The Orlando Sentinel from Orlando, Florida on April 30, 1985 · Page 30
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The Orlando Sentinel from Orlando, Florida · Page 30

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Orlando, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, April 30, 1985
Page:
Page 30
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' f i i 1 i t l-li idi lit tl t II tK-- MO- 'The Orlando "feentinef, Tuesday; April '30! i 9'85 M Daughter carries on father's tweezer-sharpening trade By Adam Yeomana OF THE SENTINEL STAFF MOUNT DORA Phyllis Hildreth carries a pair of tweezers in her purse these days in case anyone asks what she does for a living. "Even after I explain it," Hildreth said, "they don't understand what I do, what a tweezer is." Hildreth is a professional tweezer refinisher. She continues to practice a family tradition her father started more than 20 years ago. But these aren't the average pair of tweezers used to pluck wood splinters or shape eyebrows. These tweezers are primarily made in Switzerland of high-quality alloys and are used by watchmakers, electronics assemblers, biology professors and eye surgeons. In a workroom in the rear of her home in Mount Dora, Hildreth sharpens tweezers by the dozens. She dons a pair of eyeglass frames rigged with double lens spectacle loupes and uses a special refinishing machine to sharpen damaged tweezers. Hildreth said she never gave too much thought to tweezers until three years ago, when her father, Harvey Watkins, was about to end his tweezer refinishing career. She expressed an interest in learning the trade and he spent several months teaching her how to refinish tweezers. Watkins then gave her a machine he designed and built to sharpen tweezers. Watkins primarily sharpened tweezers for watchmakers, but his daughter said she wants to expand the business and grab a larger share of the tweezer refinishing market. Today, tweezers are used by workers in electronics assembly and by some medical doctors. Like her father, Hildreth refurbishes tweezers to make a little extra cash. Her husband, Robert, a zoning inspector in Orlando, supports her efforts. Watkins said he does not mind if his daughter 1 4 Tir JIM VIRGA SENTINEL Special loupes attach to glasses . . . Hildreth examines fine point of tweezers. tries to corner the market on tweezer refinishing, a practice he stumbled across almost by accident more than 20 years ago. He and his wife operated a jewelry store in Washington, D.C., before moving to Plant City with their five children in 1961. His wife handled the jewels and Watkins made and repaired watches. Tweezers used to make and repair watches would chip, bend or become dull and another pair would have to be bought. Watkins said the price of tweezers kept rising, making it impractical to continue buying new pairs. He said he decided there had to be some way to refurbish those damaged tools. In the early 1960s, after toying with different methods for about five years, Watkins said he came up with a specially designed machine that would let him sharpen tweezers in only a few minutes. Starting in 1963, he placed classified ads in speciality magazines for watchmakers and collectors touting his "Superior Tweezer Resharpening." The rest is history. Watkins said he has refinished thousands of tweezers, primarily for watchmakers. His customers have never complained about their refinished tweezers and many send their tweezers back to have them sharpened a second and third time. Hildreth proudly displays letters from many customers, ranging from watchmakers to electronics assemblers to college professors, praising the quality of work. You will not find a sign advertising Watkins Tweezer Refinishing hanging outside Hildreth's house. Hildreth, 35, handles her business exclusively by mail, receiving packs of tweezers from throughout the country. She charges $2.50 apiece with a minimum of three tweezers. She said she spends about four hours two days a week at her machine. She also will not allow anyone to see the machine designed by her father, a promise she made to him when she started refinishing tweezers in 1982. Watkins said he does not want his idea stolen. Still, he said he doesn't plan to get a patent for his machine. Other watchmakers and people who work with tweezers may have special methods for sharpening them. But Watkins Tweezer Refinishing is the only professional refinisher that advertises in Horological Times, a 9,500-circulation trade magazine for watchmakers. "If I had to get a pair of tweezers refinished," said Maury Norrell, the magazine's managing editor, "I don't know where I'd go, other than Watkins." Und r n it II R R eeo uuuer KEEP YOUR WATERFRONT SHIPSHAPE. REMOVE WATER WEEDS THE EASY WAY WITH THIS HAND-OPERATED WEED CUTTER. tamatd and backmtil ''''k'i"J!ifP)Ilf l(ljfL While the water is low cut your lake weeds now Complete cutter with handle and extra extension, $34.95 LAKE MARY lAWf & GARDEN EQUIPIM 125 E. Crystal Lake Avenue Lake Mary 323-5595 f; It" ; N . ' H 1: DATE: Tuesday, April 30th, 1 985 7:00-9:00 P.M. LOCATION: HOLIDAY INN Altamonte Springs, Fla. I-4 & 436 Call For Reservation (904) 736-8040 Fully furnished log model open for inspection 7 Days 11:00-5:00 P.M. TIMBERLOG HOMES OF FLORIDA, LC. 3201 N. Hwy. 17 DeLand, Florida 32720 (904) 736-8040

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