From sharpening knives to better-than-new condition, to restoring rugs you thought were goners, these three master craftsmen can fix just about anything and in the process, make customers swoon. Keep their numbers handy. 

Dan Thompson: Atomic Celt Bladeworks 

Highland Park resident Dan Thompson has turned his finely honed, multiple-graduate-degree mind to knife sharpening and Pittsburgh’s foodies can rejoice. The North Carolinian, graduate of Duke University, returns your dull tools with a blade you can fear. This is the lethal edge you have dreamed of, the result you never got, dragging your disabled weaponry to sharpening services all over town.

Wait! There’s more: he sharpens your Cuisinart blade. Your scissors. Your pinking shears. Your ax. Your lawn mower.

“I could probably sharpen your helicopter—anything with a blade,” says he.

He sharpened my mother’s mid-last-century sewing scissors, first noting the German maker. “These are built to last, worth sharpening. They would probably cost a few hundred dollars today.” And unlike the botched results of a tuneup by a sharpening service, the shears now cut cleanly through a Turkish towel.

The father of three—his wife works for HUD—decided to launch the business, Atomic Celt Bladeworks, “maker and mender of knives and blades,” this last spring as he seeks the job he wants in public planning. He has part-time teaching gigs, including a summer stint at Princeton.

“I’m a geek, can’t help it. I got interested in knives as an Eagle Scout growing up in Lewisburg, N.C.”

Making them is half the fun. Fashioning maple burl from a neighbor’s storm-felled tree into a handle for a cheese knife that feels like balanced silk in the palm. Or a chef set for a cook you truly  love since the three knives cost about $500.

He instructs a few foodies watching his maintenance technique: “If you take care of your knives each time before putting them away—use the steel at a 20-degree angle to smooth the edge that gets roughened every time the knife is used, the leather strop to polish further, and a drop of oil rubbed over the blade to guard against rust (including the stainless knives) before putting them away—once-a-year sharpening is enough.”

They moan as one. “We’re not going to do that.” Oh well, better for business.

Prices range from $5 to $15, depending on size and complication of blade. Dan picks up and delivers within Highland Park, and will do so for a small fee elsewhere, depending on distance.

Savo Djukic

Savo Djukic, aka DJ. Photo by Brian Cohen

Savo Djukic, otherwise known as DJ: Craft Furniture Restoration

Martini in hand, my husband is holding forth as a guest in a glam Pittsburgh penthouse. With sudden ripping and rending, he sinks, jack-knifed, through the seat of the hostess’s antique chair.

For a situation like this, you really need Savo Djukic. That’s pronounced joo-kich. But we call him DJ, as all his customers do. The affable Slovenian has a workshop, Craft Furniture Restoration, in Crafton, next to a Dollar Store.

Since emigrating in 1999, this low-key guy has made things right for many a piece of abused furniture. No job is too small but the bigger and more complicated the challenge is, the better he likes it.

The work might include total refinishing, minor touch-ups, re-gluing, restoring carving, matching veneer, caning, upholstering.

He and his Croatian wife Djordja (say Georgia), met when both worked in Germany and have raised a family here. He built restoration skills studying part-time with an elderly craftsman in Germany.

At DJ's store. Photo by Brian Cohen.

At Craft Furniture Restoration. Photo by Brian Cohen.

The business needs no advertising. “It’s the same people and their relatives and friends,” notes DJ. Also industry professionals like Rebecca Sohn, owner of Black Lamb Consignments in Carnegie. “I rely on DJ as do a number of my customers,” she says. “He is the kind of Old World master craftsman that you almost can’t find today. He has versatility and appreciation for all periods of furniture. His craft almost comes before his livelihood.”

That craft might be applied to an old desk destined for a law office, to building a dollhouse wired for electricity for a favored customer, to restoring a mantle, a bar for a restaurant or household furniture from some of Pittsburgh’s historic houses.

One morning brings a truck full of antique tables, with a decorator’s phone number and a note: “Refinish these as you think best and deliver them to this address in Evans City.”