Our last post was about the general concept of knife rental businesses. We went through the basics of how knife leasing works and the typical arrangements between commercial kitchens and knife rental companies. We talked about the process of getting knives in bulk and then switching them out in professional kitchens. In this post, we'll go into what it takes, equipment wise, to get going. There is a huge, and often confusing array of products for sale that will sharpen knives, even among systems that claim to be for "professionals". They all claim to be the the easiest, fastest, and get the best results. There are also endless opinions and knife forum discussions on the topic. We are just going to focus on typical set-ups for professional knife sharpening businesses, and knife leasing businesses in particular. Each of these systems will work for a sharpening business that is getting started, or a sharpener that is looking to expand into the knife rental business. These set-ups are intended for low volume to medium volume (10 - 150 accounts) knife rental businesses.
SET UP ONE
The first set-up is used among many sharpeners who work at farmer's markets. It is a belt sander paired with a pull through machine. The belt sanders typically used are 1x30, 1x42, 2x42, or 2x72. The sharpener makes one or two passes on the belt sander to quickly remove some metal. Although it varies, this belt will typically be between 120 and 220 grit. Starting with a pretty coarse belt speeds up the process, but you probably wouldn't want go any more coarse than 120. The initial thinning of the edge needs to be done quickly to move on to the next step. Making money at professional knife sharpening is a matter of maximizing time to sharpen many knives quickly. It is also important to move quickly on the belt to avoid overheating the knife. Belt sanders vary with quality, sizes, and cost. If you are on a budget, a 1x30 sander from Harbor Freight can be a great way to start. You can also step up to a more professional and longer lasting 1x42 Veil Sander.
After the first step is complete, the edge needs to be refined. This can be done quickly with the F Dick RS150 Machine. It's a fairly simple machine that works on a pulley system with 2 sets of 2 counter-rotating wheels. The first set of wheels are diamond, and the second set is ceramic.
The diamond wheels do a great job of removing the burr and beginning the edge refinement process. The ceramic wheels polish the edge perfectly for kitchen knives.
Total Cost of Set-up: $1000-$1300
SET UP TWO
The second set-up is probably the simplest, most efficient machine for knife rental and sharpening businesses. It is the F. Dick SM-11 Knife Sharpening Machine. It is a water cooled, all-in one sharpening system that is easy to use to and produces fantastic results. The advantage of this machine over set up one is that you only have one machine to deal with. It can also take away inconsistencies from free handing the initial bevel on a belt sander. There are two grinding wheels that are water cooled for the initial grind. Then it is pulled through two ceramic, counter rotating wheels. Then there is an optional polishing wheel that can be used if a highly polished edge is desired. This is a well-built, solid machine that can handle sharpening 400-500 knives a day. It is more expensive and suited well for higher volume operations.
Total Cost of Set-up: $2249.99
SET UP THREE
The final set up is to have two Tru-Hone machines with different grinding wheels. This gives you more customization as Tru-Hone carries wheels from 100 grit to 1500 grit. These machines are very consistent, and built for high volume, professional use. Generally the first machine has a 220 grit set of wheels, and the second machine has either 1000 grit or 1500 grit wheels. The 1000 grit set up leaves a slightly coarser edge, which can make the knives cut better initially. The 1500 grit set up. Either way you will get great results, and Tru Hone offers a one year warranty on all parts and labor. This set up is a bigger investment but provides the most optionality.
Total Cost of Set-up: $2649.99 - $2749.99
These are by no means the only ways to sharpen knives for a knife leasing company. But hopefully it will give you a quick glimpse into what is out there with a few different price points. The keys to growing your business is consistency. With any of these three systems, you'll be able to get the results that professional kitchens expect. All 3 set ups should be able to get a typical chef knife sharp in approximately 1 minute. At Foodserviceknives.com, we want to help with your knife rental business by providing the cutlery and the information you need to be successful. Please feel free to leave comments below!
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