Chef Egg Makes a Chefs Knife

Chef Egg Makes a Chefs Knife

I recently finished a metal class at the Station North Tool Library in Baltimore. The goal of the class was to form my own chefs knife out of a thin sheet of steel, 2 rivets and 2 thin pieces of wood. The steel had already been formed so there would be no open flames and hammering for me. However there would be plenty of cutting, filing, drilling and sanding to be done before my knife would reveal itself.

The first step, pictured above, was to pick out the shape and style of my knife using wood patterns.

The next step required me to use a hand held saw/grinder tool to cut out the pattern. With lots of sparks and flying metal dust, I made sure to use eye, ear and breathing protection

Now it was time to file down all of the sharp edges using a belt sander, making sure to get everything as smooth as possible.

After everything was smooth, I clamped the metal cutout to a wood block and began to shave the metal down. This creates a bevel or angle creating a strong spine and the start of a razor sharp edge. After several hundred passes over several grits of sanding belts, I finally reach the right angle.

Now it was time to heat treat my steel in a small kiln. This process would change the chemical and physical composition of my knife to create a very strong and flexible spine while keeping the blade edge soft and flexible enough to sharpen into a razor sharp edge.

Sometimes the heating process can twist and turn, or even crack your blade if it's not done just right. Luckily for me, we just had to use a torch to heat my blade and straighten it slightly. After the blade is straight, it is cooled in a bath of oil.

After this step, it was time to go home and do my homework. Now that the majority of the shaping had been done and the first heat treatment was complete, I had to do some more heat treating at home. In my home oven, I baked the knife at 400 F for 4 hours, let the heat come down naturally, and then repeated the process. This further "tempered" the steel to make it stronger. After that, I sanded the steel to remove any discoloration.

When I returned to the shop, I had to choose wooden slats or "scales" for my handle. After drilling through metal and wood pieces, it was time to secure the wood to the metal using epoxy and metal rivets.

On my last day, it was time to grind down the wood handle to match the steel and then sand everything until it was smooth. To finish the process, I used the sanding belt to create a very sharp and lasting edge on my knife. This took several grits of sand paper and a final polish. I finished the knife by oiling the wood and metal and wrapping it an oiled cloth for storage.

Needless to say, this class was totally rad and gave me a great appreciation for the common tools that chefs and home cooks use every day. Now off to the shop for round #2!!!

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