It’s Dec. 21, the winter solstice, and one Terry Beech’s favorite holidays. While sharpening cutlery on his solar-powered machine in the New Leaf parking lot, Beech is wearing a jester-like cap that he calls his “Santa’s helper hat” and blasting holiday music out of his van.
Beech, who sharpens knives at local markets, is the brains and brawn behind his one-man business, Sharp-Quick. He keeps track of how many knives he sharpens each day by piling up a rainbow assortment of Popsicle sticks, each representing a certain number of specific kinds of knives. He calls his method “stick books”—a play on QuickBooks’ accounting software.
A physicist by training, Beech also calculates the angle at which each knife should be sharpened, leaving every blade as sharp as possible while still ensuring that the new edge will last. A former high-tech consultant, he’s taught his sharpening technique to 26 trainees, six of them in the last year, including one apprentice from Austria. “In 2007, I decided this is way too much fun to keep to myself,” he says.
Is this machine something I could pick up at the flea market?
TERRY BEECH: No. This, brand new, is about 800 bucks. Which isn’t outrageous, but it’s not cheap, either. It’s quiet. It’s dust-free. There’s no dirt. There’s no sparks. It’s preserving the steel on your knife. It’s treating the knife steel as best it can be treated.
My girlfriend tells me that sharp knives are safer than dull knives. To what extent is that true? Because, unless I’m missing something, sharp knives are also sharper than dull ones.
The problem with dull knives is you end up pushing too hard to get something accomplished. And invariably, something slips—boom—and you ding yourself. If you have a sharp knife, everything goes nice and easy. Of course, the first time you use it, you’re so surprised how quickly it cuts through things that sometimes people will ding themselves. They’re just not used to it. People come back to me all the time with a Band-Aid on their finger: “See what I did! You sharpened my knives last week.” And they have a big smile on their face.
How much of this is a job, and how much is a hobby?
It started out as a hobby, but I made 60 grand last year. If that isn’t a job, I don’t know what is.