The Sharp Machine Professional Sharpening System

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My Career Essay

 

The Art of Knife Sharpening as a Business and The Methods They Use
Gene Hoffpauir
SLS1105 Strategies for Success

Everest University Online

April 6, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Knife Sharpening as a Business and the Methods They Use

I have been intrigued by knives and how to make them sharp ever since my granddad gave me my first knife,  sat me down and told me if I was going to own a knife, I needed to know how to sharpen it.  He taught me how to sharpen on an old oil stone.  As I got older, I had to use the skills I learned back then regularly.  Most of the time, I could get a pretty good edge on a knife, but it never seemed to last very long.  It could sometimes take hours to get the edge I wanted on some knives, others I could do in just a few minutes.  Knife sharpening can be a versatile and lucrative business, but it takes more than stones.  You need to have modern equipment to do it accurately and efficiently.  Knife sharpening is definitely an art, but with today’s modern equipment, and a strong desire to succeed, anyone can start their own successful sharpening business. 

It is unknown how long the art of knife sharpening has been around, but it probably started shortly after the first knife was invented.  The first knives were made of stone, chipped away to expose sharp edges.  Knife sharpening has come a long way since then. (Master Grinding Service, Inc., 2008-2009) There are many methods of sharpening, with each one attempting to achieve the same results.  You can sharpen on a whit stone, oil stone, water stone, ceramic rod, steel rod, just to list a few of the manual methods.  It is a good idea to learn at least one of the methods to manually sharpen your knife.  In a pinch, you can sharpen your knife to at least cut.  This type of sharpening is extremely slow unless the blade is still somewhat sharp.

 Most people wait until their knife is seriously dull before they try to sharpen it.   Take a brand new knife for example.  They assume that because it is new, it is sharp.  That is usually not true.  Factories don’t spend the time to put a good edge on a knife.  Factory edges can get much sharper.  In general, people buy a new knife thinking it is sharp and use it until it will barely cut anything.  They also think that if a blade will shave hair, it is sharp.  How long will that edge last?  It all depends on how that edge was ground.  There are several different types of edge grinding.  Below are the most common with the good and bad points about each.

Type of grind

Pros

Cons

Hollow ground

This is the sharpest of all of the grinds.  Usually sharpened on a wheel, each side of the blade is ground until the edge is sharp.  Most of the time, this is done freehand.

The hollow grind is weak and flimsy.  The edge will roll at the slightest resistance, making the blade dull.

Single or V-bevel

This is the type of edge that most people try to achieve with a stone.  This edge is stronger than the hollow ground edge

Although this edge is stronger than the hollow ground edge, if ground at a low angle, it too will roll easily.

Double or Compound bevel

This is the strongest and most durable edge combination.  You cannot achieve this edge properly without a guide to hold your knife at the same angle each pass. Start with a V-bevel at the desired angle, and then add a second bevel, 2 degrees higher.  This gives you the compound bevel.  This first bevel gives the second bevel more support, making it very durable.

It takes precision equipment to accomplish this edge.  This edge cannot be achieved properly freehand.

Convex

This is a good chopping edge but is not as sharp as the other grinds.  Usually created on the slack portion of the belt between the idler wheel and the platen.  This is the most durable grind.

This edge is not suitable for kitchen cutlery except for cleavers.  Will not cut well except in a chopping action. Good grind for hatchets, axes, and machetes.

 

Many people would rather pay someone else to sharpen their knives, either because they don’t want to spend the time required to achieve a sharp edge, or because they don’t know how.  Freehand knife sharpening is an art, and very few people have the skill to get a knife as sharp as they would like it to be.  The professional knife sharpener or cutler will have the equipment and knowledge to give you a quality precision edge.

            The professional cutler usually has years of experience sharpening knives using a variety of techniques, including power sharpeners.  Depending on whether you want to work full or part time, and how much effort you put into it, will determine how much money you will make.  “There are many good sharpening systems available today, each with its own particular strengths” (The Sungold Group, Inc., 2011).  It is up to you to decide what type of sharpening system you prefer.  Some of the options available include cardboard wheels coated with abrasive, usually mounted on a bench grinder, flat hones (grinding wheels mounted horizontally), standard belt sanders, and specially designed low speed belt sanders with guides to help you get the proper angle.

There are several variables to consider when purchasing your equipment.  How well a particular machine performs, how versatile it is, how much training you need and price are the main things to look at.  You can buy a standard 1” x 30” belt sander for as little as $40.  Other machines cost over $3000.  Then there are a lot of choices in between.  Some require very little training; others require you to go to a specialized school.  The equipment that you choose will also depend on exactly what you want to sharpen.  I mainly specialize in knife sharpening, but I can sharpen other things with the equipment I have.  Once you learn how a particular edge is ground, how that edge effects the way it cuts, and how to achieve that grind, you should be able to sharpen a variety of things.  Hatchets, axes, machetes, garden tools, and general purpose scissors, for example.  You can get set up for this type of sharpening for less than $3000.  

If you want to specialize in sharpening expensive Japanese stylist’s shears, you will want the best equipment and training you can get.  The equipment needed to do this type of sharpening can cost thousands, and require extensive training.  This type of sharpening is not for everybody.  The difference between knife sharpening and salon sharpening is like the difference between getting a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.  If you just want to sharpen knives, there are sharpeners that you can get that require very little or no training.  It is easier to get a knife sharpening business started than a business sharpening salon shears.  Without credentials, very few stylists will just hand over their scissors, especially the good ones costing as much as $1,000.  With knife sharpening, you can sharpen a cheap knife for a customer, and if they like the edge, they will bring you their good knives.

Over the last 45 years, I have tried many different methods to sharpen knives, with varying results.  As Steve Bottorff says, “What is really needed for knife sharpening is a low speed belt sander.”(Bottorff ,1996 and later).  High speed belt sharpeners remove too much metal and overheat the blade.  If you get a blade so hot that it changes colors, the knife will lose its temper.  Tempering is the method knife-makers use to harden a blade so it will hold an edge. 

Of all the different methods, I have found The Sharp Machine to be the easiest method of all, and it achieves the best precision edge I have ever seen.  You can sharpen a knife in less than 3 minutes, and get the same results every time.  It is a low speed belt sander with a clamp and guide system.  No higher education is required to learn how to sharpen with this machine.  Written instructions are included with the system, and an instructional video can be viewed on my website www.thesharpshoponline.com.  It only requires knowing how to safely handle a sharp knife.  So far, the youngest person that uses a Sharp Machine to make money is 8 years old.  The price of the Sharp Machine is reasonable, with starter packages starting at $534 with shipping.  You can get the best package available for $699, including shipping.(Hoffpauir, 2006)  I don’t know of very many businesses that you can start for under $1,000.  You can expect to make an average of about $60 per hour or more if you have the steady work available.  You can expect this only if you put the effort in to get the customers.  Just be friendly, do quality work and diligently seek out new customers and you will succeed.  Knife sharpening is a versatile business.  You can work from home, in your local area, or you can travel if you want to.  Your customers are everywhere.  Locally, you can sharpen for restaurants, at the farmer’s market, flea market, or even the grocery store.  Visit any businesses that typically use knives.  Any event that draws a crowd is potential business for you.  I like to work motorcycle events and gun shows in addition to my local events.  Rodeos and livestock auctions and shows are good places to find people with pocketknives.  I also sharpen for some fundraisers.

My goal is to start my own business sharpening knives and scissors, selling knives of all kinds, both factory made and custom, and to continue to market the Sharp Machine on my web site.  If you have a passion for sharp knives, enjoy providing your customers with high quality workmanship, and are willing to work hard to seek out new customers, you might have what it takes to start your own knife sharpening business.  With the proper equipment, persistence, and hard work, anyone can achieve success as a professional knife sharpener.

 

 

 

References

Bottorff, S. (1996 and later). Belt sanders. Retrieved from http://sharpeningmadeeasy.com/electric.htm

Hoffpauir, G. (2006). Store. Retrieved from http://www.thesharpshoponline.com/apps/webstore/

Master Grinding Service, Inc. (2008-2009).History of the art of knife sharpening. Retrieved from http://mastergrinding.com/history/

The Sungold Group, Inc. (2011). Professional sharpening equipment.. Retrieved from http://www.sungoldgroupinc.com/equipment.html

Articles of Interest

I hope this information will be useful to you.

 

How to Start Your Own Business Sharpening Knives

In this article I will show you how to start your own business sharpening knives. Depending on your desire for travel, how much money you want to invest, and your desire to make this a successful business venture. I will show you several options on how to succeed in this business.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Instructions

Things You'll Need:

  • Sharp Shop Machine
  • Inverter (8oo watts or better)
  • 12 volt deep cycle battery
  • Battery charger
  • portable table or cabinet
  1. You can purchase a Sharp Shop Machine for $350 by contacting me.
     
    You can purchase a Sharp Shop Machine by contacting me.

    Purchase a Sharp Shop Machine. Read instructions until you fully understand them. Purchase as many cheap knives as you can from thrift stores, yard sales, or anywhere else you can get them cheap, under $1. If you have any idea about knife quality, stat with the lowest quality knife you have. Now sharpen it, following instructions. When you think it is sharp,check it with a piece of receipt paper. Start with the base of the knife at the top of the paper, pull the knife through the paper in 1 smooth action. If it cuts clean all the way through the cut, you have achieved success.

  2. Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice the faster you will get.
     
    Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice the faster you will get.

    Continue to practice your sharpening skill. When you can consistently sharpen 30-50 knives without damaging the blade, it's time to move on. Sharpen knives for friends for free. Tell them you plan to start a business sharpening knives. All you want is for them to tell their friends and co-workers if they like your sharpening. This gives you practice and free advertising.

  3. Your vendor booth will look something like this.
     
    Your vendor booth will look something like this.

    Check your local classified ads for events like swap meets, community garage sales, motorcycle rallies, car shows and gun & knife shows. Ask if you can set up a stand to sharpen knives. Some events may charge a vendor's fee. Check with your local government offices to see what type of license you need. Most of the time you might need a vendor's license. Some events may not have electricity available. This is when you will need the inverter. An inverter and a good 12v deep cycle battery will last you at least a day of sharpening. Charge your battery after each day of events. Carry an extension cord. I like to have a 50' cord. If the event has electricity, they might let you plug in. A lot of the time for free.

  4. Sharpen knives at restaurants on days when large events are not scheduled.
     
    Sharpen knives at restaurants on days when large events are not scheduled.

    Go to all of the restaurants in your area. Ask the manager if they have someone to sharpen their knives. You can offer to sharpen a couple of them for free so they can see what you can do for them. I charge restaurants $3 per knife. Try to set up a sharpening schedule with your customers, once each month, every 2 weeks or every week. Schedule 1 day of the week at a time. when you think you have all that you can do in 1 day, start scheduling another day of the week. Try not to book restaurants for Friday, Saturday or Sunday. These are the days when most big events are scheduled.

  5. Add more items to your booth. Watch to see what kind of other items sell best.
     
    Add more items to your booth. Watch to see what kind of other items sell best.

    Add more items to your booth. I sell new & vintage knives all the time, and I have motorcycle gear for the motorcycle events. These items also sell well at flea markets and swap meets. Try to set up events that you can attend regularly, such as flea markets or swap meets that are open every week. People that come to these events regularly may only have a pocket knife with them,but if they know you will be there the next time they come, they might bring their kitchen knives too.

  6. Be creative. If you think a lot of people will be at an event, try to set up a booth. If you try it several times, and your earnings don't increase, find somewhere else. This business will only be as successful as you want it to be.

Tips & Warnings

  • Handle all knives like you would sharp ones.
  • If you are setting up at a lot of outdoor events, you may want to purchase a canopy. It will make your booth look more appealing and protect you from the elements..
  • If you have a crowd standing around, but you are not sharpening, sharpen one of the junk knives that you learned with. Demonstrate how sharp you can get a junk knife. People will usually start pulling out pocket knives for you to sharpen.
  • Don't sign a contract on a long term event until you know it will be profitable.
  • Be reasonable with your prices.
  • Carry extra belts. You don't want to damage someone's knife because you were too cheap to use a new belt.

How to Sharpen Knives With A Sharp Machine Belt Sharpener

This article will instruct you on how to sharpen knives on a Sharp Machine belt sharpener. I will show you why I think this is the best knife sharpener made. This machine is not available in stores yet. Each machine is handmade. If you would like to purchase a Sharp  Machine, go to our Store page.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Instructions

Things You'll Need:

  • Sharp Machine
  • 120 grit ceramic metalworking belt
  • 600 grit silicon-carbide belt
  • Felt Belt
  • Rouge
  • Adjustable Bevel Control Vise
  1. Belts used with this machine
     
    Belts used with this machine

    This sharpening system requires 3 belts, much like the triple oil stones many people use. The first one develops a burr on the knife-edge. The second one works the burr finer and the third one removes the burr.

  2. Knife vise positioning
     
    Knife vise positioning

    First, you must clamp the knife in the knife vise. The knife vise will clamp better to a flat spot on the blade. It is best to place it in the middle of the blade, but sometimes the only flat spot is near the handle. The other placement you have to be concerned with is the distance from the tapered end of the knife vise to the knife edge. You should be about 1/2" away from the knife edge. This is not possible on small knives or large knives with a wide blade. On large, wide blades, slide the back of the knife as far into the vise as possible. On small knives with narrow blades(1/2" or less),clamp as close to the edge as possible, but make sure your vise is not touching the belt. On very small knives you may have to resort to freehand sharpening.

  3.  

    Starting with the 120 grit ceramic belt, place the stem of the vise into the front groove of the wood deck(the groove closest to the belt). With the knife tip pointing to your left and the knife perpendicular to the belt, using light pressure, start at the base of the knife and work left to right.Slide the knife vise along the groove until you get to the curve of the blade. Stop sliding the knife vise and swing the blade around to the tip. Turn the knife over and work from right to left. Alternate from one side to the other until you see a burr developing on the edge. Make sure it goes the entire length of the blade.

  4. Change from ceramic belt to 600 grit silicon-carbide belt. Repeat Step 2. Two passes on each side should be enough.

  5. Change from silicon-carbide belt to felt belt. Turn machine and touch the block of rouge to the felt belt, applying an even coat. Place the stem of the vise in the back groove of the wood deck. Repeat previous step until the burr is removed. Your knife is now VERY SHARP!

Tips & Warnings

  • All grinding methods generate heat. If the blade gets hot enough to change colors, you have damaged the blade. A worn belt will require more pressure which creates more heat. The first belt is the belt you will change most often. You will do your heaviest grinding with the first belt. I have found times when I had to use a 60 grit ceramic belt to prevent to much heat buildup. Change belts as soon as you notice it requires more pressure.
  • If you get the blade hot using the first belt, let the blade cool before continuing.
  • The stem of the vise is adjustable. It comes set at the angle the builder has determined to give the most durable micro edge.
  • Handle ALL knives carefully as if it was sharp. By following this you will avoid cutting yourself.
  • Work in a well lit space or use a light. I also wear reading glasses so I can see the burr better.

How to Set Up a Vendor Booth

This article will instruct you in setting up a vendor booth. These will be general suggestions that should work for everyone.

Difficulty: Easy

Instructions

Things You'll Need:

  • Schedule
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Canopy (for rainy or really hot weather)
  • Cash box with $20 or more for making change
  • inventory (something to sell)
  • Price tags
  • Notebook

  1. Check the newspaper to find listings for events
     
    Check the newspaper to find listings for events

    Research. Constantly look for swap meets or outdoor flea markets. Make a schedule of the events. List when the event will happen, where the event will be, and how much it will cost. Add new events as you find them. Decide how far you want to travel to get to the event. If the event is several days long, decide where you will stay. Do they allow camping? How much will a motel cost? Can you make a profit after expenses?

  2. Go to the swap meet and talk to peple. Ask questions, talk to other vendors.
     
    Go to the swap meet and talk to people. Ask questions, talk to other vendors.

    Once you find a swap meet, go there. Check it out. Talk to the person in charge. Ask any questions you have now, such as, "How large will my space be?" Find out as much as you can. How many vendors? How many people attend the event? Any rules that you need to know about. What can you sell? Talk to other vendors. Visit there space. Check their prices. This will give you a general range for what you have to sell. See how they set up. If you like what you see, book a space.

  3. Expand your inventory
     
    Expand your inventory

    Prepare for the event. Start early. You want people to think you know what you are doing. You can start your sale with stuff from around the house. De-clutter. You'd be surprised what you forgot you had. Find a niche. I sharpen knives. That's my niche. I expanded to also selling knives. I attend a lot of motorcycle events, so I started expanding my inventory geared for those events. These items also sell well at swap meets and flea markets. So now, I've expanded.

  4. This canopy sets up in less than a minute
     
    This canopy sets up in less than a minute

    Buy or build tables to hold as much inventory as possible. Some items will have to sit on the ground. Furniture, tall lamps, heavy items, etc. Buy or build a canopy. Some items shouldn't be in direct sunlight, extreme heat, or shouldn't get wet. You don't want to have to either. It also presents your booth better. People can see a canopy from a long way off. Put up signs around your booth for items that you want to feature. This will get people to your booth. Then it's all up to you.
    Set your prices above what you really must have. this gives you a chance to come down on price. If someone really likes an item, they'll like it better if they can get a deal.

  5. Pack everything for the swap meet on the day before
     
    Pack everything for the swap meet on the day before

    On the day of the event, arrive early. Pack up everything that you can on the day before. Pack the last thing out first, and the first thing out last. Set up your canopy. Set up your tables. choose a location to sit so you can see everything that you are selling. Have a safe place to keep your cash box. I like to take a helper. One can collect the cash. The other can mingle with the customers, and watch the merchandise.

  6. Don't rush to pack up. You'll probably get several more customers
     
    Don't rush to pack up. You'll probably get several more customers

    At the end of the day, don't rush to pack up. a lot of people show up at the end to haggle for a bargain. Don't sell below your minimum unless you just don't want to have to take it home. Whatever you don't sell today,may sell later, and you still have inventory.



Tips & Warnings

  • Reinvest your money into more product if you choose to set up regularly. Expand your inventory as much as you can handle.
  • If you follow the above instructions, you have a good chance of making money.
  • Be friendly and courteous
  • Make sure you leave your space clean. Pick up everything. The promoters will be happy to have you come again.
  • Ask when the next event will be, or if there are any other events coming up nearby.
  • Make as many contacts as you can. they might sell you inventory at a bargain or let you know about other events that do well.
  • Take photos of your booth. If your setup works, this will give you a guide to set it up again.
  • Stay out of direct sun on really hot days. Stay hydrated. A busy day in the heat can exhaust you.

 

 

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