Craftsman in knife and scissors sharpening business for 26 years

Writer: Windy Shao  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-03-10

Knife and scissors sharpening was once a prevalent job decades ago in China. This traditional craft has gradually disappeared from urban life as the business simply became redundant over time in modern advanced technology times.

But Chen Guangfu, a 79-year-old man, has been doing the traditional business in Shenzhen for 26 years. Most of the time, he travels from one housing estate to another with his tools.

He told Shenzhen Evening News that he would keep on this traditional handcraft work as long as he can, not only for money, but also for passion and interest.

He is doing this job as an art form, a form of professional service provision, in the eyes of the News reporter.

Taking a pair of scissors from a customer, the old man studied them for a minute first, then he began to rub it back and forth on a grindstone, polished the blade, and hammered them. It was a kind of magic, the scissors, which could not even cut a small thread before, became as sharp as a new pair.

Chen Guangfu sharpens a pair of scissors. Li Chao

“I have been grinding scissors for a factory for more than 20 years, I know all kinds of scissors,” the man said.

Over the past 26 years, the craftsman has witnessed the changes of the city, and experienced the gradual disappearance of the old profession.

Chen is from Bozhou, Anhui Province. In 1961, he learned to forge iron when he was 17. In the process of learning to forge iron, he learned how to sharpen knives.

In 1975, he became a Party secretary at his home village. Life was hard for the family with four children as his wife suffered from illness.

In 1997, Chen quit his village job and decided to work in Shenzhen as a craftsman to sharpen knives and scissors. He said he likes the job as he is free on deciding his working time, and it also helps to realize his value of life.

With his skillful craftsmanship, he accumulated a lot of acquaintances in the city.

A garment factory had been his old customer for 13 years until the factory moved out of Shenzhen. Today, he is still grinding scissors for some garment factories.

“Shenzhen is developing too fast,” he said.

Chen has witnessed the rapid development of the city and felt its inclusiveness and friendliness.

Since the 1980s, the clothing industry in Shenzhen has flourished. And scissors are one of the indispensable tools for making clothes. With the development of the clothing industry, a large number of craftsmen like Chen had been doing this traditional job for a long time before more and more clothing factories moved out of the city.

“There used to be more than 30 people grinding knives in Shenzhen from my village alone.”

With less and less clothing factories left now, and lifestyle changes induced people into buying classier knives and scissors than retaining old ones. Knife sharpeners are therefore rarely to be found in the city today.

But Chen said he would keep on doing the job as long as he is needed. “Now it doesn’t matter to me whether I make money or not from the job. I just want to keep this skill.”