I try to find small projects to work on through the winter to keep busy while it is too cold in the shop to do anything substantial. Last week while sharpening a few knives in the kitchen I decided it was time to find a better storage solution for our primary knives to keep them from banging around in a drawer. I had initially thought of building a traditional knife block but am not a huge fan more clutter sitting on the counter so I settled on a magnetic bar mounted to the side of a cabinet over the sink.
The cabinets are red oak so I started by grabbing a scrap and marking out the cavity on the back that will house the rare earth magnets.
I couldn't come up with a good way to create the cavity with hand tools so I broke out the trim router and chucked up a straight bit to rout out the waste a thin layer at a time. The back won't be visible so I just free-handed it and tried to stay reasonably close to the lines I had scribed. The plan was to leave the bottom, which is the front face, just under and eighth inch thick to ensure the magnets would grab the knives firmly.
This went fairly well up until the last small area on the final pass when the router base slipped up and the bit dropped deep enough to cut all the way through the front face. Crap. I'd like to blame this on the router but odds are I was distracted by the fact that I couldn't feel my fingers in the 15 degree shop and didn't lock the depth adjustment down properly.
At this point I was planning to chuck the failure into the kindling bin but as I was digging through scraps to find a new piece to start over I found a thin offcut that was almost perfectly sized to overlay the damaged front face. This piece also had some nice quartersawn ray fleck so I'll pretend this was all just a good excuse for a visual upgrade.
I was a bit concerned that the extra thickness between the magnets and the knives might weaken the holding strength but when I tested it out it still grabbed and held a knife firmly so I proceeded to glue it up.
Some glue and a few clamps later and I was back in business. The new face veneer was slightly smaller than the original block of wood but that won't matter after the edges are chamfered.
With the face repaired I went back to the router and reset and properly locked the bit depth before clearing out the rest of the cavity.
A chamfer bit hid the glue line from the face veneer and made the piece look slightly less like a plain scrap of oak.
After a bit of sanding I hit the bar with some mineral spirits to clean up the dust and see what it will look like after a few coats of finish. I was pretty happy that the repair is virtually invisible.
The next step was to epoxy in the magnets that make the whole thing work. I managed to scrounge these magnets from a collection of old hard drives (thanks Lon). I shouldn't have been surprised to find that the newer hard drives have much smaller magnets, luckily a few out of the pile of scrap drives were pretty old (8-15 gigabyte range) and had some big usable magnets. They don't all match but they are all pretty strong and you really can't beat free. I arranged them so that they were all attracted end to end vs. repelling each other, and then stuck them in the cavity with 6 minute epoxy.
After the epoxy cured I drilled and counterbored a pair of holes to mount the bar to the cabinet and then moved on to finishing. Since the knife bar will see some abuse as knives are snapped on and pulled off I finished it with 4 coats of wipe-on polyurethane based on its toughness and ease of application.
I mounted the bar to the cabinet and stuck on a few knives to try it out. The knives hold firmly and the only real issue with this solution is that we really only have one decent knife, an F. Dick 1905 chef's knife that Laura gave me for Christmas a few years ago, the rest of the rag tag cutlery looks a bit odd on public display.