POLLI: I've been in the knife-sharpening business for... about 75 years.
Robert Polli knew what he wanted to do in life at just 6 years of age. He went to work
for his father's business- The New York Grinding Company of Brooklyn. By the time Poli
reached his late teens, he was sharpening in Rochester during the mid 1930s-
POLLI: Didn't have a customer. And people were selling pencils and apples on the corner
for two, three cents-- it was Depression days. But, inside of a year, I started to do
pretty good. People liked my work, And I used to go canvassing at all the stores, you
know. And I built up my business
Soon, Polli got into the knife rental business- swapping sharp items for dull items at
country clubs, restaurants, stores and supermarkets- putting in 10 hours or more each
day- a routine he carried on until 17 years ago. Since the late 1960s, Polli has been
setting up shop at Rochester's Public Market-
POLLI: And I know everybody- I've been there for years. They call me "the man with the
golden hands". I can sharpen.. make anything brand new.
Just about anything with an edge: cleavers and scissors, lots of lawn mower blades,
meat grinding blades and all kinds of cutlery-
FLYNN: Your hands... your fingers have got a lot of grooves on them there...
POLLI: Oh yeah.. you've got to have a lot of guts to do that, too, ha ha- running your
finger right over it. That knife is sharp- see it? But I can take it. You'd get cut if you
did that. I can go back and forth- and not get cut 'cause I know what I'm doing.
The tools of the trade haven't changed much over the decades-
POLLI: Oh, you gotta have different grade stones. I've got three different grade stones I
can put on. And buffers, and the compounds. taking rust off of the knives. I can make it
look like a mirror. Sure, then you gotta dress 'em- here's the wheel dresser, see? It fits
in there like this- goes back and forth and keeps the wheel straight and sharp. You gotta
have the proper tools to do the proper job.
(sound of cutting)
POLLI: That's it... now we will hone it..
FLYNN: What's the "honing" do?
POLLI: There's a wire edge on here when we get done. When you hone it, it takes the wire
edge off. See it? There's your new edge. Now this cuts like a razor- you could shave with
that knife now.
The only thing left now is payment for services rendered.
POLLI: You gotta give me three pennies... never accept anything sharper with a point
unless you give a penny- it's bad luck.
FLYNN: Is that an old saying or something... well, I got four..
POLLI: You got four..yep... that's fine! I don't have to go to work tomorrow!
Polli just celebrated his 87th birthday. He lives in Greece with his wife Jo of 65
years. One of their daughters now oversees the business, which includes selling all kinds
of kitchen tools and equipment at four area public markets...For Robert Polli, sharpening
is still not much of a... grind-
POLLI: And it keeps me busy and I love my work. I'd rather.. I'd rather do that work from
here than have a steak. I just love my work. Because when I get done, it shows something.
I can take an old piece of junk- make a new knife out of it.
Bill Flynn, WHAM news.