Brooklyn shop has sharpened tools for decades

- For decades Joe Bianco estimates he’s sharpened between 50 and 100 hairdressing scissors, surgical tools, gynecological tools, orthodontic tools, podiatry tools, and other instruments a day.

“Basically I’m a sharpener since I’m 5 years old,” he said.

On this Monday afternoon, we find Joe’s twin brother, Vincent, sharpening a knife on a sit-down grinding wheel built during the First World War.

“You can get hurt very easily,” Vincent said, “open wheels. That’s why it’s only Joe and I.”

The Biancos receive blunt objects (“paper cutters and lawn mower blades,” Joe said. “We’ll get the occasional sword swallower in.”) from all over this city, state, country and as far away as Milan and Rome, and in their Dyker Heights shop return to those tools their edges.

“Perseverance, steady hand and you gotta be pretty much born into it,” Joe said.

Vincent and Joe own and run this operation with their brother Dominick. Their dad, John, a Brooklyn hair stylist and salon owner, purchased the sharpening business in 1972.

“Us boys were his troops,” Vincent said. “We did whatever he asked.”

John Bianco died in 2009.

“Miss my dad big time,” Vincent said. “That’s the big thing we miss.”

The Bianco brothers continue sharpening in their father’s memory but also build and sell their own brand of scissors, snippers and other tools under the name Bianco Brothers Instruments.

“I make my living with my hands,” Joe said. “I actually make my living.”

“We have customers from ‘71, ‘72 that are still customers,” Vincent said.

The rise of the disposable everything perhaps threatens the sharpening business, but for those whose trades demand precision, maintenance still retains value. And so, more than four decades after John purchased and named it, John’s Sharpening Service persists, taking what’s dull in this world and — not unlike the characters who work there — sharpening it up.

“It’s a very strange field,” Joe said. “Not many people know what a sharpener is.”

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