Saturday, April 23, 2011

Edgeworks: The Frederick Knife Store

     Everyone remembers when they earned their first real money and what they did with it.  I don't mean those little parental incentives to scrub the toilets or clean out the attic, but that first time you were paid in real money by a non-family member for hard work.  Mine was dearly earned in the hot sun, but gratefully spent at Edgeworks Knife & Supply Co. in downtown Frederick.
     When I was 14, a local diner owner paid my younger brother and me to pass out his coupons at the Frederick Festival of the Arts.  We spent several days before the festival cutting out thousands of "Diner Dollars" and stuffing them into little menus that we also had to cut out and fold.  By the time we actually got to the festival we were already sleep deprived and then spent hours walking around in the hot sun yelling out cliché slogans at the top of our lungs, occasionally taking breaks for all the free soda we could drink.
     Sunburned and badly dehydrated, we spent the next few days with fevers and belly aches.  But it was all worth it when I got all $40 (I know, right?) of that money in my hands and set my eyes straight at Edgeworks.  I had grown up in community theatre where it seemed that everyone carried handy little multi-tools about their person so they could instantly tighten a screw, cut a tie line, or open packaging at a moment's notice, and I was tired of being left out.  I looked all about the store for something with lots of tools on it, but that I could afford, and finally honed in on a basic Victorinox Swiss Army knife.  It had two blades, two bottle openers, a can opener, scissors, screwdrivers, quirk screw, magnifying glass, tweezers and a toothpick.  It took every penny that I had, plus a little from mom and dad to cover the tax, but it was all mine.
     Sean Norris, the owner of Edgeworks for the past three years, said that out of the dozens and dozens of manufacturers that he carries, the Victorinox knives are his hottest selling items.
     “Everybody pretty much knows them,” he said.  “Nobody’s ever threatened by them so everybody feels comfortable carrying one and they have a lot of great multiple uses to them and they’re not that expensive, but they are very well-made.”
     In addition to pocketknives, the store also carries several lines of kitchen cutlery, hunting knives, fishing knives, and several other small practical blades that fit on a keychain or in a wallet.  Most of these brands can be bought online, but the real advantage of going to Edgeworks is that they are all in one place and you can put your hands on them for side-by-side comparisons.

     I’m impressed by the level of personal service by the knowledgeable staff.  Sean knows every detail of every piece in the store, from how it’s made, to what it’s best used for, to how to use it and keep it in good shape.  And he’s not just trying to push his merchandise.  He won’t steer you toward a more expensive knife than you need.  And before selling a knife to a customer, he takes it out of its packaging to make sure it’s in perfect condition.

     So what does the man who knows everything about his products choose as his favorite?  He is a big fan of the William Henry collection of display knives because of their artistic craftsmanship and rare materials.
     “They’re all very limited and they use very exotic materials like fossilized brain coral, dinosaur bone, mammoth teeth, and some of the best construction in the world,” he said.
     I like them because I appreciate any type of art that requires both naturally skilled hands and a very patient, well-disciplined mind that can put painstaking time into intricate details.  I can think of no other way finely forged steel could be bonded so seamlessly to natural treasures such as mammoth teeth and dinosaur bone. 

     The shop also carries a wide variety of decorative swords.  As a medievalist, I was drawn to the big broadswords that looked like they were pulled right off the pages of The Beowulf.  Some of them are fantasy creations, but some of them are historically accurate reproductions.  They also have collections from all over the world.  It’s one of the few places I’ve ever seen a full set of Japanese Samurai swords.
     But knives and swords aren’t all that Sean carries.  He also has some general sporting goods equipment, throwing darts, and a very vast array of puzzles for children and adults.  When I asked Sean what makes his store unique in the local area, he said that he is one of the few dedicated knife stores left in Maryland and “from knives to puzzles, we’ve got something for everybody, so everybody can find something.”
     I asked him what he would like everyone to know about his business that he doesn’t think they do, and he said, “Just that we’re here.  I constantly get people that say ‘Oh, I’ve lived in Frederick for twenty-some years.  I had no idea you guys were down here.  I guess I need to come downtown more.’”
     Well Sean, I know you're here, and I will always have my trusty red pocketknife to remind me.

Edgeworks Knife and Supply Co.
200 N. Market St.
Frederick, MD 21703
(301) 620-0477

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