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Local knife sharpening business ideas

Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:12 am


I am thinking of starting a local home knife sharpening service. Since I am at home anyways, and somewhat addicted to knives and sharpening at the moment, I figured I could use some extra time to learn about the process, about knives in general and make some $$ doing so.

Thoughts about running a home knife sharpening business for neighbourhood residents, and people in the general area?

Any advice would be appreciated!

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:08 am

Expect crap knives badly beaten up. You need to be able to deal with Repairing more than sharpening. Two words - LOW GRIT :)

There is also some business you don't want. Butchers, pizza parlors, shoe repair. Some butchers will like a good knife but most won't.


Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:42 am


What do you mean by "most won't" like a good knife?


I am leaning to doing sharpening only and rejecting repairs such as really bad knives and broken tips...

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:53 pm


#1. Don't turn away business, just price it accordingly. There is no reason in the world to turn business down unless it's something beyond your skills or tools.

#2. Go to your closest Williams Sonoma and tell them you sharpen knives. Offer to sharpen a few just for kicks. Then leave a stack of business cards for them to hand out to people. These guys at Williams Sonoma sell a lot of knives, but offer no sharpening service. They may even let you set up shop in there once in a while.

#3. Have people sign off that they are OK with you trying your best, and that any guarantees are limited to the cost of sharpening. In the event something happens to their rare knife forged by magic fairies, you won't take responsibility even if demons posses you to hammer it to pieces just to see what happens.

It's one thing to try to sell something and a customer looks at it and maybe buys it, or maybe laughs and calls you an idiot (happened to me). Providing a service is a different thing, you can't easily take it back.

Like my barber used to say, satisfaction guaranteed or your hair back nicely packaged in a bag.

wm_crash, the friendly hooligan

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:35 pm

How would you go about handling #3?

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:53 pm

Most butchers use softer steel knives (HRC mid 50's or so) and use a ribbed steel to keep it 'sharp'. One swipe of that steel and it will work your hard work right off the knife. It is deeply embedded in the US butcher's culture that they cut a few slices and steel, then do it again. They also hit bone often and ding their edges. It is very hard to change their ways. Shoe repair people are always hitting nails when cutting leather completely dinging their edges badly. If your edge lasts 5 cuts without hitting a nail, that will be the best luck you can expect. Besides they sharpen their own knives on the same equipment they polish their shoes with.

People don't bring in their knives for a 10k edge. They bring it in because it fell in the garbage disposal, they broke an inch off of a $20 knife prying a door open and are shocked that you want more than $2 to fix it, etc etc.

#3 If you accept the knife to sharpen, you are saying you can do it. If you say a job is worth a certain amount and it turns out to be WAY more work, YOU EAT IT. This is your education. If you can't accurately estimate, you need to learn by EATING your losses.

Learn to deal with 'chips and tips'.

Even if you do a $2 knife for 50 cents or even free, do your best work. It will bring you business. If you do a half assed job on a cheap knife, that will be the level of skill you are advertising you are capable of doing. Bad news travels fast.


Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:18 am

Butchers don't just use the steel to "sharpen" the knife; it also cleans the fat off the edge.

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:56 am

I have a knife sharpening business, many of the knives I get look like they have been dragged behind a car for a few miles before i get them.

You need to be completely comfortable with your sharpening skills before charging someone, then, as Ken says, you need to treat each knife as if it were a family heirloom, don't look down on a knife that cost $6.95. The owners mother may have given it to them and it may have special meaning, every knife is important and you need to be grateful that people trust you with their knives.

The folks who own 20 dollar knives may consider them as their their prized possessions and regardless of how much they are worth, you need to treat them as such.

Cutco knives are best in the world, I learned this quickly from Cutco owners, you should consider it a privilege if you get the opportunity to sharpen them :)

You need to be comfortable with knife repairs, it is part of knife sharpening. You get a knife or a bundle of knives, inspect the edges and some will have nicks in them, you need to repair them before sharpening them, you will find this very rewarding and it isn't hard to do.

Know that for many people, paying to get the knives sharpened is an expense and often comes after the wife has nagged the husband into letting someone do it, prepare to be judged.

I charge $1.25 an inch, repairs are normally free.

In my case, on day one, I took a few of my own knives that I had just sharpened to the Manager of a high end kitchen store here, (after talking to him first about sharpening) once he saw the knives, he advertised for me. That was the key, establishing contact and proving myself to a person who knew knives.

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Sun Dec 30, 2012 2:28 pm

Someday hopefully I'll have the time and ambition to formally hang out my shingle. Right now I sharpen for coworkers and select people that are referred to me. To do it for a business you do need dedication, attention to detail and patience. One of my main problems is that I really only enjoy sharpening better Japanese knives, other ones just bore me. The quickest way to get me to sharpen one is to present a brand I've never seen or a steel I've never sharpened before. That always gets my attention! :lol:

Re: Local knife sharpening business ideas

Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:30 pm

corpfan1 wrote:Thoughts about running a home knife sharpening business for neighbourhood residents, and people in the general area?

Any advice would be appreciated!

I have considered offering a similar service - but only after I retire.

Speaking from experience, if your intention is to run a business and not do this as a hobby, it will be almost impossible to recoup your initial outlay doing things this way. People will not make the effort to come to your door. You would need to build up a regular clientele amongst restaurants (butchers seem to prefer to maintain their knives by themselves) where you can offer either an onsite sharpening service or a knife exchange. There are a few people in the larger Oz cities that have a benchgrinder setup mounted on the back of a motorcycle which they park in the alleyways behind restaurants and offer a "knife sharpening" service. I believe they manage to make a living this way as some seem to have been doing this for years.

The majority of knives in the possession of households and professionals are made with something similar to 440A stainless (or even worse) and will not hold a decent edge. Their owners are relatively ignorant of knife quality and maintenance (as was I until very recently) and all these blades are likely to see are either the dreaded V-carbides, or grand-dad's attempts to 'fix them' with a benchgrinder. Working on these knives will often be more about repair than sharpening

As these knives are relatively inexpensive (think <$20 per knife), their owners will be unwilling to spend more than ~$2 to have their knives sharpened. If you base your time at only $12ph, you will still have to be able to sharpen a knife in under 10minutes. Doing this with whetstones is possible but IMHO some sort of powered system is better for these mediocre steels - especially if reprofiling/repair has to be factored in.

I use whetstones only for the quality knives that warrant the extra time and effort. For repair and sharpening the majority of the knives that pass thru my hands I use a combination of variable speed RadiusMaster beltgrinder and Paperwheels. Using this system I can repair and sharpen a typical fish filleting knife (seems like it's mainly the fisherfolk around here that appreciate sharp knives) in about 4minutes. Typical response from owners is "this is sharper than when I bought it".

I wish you luck in your enterprise, but it will take a lot of persistent effort to develop the regular clientele you will need to make this a profitable business
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