HOCKEY SKATE SHARPENING GUIDE
Sharpening your ice skates is an important part of skating well, whether you’ve just bought new hockey skates or you’ve been skating for a while on the skates you currently own. Maintaining a sharp skate blade will determine a great deal about how well you’ll be able to turn and stop, as well as the speed and control you’ll be able to achieve.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I SHARPEN MY HOCKEY SKATES?
Lots of players settle on once or twice a month, but obviously, the answer depends on how often you skate. If you skate every day, you’ll find your skates need to be sharpened more often than someone who is on the ice only once a week for an hour. Some players sharpen their skates before every game and others may drop their skates for sharpening only once or twice a year. If you skate twice a week, try a monthly sharpening schedule. Adjust based on your skating schedule, ice factors, and what works for you.
OTHER FACTORS CAN AFFECT HOW OFTEN YOUR SKATES NEED TO BE SHARPENED:
- The temperature of the ice will affect your skate blade wear. Colder ice is harder and will wear your edges faster.
- Indoor or outdoor? Outdoor ice will often be colder and harder, thereby wearing your edges faster. There is also debris on outdoor ice. From small stones to dirt, sticks, leaves, and more, your skates will take more of a beating on outdoor ice and need more frequent touch-ups.
- The quality of your steel. Elite-level skates will usually include higher quality blades. Better blades hold an edge longer and require fewer sharpenings.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN TO SHARPEN MY HOCKEY SKATES?
There are a variety of ways to know when it’s time to sharpen your skates. Dull blades will chatter, pull to one side, wobble out of control, or prevent you from turning as tightly as you normally do.
- If you find yourself struggling with quick turns or your blades don’t bite into the ice as they should, you might need to get your skates sharpened.
- Carefully run your finger down the length of the blade, feeling for nicks or gouges. A light touch is all that is needed to detect defects. Also, the blade should feel sharp.
- Look at your blade under a bright light. If you see a reflection in the blade’s edge, you need to sharpen your skates.
Get a sense of how often your hockey skates need to be sharpened, and try to adhere to a schedule. Sharpen them too often and your blades will wear out prematurely. Not frequently enough, and you’ll find yourself losing an edge when trying to turn, or being unable to control your skates.
WHAT’S THE BLADE HOLLOW?
When skates are sharpened, a hollow groove is cut into the center of the bottom of the blade. It is cut deep enough that what is left are the two edges on each side. The hollow is between these two edges and extends up into the blade. The depth of the hollow will affect the performance of the skate. A deeper hollow will slow the skate yet give the skater more control. A shallower hollow will increase a skater’s speed but may require more skating skill. Generally, hockey skates will have a hollow between three-eighths and five-eighths of an inch. Experienced skaters will often use a hollow that they have played on for years and have become accustomed to, while beginners will often use a half-inch hollow.
HOW DO I SHARPEN MY SKATE BLADES?
If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to have your hockey skate blades sharpened for you. While there are tools you can throw in your hockey bag to sharpen your skates, they’re best used for a touchup before a game or to smooth a nick during a game. Some tools will wear away more of your blade, which means your skates will need new blades sooner. It’s best to take your skates to a trained skate sharpener who uses quality equipment.
Generally, a machine will make multiple passes on your blades. The first few passes are typically done on the cross-grind machine to remove major impediments like rust, nicks, and dings. After all impediments are removed the skate is moved to the sharpening stone that will apply your desired hollow. The last few passes create the finer edge. A finishing stone will deburr the blade, removing any imperfections left by the sharpening process.
There are a wide variety of methods and machines to sharpen skates, but results also depend on the skill of the sharpener. Poor work can be repaired, but it’s best to find a place that can do the job well the first time. For example, if a sharpener doesn’t perfectly center the hollow, there is little recourse but to grind off the edges with the cross-grind machine and redo them. You may be limited to what is available, but if you have options, ask experienced players where they take their skates and why they take them there.
Sharpening your ice hockey skates is part of owning them. Doing it well is complicated, but if you can find a skilled pro to do it for you, it’s nothing more than part of the game.