Shhhhhhhhh, Knifesharpeners Are Coming – Old Spain

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 occaisionally found today.  That call means the Knifesharpeners are pushing their motorcycles through the quiet plazas and streets of neighborhoods.  They are sounding the message to restaurants, bars, and housewifes that they are ready to sharpen knives for the cut of the tissue paper slice of ham, cheeze, or to filet a fish.

The Knifesharperners 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


These men are clever gerryriggers 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.

Related Spain Scoop:  You may see the Knifesharpeners at markets.    The Knifesharpeners are sometimes outside of tapas bars.  Paul Whitelock, writer for  has some good tips on Ronda.  Knifesharpeners may be found there also.

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This entry was posted in BARCELONA & EAST, MADRID & CENTRAL, MORE SCOOP, Moving to Spain, San Sebastian, SANTIAGO & WEST, SEVILLE & SOUTH and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted July 18, 2012 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    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
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

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

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