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Sharpening as a business

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  • #55749
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    As Kyle said, his business is addressing a market that will accept any edge that cuts.  That said, I’ve got a few items to comment on, hopefully to prompt some more discussion.

    I noticed that Kyle uses almost dead-horizontal strokes and seems to be applying a lot of pressure.  Hmmm…

    Kyle accepts whatever angle the existing bevel seems to be.  He doesn’t look to see if the “apparent bevel” is factory-made or buggered by some unskilled person.  I would never return to a customer a knife of decent quality with a 27 degree edge.  It will perform at a level less than the poorest knife you could buy at Walmart.

    He doesn’t do a magnified inspection and ignores any deep dents or chips.  He doesn’t even run a fingernail down the edge or check for reflected light before starting.  In his defense, he preserves more steel and small dings and chips don’t hurt the apparent sharpness of a toothy edge.  The dents, however can be quite long and deep.

    The basic difference is whether you’re wanting the customer to try his newly sharpened knives and think, “Yeah, that’s sharp enough,” or do you want him to think “Wow!”

    I’ve had a couple of friends bring me bunches of knives to be sharpened – the record is one that brought his knives in buckets, 35 all told.  For the cheap knives which are in decent shape, I now use one of the powered sharpeners; Worksharp or 1X30 belt sander.  I have also used my double-ended Jet buffing wheel stand.  I  install a 600 grit 10″ wheel on one side and a white or pink polishing compound on a 10″ wheel on the other end.  I make two passes on each side on the 600 grit wheel, then two passes on each side on the polishing compound wheel.  Total time about 45 seconds and after cleaning, the knife will very easily slice phonebook paper.

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    I’m in agreement with everything Tom says..

    The 27° degree angle that Kyle stated he was using was from a glance down at the Gen 3 Pro’s lever position. He read the 27º angle from where the adjuster lever is pointing to the angle delineations printed in white on the blue (semi-circular) base plate.  This was after Kyle had determined he was matching the existing profile using the sharpie method.  That angle reading alone has no basis in reality.  It’s simply the angle he had set his Gen 3 Pro sharpener to, for that particular knife, clamped in that manner with that position, during that sharpening session, on that day.


    (MarcH's Rack-Its)

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    I guess I’m one of those people that likes to fuss over their knives. I sharpen the family kitchen knives to 1000 grit, mostly 20 degrees with a few at 17 degrees. My personal kitchen knives are sharpened at 15 degrees (or less) to 3000 grit and stropping if time permits. It definitely takes longer than 4 minutes per knife since I’m not a slap – dash sharpener. As others said, to each his/her own but I believe if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. This is not to say Kyle’s way of sharpening isn’t good but it isn’t something I would do.

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    Kyle Kaplan
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    I’m really happy with all the discussion about this!

    When I decided what kind of a sharpening service I wanted to provide, I took a look at the market for sharpening services and tried to figure out how I could best position one that would require the least amount of startup cash and least amount of marketing to become successful. I landed on a local sharpening service that focuses on household cutlery for normal people who like to cook sometimes. I strongly believe that’s the largest market segment with the largest income potential – everyone has kitchen knives. The next piece of the puzzle was coming up with a quality / price formula that would be acceptable to my customer base. Most people don’t own high-end cutlery, so I had to set my pricing in such a way that normal people would consider it reasonable. I looked around my city and identified who my competition was and found out what they were charging. As these businesses had already set the price expectation, I priced my sharpening service similarly to what they were charging.

    With my market identified and my pricing decided, I then had to figure out how to make my service profitable at the pricing I would be charging. This is how I decided I would match the current edge angle that I find on knives, and finish them all with a 1000 grit diamond stone. Using this technique I could sharpen most knives in about 4 minutes. To address tcmeyer’s point about edge geometry and not wanting to give customers knives back to them with a 27 degree edge angle: I’ve found that people are not only happy with the results I provide, but they’re so excited about it that they go tell other people about it. (You can see my testimonials here:

    I know that if I took the time to reprofile the edge by 5 degrees or so, it’s quite likely the vast majority of my customers wouldn’t recognize the difference. So, why offer that service and have to increase my pricing to account for the extra time to remain profitable, and therefor price myself out of the market? It doesn’t make sense for the market I’m in, so I simply match the current bevel angle. Also, it just so happened that the knives in the video had wider sharpening angles, but many of the knives I sharpen have lower angles. The same logic applies to the grit level I choose go up to. I could go to 1500, 2200, 3000, stropping, etc., but I believe my point of diminishing returns, for these customers, is at 1000 grit. Adding 60-90 seconds to my sharpening job isn’t a big deal when I have a few knives to work on. But, when I’m sharpening a lot of knives that extra time would add up quickly. My best day this past year was 109 knives in a 6 hour period sitting outside a hardware store that’s near my house. It was exhausting. An extra 60 seconds per knife would have been nearly two extra hours of sharpening time. I know some of my customers would have chosen to not wait and I would have lost business if I took longer on each knife.

    Regarding MarcH’s previous comment about losing profitability by offering delivery service, he’s absolutely right that I am giving away some profits by offering the delivery service compared to bringing a sharpening table and sharpener with me and sharpening at people’s houses. I actually do exactly that when my customers live farther away. But, the primary reason I don’t do that most of the time is because sharpening knives at people’s homes keeps me away from my home. I’m already gone 8.5 hours a day during the week for my day job. If I sharpened knives at people’s houses I could easily add a couple hours to the time I’m away from home, which doesn’t work for me. So, I run a pickup and delivery route on my way home, which usually takes about 30-60 minutes, and then I take the knives home where I can sharpen them in my leisure time. I can sharpen knives, get up and make dinner, take my dogs for a walk, and then sharpen some more knives. It’s just a more relaxed lifestyle, which I’m happy to sacrifice 30-60 minutes of driving time to achieve. I do set up a table and sharpening knives in front of a local hardware store sometimes on Saturdays, and that works out nicely.

    So, if my objective is speed and I’m not trying to achieve perfect results, why bother using precision sharpening equipment? There are many reasons. The primary reasons I choose to use Wicked Edge are as follows:

    1. Material removal. The Wicked Edge holds the angle perfectly so each pass with my stone is at the exact same angle as my previous stroke. I couldn’t accomplish this with electric sharpening equipment like a belt sander without a great deal of practice and I fear I would remove too much material from my customers knives.
    2. Adjustability. With half a degree increments on the main adjustment on my Gen 3, or even 1 degree adjustments on other Wicked Edge sharpener models, I can get super close to matching the current edge angle on knives. If I’m off by a fraction of a degree it really doesn’t bother me and that’s because it won’t bother my customers, which is why I don’t use a digital angle gauge, magnification, or micro adjustment. Remember, I’m sharpening regular kitchen knives for regular people. I don’t need to offer that level of precision, and if I did, my customers surly wouldn’t pay for it so my business would inevitably not survive.
    3. If and when I need it, I do have the ability to sharpen with incredible precision. A scenario that a customer approaches me with a super high-end knife and wants a very precision sharpening job is rare for me (maybe once a year) but I like to be able to handle that if and when it comes up.
    4. Sharpness results. The level of sharpness I can achieve on a Wicked Edge, even at wider sharpening angles with a 1000 grit finish, is lightyears above what the other sharpening services in town are offering to their customers. My rule about sharpness is this: If I consider it sharp and would use it on my knives, it’s sharp enough for my customers. The technique I use for my own kitchen knives and pocket knives is the exact same as I use for my customers knives. My two favorite EDC knives are a ZT0560 and a Spartan PALLAS. The factory grind on the PALLAS is 27 DPS (measured with angle gauge and used magnification to be sure) and my ZT is at 24 DPS. I have not and will not reprofile them. To me, the factory edge angles are good enough and what’s more important to me than increasing the sharpness is material removal. I simply hate to remove material from my knives.

    To Brewbear’s point; if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. That’s why I use a Wicked Edge. It can create the sharpest result in the least amount of time with the least amount of material removal. There isn’t a sharpening system out there that scores equally as high as the Wicked Edge in all three categories. As MarcH said: Good, fast, cheap – pick two. Using the Wicked Edge in the manor in which I choose to use it allows me to accomplish all three, at least compared to what other sharpening services are offering in my city and as perceived by my customers. It’s all relative. Here, in this community on this forum, with all the experts and the people pushing the edge of the envelope to achieve the perfect edge, I do fall into the category that MarcH described as “fast and cheap, but not very good.” But to my customers in Santa Fe, my service is excellent, my results are phenomenal, and my pricing is affordable. Am I offering the same sharpening service that Josh at Razor Edge Knifes is offering? Absolutely not.  We’re in different businesses. I’m happy where I am, and my customers are happy too.


    P.S. to just to address a couple other comments:

    The camera angle was weird in the video so it made it look like my stroke was more horizontal. I use an up and out stroke (edge trailing) and the bottom of the stone comes off the tip of the blade.

    I do inspect the knives before I start sharpening. If I notice any chips or dings I make a mental note of it and will work to remove them when I’m sharpening. If the chips are deep or if I find a broken tip, I contact my customer to find out if he would like me to fix them for an extra fee which I assess on a case-by-case basis depending on the severity of the problem with the knife.

    Ok that’s it for now.




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    Have you figured out an effective way to handle serrated knives ?  The best I came up with is to focus on putting new tips on each serration (using full blade strokes) and not to worry about the “inner” serration curvatures. Its not perfect but it refreshes the initial bite that a serrated knife has.

    • Topics: 37
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    I think there are two types of serrations, but they don’t necessarily have to do with the configuration of the serrations. It’s more a matter of how they’ll be used.  In one type, the tips of the serration are used to aggressively bite into the objective material – for instance, when cutting heavy rope or seat belts.  The other uses the tips of the serrations to protect the edge within the serrations (gullets ?), as is the case in serrated steak knives, where the edge will be pressed against extremely hard surfaces.  In the first type, the tips need to be refreshed to enhance the aggressiveness.  In the second, the edges within the serrations needs to be refreshed.  Where a serrated knife will see both types of use, the sharpening process needs to address both areas.

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    I don’t think I made it clear that in the case of steak knives and similar applications, dull tips do not normally need to be sharpened, unless the serrations are very fine.  In this case, I’d sharpen the knife as I would a non-serrated knife.  If it’s a knife by a manufacturer who offers free sharpening, like Cutco, you could send it to the manufacturer, who will probably just send you a new one as a replacement, as was done for a friend whose knives I recently did.  Her non-serrateds had obviously been sharpened, while her one serrated knife had obviously been replaced with a new one.

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    Hi Kyle,

    I really like your Youtube video explaining your methodology, thanks for your support. Your method of keeping the same angles makes great sense, but I would like to respectfully point out (please correct me if I’m wrong) that you don’t sharpen any of those knives at separate and independent bevel angles, and you are technically reprofiling each one of them.

    What you do is you check the edge angles on each side, then you decide on one fixed angle and you sharpen each knife at that same angle for both sides. It’s my understanding that’s not maintaining the same angles, that’s reprofiling the blade. You keep one side angle, but not the other.

    I noticed this because I tried doing what you described, not what I saw you do in the video. I am a noob and have a Gen 3 Commercial edition sharpener, much like your Gen 3.

    I wondered how am I going to maintain the current (different) edge angles if the sharpening arms don’t move much independently? The only independent angle adjustments you can make with a Gen 3 are with the micro adjusters, and that takes more time than by just choosing a close match and then sharpen both sides the same time like you are doing in the video.

    I have already had several knives where the angles on the same blade do not match and it was very cumbersome and much more time consuming to try and match each angle rather than to just measure one side, pick an angle and then do both the same angle. To do each side individually and maintain their current angles, you have to adjust each micro adjuster AND use a leveling cube.

    Like you, I want to be fast as possible with this and still do a quality job. Different people have a different needs for a WE, there’s pet knives where you can spend a lot of time and then there’s a commercial application where speed matters.

    I agree the 1000 grit (stock finest grit with a system) is plenty sharp enough compared to what most knife users are used to. For utility knife users, they care about the sharpness and not the polish. The edge quality is probably still better than most belt sander/sharpeners too. However, it’s very difficult to compete for speed against a skilled belt/sander style sharpener who can sharpen a kitchen knife in a minute. It’s the old John Henry vs steam drilling machine story.

    Can you please clarify for me, so that I am understanding it correctly as a noob, that what you are doing is finding a current angle for one of the edge sides and then sharpening both sides to that angle?

    Because from reading all the literature here on the WE website and terms, etc. the functionality of the sharpener, etc. it sure seems to me that you are reprofiling the blades, maybe creating what you could term a “matching profile”, which would be a minimal form of reprofiling.  Thanks -Russ


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