Shhhhhhhhh, Knife-sharpeners Are Coming

Knife-sharpeners around Barcelona. A dying trade.

By Nancy Todd

Shhhhhhh.  Listen.  You may hear a shrill whistle, twittering up the scale and back down.  This is a sound of old Spain, and still occasionally found today.  That call means the Knife-sharpeners are pushing their motorcycles through the quiet plazas and streets of neighborhoods.  They are sounding the message to restaurants, bars, and housewives that they are ready to sharpen knives for the cut of the tissue paper slice of ham, cheese, or to filet a fish.

The Knife-sharpeners can be found in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Seville, other cities and villages throughout Spain.  However, they are becoming fewer and fewer as more people buy a rig at Ikea for home sharpening.

knifesharpeners old spain

Knife-sharpeners at work

These men are clever jerry-riggers and are utilizing the motor on their motor cycles to operate the grinding wheels.  They used to use bicycles.  Their whistles are small, with several tubes that make their distinctive sound.  I consider myself lucky to have seen a few and always listen for that whistle.

2 Responses

  1. Linda says:

    I still sometimes hear their whistles in the small, coastal town where I live now, but not nearly as frequently as before. They used to pass by where I lived regularly, and all my knives and garden tools were always really sharp. Shame, they’re not nearly so efficient now….the knives and tools that is.

  2. admin says:

    We still hear them once in a while in Barcelona. They make the rounds with the restaurants. R

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