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How Toucan Blades got started

As a child in St Albans, I did my best to learn from my grandfather and other master craftsmen with whom I would spend my holiday time in Wiltshire.

I put a lot of time into sharpening my parents’ kitchen knives, and my pocket knife and sickle. I grew into an adult that pays a lot of attention to detail, with perfectionist tendencies, actually! I continued to sharpen tools for myself and for others, getting particularly good at sharpening machetes when I was farming in Belize.

For a few years, some friends in Belize in Central America where I lived from 2002 were urging me to offer my sharpening skills at the local farmers’ market.

I finally took them up on it in March, 2021. My business was called AjJik’, which is Maya for “the sharpening man”. I began just with a Carborundum stone which cost £3 at a hardware store. I practised, researched and took training with very experienced sharpeners. Like my grandfather before me, I set out on my bicycle with my tools to reach my customers. As I became proficient at sharpening and established a regular clientele, I was able to invest the sharpening income into the purchase of more equipment, growing the business organically.

My wife, Nuna McDonagh, and I decided to relocate to my hometown of St Albans and later to Blandford Forum in Dorset.

Since May 2022, I have been continuing in the sharpening trade in England but with the new name of Toucan Blades, the keel-billed toucan being the national bird of Belize. Nuna is also part of the business, she does all the graphic design, website and advertising for Toucan Blades.

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