The Knife Sharpening Guy

This is fifth in a TBTAM special series called I Get it on the Streets. Links to the next post in the series are at the end of each post. Enjoy!

On any given Sunday, if you live in New York City and have your windows open, you may hear a clanging noise coming from the street below. If you do, drop whatever you are doing, run to your kitchen, grab your knives and head downstairs as fast as you can. Because Mike the knife sharpening guy will be there with his truck ready to give your steel a new edge.

That’s right – A mobile cutlery grinding service. A time-honored tradition that still exists in some US cities , unchanged from what I imagine it was years ago, when aproned housewives and the cooks of the rich listened for the clanging bell and headed downstairs, gathering around the truck to grab a few minute’s gossip with their neighbors as the cutlery man sharpened their knives.

Mike’s been sharpening New Yorker’s knives and scissors in this truck for years, having learned the trade from his father, who outfitted the truck before Mike was born. Mike remembers riding with Dad when he was as young as 5 years old. Now Dad is gone and Mike works fulltime in the DA’s office and has a grown son of his own. But he and his son still take the family truck out on weekends, driving from their home in Brooklyn over to Manhattan to sharpen knives, mostly on the Upper West Side. Word on the street is that they provide great service at a low price.

Today was the third time I’d seen Mike’s truck, but unfortunately I’ve never been able to get my knives to him. Once he was even in front of my building, but I was late for something or other and could not take the time to run upstairs for the knives.

I suggested that perhaps getting a web site and publishing a schedule would help folks like me to get him our business. But Mike didn’t seem interested in changing a thing. After all, he’s not in this business for the money. It’s really just an excuse for he and his son to spend some time together and keep the family tradition alive. But they did promise to head over to my neighborhood sometime soon.

I’ll put my doorman on the lookout for the truck, and ask him to buzz me next time Mike comes by. Hopefully, I’ll be home.

Or maybe I should just start carrying my knives around with me….

7 Responses to The Knife Sharpening Guy

  1. I had no idea such a thing would still exist in New York! How wonderful! I hope you catch him next time – I’ll bet he does great work and probably has some good stories.

  2. Hello, I just stumbled back across your blog and put it in my google reader thing. When I clicked on it again the post that showed up on the reader service was very different than the one that is on your page. Thought you might like to know.

  3. KatieZ and Twilite:
    I just LOVE these old time traditions, I hope they stay…

    I think it is because I updated the links within a few old posts yesterday, and google is picking it up as new feed, when it is just old posts. Thanks for the heads up. I don’t know that I can do anything about it. I will be puitting up a post later today, hoefully that wills traighten things out. Thanks for reading!!

  4. That’s the coolest thing. I think it’s refreshing to hear about traditions like his. He’s not only got a neat little buisness for himself, but he’s a cool dad too!

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts! This blog is a great find, and some of its so funny! I’ll keep reading!

  5. I grew up in Chicago, but remember a “Knife Sharpening Man” there. My brother & I felt bad because he looked so tired pushing his cart down the street with not much business, so we grabbed up some knives and ran out for him to sharpen them. They stayed sharp forever!! We looked for him for years after that; unfortunately we only had the pleasure of having him around for a couple of more years and then he didn’t come around any more–probably some new law forbade it or something stupid like that. I also miss the “Produce Truck Guys” with their hanging scale and the “Top Soil guys yelling “Black dirt for sale!” as they came down the alley every spring. Too bad my son had to miss out on all of that…

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