Knives are a fairly useful day to day tool, and they need to be sharp to work well, but talk to different people and you’d be left wondering if knife sharpening is a science, a trade, an art (maybe even a black one), or more an obsession? When I look back at my path to becoming a professional knife sharpener, I suspect a bit of all of those apply to me.
I’ve always enjoyed using nice-ish knives in the kitchen and the outdoors, but for as long as I can remember I had trouble keeping them as sharp as they deserved, and needed, to be. I had whetstones, ceramic rods, diamond stones, the lot, but I just didn’t do enough of it to develop the skills I needed.
One day, after a lot of research but for reasons that are a bit hazy (it was almost 15 years ago), I took a big step and ordered an expensive, professional grade hand sharpening jig from a company in the US.
Within hours of getting the jig I started working on some of my own knives and it suddenly felt like I was a wizard of sharpness. With some pretty clever precision engineering, the jig replaced the need for years of slowly acquired skills with less accurate tools.
A friend who was part owner of The Chocolate Fish, an iconic cafe in Wellington, came round one day, saw the jig and my knives, and that was it. I was getting paid to sharpen!
I ended up sharpening for other well-known Wellington restaurants like Logan Brown and Capitol, though it was never more than a paying hobby as I had a 9 to 5 job in a government department. Looking back now, I was really just an apprentice just starting a learning process that carries on to this day.
Fast forward to 2014, and after a move to Nelson I thought it might be good to do some sharpening while I looked for a ‘real’ job.
It started with a stall at the Nelson Farmers Market, and lots of visits to restaurants, cafes, chefs and shops etc. Once people learnt to trust my work, the amount of business I was getting grew steadily.
Along the way, my next-door neighbour and good friend Mike Moss joined in. His background as a chef and fine woodworker means he also knows a thing or two about sharp objects.
These days we sharpen at two or three markets a week, have a workshop at the Braemar Eco Village, and we travel to businesses to sharpen onsite. As well as knives, we sharpen gardening tools, axes, hairdressing scissors and everything in between, and to answer two really common questions, yes, we can sharpen bread knives with big serrations and pinking shears.
It isn’t a full-time job for either of us, but our customer base is still growing, as is the number of different items we sharpen. As well as sharpening things, we also teach sharpening and knife care classes for schools and NMIT, and repair and re-handle favourite knives that need a little TLC.
We still use that same jig that I bought many years ago (an EdgePro for anyone interested), and do all our sharpening by hand, with no power tools involved. This gives us very fine control of how much metal gets removed, and how just how sharp we make an edge. In our opinion this is vital for any professional chef, hairdresser etc, to trust us with their sometimes very expensive tools of the trade.
So, if you’ve got some blunt items in your life, chances are we can help sharpen them up for you.
Visit our website or Facebook page to get more information on how to get hold of us.