People often show up at Warren Glazer’s door carrying knives. Rather than call 911, he ushers them in. “Chefs, especially, have emergencies,” Glazer says. “They’ll call at 10 pm, saying, ‘I have a job interview tomorrow and my knives need sharpening.’ I tell them to come over.”
Recently, I visited Glazer’s Monmouth Junction condo armed with a set of Henckels that hadn’t been sharpened since 1992. Glazer walked me down to his crammed but orderly basement workshop.
Hefting my chef’s knife, he said, “Housewares stores will run knives like this through a sharpening machine. But it’s nothing like what I do.” He held the edge of my knife to the abrasive belt of an electric grinder. With a few strokes, he then returned a point to its tip, which I’d cracked off while stabbing a cabbage in about 2000. He finished the blade by rubbing it on ever-finer whetstones, then proffered the handle with a flourish. Holding up a sheet of paper, he said, “Give this a slice at an angle.” On contact, the blade slipped through the page like it was air.
Glazer, 71, got into sharpening after a pharmacy degree and careers in product development and cybersecurity. On the side, he repaired and designed jewelry with his wife, Helene. Planning retirement, he realized that “knife sharpening uses a lot of the same tools as jewelry repair and doesn’t require inventory. I just had to figure out how to do it.”
He did, with a two-day class and heaps of reading and practice. Two weeks after he went live with his home-built website, niceandsharp.com, in 2007, his first client shipped him $600 worth of kitchen knives. (Glazer admits he turned to the Internet for guidance.) As the business grew, he held on to his day job in cybersecurity until 2013.
Now Glazer sharpens about 3,000 knives a year for clients from every state east of the Mississippi. The cost is $6-$8 per blade, plus postage. “I pick up packages in the mail every day, and knives are usually mailed back the next day,” he says.
Summer weekends find Glazer and his belt grinder at the Highland Park and West Windsor farmers’ markets. Shoppers drop off knives, scissors and garden tools. By the time they’ve loaded up on heirloom tomatoes and such, their honed blades are ready.
Glazer spends most workdays hunkered in his basement, where he gets the occasional in-person delivery from chefs or even [no joke] the “grandmotherly type who comes carrying a machete.” Others show up for his private one-on-one classes, which range from half-day sessions for home cooks and hobbyists to intensive multiday workshops.
“I cannot name a profession that hasn’t taken a class with me,” Glazer says. “There are people who want to sharpen their own knives and others who have lost their job and want a new livelihood. Sometimes, I don’t know the motivation—like a member of the Israeli police force who flew over just to study with me for three days. He was not very chatty.”
During my session, Glazer walked me through basics, starting with sharpening kitchen blades on whetstones. I didn’t leave ready to hone on my own, but I did walk out with intel.
What knives does a home cook truly need? “Paring, chef’s, serrated bread.” What to spend on a good knife? “Don’t go super cheap, but most people are fine with a $35 blade.” How often to sharpen? “About once a month if you use the knife every night to cook for a family of four.” Pet peeve? “Throwing unsheathed knives together in a drawer! Hitting against other blades is the best way to dull and damage them.” Dishwasher or not? “If it doesn’t have a wooden handle, sure. Just make sure it’s edge-side up and isn’t near anything that will knock into it during the cycle.” Toughest job he’s had? “A set of tweezers from a lab at Princeton. They were using them to dissect fruit fly brains under a microscope. They were the only thing I couldn’t get sharp enough.”
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