The traveling knife sharpeners of Brooklyn

knife_grinder_apttherapy.jpg

One of the things I love about living in Brooklyn are the seemingly quaint urban anachronisms that are actually quite useful: corner fruit stands; beat-walking cops; friendly drug dealers. While I’ve never actually seen one of these traveling knife-grinding trucks in my neighborhood, I’m pleased to know they exist. And I wish they would stop by. I’d like to compare their sharpening with my home solution.

The Knife Grinding Trucks of Brooklyn [Apartment Therapy]

PreviouslyChef’s Choice M130: Electric Knife Sharpener That May Not Suck
Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker Knife Sharpener

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22 Responses to The traveling knife sharpeners of Brooklyn

  1. tomservojr says:

    I used to see them a lot around Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill, but they don’t seem as common here in Clinton Hill. That bell says “summer” every time I hear it. It also says, “I know you just throw your good knives in a drawer and their edges are ruined. Have fun cutting yourself.”

  2. stratosfyr says:

    There’s a knife truck that comes by my neighborhood in Ottawa about once or twice a summer. I got him to sharpen my lawnmower once.

  3. Anonymous says:

    These trucks exist in nearly every city. you should never /ever/ sharpen your own knives! just give em all to this guy and he can use his umpteen years of experience to put an edge on a knife in 15 seconds that you couldnt do if you spent all week.

    cheap too!

  4. Plainsong says:

    They’re SO common here in Italy. They use to announce they’re in the neighborhood using the loudspeaker on their car: “Ladies, the knifesharpener is here!”.

  5. john says:

    I find that the DMT sharpening stones (and their pocket butterfly shaped set) work just great for all my knives. I’ve tried a whole bunch of guides, electrical knife sharpeners, etc.

    But I’d be happy to have this guy sharpen all my serated knives if possible, since they’re a pain to do yourself.

  6. Anonymous says:

    as a native brookynite i can recall growing up (I’m only 23) with these trucks
    also cool: traveling seltzer trucks. You’d bring out your bottles full of water and they’d carbonate them for you.

  7. sudarkoff says:

    I wouldn’t use your home solution on any good knife – it damages the blade. Just buy a couple of good stones.

  8. historyman68 says:

    @19 – no, no Rickrolling, but I can’t guarantee it’s not stupid.

  9. Enochrewt says:

    I used to see a guy walking around my neighborhood with a broadsword slung on his back. I’d never seen him without it. When I finally talked to him, guess what his job was? Mobile knife sharpener.

  10. dmiff says:

    Pretty common in the beauty salon world. If you spend a couple hundred bucks on your scissors you gotta keep them in good shape.

  11. Patrick Austin says:

    “These trucks exist in nearly every city. you should never /ever/ sharpen your own knives! just give em all to this guy and he can use his umpteen years of experience to put an edge on a knife in 15 seconds that you couldnt do if you spent all week.”

    Riiiiight. Sharpening is _not_ rocket science in spite of what Alton Brown says. What’s more, edges deteriorate so fast that you’ve got to at least perform basic maintenance with a steel every couple of times you use the knife. At that point, you might as well be using a ceramic stone to take a tin a bit off the edge and get it back to razor sharpness. At that point, you might as well know how to do the whole thing. I’d much rather do it by hand than have someone hold it to a glorified belt sander.

    Two words: Spyderco Sharpmaker.

  12. historyman68 says:

    @Enochrewt: Did he carry it around like this?
    http://tinyurl.com/3uaolc

  13. strider_mt2k says:

    I would never attempt knife sharpening myself unless I took a course in it or something.

    My bumbling good intentions have laid waste to what was originally some perfectly good steel more than once.

    I look at Knife Sharpeners like I do Chimney Sweeps:

    Both bring good luck if you shake their hands. :)

  14. Anonymous says:

    they have this in my neighborhood, on long island, too

  15. ryan says:

    I don’t think they’re that Brooklyn-specific. I have seen trucks of this sort out here in Portland. And the Good Eats episode (filmed in Atlanta) where he tells you about having knives features a traveling knife sharpener guy.

  16. Enochrewt says:

    @Mr. Johnson: Yeah, I’ve never thought something as carrying a broadsword could be pulled off with so much badassedness. On a side note, there’s a town here in Colorado that I’m forgetting the name of that has a fair type thing every year. They have a town blacksmith that every year during that fair will take all comers in hand-to-hand combat. If you best him, he’ll make you a broadsword. I’ll have to do some research on the town now, because it’ll bug me until I figure it out.

    The mobile knife sharpener guys can be invaluable for sharpening complicated things like the aforementioned lawnmower blades and serrated knives. But I learned how to sharpen a regular knife in the Boy Scouts just fine.

  17. Brouhaha says:

    They forgot Mike’s General Grinding:
    http://brouhaha.blogs.com/brouhaha/2005/12/old_school.html

    Also the Times did a story on this a while back:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/08/nyregion/thecity/08knif.html

  18. Suburbancowboy says:

    I remember as a kid on Long Island, staying at my grandparents during the summer days while my parents were at work.
    I heard the familiar ring of the Mister Softee truck. Ding. (long pause) Ding. (long pause). This neighborhood’s Softee truck had no music, just the bell.

    I got excited and got my Grandma to give me some money for ice cream.
    I ran outside as the bell got closer.
    Knife sharpening truck?
    What the?…
    I went back inside with a large serving of disappointment.

  19. Jack says:

    I’m pretty sure these guys were based in Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens for years, but then moved to Staten Island in the 1980s/1990s and now come to the neighborhood as a service mainly to the provide a service to the old school neighborhood residents that are slowly going away (moving, death, can’t afford rent, etc…)

    Most of the complaints I read about them are a bit over the top. I don’t understand modern cooking culture where everyone is asous-chef in their mind and obsessed with perfection in their cooking-gadgets/tools and just whine about them.

    Most of the best old school NYC restaurants don’t have perfect tools and the food is great.

  20. Enochrewt says:

    #18: Sigh, that site blocked by my work because it has gamer in the address, and I’m 8 minutes from getting off. I’ll look when I get home, and if I’m about to be RickRolled, I’ll be pissed.

  21. ridestowe says:

    it looks like a front for an organized crime syndicate :P

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