The last of Singapore's knife sharpeners
Madam Lee, who has been at it for 45 years on, is one of a dying breed of knife-sharpeners
Madam Lee Hwee Chin has no need for anything like that. Her leathery skin, almost impervious to pain, is all she needs.
Sparks fly and land on her bare hands, and she doesn't flinch. Old scars dot her experienced hands, the tools of her trade.
Madam Lee, 68, is one of the last knife sharpeners around. She has no interest in electric sharpeners, preferring to use the grit of the stone grinder.
This is how she has been doing it for 45 years.
She says in Mandarin: "Even though I'm so used to it and I can sharpen blades really quickly, I still cut myself every now and then...that's why this job is not for youngsters now because it involves a lot of physical work."
Sharpening the individual blades with her sharpening machine. TNP PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR
There are no lazy strokes with her. She makes every blade dance on the grinder, moving to a rhythm that she learned while watching her father do the same work.
Her father passed her the skills and the wooden plank that holds the grinder. Each blade takes about five minutes to sharpen and Madam Lee charges between $4 and $8 for each knife, depending on the size and quantity.
Her father passed the family business down to Madam Lee, his eldest child, in 1970.
She says: "Even though I don't have a successor, I'll continue running the shop for as long as possible."
She adds that her two younger brothers, who were in the finance industry, have retired comfortably.
Her 27-year-old daughter, who works in the broadcasting industry, has no interest in taking over the shop, Pow Li, in People's Park Complex Food Centre.
Madam Lee and her 66-year-old locksmith husband are the only ones left to run the shop.
There are not many shops that still sharpen knives the old way, a stark contrast to the 1960s and 1970s when the trade was thriving.
Her customers include tailors, chicken rice sellers and even a taxidermist.
Mr David Choo, 76, who runs tailoring shop David Fashion, and has been sending his scissors to Madam Lee for more than 20 years, says he would rather get his scissors sharpened than get new ones.
He says in Mandarin: "I am very used to a lot of my own scissors, so I prefer to send them to her (Madam Lee) for sharpening rather than buy new ones."
He adds that the blades Madam Lee sharpen tend to be more durable and can last for up to two months.
He has been working as a tailor for 62 years.
"Most of the sharpeners have either died or retired without successors. It would be really sad if Madam Lee retires because it would mean losing another sharpener in Singapore," says Mr Choo.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now