Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'King' turns knifegrinder

'King' turns knifegrinder

'King' turns knifegrinder

"Looking for firewood, I found a dead tree."

I used this Khmer expres sion to narrate to friends last week my feeling when

I luckily came across a "king" turnedknife-grinder.

"I am a former king," the ex-monarch told me. "But just in the plays,"

he added, disappointing me greatly.

Having had his theatrical career cut short, Yin Tech (73) picked up a new career

as a knife-grinder in 1979 and has been attached to the business ever since.

Even if a knife-grinder does not need to invest much capital or pay any taxes like

the wooden mosquito net-making business, you still scarcely find people plying this

trade.

Roaming the Phnom Penh streets from morning 'til night, the knife-grinding veteran

can make 3,000 to 5,000 riels a day, barely enough to feed his blind wife and himself.

He charges 500 riels to sharpen a knife and 1,000 riels for an ax, with prices negotiable

depending on the level of bluntness.

With nearly a decade and a half experience in the business, Yin Tech makes the elaborate

claim that he is "the best knife-grinder on the planet" or, at any rate,

in this Kingdom.

He says any knife he grinds will stay sharp for at least two months before it needs

sharpening again - a skill very few possess.

Moreover, he is seldom off work through sickness or injury, despite working without

safety gloves and he has never had any accident such as cutting his hands accidentally.

A tool to be sharpened has to go through three graduated grinding stones and the

water must be carefully selected.

"If we use rain water the knife will not cut as well as when we use tap water,"

he explained, not to mention purified bottled water.

Yin Tech was born to a rich family in Phnom Penh and began an early career as a tailor

but soon switched to the theater when his poor eyesight made needle work tricky.

In his youth he studied Khmer martial arts which accounts, he says, for the occasional

uncontrolled reflex. He therefore advises children not to play near him while working.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all