When I bemoaned a couple of weeks back an apparent lack of places that rehabilitate garden tools, I had no idea that the knives were being sharpened as I wrote.
It turns out that we have at least three places to get tools sharpened in the Wichita area: a long-established business, a new father-and-son business, and a teacher who inherited the skills and equipment of the late Leland Chapman, who ran Chapman Brothers Lawnmower Service for years and years.
If your garden tools are able to be sharpened — and not all the newfangled ones are — you don't have to throw them away after all once the blades get dull.
"With our disposable society, it is sad that folks will pay $20 or more for a new chain saw chain when it can be sharpened for only $11, and be sharpened many times," Mark Madden, who has just started a sharpening business with his son, e-mailed me. "The same goes for most tools. Hedge trimmers can run over $70 for a good pair, yet can be sharpened for only $11."
Mark's 16-year-old son, Patrick, drew up a business plan for a sharpening business as part of his work toward a Boy Scout merit badge, and he and his dad decided to turn it into reality. It was a natural for Mark, who learned the value of a sharp blade from his grandfather. "A dull knife is a stick," his granddad used to say. Mark grew up to be fanatical about keeping his own kitchen knives sharp.
"We're so small we're not even a micro-business," Mark says, but he and Patrick are sharpening loppers, chain saws, manual hedge trimmers and mower blades, including those of reel mowers, under the name M&M Sharpening Services.
The sharpening of reel lawn mower blades is a specialty of Don Butler, a Maize teacher who learned sharpening skills from Leland Chapman in 1953. Mr. Chapman owned Chapman Brothers Lawnmower Service on Kellogg and later down by Joyland for years, says Don's wife, Tawnnie. Don was a sophomore in high school when he first went to work for Mr. Chapman. When Mr. Chapman died, Don inherited his equipment, and he does sharpening on the side out of his home.
Kathryn McCune of Wichita told me she had gone to Chapman's for her reel-mower sharpening until Mr. Chapman died. Then one year she asked every mower person at the Wichita Garden Show if they knew the identity of the teacher who used to help Mr. Chapman on Saturdays. One person did, and she rediscovered Don.
"There's a knack to it," Tawnnie says of sharpening. There's also a difference between hand-sharpening and machine-sharpening, and Don uses a machine on the reel-mower blades, she says.
Charlotte Dulohery told me that she takes her "abused snippers and clippers" to Precision Sharpening at 1332 S. Seneca — but she wasn't sure if they really were in the business of sharpening individuals' garden tools. Turns out they are, in addition to sharpening the tools of people in such businesses as landscaping and dog grooming.
"You'd be surprised what people bring through the door," Carl Bazil of Precision told me.
"One time this 80-year-old lady brought in what had to be a 100-year-old garden hoe that she wanted us to put an edge on." Precision did it.
But not everything that comes through the door can be sharpened.
"There's a lot of disposable-type tools out there," Carl said. They're not made to be sharpened. The blades often are riveted on, and taking the blades off is more trouble — and therefore more expense — than the tool is worth.
But Precision does a lot of sharpening of pruners, loppers, grass clippers, chain saws. It does not do blades for reel mowers. Most blade sharpening costs around $5, with hedge trimmers, at $15, being about the most expensive sharpening job.
"When I took them a lopper that I had used to snip the bottom of a piece of chain-link fence, they were disapproving but sharpened it anyway," Charlotte told me.
"I find it's best not to keep trimming as dusk falls."