeal, but it's a necessary evil to keep things fixed. I should be able to get this knife finished up next week and be on to the last piece of the set. Thanks for following along with me on this build. Comments and critiques are always welcome.[/FONT]
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the kind words, Steve. I jumped over to your website to take a look at your work. I can see that you and I share similar background stories on how we started our love for knives. Thanks for commenting.
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
Brandant - your WIP is coming along nicely. Been lurking but saying much. Those look NICE!!! Adding bolsters sure add a lot of work to kitchen knives. I did bolsters on my first kitchen knives, but have gotten away from bolsters. Bolsters sure do look nice:)

Ken H>
 

BrandantR

Well-Known Member
[FONT=&quot]Three down, one more to go. I was able to complete the utility knife for my daughter's kitchen set over this last weekend. I think it turned out just as nice as the others, in spite of a few hiccups along the way. Here are a few photos of this weekend's work in the shop.

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[FONT=&quot]If you recall, we left off last week with the utility knife clamped up, waiting for the epoxy to cure. The next step was to finish up the handle. Most all the shaping work took place on my grinder with either the flat platen or the slack belt attachment. I progressed up through the grits until the handle was nice and shiny. I finished up by hand to get into those hard-to-reach places and gave the bolsters a 600 grit hand-rubbed finish.

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[FONT=&quot]The blade gets my maker's mark etched in with my shop-built etching machine.

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[FONT=&quot]Here is the completed utility knife after the edge has been sharpened. It matches up with the other two knives of the set really nicely. Again, I'll take some better photos once the set is complete. Won't be too much longer I hope.

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[FONT=&quot]On to the last knife of the set, the chef's knife. Here's the knife bolted to my hand sanding jig, awaiting its satin finish.

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[FONT=&quot]After a whole lot of hand sanding, one side of the blade is finished. I got the other side really close to completion too before I left the shop. I hope to get this knife finished up soon. As much fun as I've been having with this project, I'm ready to move back to my folders. I sure hope my daughter appreciates the time and effort that has gone into making these knives for her. Thanks for following along with me on this build. All comments and critiques are welcome.[/FONT]
 

Ty Adams

KNIFE MAKER
Brandant,
Those are turning out nice. Your choice of material matches up well. I am sure that your daughter will appreciate all of your hard work.
Ty
 
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