DIYdiy projects

diy project: reclaimed-wood knife organizer

by Kate Pruitt

I love projects that make use of old materials, especially when they take just a few easy steps to complete. This quick and easy reclaimed-wood knife rack from Nick Ward-Bopp is something you could probably finish in a couple hours, and as he points out below, it’s a great way to make use of empty space on the side of your fridge or on your kitchen walls or cabinets. I might gussy up my version a bit by mixing in fresh wood and possibly painting a design on it. I’ve never used neodymium magnets, though, so I’m thrilled to see a project that proves their strength and usefulness. Thanks for sharing, Nick! — Kate

Have a DIY project you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .

I wanted to incorporate high-powered neodymium magnets into a project, and I had a small pile of leftover walnut wood scraps and old Douglas fir floorboards. I decided to marry the two materials and make a reclaimed-wood magnetic knife rack and put it on the side of the fridge, which would otherwise be dead space. — Nick


  • 5/16″ neodymium magnets
  • wood scraps, reclaimed floorboards
  • antique/distressed hardware
  • mitre saw
  • power drill
  • 5/16″ drill bit
  • painter’s tape
  • wood glue
  • hammer
  • super glue



1. Gather assorted wood scraps or reclaimed floorboards that have similar dimensions in length, width, and especially thickness. Using a saw, square the edge of each board by cutting off any uneven or damaged areas. Organize the boards in a way that mixes colors and woods and is aesthetically appealing.

2. Now you can apply wood glue to each board edge that will be making contact. Set up your clamps on an even surface and place the boards in the clamps. Allow 4–6 hours to dry.

3. Use painter’s tape to mark your depth on the drill bit to prevent it from breaching the surface.

4. For the magnets to be most effective, you will need to get as close to the surface of the wood as possible, leaving a 1/8″ layer of wood if possible. You can tap the magnets into place with a hammer and an unsharpened pencil. If they do not feel secure, you can back fill it with super glue or epoxy.

5. Check the magnetic force of your knives. The thicker the knife, the more force the magnets will have. This magnetic knife rack will be ideal for your larger cleaver and French knives. You may want to put extra antique hardware on your board for you bread and paring knives that have a slimmer profile.

6. Now you will need to attach the knife rack to your wall/fridge/cabinets. I used the original hinge screws and wood as a clever way to secure it to the side of the fridge. You could also countersink the screws, or if you are going into brick, you can use lag shields to anchor your board. If you are mounting onto drywall/plaster, I recommend molly/toggle bolts to securely fasten it.


Suggested For You


  • looks great, but I would make the comment that I would hesitate to use a surface that is coming in direct contact with my knives that might have lead paint on it.

  • Neat idea! I would just worry about lead paint on old boards where it’s near food and all -maybe a good idea to seal it really well with something?

  • This looks great! 2 questions: when you say add antique hardware for smaller knived, I am not sure what you mean. Will smaller knives not “stick”? Would the metal loops in the picture not rough up the sharp edge of the knife? Two, I am not clear on how you used screws and wood to connect your board to a fridge! If you could clarify that would be great. Otherwise, this is a really fun project!

  • Love the project, but am also curious about the colors of your fridge — did you paint it?

  • That’s a good point. There are loads of high quality food safe finishes out there that you can use to protect yourself from recycled woods that may contain lead paint. Look for wood polishes or sealers with ingredients that have natural wax and oil resins from linseed, sunflower, peanut, walnut, and carnauba. Unless you use a varnish, be prepared to reapply the natural finishes every year or so with normal use.

  • Can we talk some about how much I love your fridge? Did you strip the paint on the door yourself? Did I miss a tutorial on this?

  • @Anya, I did repaint the sides and top of the fridge with an exterior acrylic satin paint, and the front is simply sanded down. Here is a how-to on sanding repainting the fridge: http://www.jarboeinitiative.com/2012/04/refridged-cinder-planters.html

    @ Jamila. Smaller knives are inherently less magnetic, so yes it might be a good idea to add some old hardware so that a knife could slide into like a sheath. I used the original hinge screws from an old door frame (pictured above) to attach the magnetic knife board to the fridge. I simply pre-drilled the wood and the side of the fridge first. There is usually an 1 1/2″ or 2″ of dead space between the outside metal of the fridge and the interior plastic.. so just make sure to not use >1″ long screw to mount it.

  • It looks like you actually screwed the board to your fridge?
    Wouldn’t the magnets just hold it to the refridgerator?
    I guess I’m a little confused also, I’ve never worked with neodymium magnets.
    Thank you…………….

  • I LOVE this. We have many heirlooms from my great grandfather’s farm where he was a blacksmith and have never been able to figure out how to present them. I’m completely inspired.

  • @Nancy, because the magnets are only 5/16th” long, they are not long enough to make a solid connection with the surface of the fridge (boards are 1″ thick). The magnets come in all sorts of lengths though.. and since they are axially magnetized, if you got the magnets to match the width of the wood you are installing it in, that would definitely work. good idea!

    @Erin, Thanks! I did ‘rough sand’ the fridge and repaint it. You can see the cheap and easy how-to at http://www.jarboeinitiative.com/2012/04/refridged-cinder-planters.html

  • Nick, where did you attach the magnets, to the back of the wood or the front? How many magnets did you attach to hold the cleaver?

    Would those kind of magnets be found at a place like Home Depot?

  • @Kim, I placed the magnets into recessed holes on the back of the wood, leaving about 1/8″ of wood between the magnet and the knives. I got my magnets online from K & J Magnetics (http://www.kjmagnetics.com/). I used about (40) of their D55’s @ $.75 each it cost about $30 dollars total in magnets.

  • As some one who uses a lot of reclaimed wood, I worry about lead paint too! They have test kits (they’re bit pricey) at home depot that will let you know if you’re dealing with lead based paint or not. If you’re really concerned you can give it a light sanding and a coat of poly to prevent any paint chips from flaking off on your knives and it looks really lovely too. Makes any faded paint colors really pop!

  • I don’t worry about lead paint at all :) I like crunchy paint.

    Nice rustic piece. I like it.

  • This piece is beautiful – but pls take caution with lead as others have said- especially if you have children in your home. I work with reclaimed wood all the time and my baby son had crazy high lead levels in his blood when tested a couple of years ago. Its completely preventable but def something to be aware of.

  • You may have just just jumped the shark with this one. I’ve got to say this is a perfect example of what happens when a trendy form (lead paint, reclaimed wood, rusty knives that no one in their right mind would use) trumps all reason and function.

  • @Christy.. i use those knives every day. When the steel turns that color, after 4o years, that is called ‘patina’, which i think is beautiful. I also sharpen the knives, and keep them very clean. As far as the lead paint goes, if you were ingesting or inhaling lead paints on a regular basis that would prove problematic. The board has been sealed with food safe waxes, so there is no lead contaminate.

  • @Christy – the knives are carbon steel – not stainless – that’s why they are not shiny looking. If taken care of, such knives will last for years. My Mom has used her paring knife, which has a similar patina to the knives pictured, for at least 40 years. She has prettier knives, but the wood handled, carbon steel is the best in her view.