Matthew Martin
CUTS LIKE A KNIFE: Rodgers’ paper slicing demonstration shows the knife is sharp all the way through. “If there’s spots that aren’t sharp it will cut and then tear,” he said.

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving of 2022, a friend posted a PSA on Instagram that showed Henry Rodgers, a 19-year-old from Central Arkansas, sharpening her knives from the trunk of his car using a belt sander situated atop a vintage bench that was once part of his great-grandmother’s makeup table. “He comes to YOU,” the caption reads. “Get your set Thxgiving-ready. Pro-tip: ask for a demo and tip your local knife sharpener.”

In an Instagram video on Rodgers’ business page (@rodgers_sharpening_services), he speaks directly to the camera about his business model while simultaneously using a kitchen knife to smoothly and repeatedly slice all the way through a piece of paper that he’s holding with his opposite hand.


Since launching the business in 2022 — a side gig to his full-time job at Hobby Lobby — Rodgers, now 20, has become the resident knife sharpener for several Central Arkansas restaurants: The Fold Botanas & Bar, Cache Restaurant, 42 Bar & Table, Boulevard Bread Co, HAM Market and Café Bossa Nova. Additionally, he sharpens specialty hook knives for a window company and scissors for a few local hair stylists.

Metal childhood


Long before he’d ever sharpened a knife, Rodgers was already making them out of random pieces of metal while he was still in elementary school. A longtime fan of medieval weaponry and armor, he grew up on movies and TV shows like “Lord of the Rings,” “Forged in Fire” and “Big Giant Swords.”

One day his mother, Pearl Zebert, asked him if he wanted to do some metal work with his neighbor Julian Kresse, artist Kevin Kresse’s son. They made a saber-style sword out of an old retired stop sign using an angle grinder. He was hooked. Soon after, he found a method online to make a cheap DIY forge, and he and his dad were off to Home Depot.


While other kids were passing the time with sports, music or video games, he and Kresse collected old school discarded iron railroad spikes in the woods near the White Water Tavern to forge into knives.

The forging method Rodgers and his friends were using involved a metal tub full of heated charcoal. They’d feed the fire oxygen using a hair dryer connected to a pipe. When the metal turned red hot it would be set on another metal slab, known as an anvil, and they’d bang it into shape using a hammer until it needed to be heated again. They would eventually replace the hair dryer when they realized the power of a leaf blower.

“He used to wear me out going to the store to get charcoal,” his father, Brian Rodgers, said.

When Rodgers’ collection of materials and tools eventually outgrew his home, his grandfather, a woodworker, built him a metal shop in the backyard when he was around 11 years old. The neighbors probably weren’t thrilled with the result, Brian Rodgers said.


“They would sit out there and if you didn’t make them quit it could be like 10 hours of the worst noise you’ve ever heard,” he said.

Matthew Martin
METAL SHOP: Rodgers’ grandfather built him a metal shop in the backyard when he was around 11 years old.

During the summer, Rodgers and Kresse spent time at the Historic Arkansas Museum learning about blacksmithing from master bladesmith Lin Rhea. Rodgers said it eventually became like an unofficial internship that went from just watching Rhea in his shop to getting to do some hands-on work that was worthy of school credit.

Pearl Zebert
KNIFE MAKERS: Young Henry Rodgers (left) and Julian Kresse.

Rodgers’ home forging got more serious, and arguably more dangerous, too, after his grandmother moved out of a remote cabin in the Ozarks and she no longer needed the huge tank of butane to heat her home. Rodgers and his dad cut one end off a smaller empty butane tank and filled it with concrete insulation refractory material. They drilled a hole to install a burner that would attach to his grandmother’s tank, creating a torch to heat whatever metal Rodgers and his friends were working with. Rodgers’ father described the process as somewhat terrifying.

“When he was burning the massive air-driven fire, that got a little scary every now and then.”

Zebert said her confidence in him was so strong that she was never worried.

“He was a natural,” she said. “When he gets into something, he goes full on and learns as much as he can.” She said he gave her the first knife he made, which was “rudimentary but super cool.” And he made her iron handles for sliding doors to her back shed.

Honing his skills and going into business

Rodgers learned the process of professional knife sharpening from a metal worker named Bob Means. Means sharpened the kitchen crew’s knives at downtown restaurant Bruno’s Little Italy. Zebert was Bruno’s head chef at the time and asked Means if he would show Rodgers the ropes. Rodgers trained under Means and soaked up as much knowledge as he could, and Means gifted him the equipment he’s using out of his trunk now. For several years Rodgers didn’t do much with the skill other than sharpen knives for his mom and a few cooking-minded friends until about eight months ago when a friend asked him why he hadn’t made a career out of it.

“I really thought about it and realized there’s no other reason than I just haven’t gone for it,” Rodgers said.

He started out going to local restaurants and pitching himself. Then he had some business cards made and launched an Instagram page. He’s been in the process of establishing an LLC for the last month. His first three attempts at a business name were already taken. He was previously calling his company The Better Blade before changing the name to Rodgers Sharpening Services.

Rodgers’ process involves the belt sander and four different grades of high grit sanding belts. He sharpens each side of the blade all the way to the tip with a 600-grit belt, followed by 800, 1,000 and 2,000-grit belts. He finishes each knife off on a leather belt with polish to give it a razor edge.

Matthew Martin
CUTTING EDGE: Rodgers’ process involves the belt sander and four different grades of high grit sanding belts.

Rodgers said when a knife is sharpened correctly and skillfully, the blade will reflect and even shine from top to bottom.

Part of his pitch to restaurants, aside from the dazzling human paper shredder showcase, is that he can get the job done in an hour or two and the restaurant’s knives never have to leave the premises. He can sharpen the knives from his trunk or just come inside the kitchen.

“There’s a lot of big national companies that are around, but they will have you either ship the knives in or they’ll go collect your knives and you might not get them back for a week,” he said.

Rodgers charges $1 an inch and has a $30 minimum if he travels to the site. Customers can drop off and pick up their knives for no minimum fee. He recently sharpened a single pocket knife for a client.

“We sharpen our own knives and still do, but [Rodgers] has made the kitchen life easier by sharpening the bulk of knives that do not get a lot of attention otherwise,” said Boulevard’s co-owner and head chef Sonia Schaefer. “We have him come in every six weeks and he does a good job.”

Rodgers said The Fold has him come by every two weeks. He also does HAM Market’s every six weeks. In between that time, the chefs there use steel to keep the edge on the blades.

“Knife sharpening is becoming a lost art,” HAM co-owner and operator Tim Bryant said. “We’re excited to see a young man take such an interest. It’s an invaluable tool in the restaurant industry, and just because you use a knife doesn’t mean you can sharpen a knife well,” Bryant said.

Rodgers met up with us just after he finished sharpening knives for HAM Market. When he arrived, he opened his trunk to reveal the antique makeup bench and what looked like hundreds of pieces of shredded paper peelings.

“I need to clean it out a bit,” he said with a laugh. “I always test them and do the [paper] demonstration for the customer every time,” he said. “It’s a little showy, but it really shows that the knife is sharp all the way through. If there are spots that aren’t sharp, it will cut then it will tear. If it’s not sharp enough, it won’t even cut the paper,” he said. Rodgers has a cool zen-like demeanor and didn’t flinch when Arkansas Times Creative Director Mandy Keener told him she was very concerned that his shoulder-length hair would get caught in his belt sander.

I learned the hard way how valuable it is for Rodgers to go straight to the customer. Without much thought or practical sense, I decided to transport my three knives in a thin reusable grocery bag. When I left, I sauntered down the street behaving as if I were carrying a bag of feathers, and when a tip of one of the knives stabbed me in the leg as I walked, I felt the effectiveness of Rodgers’ good work. Once I got home I used one of the knives to cut a lemon, and the knife cut like a brand new blade. It’s a refreshing feeling when your personal kitchen knife gets its groove back.

It’s only natural to feel more afraid of an object that’s sharp versus something that’s dull, but dull knives are actually more dangerous for cooks. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Health Encyclopedia: “A dull blade requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance that the knife will slip with great force behind it. A sharp knife ‘bites’ the surface more readily.” Chefs know this all too well.

Rodgers’ goal is to get about 50 clients and continue working with metal.

“I’m thinking if I get about 30-50 clients, I can do this as a full-time career,” he said.

You can get your knives cutting like knives again by contacting Rodgers on Instagram at @rodgers_sharpening_services or by calling 501-516-6826.