For nearly 30 years Steve Brefczynski worked as a carpenter, but when a knee replacement took him out of building work, he traded using tools for fixing them.
“The knee just doesn’t bend like it needs to anymore, so I can’t get down and build like I used to,” Brefczynski said. “But I’ve got to be able to do something.”
Last April, Brefczynski bought the local blade sharpening business, previously run by knife makers Mark and Angel Knapp, and renamed it Rosie Creek Sharpening. Since then, it’s been a steep learning curve but extremely rewarding.
“It’s been about a year now. It was a new learning experience for me,” Brefczynski said. “But I love the independence and being able to do it all myself.”
The learning process was frustrating at first, he noted.
“They’re complicated machines and it’s like a dance; you’ve got to know all the steps so you don’t screw up the blades,” Brefczynski said, lining out the steps in the process.
First, he inspects the blade to make sure no teeth are missing. Next, he soaks the blade for at least a couple hours in a cleaning solution to remove any rusk and “gunk.”
“Then I put it in a machine with a diamond wheel, but I have to make sure it matches the angles of the teeth. A lot of blades have alternating angles on the teeth, so that means manually bringing in the wheel to sharpen at the right angles,” Brefczynski said. “It usually takes about fifteen minutes per blade to get it done right.”
Each blade takes a different process though. Brush blades, for example, are put into a more automated machine.
“But you have to dial in all the specifics into the machine so it feeds the blade in properly,” Brefczynski said. “You’ve got to get everything just right.”
Brefczynski deals with all kinds of blades, from brush blades and saw blades, to bandmill blades to salon scissors.
“I do just about everything, I don’t do chainsaw chain because Rodney does that over at the Wood Way, and I don’t want to step on toes, and I don’t do hand saws, but everything else is pretty much fair game, “ he said.
Business has been slow throughout the winter, Brefczynski said, but as spring building projects pick up he anticipates business will follow suit.
“Over the winter, I’ve just been doing a lot of salon scissors and clippers,” he said. “Which is fine. I’m getting good at those. But once it picks up I’ll be busy for sure.”
Brefczynski began working as a carpenter nearly 30 years ago in a shipyard in Wisconsin building yachts. After that, he worked in outside construction on paper mills and department stores. But in 1994, he made the leap and moved to Alaska with his wife.
“I had always wanted to live here, since I was a kid. I don’t know why, it was just always the dream,” he said.
Brefczynski worked as a carpenter for the Riverboat Discovery, but after a side job took him away from company work, he realized the joys of being his own boss.
“So after that, I just started doing work on my own,” Brefczynski said. “Now it’s the same deal and I like it.”
Brefczynski works out of a shop on his own property and while he hopes to expand the types of blades he works on, he’s happy with the size of the business.
“It’s nice to be independent. I can set my hours and work back and forth on blades to keep the variety. If I get tired of one blade, I’ll move over to router bits for a while and then move back to the blades,” Brefczynski said. “There’s always something to do.”
Rosie Creek Sharpening is the only shop of its kind in the Fairbanks area at the moment, Brefczynski said, but he still wants to keep prices reasonable.
Currently, saw blades cost about 50 cents a tooth up to a 12 inch blade. Anything larger than a 12 inch blade is 70 cents a tooth. For bandmill blades, carbon blades cost $16. And bimetal blades cost $24 per blade. Router bits cost between $9.50 and $14.50 depending on the size.
Interested customers can either call Brefczynski at 907-378-8614 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.