By Robin Jovanovich
Jack Martin honed his knife-sharpening skills as an eighth grader in Shop class, but the first time anyone asked him to carve a turkey was after he returned home from military service. “I was attached to a squadron and served on the <<SS Saratoga>> during the bombing of Libya in 1986,” said the hale and hearty 47-year-old veteran. After that experience, he said, “my parents thought I could handle a turkey.”
After college, where he studied Sales and Marketing, Communications, Math, and English, Martin went on to an 18-year career in sales at ATT. “All those subjects I learned about at Westchester Community College came in handy,” he noted with a grin.
Meanwhile, he was earning a reputation as the neighbor or friend to call if you needed a knife sharpened. Earlier this year he retired from corporate life. Jack Martin is in business for himself and has earned a five-star rating as a knife sharpener.
He’s a fixture at farmers’ markets across the county — spring, summer, and fall. If it’s Wednesday, he’s in White Plains early and Old Greenwich in the afternoon, Thursday in Scarsdale, Friday it’s New Rochelle, Saturday in Larchmont, and Sunday in Rye. He’s the guy in the cowboy hat or baseball cap and you’ll find him over in a corner of one of the markets, eyes on the blade.
Watching him perform this “lost art” is mesmerizing — he’s really good and super fast. “All knives are tomato knives when I’m done with them,” he said assuredly. He can do a block of knives in 15 minutes flat.
Jack not only sharpens knives, but also repairs broken tips and chips. And he can take a worn hedge trimmer or pruner and make it like new again, which is why “the garden clubs have hit me hard.” He credits the Rye Moms’ Facebook page for his popularity in town.
And the price is right: he charges $7 to sharpen or repair pretty much any blade you bring him. In fact, you may never buy another knife again if you ask Jack to sharpen the ones in your drawer once a year, maybe a little more often if you cook a lot. “Restaurants call me but I refer them out. But if a chef walks up to me, I’ll do the job. I prefer my method of doing business directly.”
Over the years he’s added to his sharpening equipment and now owns three machines, one of which “will buff your fingernails!”
He enjoys sharpening knives made of German steel, “because every time you sharpen them, they’re like brand-new knives.” While you’re examining the knives you own, Jack urges you to throw out the sharpening contraptions you’ve bought over the years after seeing them on TV commercials or catalogues.
One contraption he has good things to say about is a prototype vehicle he’s building to transport handicapped veterans to jobs like his, and give them a sense of self-worth and a chance to socialize. “My plan is to go through the Veterans Administration and find the right vets and train them. There are plenty of guys like me, just missing their legs,” said the U.S. Navy veteran, whose father served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and whose two grandfathers served in World War II.
To that end, he opened a GoFundMe account this month.
You can find Jack “Knife” Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Rye Farmers Market this Sunday from 8:30-2, just in time to have all those dull blades transformed before the turkey is out of the oven and everyone is anxiously awaiting the feast.
Jack Martin sharpening a knife at a local farmers market