An Experimental Kitchen Knives Set

This set is numbered, but I won’t be selling it. I have tried several new things whilst making it and it was designed in part with a focus on ease of manufacture, except the experimental dimples in the blades.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The stand is made from three slabs of massive black locust wood and the front of the knife stand, the bolsters, and the end caps on knife handles are made from a coconut shell. Fitting the curved coconut shell perfectly to a piece of wood is of course not possible, and I have solved that problem quite successfully by dyeing the epoxy glue dark brown.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The finish is simply drying oil (commercial “Teak oil” which is a mixture of various oils) applied in several layers daily for over a week. It is still a bit tacky to the touch, but that should solve itself in time and with use. The surfaces are not overly polished – I did not go above 330 grit for both the metal and the wooden parts. Black locust wood has big pores in its growth rings, so polishing it very highly makes little sense anyway. I have, in fact, brushed the wood with a steel brush to accentuate the pores.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I tried to make divots in the blades to make them less sticky to food, but it did not work out, they have too small a diameter to have any noticeable effect (I think). I will either have to build a tool to make these divots wider or to make very shallow fullers reliably and reproducibly. Neither of those two tasks is easy and I do not currently have any ideas.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The handles are not of an overly complicated shape, they have simply hexagonal profiles with some curvature to the facets and smoothed edges. They are reasonably easy to make and comfortable in the hand. The tang is held not only with glue but also with a nut on the end, which is covered by the coconut shell endcap.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I think these three knives should cover just about any task that an ordinary home cook needs to do in their kitchen. I hope. I have given the set now to my mother to test and I have forbidden her to use any other knife for the time being under the serious threat of confiscating her other knives. She has got instructions to use and abuse them to test them thoroughly. If they pass the test, I will make multiple sets (without the divots in the blades) for sale.

I have also been thinking of adding this kind of picture in the future to my blades when I offer them for sale on the interwebs, to save myself the trouble of having to write the sizes in words for each piece. What do you think about that idea?

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.



  1. flex says

    Very beautiful, and I confess I’m a little envious of your mother, getting to try them out.

    Most paring knives I’ve seen recently have handles which are too short. I have a paring knife I use all the time which I ground down from a broken longer knife. (Not my fault, my son, who was old enough to know better, used it as a prybar.) The blade is only about 5cm long, but the handle is at least 15cm, which gives me a lot more control. The paring knife you made looks like it would be just as comfortable to use.

    I have two comments, neither of which is a slight on your knives.

    First, I like the graph paper idea for illustrating the sizes. It looks like you lined up the handle end of each knife to a vertical line, I’m wondering if lining up the start of the blade might be a better point of reference. The big chef’s knife has the start of the blade lined up, and it’s easy to see the blade is 20cm long. It’s a little harder to see that the middle knife has a 15cm blade. I don’t really know if it’s important. Maybe it’s better to have the start of the handle be the reference point, as you have it. And it’s a really minor suggestion which I’m not saying is even the correct one. Just a thought.

    The other point is that I don’t think I would use any of these knives for boning. For boning I like to have a very sharp point on a thin blade. That doesn’t mean I don’t love these knives, but that is a task in the kitchen which I don’t think I would use any of these knives for. Maybe I’m not an ordinary home cook, but I need to bone turkeys, chickens, and the occasional ham joint often enough that I really like my good boning knife.

    But the knives and blocks are very elegant and look very functional, which means they would be a joy to use.

  2. amts says

    As usual I just love the looks of your handles and block. They would be a handsome addition to anyone’s kitchen. I particularly like the idea of coconut shell for contrast accents as I don’t particularly like the idea of bone or horn.

    Also I’d like to hear what your mother thinks as to their functionality, especially the parer as the angled blade looks a bit awkward to my eye (but I’m certainly no expert). Just know that I’d love to own a set!

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    The knives in the knife block create a feel of movement. They just invite you to grab one of them in a fluid motion and start chopping, cutting or slicing as soon as there is any foodstuff on the cutting board.

    The knives are stylish and the rounded shapes of the blades and the angular handles make them look interesting. The texture of the coconut shell goes well with the wood grain.

    Also the epoxy impregnated coconut shell looks a bit like pressed dates (which I like). I’m almost tempted to taste the accents.

  4. Jazzlet says

    I love the coconut accents!

    I very much approve of the display on the measure, although I agree with flex that the most important thing is the length of the blade, but it’s a great idea to give people a real sense of the size of the knives you make.

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    Giliell @ 5

    Yeah, 60s or 70s Nordic design is the vibe I see in both the stand and the knives.

    Tapio Wirkkala’s puukko (and also his never-commecialized axe*) comes to mind, but comparing the Wirkkala’s and Charly’s work doesn’t do justice for either. The sculpted lines, metal bolsters and black plastic in the handle of Wirkkala’s puukko and Charly’s comfortable-looking organic knife handles are at a closer look quite different and probably come from different design philosophies.

    * = Only a few prototypes of this exist. Also there is a recreated version of this which was done in 2015, which I’ve seen “live” because the guy who did the recreation also operates a public sauna.

  6. says

    @flex I think both your points are valid.

    First, that is a good idea. I should probably align the knives on one of the thicker vertical lines at the blade base. That way looking to the left the handle length can be easily seen and looking to the right the blade length. However no matter what, still some arithmetic will be needed to get the overall length. My initial assumption was that the overall length is what most people would like to know first, but maybe they would like to know the blade length first.

    Second, these knives really are not ideal for deboning and I am well aware of that. Based on what meat is most readily available in shops around here, deboning is something occasionally done, but not regularly by most people. Chicken is about the only thing sold in big amounts here that could potentially need deboning, but I suspect most people do not bother with that extra work most of the time. I did use these rounded-tip knives for deboning fish (carp) but that is a bit different from deboning poultry. That is something I have done last time twenty years ago. I did not need to gut or skin anything ever since we stopped growing our own meat and most people living in cities do not need to do those tasks either.
    Turkeys and ham joints are a rarity, not sold regularly around here, ever. You can buy them, but you must seek them out.
    For more serious cooks I would definitively add at least two more knives -- a thin blade knife for deboning and maybe a cheese knife. I do not think I will ever bother to make bread knives, because a sharp chef knife works just as well. About the only thing I am definitively sure about is that I would like my knife sets to have an odd number of pieces, because those are more aesthetically appealing.

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