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Skate Sharpening 101

June 09, 2021 4 min read

In this article we will be taking you through the basics of skate sharpening. What seems like something simple, is far from true...
Power Play Sports have been sharpening skates for over 20 years now with roughly 45,000 pairs of skates under our belt. Over the years we have learnt a lot through trail and error and this experience has certainly shown us the difference between a back yard job and a professional sharpen.

The Basics

Consistency is the key to good skate sharpening, skate blades which have been poorly maintained are harder to sharpen and do not perform well.
The life span of a poorly sharpened skate blade can be less than half that of blades sharpened and maintained properly.

A good profile and proper radius (depth of hollow) allows the skates to work with the skater. Skating on the ice not in the ice. A clean accurate radius will produce equal bite angles, improving a skater’s confidence in the blades and reduces body compensations.

If the blades are poor quality steel, rusted, or have been overheated by a bad sharpening, they are considered to be weak. Weak edges wear down quickly and are prone to breaking off leaving behind a false edge. Some skate sharpeners try to solve this problem by sharpening with a deeper radius, but this only compounds the problem.

What's the best depth for you?

This come downs to a few factors.


The deeper hollow gives the skater more bite, but the skate will control the skater and we all know the number one factor in skating is SKATER CONTROL on the ice.

Experience

- We recommend beginners starting off with a deeper cut, Either a traditional 3/8inch to 1/2inch. While more experienced skaters will prefer 9/16inch down to 5/8inch.

Personal Preference

- Ask our sharpening professional's what they would recommend you start at and work your way up or down from there, its something that no one but yourself can know 100%. As recommended 3/8 or 1/2inch is a good place to start.

Ok, so how can I tell if I have a good sharpen?

This is very easy for the trained eye, not so much for someone that is new to it.

If you take a look at the picture below on the left you will see one has a very fresh nicely cut blade, it has minimal grind marks/groves along the blade. This is caused but grinding wheel that has not been dressed correctly and the blade does not make consistent contact when being cut leaving a uneven cut that will feel even worse when you are on the ice.

What makes skate blades become dull?

Dirty ice, dirty mats, screws in the door sills and boards, contact with bolts in the benches and other skate blades, rust and walking on concrete, etc. Blades which have been poorly sharpened often leave a weak or rolled edge that quickly breaks down leaving the skates dull.  To protect your blades in your bag and while carrying them use Skate guards and soakers. They protect the blades, equipment and the skater when reaching into the hockey bag.

NOTE: plastic skate guards are good, but the blade slot becomes impregnated with dirt and should be washed often.

How to tell if skates are dull?

If you are not on a schedule, the common way to tell if your blades need to be sharpened is the age-old “fingernail” test. For this test, you will want to lightly run your fingernail across the edge of the blade. If your nail does not get “caught” on it, and runs easily across it, that means your blades could use a sharpening. Another simple way to check would be to simply just run your finger along the top of the blade very lightly. If you do not feel an edge, and feel nicks or rounded areas, then that is another indication that your blades need sharpened. Be extra careful any time you make contact with your fingers against the steel runners.

How often do i need a sharpen?

Frequency of blade sharpening is up to player preference and how often you are on the ice. Some players might want them sharpened after every game, but other players might get them sharpened once every three months. A general rule of thumb is every 12 hours of use. Certain instances, though, can cause you to need a sharpen to make them skateable again. For example, you will want to avoid surfaces like concrete and metal drains in locker rooms. These types of surfaces will knick the blade, giving you an unbalanced skating surface. Occasionally, during play, your skate blades will get knicked due to things like the boards, goal posts or other skates. If this is the case, you can pick up a handy tool such as the A&R Re-Edger, which will help eliminate any small blemishes on the blade, although this will not suffice as a “regular” sharpening. Blade quality will also play a factor into how often you need to get them sharpened. Aftermarket steel such as Step Steel is constructed of harder materials and feature an outer coating on the blade to increase longevity.



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