A Bicycle That Sharpens Knives

BY AWAKE! WRITER IN TANZANIA

▪ What would you think if you saw a man seated backward on a bicycle, pedaling vigorously but standing still? In parts of the world, such as here in East Africa, you would likely be watching a knife sharpener​—a man who makes his living by filling a community need.

His bicycle is ordinary but has a few important modifications. It has a circular grindstone mounted on a reinforced luggage carrier. For the drive belt, a nylon string is wrapped around the rim of an extra bicycle wheel that has been split in half and welded to the back wheel of the bike.

It is not certain how this ingenious implement came to Africa. “I have been told that such bikes were used in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, before the idea came to the city of Moshi, where I live,” says Andrea, a man who has sharpened knives this way since 1985. “It came into use here in 1982,” he adds.

How does one obtain a knife-sharpening bike? Andrea explains, “We go to a fundi, Swahili for ‘craftsman,’ and ask him to modify a normal bike according to our specifications.” The finished product is usually ready in a day or two.

Sparks and Sweat!

Andrea’s day begins at about seven in the morning, when he mounts his bicycle and heads for a well-populated area. On arriving, he calls out: “Knife sharpening! Knife sharpening!” He also rings the bells fitted to his bike. Soon the face of a housewife appears at a window. She hails Andrea and gives him a couple of blunt knives. A neighbor brings over a machete; and a barber, his scissors. Andrea also sharpens hoes, drills, and almost anything that has a cutting edge.

When setting up, Andrea looks for a level patch of ground and lowers his bike stand, which elevates the back wheel. He then attaches the nylon drive belt, seats himself on a second saddle, which faces to the rear, and pedals. Sparks fly and sweat appears as he hones an assortment of blades to a razor edge. At about six in the evening, Andrea calls it a day.

The biking knife sharpener is but one example of how “diligent ones” can use resourcefulness and initiative to make an honest living, even under difficult economic circumstances.​—Proverbs 13:4.