Here’s our interview with Ben Dale, owner of Edge Pro.
1. Hello Ben. How did you start, and why did you get involved in the knife sharpening business?
I became interested in sharpening when I was about 11 year old. I was fascinated by how something so simple could be so difficult. Then later on in life I worked in machine shops and cabinet shops and did all the sharpening because no one else like to do it. Then when I was 40, I was sharpening knives for a friend with a restaurant, and a person with a seafood business happened by. He was very impressed with my ability and offered to help me start a sharpening business. In a few months I had a waiting list and the game was on. However I was working freehand and I was killing myself trying to sharpen this large volume of knives. So I started on a tool to do the job. Over the next ten years I built over 100 prototypes of the Edge Pro and sharpened over 100,000 knives for restaurants in Seattle. By this time customers we begging to build them a machine so I decided to stop sharpening and start building the Edge Pro. That was 25 years ago, and now we have dealers, and people making their living with the Edge Pro all over the world.
2. What were the biggest struggles when you started?
Getting restaurants to stop using their sharpening steels. I got to the point that if you did not get rid of your steel I would no longer sharpen you knives
. A steel will take the new edge off of a knife is seconds. Then I have to start over the next time I sharpen. I could not make any money doing this so I would just go to the next person on the waiting list.
3. What distinguishes you from other businesses in your category?
No other hand powered sharpener is fast enough to use for commercial sharpening. However most of our customer just sharpen for themselves. They own as many as 5 to 10 other sharpeners before they buy the Edge Pro. We here from them all the time, that once they found the Edge Pro, they have never purchased another sharpener.
4. Currently, what’s your business biggest challenge?
People using stolen credit cards.
5. What’s the most popular product that you sell?
The Apex 4 Kit
. The great thing about the Apex is does exactly the same sharpening job as the Professional. So this kit gives you the full range of capabilities at the lowest price. We will have a few customers buy the kits with fewer stones
and then add the more expensive aftermarket stones thinking they are better. But sadly they are not and they usually wind up using the Edge Pro stones in the long run but they have spent way more money than necessary.
The Apex 4 kit
6. Are you still improving your products? How?
We have never stopped improving the sharpeners. Recently we have added two new stones the 400 and the 1000. These stones out perform the stones they replace by a wide margin. We are constantly trying to find better stones. So far, in the last 35 years, I have tested about 200 different stones to come up with the 5 stones and 3 polish tapes that we use. We also just added the small knife attachment and before that the Stone Leveling Kit. In a few months we are coming out with a new case for the Professional.
7. How should a beginner start sharpening knives?
The best way for a beginner to start sharpening is with a Lansky, KME, or one of the many clones of these small clamp type machines. This way you can see if you are interested enough in sharpening to invest in a more expensive machine. Almost everyone the buys an Edge Pro has a least one of these machines and several bench stones.
8. What do you think is the most common mistake beginner knife sharpeners make?
They try to sharpen at too low of an angle. So they wind up with a very wide bevel which makes the knife
very difficult to resharpen and an edge that will not hold up to most cutting tasks.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about your business.
We do not advertise and we only sell to dealers that sell to the end user. We have no distributers for 2 reasons. We want to keep our customer service the best in the business and we only want to sell to people that are interested in sharpening. They have a very good understanding of how difficult it is to sharpen a knife so we get rave reviews from everyone that buys one. However, if we sell to people that simply want a sharp knife, and have no understanding of sharpening we wind up with unhappy customers because they find the machine difficult to use.