Here’s our third interview- this time we have Robin from SharpKnives.co.uk.
1. Can you tell us what’s the first knife that you sharpened?
Not really, I have done so many tens of thousands now, it’s all a blur.
2. How did you make it a business, and how long have you been doing it for?
The business grew by word of mouth and recommendation, and then my customer base grew bigger and wider. I have been sharpening for about 20 years.
3. What’s your sharpening technique?
I use a Tormek T7 plus polishing wheels for knives. I have many other machines
and techniques for other items that need sharpening.
4. How long did it take you to master it?
About 10 years realistically before I had my secret methods developed and honed to perfection. I have made lots of mistakes along the way as I had no-one to guide me. I now run a training school for sharpeners
so they all have the benefit of knowing the common mistakes and how to avoid them, but am always open to new or better ways.
5. What was the main challenge when you first started?
Getting customers to believe that I can actually do what I was saying I could do. There are a lot of unscrupulous sharpeners out there that have not invested in the right machinery, and more importantly have put no effort into researching how to sharpen
whatever it is you are sharpening correctly.
6. Do you recommend starting with cheap knives?
7. What do you think is the most common mistake beginner knife sharpeners make?
Taking off too much steel. Raise a burr and stop! Then polish or hone the edge by whatever method you choose. Also, that various angles we use need muscle memory to be developed, and that takes time and experience. Most people do not go acute enough when using a steel for example.
8. Are you improving your sharpening technique today?
To a very small extent. I know people say that you never stop learning, but in all honesty I have been sharpening for so long now that I very rarely come across an idea that I haven’t heard before. However, every now and then someone says something that makes good sense, and am always open to change and improvement, but I don’t intend to re-invent the wheel too often unless I have to.
9. What’s the most expensive blade you’ve ever sharpened?
I get the normal mid to high end Japanese knives such as Tojiro, Kai Shun and Global every day, but every now and then a special Japanese £500 plus knife will appear
. The cost of my sharpening is the same, and so are the methods, and in fact they are quicker to sharpen as they are quite often a Damascus steel which is so thin it makes for quick sharpening, so I like them!
10. Which knives you don’t like to sharpen?
I will not sharpen obvious gang weapons such as flick knives. More than a few people have said they have a samurai sword that I would like sharpening please. Well firstly I very much doubt it’s a samurai sword as they cost tens of thousands of pounds, and if it is, then leave that to some Japanese master. Secondly I will not sharpen ornamental knives. Imagine a blunt ornamental knife being on display for years, perhaps kids have grown used to handling a blunt ornamental knife on a wall, and now someone wants it sharpened. Blimey I shudder to think what the consequences may be. Apart from that I will sharpen most anything coming my way.