Blade Barber - Tim

Blade Barber - Tim

Blade Barber

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Interview: Nikki Gillingham, Blue Whale Communications

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio


Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.

I took Industrial Design at Carleton University. Starting working for Canica Design (a sister company to Lee Valley Tools) right out of Carleton, designing medical instruments. After about 15 years I shifted over to Lee Valley Tools designing consumer products. I started doing contract design work in 2015 and soon after started tinkering with a skate sharpener design.

What inspired you to create a hand-held skate sharpener?

I designed a number of sharpening tools while working for Lee Valley and developed a good understanding of cutting edges and how to shape them. This combined with the real problem of skate sharpening inspired me.

150 prototypes! What encouraged you to keep going until you were able to find a model that worked?

It wasn't easy to get the Blade Barber design just right. Many obstacles had to be overcome. I could always see the finish line thought the fog of obstacles, and this view of the finish line encouraged me.


Have you always been an entrepreneur? Have you created any other products?

I don't consider myself to be an entrepreneur. I don't like taking risks and Blade Barber is run differently than most businesses. I have always enjoyed solving problems in my work and at home. I have never created a product for myself. Every product I have designed has been for others, until now with the Blade Barber. I guess I've been preparing for this my whole working life. I have learned a lot from my employers, clients and past projects over the years.

What is something you’ve learnt about yourself through this process?

I don't consider myself a risk taker and it’s hard to bring a new product to market without taking risks. I’ve learned that it’s okay to venture outside your comfort zone. It might even be healthy.

How has this product and/or the experience of entrepreneurship brought you closer to the Ottawa community?

Getting positive feedback from people in the community has been hugely rewarding. Sharing skate sharpening experiences has brought me closer to skaters and hockey players in the community.

When you’re not sharpening skates or playing hockey, what’s something you like to do for fun?

Brewing beer and play with my two boys. We love to skate, swim and go cycling.

Favourite place in Ottawa to take your family?

The canal.


How many times did you skate on the Canal this past Winter?

Not enough. Probably 5-6 times.

Favourite hockey team (don’t worry, we won’t tell if it’s not The Sens ;) )?

Ottawa Senators!

In your spare time you like to brew beer, tell us a bit about that!

The creative and technical freedoms in brewing beer make it fun for me. I can tweak one small aspect of the recipe or process and make a big or subtle impact on the final product. Understanding how these changes affect the final product are so interesting and make me come back for more. I’m always excited for the next batch before I’m even some marking the current batch.

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