“We do this to keep busy”: The sisters continue to carry on the knife trade in Kuala Lumpur

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Kuala Lumpur: 74-year-old Yip Yoke Lin held a Chinese chef’s knife she was sharpening at a 30-degree angle from a bench grinder, sparks flew up.
After grinding the blade several times with a grinder, she carefully grinds her thumb along the edge to test the work.
“This is the’rough’ part. Once satisfied, I put it on the workbench and sharpen the blade with a whetstone,” she said.
Her sister, 84-year-old Yip Ah Moy (Yip Ah Moy) has been bent over since her age and is already doing the same thing with another customer’s knife, pulling the blade in a smooth motion from the handle end to the tip of the blade. Over the stone.
Sometimes, Ye Ya Mo would stop and immerse the sharpened stone in a bucket placed next to the bench to wash off the cuttings (waste) and re-lubricate the stone.
In the background, the cafe and open concept food court on the ground floor of REXKL plays pop music. This is a former cinema that has been transformed into the art and cultural center of Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown area.
Sometimes, curious tourists will wander around the corner of the Yip sisters and watch their work, while some people will come down to hand over one or a few kitchen knives to make them sharper.
The knife grinding business was started by the sister’s father in Petaling Street, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur in the late 1940s.
In fact, Ye Ya Mo (Yip Ah Moy) recalled that her father first opened a store in front of the Fenghuang Chinese confectionery manufacturer. This is an institution on Petaling Street that has lasted for four generations. people.
Yip Ah Moy said that the business has always been based in the Petaling Street area and they recently moved into REXKL when the new owner provided them with a small space to continue their craft.
She said: “Our customers are not only from nearby shops, but also from other parts of town, and they are looking for us to improve their tools,”
“Even the people who cut the smoked rubber sheet last time, they will come to us,” Ye Yaolin said.
“We learned something from our father,” Ye Ya Mo said. She added that she had been sharpening knives with their late father since she was a teenager.
“How do we learn? He will give us a simple knife to sharpen. After that, he will test how sharp the blade is by cutting some objects.”
Yip Ah Moy added: “If it is not cut well, or like a kitchen knife, we have to cut it, it means that we have not sharpened it properly.”
Yips’s work setup is simple-bench grinder and workbench, in which a small wooden board is supported at an inclined angle, and a small hook fixes the sharpening stone in place.
Yip Ah Moy tends to immerse sharpened stones in water to lubricate them and wash away the cuttings, while Yip Yoke Lin scours water with both hands and drops it on the blades she needs to polish every once in a while.
“The electric bench grinder is the latest equipment. We have used bench grinders in the past, but these are pedal driven, you have to sit on it.” Yip Yoke Lin said.
“Business is never uncertain. Sometimes, we can sit all day without customers. Then you will encounter days like today, since we opened at 2 pm, we have been working non-stop.” She said.
Once, Ye Ya Mo finally took a break from get off work to prepare lunch-a small packet of jelly (rice noodle rolls), and her sister helped to pour a small packet of chili sauce on the entire plate.
After completing the order, each knife will be individually wrapped in a newspaper, and a lady will write the price of the job with a marker.
“The price depends on the size of tools such as knives or scissors. Our knives range from RM10 (US$2.43) to RM15, especially for larger and heavier knives.
Although there are fewer and fewer people making or ordering tailor-made clothes, Ye Yulin said that in the weeks before the fasting month of Ramadan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri was busy with them. .
She said: “As our fellow Malays prepare for Ramadan and Eid, many tailors are sending scissors for grinding.”
Although a sign on a pillar indicates that the Yip sisters are working at REXKL on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, they usually come to their Jalan Sultan site whenever there is a demand.
“Otherwise, we usually work in the morning market in Cheras. Whenever someone calls us, it’s because they have tools to sharpen knives,” Yip Yoke Lin said.
The two women said that their children were not in a family business and they understood their choices.
“It’s a pity, but you can’t raise a family with a spouse and two children from this income. This is a sunset job.”
Yip Ah Moy said: “If you only need a knife to prepare the ingredients, these tools can work well, so the owner does not need to find someone to sharpen the knife.”
“So, at the same time, some people buy new knives only after their existing knives become dull!” She smiled.
“Actually, there are still people younger than us who work for a living, but they work with high-end, more expensive blade servers, so the cost is much higher,” Ye Yi’s sister added.

Post time: Apr-20-2021

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