Originally Posted by oldrustycars
I'm considering buying some knife sharpening equipment, and doing knives at farmers markets. Who here has their knives professionally sharpened? How much did you pay and for what size and type of knife? How often?
My friend started doing this last summer, he has done very well. He did my knives, including a never used chef knife right from the restaurant supply, they are way sharper after he got done with them. Any other input most appreciated. Thank you.
You probably realize this, so I don't mean to point out the obvious, but first question is: Do you know how to sharpen at a professional level? That can be a complicated question to answer. For example my favorite local kitchen & foodie store has a Tru-Hone machine for sharpening knives. It's a pretty expensive sharpener, and depending on the model can run between eighteen hundred and three grand. They charge two bucks for sharpening. It takes skill out of the equation but does a pretty mediocre job. It's also incapable of doing anything but the simplest jobs- it can't fix chips, it won't regrind a tip and it won't do a single bevel.
Most professional sharpeners tend to use belt grinders. I'd say a 1" x 42" is the most common although some use smaller ones and some use very large & pricey machines from Burr King or Coote. You can do amazing things with those machines but you have to know what you're doing. The cheaper grinders like the Harbor Freight 30" run at over 2,500 rpm. You can "burn" the temper out of a knife, especially at the tip, in just a few seconds on a machine like that. It's also easy to remove more metal than you intended to, and it's not like you can put it back on.
At a minimum plan to practice on a few beaters. Try to have it down pretty well before you work on paying customer's knives.
A few professional sharpeners use stones. I would say that unless you're an accomplished sharpener it's hard to make any money doing it that way. Do you plan to do this as a hobby or as a business? If the former you can price wherever you feel comfortable. In the latter case you'll have to look at the cost of equipment, travel and you're time and determine how many blades you'll have to do a day at the price you choose to break even- then plan on doing more or raising your prices from there.
Once you have the technical aspects down you can set prices. If there's no one sharpening in your area you'll basically have to determine the price. If you have competition you'll have to look at their rates. You can then choose to compete on quality, price or both. Can you afford to do the job for less than they do? Or can you provide a service that's superior to theirs by a wide enough margin to justify a higher price?
There are a few basic rules of thumb in my area. Commercial sharpeners that do knives for restaurants and meat packers tend do sharpen for $3 per knife, regardless of size. This is invariably done on power gear of some kind (normally a belt grinder). Another common rate for better knives is $1 per inch, normally with a $5 or so minimum. I'd say that's a decent base point for you to look at. Restaurants will probably balk at being charged by the inch and it's pretty quick to do a Forschner or Dexter. Hunters and fishermen will have different expectations. They'll probably expect a little more polish and a more careful finish.
There are a few things to be aware of. Some segments of people are very price sensitive. Yeah, that's a polite way of saying they're cheap
. They may balk at your rates. Remember the old saying- If a man calls you a horse, punch him in the nose. If another man says it, walk away. If a third guy calls you a horse, best start shoppin' for a saddle!
That's to say you'll always run across a few tightwads, pay them no mind. But if you're too high for your areas you'll quickly figure it out.
Also, carefully consider what services you'll offer before you even get to rates. Decide what will be included at what price and spell those things out very clearly from the outset. I'd strongly advise you to have set pricing for things beyond a simple sharpening. Will you fix broken tips? I do, but it's usually extra. If a knife is bent, or the edge is rolled or badly chipped, this is usually considered a repair. Repairs should generally cost the customer extra because I can guarantee they'll cost you extra in the time it takes to fix them.
Lastly, realize that everything changes when you start charging. If you do a knife for a buddy for no charge he'll be appreciative, but his expectations will be elevated when he's paying. Be sure to under-promise and over-deliver. The only way to learn is by doing, so if you want to stretch your skills you'll have to experiment on customers knives, but have a policy in writing about how you'll address complaints. You may occasionally ruin a customers knife, and if you do you'll have to replace it. At least consider what type of warranty or guarantee you'll offer.
Sharpening can be a rewarding hobby and a good business. Just make sure you've done your due diligence before you set out on that road. Best of luck to you.