I am often asked about sharpening as a full-time or part-time
business. Part-time sharpening is indeed a business that offers
flexible hours but income depends on how hard you apply yourself. I
specialize in culinary knives and enjoy dealing with chefs and other
foodies and I derive satisfaction out of doing something for them that
they cannot do for themselves or that others have failed to do. You
may find your motivation elsewhere. Many of my customers have had
bad experiences with commercial services and with hardware or culinary
store sharpeners. I also offer scissor, garden tool and salon shear
sharpening but do not pursue that business. Every knife or tool
presents some challenge and I enjoy the variety and the problem
solving. Just a lot of knives, like a knife rental service, would be
boring for me but could be lucrative in the right market. Based on my
experience here are my recommendations:
Check with the restaurants in your area first to make sure a commercial
outfit does not have the market already cornered. Don't forget about
delis, butchers and food stores. Is there a food processor in your
area? They use lots of hand knives.
Even if the food industry has a commercial sharpener, there is still
plenty of business to be found. To find homeowners, go where foodies
gather - farmers markets and food fairs. Check places that sharpen
other things - lawnmower shops and hardware stores - and ask if they
sharpen cutlery. Chances they don't, or do a poor job, and you can
pick up referrals from them. Try flea markets and gun and knife
shows. One of my best venues is a culinary store where I go for one
afternoon every month. Another is a high end grocery store.
Consider adding household scissors right away. Later you might want
to do beauty shears (bring out your feminine side) or saws (bring out your
masculine side). These latter two are good money makers but require
more specialized training and equipment.
First and foremost, you need to learn the skills. My book, Sharpening
, is a good place to start. For more book
suggestions, see books.htm
If you can,
attend a sharpening school
For examples of prices, open http://sharpeningmadeeasy.com/receipts.doc
For an example handout card open http://sharpeningmadeeasy.com/card.doc
(Requires Microsoft WORD or equivalent software.)
For learning the business aspects, I recommend Robert
Young's How to Start Your Own Knife Sharpening Business
may also want to look at the free Internet course at www.myownbusiness.com
There are a few other resources out there, but none that I can
recommend. R. C. Cook's $6.95 "How to build a Knife Sharpening or a
Knife Making Business" is 12 pages of platitudes on business that can be
summarized as "be professional, have a business card, a business
phone and address, do good work and treat the customer well." Graham
Stuckey's 96 page, $30 "Trade Secret Revealed" tells the story of how he
started his Knife Sharpest business. Otherwise it is essentially the
instruction manual for his $3000 Grambo sharpening system.
If your sharpening interests include beauty shears and clippers, consider
subscribing to On The Edge newsletter by Jim O'Donnell http://www.otenewsletter.com
If your interest also includes saws, router blades, etc., check out the
Sharpeners Report monthly newsletter by Judy Brenner at Sharpeners-Report.com
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Both newsletters advertise new and used equipment. You may also enjoy the
discussions at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/HowToSharpen
Videos tend to be limited to one system. Spyderco, Razor Edge,
EdgePro and Tormek make good videos that describe how to sharpen using
Second, you need to pick your equipment. I use two different types
of equipment. Slow and/or wet is shirtsleeve equipment. Safety
glasses and other precautions are a must for any of the high speed
equipment. I always grind with the media moving away from me,
contrary to the usual practice. Also, belt grinders are safer than
wheels. You can shred a 1" belt without it even taking the tool out
of your hand, while a wheel spinning at 3000 rpm can throw a tool 60 feet
(away from me, of course, but you also have to be aware of others).
Ventilation is only an issue if you work in a small space like a van or
trailer. I usually work outdoors or in large spaces. Also,
most of my grinding is wet. I only use coarse abrasives, 120 grit or
lower, when dry grinding. The dust is large and settles out of the
air readily. Smaller dust is more likely to stay in the air.
Finer abrasives and/or belts or wheels that grind upward can put more dust
in the air and a mask is desirable.
If you only want to sharpen knives, the Chef'sChoice commercial sharpener
is a possibility for about $500. Ask them about their small business
setup. They also make a scissor sharpener.
A lot of knife shops use the TruHone, which starts at $650 for the LC
model, or $1000 for the heavy duty model. I find it inadequate by
itself and prefer the systems below.
For the best manual system, consider EdgePro. You can charge a premium for
a hand sharpened edge. See http://www.edgeproinc.com/
If you are comfortable working with a power grinder, there is nothing
faster and easier than a set of paper wheels on a bench grinder.
They will not do the heavy work of reducing bolsters, repairing broken
tips, or sharpening really dull knives. See paper.htm
Use the reverse rotation setup I describe in my book and my website for
greater convenience and safety.
My preferred grinder is a Tormek
It is the most versatile system on the market. The Tormek costs
about $800 with knife and scissor jigs. Much general sharpening (knives,
scissors and garden tools) can be done on the Tormek with a few pieces of
inexpensive additional equipment (belt sander and paper wheels). I
have added specialized machines for the final honing of knives and for
sharpening scissors, mainly because they are faster than the Tormek.
You can be well equipped for about $3000-$4000. I carry about $4000 of
equipment to the markets. My salon shear sharpener stays at home,
My setup when I do a farmer's market is a Tormek
, Twice-As-Sharp scissor sharpener
Dick RS-150, Dick RS-75
modified for serrated knives and a belt
. Knife sharpening starts on the Tormek and ends on the
RS-150. Most of the grinding is done by the Tormek, and the
honing an stropping on RS-150. This provides a consistent edge for
all my customers. The belt sander is used for reducing bolsters and
repairing broken tips.
I rely on a Wolff Twice-As-Sharp
for most scissor
work, including grass and hedge trimmers. Although it is a dry
grind and you have to be very careful of overheating, it is much faster
than the Tormek. I added a few specialized scissor tools - a scissor
screw tool and a fine hone to polish the inside surface of the shears and
scissors - both from Wolff Industries.
The belt sander is used to reduce bolsters and sharpen shovels, etc.
Some garden shears can be sharpened with the small hones but most
have to be taken apart and ground on the Tormek. Screwdrivers
and wrenches are needed for disassembling and adjusting scissors and
In my shop I can take more time and my F. Dick SM-111
is used more. Although it can do 400 knives a day when they have
stamped blades or have been previously sharpened, it can take up to 10
minutes to sharpen a large forged blade for the first time.
has a price list
that you are free to copy and use, or download the Word document at receipts.doc
These prices are middle of the range. For more pricing you can
go to http://sharpeningmadeeasy.com/links.htm#services
and check the sharpening services listed there.
to download the card I hand out at
markets (Word Document)
Please modify and use these documents for your own business.
For more comments on sharpening at farmer's markets.