Easy Wooden Butter/Spread Knives

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Introduction: Easy Wooden Butter/Spread Knives

About: Hi, I'm Doug Neiner! I'm a web developer by day with a passion for making things in the physical world. Most of what I make is primarily out of wood, but I'll also use paper, cloth or metal depending on the ...

If you are like me and enjoy building stuff out of wood, you probably have scraps and cut-offs all over your shop. This simple, quick project uses primarily the band saw and sanding tools, but the result is a beautiful knife for butter or softer spreads. You can make one of these in less than an hour, and with a fairly small scrap of hardwood.

My original inspiration for this project (especially the chef knife style) was a pin I saw over a year ago. I tracked it down to an amazing woodworker from Poland, “I love nature”. You can see the knives or visit his website. I am also very impressed with Linwood Handcrafted’s knives and cutting boards.

Grab the free templates and lets get started.

Step 1: Material Selection and Milling

When you are selecting the stock for this project, keep in mind the knives will be fairly thin. So choose stock with a nice straight grain. All three knives can be made from 3/4 stock.

  • For the larger chef knife shape, you’ll need a piece 8 1/4" x 1 3/4".
  • For the either of the smaller knives, you’ll need pieces sized 7 1⁄4" x 1".

Mill flat, parallel sides on the stock in preparation of attaching the template. I am using cherry, maple, and black walnut for the knives in this article.

Step 2: Attaching the Templates

The templates have a few different top profiles for the handles, so cut out the one that looks good to you, then cut out the side profile as well.

Using spray adhesive, attach just the top profiles to the wood. This project is fairly forgiving, so don’t worry too much about the template being perfectly aligned on the wood.

Don't apply the side profile template yet!

Step 3: Cut Out Top Profile

Over at the band saw, carefully cut just outside of the line. If you take each knife in four cuts, you can keep your fingers well away from the blade. By four cuts, I mean a cut on either side of the blade ending at the handle, and then a cut on either side of the handle ending in the middle at the previous cuts. Don’t discard the sides you are cutting free – we’ll need those in just a minute.

Step 4: Apply Side Templates

Once you have the knife cut out, re-assemble the three (or more) pieces in their original orientation. Using masking tape, tape the pieces back together. I’ve also seen Jimmy Diresta use hot glue in the corners of the work to put them back together for a process like this.

At this point you can attach the side profile using spray adhesive. The knife templates are flat on one side, so do yourself a favor and align that flat side with one edge of the wood.

Step 5: Cut Out Profile

Back over at the band saw, again cut outside the line – this time along the side template profile.

Once the knife is cut out, you can remove the extra pieces still taped together – and you’ll have a really rough knife shape.

Step 6: Define the Handle

If you go with the more defined handle, you may want to cut part of it back at an angle – this can be achieved using a saw and a chisel. Just be careful not to cut too deep with the saw… don’t ask me how I know that.

Step 7: Removing Milling Marks

Other than finishing, the remainder of this project is sanding – this is the part where you can really have fun and shape the handle and blade to your liking.

I started by removing the band saw marks from the blade and partially removing them from the handle. Its not as important to clean up the handle just yet, since you’ll be removing a lot of material as you round over the handle.

Use this opportunity to refine the side profile of the blade at a disk or belt sander.

I normally keep a 120-grit belt and a 60 or 80-grit disc on the sander.

Step 8: Shape the Handle

Once the blade is flat and tool marks are removed, round over and really shape the handle. I was able to do 90% of this on my belt/disc sander.

For the tight corners, you can use a 1” belt sander or a multi-tool (Or files, etc).

The bottom drop of the chef knife style template means you can’t fully shape it on the belt sander. I used a sanding attachment in my Dremel to refine the shape of the handle.

Step 9: Add the Bevel

Once you are done with the shaping, its time to add the bevel. I am sure you could be much more precise than I was, but I had good success with just holding the knife at an angle and beveling about half way through the width, then turning it over and repeating the process.

You can leave the sharp bevel or fully blend and round it over, its totally up to you. Just remember, don’t make the edge too sharp – this is for soft spreads and butter, not cutting food – so keep it blunt enough not to hurt anyone and for it not to chip.

Step 10: Raising the Grain

Hand sanding will probably be your best bet to refine the look before applying finish. To keep the knife from getting too rough when washed, dunk them in water and let them dry to raise the grain.

You can see how the fibers lift off the wood after this process. After they are dry, hit them with a little more sanding and the knives are ready for finish.

Step 11: Adding Finish

Since these will be in contact with food, use a food safe finish like salad bowl finish or mineral oil and beeswax like I used. I first applied a liberal coating of mineral oil, and let it soak in for a bit.

After wiping off the excess, I applied a home made 4:1 blend of mineral oil and beeswax.

To make the the wax/oil blend, measure 4 parts oil for every 1 part beeswax. You can experiment with how waxy you like the finish by trying 3:1 or even 2:1 (for a very hard wax). Heat the oil over boiling water with the beeswax in the oil. When the wax has fully melted, stir it around, and pour it into a heat-safe container to cool.

You can apply the mixture warm (liquid) or at room temperature (partially solid). I believe if you apply it warm, it will soak in a little further, but more recently I have been applying it at room temperature.

(Note the mineral oil I used is purchased in the pharmacy section and is intended to be ingested. Use only what you are comfortable with!)

Step 12: Take Photos and Try Them Out

For me, this is one of the most important steps in a project, especially if you plan to give them away. Take time to set up and capture photos of your finished work!

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    17 Comments

    How purty. The grain on those really makes them stand out, like a hangliding cow in a jukebox.

    Have you tried oiling with olive oil? I seem to recall reading somewhere that somebody used olive oil for some wooden spoons they have made. Just a thought as a possibly less expensive alternative to beeswax and mineral oil :) Great Instructable by the way. I'd like to say I'll try it but with with my deteriorating health it is sadly unlikely as I don't own a band saw. I'd have to use hand tools (easily done normally) but they are now getting harder to use..

    3 replies

    Thank you! I've heard the same thing about Olive Oil, but I'm not sure how they keep the oil from going rancid in the wood (Which is why I haven't personally tried it) – but you are right, it would be much less expensive than the blend. I'm so sorry your health is getting worse :( I agree, it would take quite a bit of effort to do by hand especially if that is harder to use for you.

    Wood butter can be made with a mixture of beeswax and coconut oil. Coconut oil takes nearly forever to go rancid - by the time it does, you have most likely cleaned and reapplied many times over. Extra Virgin Olive Oil can also be used in wood butter but goes rancid after 6 mo - 1 year. One warning about coconut oil though - some people have allergies to coconut. Other oils are not suggested since they go rancid too quickly or add flavor to the wood that you may not want.

    That’s great to know about coconut oil. Hadn’t considered using it before. Thanks!

    For a simpler, one or two day project for my middle-school shop kids, great idea! We'll sometimes add a layer of contrasting wood for the handle end, and I use Watco Butcher Block Oil on them for food safety. Lots of energetic conversations online about wood toxicity, and informative charts, but as long as the final item has a food-safe finish and is kept clean, there you go, for most species. They're certainly beautiful and a great simple useful gift!

    1 reply

    I can see this being a great project for school kids! Glad to hear more about your process too. Thanks!

    What do you recommend for those of us without belt sanders?

    1 reply

    If I didn’t have the belt sanders, I’d probably use a rasp and files to get the shape, and then use hand sanding to finish the surface. I don’t have any fancy rasps or files either, just basic tools.

    I was wondering about two things, first what grade was the sandpaper on your belt/disk sander, also when you mention your mixture of beeswax and mineral oil. Was the mixture four parts wax and one part oil?

    1 reply

    Great questions, thank you! I've updated the Instructable to address both of your questions, but I'll summarize here as well. I keep a 120-grit belt and either a 60 or 80-grit disc on my sander – I've changed it since making this project, and can't remember what the grit was at the time. With the mixture, it is four parts oil to one part wax, but you can experiment with less or more wax depending on how waxy you want the finish.

    I've been thinking at taking a stab at making a wooden spoon, but I've just changed my mind! Thanks for making the templates too. Yours really look nice.

    1 reply

    I’m glad! They are fun and fairly forgiving to work with. The shaping is probably the most fun. Good luck!

    Beautiful work! Those would make an awesome Christmas gift :)

    1 reply

    Thank you! I actually gave two of them with cutting boards as gifts last year, so I agree with you for sure!