WINCHESTER — A poor workman blames his tools, as the saying goes, but sometimes it really is the tool’s fault.

A dull blade on a chef’s knife or landscaper’s clipper isn’t going to make an accurate cut no matter the craftsman’s skill. And using a dull knife can be more dangerous than a sharp one.

Norman Black, owner of Keen Edge, makes quick work of sharpening blades using an electric sharpener equipped with an abrasive belt.

Several times a month, Black sets up his equipment at the Freight Station Farmers Market on Boscawen Street. For $5 a blade, Black shapes and hones knives of all sizes.

He also sharpens scissors, hedge trimmers, chain saws, axes — even shovels.

“With as much rock you around here, you need a shovel that can cut through that,” said Black, a retired engineer who now lives in Bunker Hill, West Virginia.

For larger projects that require larger sharpening equipment — such as lawnmower blades — Black takes the blades to his home and brings them back for pickup at the farmers market.

Black has been sharpening knives since he was a Boy Scout, where he learned how to use a whetstone.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 10 years old,” said Black, who grew up in Baltimore. “And from then on I became the go-to person in the troop for all knife sharpening.”

It was only about three years ago that he invested in electronic equipment that lets him sharpen a blade in minutes.

Black is happy to explain the difference in sharpening and honing a knife — and why it’s necessary to do both. He’ll demonstrate how to use a honing rod for those who have never gotten the hang of it, and also give aa bit of advince in in how to care for knives.

Because, for Black, sharpening knives is more than just a way to supplement his retirement income.

“I do this as a ministry,” he said, adding that he uses part of the proceeds from his business to help out local charities, often through his membership with the Kiwanis Club of Winchester.

He also makes sure everyone has a tool that works. He carries a bagful of knives that he gives away or sells for $5, the price he charges for sharpening. He never knows when he’ll run across someone using a cheap or worn-out knife.

Black will be at the Freight Station Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and again on the Saturdays of May 15 and May 29 as well as the Tuesdays of May 25 and June 8.

After June 8, Black will stop for the summer when goes to his vacation home in Maine. But he’ll be back in the fall, ready to get those knives ready for slicing apples and carving pumpkins.

— Contact Robyn Taylor at

(1) comment

Mark Gunderman

I had an ax and 10 inch blade hedge shear sharpened for $5 each and it was well worth the effort to visit Norman Black of Keen Edge at the Freight Station Farmers Market on Boscawen Street. I need to get my bypass lopper and bypass hand pruner sharpened next. Many good deals at Freight Station Farmers Market on Boscawen Street.

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