The Itinerant Blade Grinder

I’m at my parents’ home in Buenos Aires and I hear a familiar harmonica tune, tee-dee- deee tee-dee-deeeee. I rush out the door but it’s too late. The itinerant blade grinder has cycled past. A young couple sees me gesturing and yells “The lady in green is calling you!”

afilador 2

The itinerant blade grinder, the keeper of a dying trade.

The afilador -Spanish for blade grinder- turns round and cycles back to the house. I give him a couple of blunt knives and scissors. We start chatting, or rather, I ask him questions while he works. He tells me that he learned the trade from his grandfather. There’s more to sharpening blunt blades than meets the eye: there’s a different technique for each cutting instrument. He shows me as he works.

A whetting stone is fixed between the handlebars of his bicycle. When the bike is stationary it rests on a kickstand and the afilador sits on the bike and cycles. The movement of the wheels makes the whetting stone rotate so that he can sharpen blades.

The afilador -let’s call him Daniel-works as a school janitor from Monday to Friday and plies his trade mostly at weekends. He is also a war veteran.

A warrior and keeper of a dying trade.


4 thoughts on “The Itinerant Blade Grinder”

  1. Your opening is very good – it hooked me in right away. The blade grinder is such an intriguing character and I definitely want to know more about him. I feel like this essay ended very abruptly. That second-to-last paragraph set us up to expect a continuation (especially with the mention of his name). I’d love to see you use this as a beginning to a more complete essay. How did Daniel go from being a soldier to a veteran to a blade grinder?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The first paragraph draws the reader in, I like sense description/sound of the harmonica. The description of how the bicycle powers the whet stone is fascinating! I would have liked more detail on the different techniques he uses, and maybe how he feels about his trade. Great subject!

    Liked by 1 person

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