Sharpening skills

Tom Wilhelm

Photo By Devanie Angel

Tom Wilhelm is a sharp guy. Over the past five or six years, he’s built his one-man business into a full-service sharpening shop, putting a fresh edge on everything from dog clippers to huge, multi-bladed industrial tools. Caution Sharp is located at 1045 Park Ave., just before it hits Main Street, and you’ll know it from the outlines of sharp things on the building, the sharpening-themed glass mural, his great-grandfather’s blacksmithing wheel and the yellow-and-black “Caution Sharp” sign. There’s a walk-up window on the left side of the building. Wilhelm started out with a mobile sharpening truck, but now he gets so much business in the storefront—where his machinery is—that he doesn’t take it out much. He got his start in 1995 when he and a buddy swapped four cords of firewood for a commercial sharpening tool. In a previous life as a woodworker, Wilhelm crafted the doors to the Pageant Theater.

You do it all here?

Yes. I never send anything out. Sometimes, they’ll want something to a specific size, to 1,000th of an inch. I do it right here. … I use diamond wheels to sharpen carbide.

What are your rates?

People think it’s going to be very expensive, but most of the household stuff is $3, $3.50, maybe an occasional $5. They bring in a complete rustball and they get back a nice, shiny, new tool. … I also use a nationwide price survey from [trade newsletter] the Sharpeners Report.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve sharpened?

Probably one of the many multi-fluted steel-cutting bits. Or the mortician’s scissors.

What do you think of people who let their blades get dull?

They just don’t realize it. It’s like a sticky door. You only notice [how good it can be] once it’s fixed.

Do you ever cut yourself?

Look at that one: through the nail and everything. I’ve never had stitches. I usually cut myself cleaning scissors, because I don’t think they’re that sharp. I’ve got a bunch of butterfly bandages here.

Do you consider yourself to be a sharp person intellectually?

Intellectually, yeah, I’m kind of on the ball there. You know, the knives are so sharp you should never look directly at the edge. It’ll cut your eye.

Could you make something so sharp that even Jesus would cut himself?

Oh, yes. Jesus would bleed—he’d bleed.