Knife Sharpener

Knife Sharpener

Check out this artifact!

4/18/2023 | Mark Hanson, Curator

Mechanical mowers and reapers became the norm during the late 19th century. These machines cut grain and hay with a moving sickle bar. To work effectively, triangular knives on the sickle bar needed regular sharpening. Ingenious inventors quickly began designing new tools to make the sharpening process easier, especially when still in the field. By 1900 some 60 different patents were issued.

At first glance this artifact might look like a breast drill, but it is actually a mower and reaper knife sharpener. This basic hand-held design was patented in 1868 by Daniel Ayres of Sheldon, Illinois. The large main gear and small pinion spin the conical grinding stone at relatively high speeds to sharpen knife edges. The model shown here was marketed as the “Lightening Grinder.” Unfortunately, at some point during this tool’s use life the cast main gear broke near the wooded handle.