Steak Knives, Take Two

When I first made some scales for the steak knife set (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) about a year ago, things were going well until almost the final step when excessive tearout occurred when the roundover bit got a tad aggressive. That project has been set aside for a little longer than I expected (or realised when I looked at the date of the first effort!). So time to try again. I’m not sure if this specific set is still available, but there are plenty of other knife projects available here.

Unhandled knife kit

I didn’t take a photo of the knife kit again this time, so have recycled the first photo here. Now on with the new attempt (and yes, there is a more successful conclusion!)

To start, I have a new timber for the blanks (for a bit of variety!) This time the handles will be black hearted sassafras. The blanks have been roughly sized, and ready to be machined accurately.

I have improved the method I use to sand thin stock on the drum sander by making a sled.

Thin stock sled for the drum sander

With a piece of MDF, I have attached a thin fence to one edge with a couple of 4mm dominos.

Thin stock sled in operation

The sled carries the blanks in and through the sander – the increased area of the base works well with the sander to ensure no slippage occurs when the blanks impact the sanding drum, decreasing any chance of snipe or burning. These were sanded to 8.2mm to match the knife bolster.

Next, cut an angle on one end to match the knife blank. In this case, 36 degrees, which is easily done using the Incra Mitre Gauge HD, and even better when coupled up with the Mitre Express.

HD Gauge from Incra

Mitre Express

The Mitre Express makes machining small items safer, and minimising tearout.

Knife Scales

The resulting knife scales ready for the next stage. I needed to drill 3.5mm holes, but found my drill bit that size had the end snapped off from a previous job. So for a bit of a diversion, off to the Tormek and the drill bit sharpener jig.

Tormek DBS-22

This jig quickly turned the broken tip of the bit back into a well-formed, razor sharp bit, better than new (originally a 2 facet bit – this jig allows you to develop 4 facets on the tip).

Preparing the scale for drilling

With double-sided tape, I attached one scale to the knife, then the second scale to the first. This allows me to drill both sides simultaneously, and any breakout can be minimised.

Drilling the blank

After drilling, I drew around the handle, then detached the knife. After roughing down on the bandsaw, I sanded right to the line using a combination of the disk sander and spindle sander.

The scales are then glued to either side of the knife, and the pins inserted. They are longer than necessary, and get cut and sanded to size once the glue sets.

Handles ready for final shaping and finishing

The knives were then returned to the disk and spindle sanders to finalise the shape.

From there, I used a random orbital sander to sand all sides, and round over the edges (done with the ROS held upside down in one hand, and the knife handle bought to the sander). After a while I decided the microcuts were becoming a bit excessive, so finished the job wearing a kevlar carver’s glove.

You may notice the knife bolsters are no longer polished – while shaping some of the bolsters got damaged unfortunately, so it was better to have them all sanded evenly to match. It may look a bit exaggerated in the photo, but ok in reality. Not the preferred result, but such is life.

The knives have already been used a couple of times – it is rather cool using a knife you’ve made the handle for, and the knives themselves are heavy, very sharp and slice steak to perfection.

Forgot to mention – they were finished simply by rubbing them down with Ubeaut Foodsafe Plus mineral oil. This is ideal for chopping boards, salad bowls, and of course, knife handles.

Finished knives

(just reread this post the following morning- I really shouldn’t write entries at 2am: so many typos, including the title. “Sneak knives”. Either that is autocorrect gone mad, or I have!

A Surprising Weight

It has been quite a while since I mentioned the latest releases from MagSwitch were on their way, and finally, the wait is over.

Found an interesting package on the doorstep full of interesting yellow things, plus a couple of long thin boxes.  They came down from Maxis Tools, the Australian importers of MagSwitch products for woodworkers, and are retailed through Carbatec.

It was these that were significantly larger, and heavier than anything I’ve seen from MagSwitch before.  They were the Universal Fences.  One is 18″, the other 36″.  When I first saw the images of the items back in August, they seemed like they would be an average thickness, and it would not have surprised me (or bothered me) if they turned out to be a type of plastic.

However, the boxes were something else – a surprising weight and the contents seemed even heavier when they were out of the box!

Universal Fence Track

The fence was not the plastic I was expecting.  It is a heavy-grade anodised aluminium extrusion.  Heavy, strong.  The 36″ is an amazing chunk of metal.  Both take 1/4″ hardware on one side, 5/16″ hardware on the other, and T bolts on both, making it a flexible system to work with the jigs and accessories you already have.  It connects to the Universal Base on the back, and uses the same system of a diagonal member to ensure squareness of the fence to the base.

Shown here on a drill press, it can be used on all sorts of tools.  The 36″ one takes two Universal bases, which means it has 4 MagJigs holding it down, which is a lot of magnetic strength.  A fence also needs to resist horizontal slippage, and although this isn’t the strongest direction for a magnet to resist, having 4 strong magnets working together to resist is still a significant amount.

These are $49 and $85 for the 18″ and 36″ respectively.

Reversible Featherboard

There is also the new reversible featherboard, which again goes with the Universal Base.  It can be flipped over so works whichever side of the fence, or tool you want to use it on (so long as it has a ferrous base for the magnet to attach to!)  One thing I found interesting is it has been improved in function since the original featherboards.  There is now a variable thickness of the featherboard fingers – the first couple are thinner as the stock initially encounters the featherboard, being properly secured against the fence before the stronger fingers ensure it stays put.

The universal featherboard is only $19, and can be used on the base, or as the vertical attachment on the Universal Fence Track.

Now this is some pretty significant news: there is what they are calling a “Starter Kit” which consists of everything you see in the photo above.  The base, the featherboard, and the two MagJigs.  That isn’t the significant news.  What is, is it is priced for retail at $99.  That is only $1 more than buying 2 MagJigs on their own.  And if you have been following this site for a while, you’ll have an idea what else you can do with the MagJigs, so getting a base and reversible featherboard effectively for free will mean these things will sell like hot cakes! (And quite frankly, it is something I’ve been suggesting for years!)

Thin Stock Holddown

Finally, the Thin Stock Holddown, which again attaches to the Universal Base.  Has a stepped side as well as a diagonal side, whichever is your preference.  And the bearing in the middle is a roller guide when that is the best solution.  Again, the price is only $29.  Surprisingly reasonable prices (to my mind), which is seemingly more and more uncommon these days when prices are so often set as high as the market will bear.  At these prices it is more to my way of thinking – more money can be made by maximising the number of sales, not by trying to get every single dollar out of every single sale.

So whether you already have a growing collection of MagSwitch, or have yet to start a collection of your own, these new products, combined with those already out there will make the additional products very tempting!

And if you want a chance to check them out – I am at Carbatec (Melbourne) tomorrow morning (Saturday 19/3/11) demonstrating them along with a few other products and brands as part of the current Carbatec sale weekend.

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