First of all, it is mostly UP's, in fact there are very few downs.
My business has been up and running for six years now, I was sharpening for decades before that but in all honesty, I have learned more about sharpening in the last five years then in the first 30 years. It really is an endless journey, a fantastic endless journey.
I will talk about the CON's first, the things that I don't like about my business:
CON # 1 - If you are interested in this, it is important to understand that by nature I am a very sensitive individual and I think I am actually getting worse. It has taken me many years to gain the trust of some very knowledgeable people in the culinary industry, heavy hitters, Canadian top chefs. That trust came on the heels of a lot of very hard work, work that I loved but nevertheless it was tough. A lot of nervous nights wondering if the if "I passed the test". Now, I have passed many many tests so I have all the confidence I need now to not worry about any more tests. That is not boasting, it is likely a very common feeling that people have who work hard at things, athletes, musicians etc.
So that means, I become very attuned (sensitive) to anyone who would criticize my work, and I mean anyone, as I said, I passed the tests and nobody is going to tell me I didn't do a good job of sharpening their knife, unless of course I actually didn't do a good job, I am human, and I suppose that could happen and maybe it has.
So the CON here is a pretty insignificant one but since I am sensitive to any criticism, it is a something worth mentioning. I think it is this way because 99% of people are very happy.
However, when I know I have done a good job, fixed a broken knife and returned it sharper than it has ever been and the owner looks at it as if it was just another sharpening job, that gets under my skin and bothers me. I feel like saying "do you know how many people in Nova Scotia could do what I just did?" However, I don't say that, I just walk away and get over it.
Nobody has ever actually complained, nobody in the six years so there are times when I just imagine problems, that is what happens when one is over sensitive :)
I guess the real crux of the matter is that often times, when I have agonised over a knife and returned it to an owner knowing it is very likely that sharpest knife that person has ever seen and I never hear back from the person. (What I mean is that often, I don't see the customer, he/she uses a drop off and pick up spot so we don't connect in person.) So if I don't hear back from the individual, I often think to myself, "did he like it, or didn't he?"
I think that this is actually the only thing I don't like about my business, I don't know always know what people think. Now a smart person may say, "what does it matter, you did your best, you always do, you've proven yourself, you've been in the paper 3 times, on the Radio and on TV, do you really think they have anything to complain about?"
It is still nice to hear, get a "Thank You" at least, and I do get them a lot. I suppose that people just don't think about that. When I get my car back from the garage I don't call the mechanic and thank him so why should people let me know?
It's a minor problem but again, it is CON and there is no fixing it, and that is because my personality won't allow that, I can't just write it off so to speak, it's just something I have to deal with, paranoia perhaps.
CON #2 - Dealing with cooks who don't understand edge retention and what influences it. This problem arose a couple of years in, after I had landed some restaurants. I was sharpening many cheap knives, knives that in a normal household kitchen with normal use wouldn't stay sharp for more than 3-4 weeks. So in a professional kitchen where that knife is being used for 8-12 hours straight, there is no way it would keep it's edge. So dealing with that problem "the knives don't stay sharp" was frustrating and it made me angry. I don't do those knives now as result, unless the folks using them understand this and many do.
Now on the other hand, it was a learning experience, it forced me to understand how to fight edge retention issues, about grits and angles and what works best and so on. After all the frustration, I am a better and smarter sharpener as a result.
Okay, now the PRO's, now we're talking because they greatly outnumber the CON's, greatly.
The thing I worried most about when I started my business was getting a complaint, what if someone was not happy with their knife, what if they didn't think it was sharp. So during the first year I kept waiting for the inevitable. Even though I would never return a knife that wasn't as sharp as I thought it would be, what if someone didn't agree. That never happened and still hasn't happened.
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER OF IMPORTANCE
PRO #1 - There is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction when you can take a dull knife and make it sharper than it ever was before and that is because you worked hard to be able to do that, it has paid off, over and over. I know lots of folks feel this and understand it but it is a sensation that doesn't go away. Countless times people have brought me knives, they've heard about me, and brought me their knives that they thought were lost. Some have been wedding presents sixty years ago that have not been sharpened beyond the original factory sharpening so it's cool to see their faces or just know that they are going to be happy with their knives.
PRO # 2 - I get to see and handle some really beautiful knives, knives I would never afford to buy for myself, $2,000-$3,500 beauties that were shipped to me from other parts of Canada. So it is very cool to be able to work on them and to establish connections across the country. This in turn often gets me other customers just through word of mouth, in fact all of my business has been via word of mouth.
PRO # 3 - The business allows me to see so many knives all of which are in various conditions, this is how I learn. I know some business and some people who do not sharpen anything but premium knives, hand made Japanese or other high quality knives, Henckels Twin Cermax just for example.
If I did that, I would be half the sharpener I am now. Who do you think becomes a better sharpener, the person who sharpens 10 Masakage every day or the person who sharpens 6 beat up Wusthof, a couple of no name knives and 1 or 2 Masakage? We learn by sharpening the knives that we don't really love to sharpen, but they make us better and by doing so, when we do get that Masakage or Fujiwara, it is a breeze to sharpen and it becomes sharper than new. You want to be the best sharpener you can possibly be? Then sharpen the knives other people won't.
PRO #4 - I got to meet some of Kings of the culinary industry and that has been very nice. I have gained the respect of gifted chefs like Normand Laprise, Michael Howell, Craig Flinn, Jason Lynch Mark Gray, Ivan Chan and Luis Clavel. This is huge for me and they let me into their worlds where I learned to gain so much respect for people in the business. I can't believe how hard these folks work and how talented and passionate they are. Having the privilege of sharpening their knives is something I never take for granted and will always be grateful for.
PRO # 5 - Obviously, I get to do what I love to do most every single day and I get paid for it. I get to have a lot of nifty Japanese Water Stones.
PRO # 6. I have had the opportunity to meet some fantastic people on the Chef Knives to Go Forums, people I will likely never meet but folks who are willing to share information and are just friendly and fun to "hang out with". Sharpening is a lonely world, so it is nice to have this.
PRO # 7 - I got to meet a man in Italy named Roberto who contacted me about an interview for Knifeplanet and we have since become friends and he has encouraged me to make videos and write articles. All of these have been stepping stones on my sharpening journey by the way, all of these made me a better sharpener. People all over the world have read and watched what I produced with the help of the incredibly friendly and professional Roberto from Milano.
PRO # 8 - Although these are in no particular order, this one is very special.
Through my Blog and my website I have got meet some very nice people, people who have taken up knife sharpening influenced by what I have done on my Blog. I don't think it is just of course, I have always said the men, especially men, but women as well, have a primal urge to sharpen knives. I hear it from people all the time. So they have it in them already but this Blog and my joy of sharing information just gets their ball rolling I think, it gets them started perhaps and they have a place to come if they get stuck. This alone, this one thing has made all of my efforts worthwhile.
PRO # 9 - Everyone is good at something, really good. I just happen to be good at sharpening so it is a sense of pride, it is a great feeling to know that I can do something well, better than a lot of people. This is no different than a person who is good a guitar for example, I know this but it is still a nice feeling.
PRO # 10.
I get to make knives sharp for people :) While this is quite obvious, it is so damm important, we all need sharp knives and I get to make people happy every single day. I am providing a needed service and although there are a lot more people using dull knives than sharp ones, at least I am making some improvements, as are all the other sharpeners out there.
PRO # 11.
I get to teach people how to sharpen knives. I have always enjoyed instructing, the Navy taught me how to do that. Now I get people, every day people who just have to satisfy that primal urge, to take lessons and help them on their own journey. I also get some Executive Chefs, well one so far but it is very satisfying to see someone who has never even seen a water stone to go home with the ability to make their knives sharper than new.
I think I have pretty much covered everything I can think of at the moment but in all honesty I have probably only covered half of what I consider to be positive aspects of New Edge Sharpening, my business.
The final PRO is that I know people are here, people like you, reading this.
Thank you that.
New Edge Sharpening
One of the first knives I sharpened when I opened my business. You can see how the bevel is wider near the tip and the angle is much to acute for this knife but it was an experiment. It was razor sharp but the edge would not last long at that 10 deg angle.