Skate Sharpening 101

Skate Sharpening 101

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 10 years now with roughly 35,000 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 few factors.

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The deeper hollow gives the skater a greater edge, 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, traditional a 3/8inch for adults down to a 1/2inch for smaller children. While more experienced skaters will prefer 9/16inch down to 5/8inch.

Personal Preference

– Ask your sharpening professional 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 3/8inch is a good place to start. I myself prefer 5/8inch it allows me to do everything I want on the ice.

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. The picture on the right looks like its has been cut using an angle grinder, 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.

Flat Bottom V Myths

Flat bottom V is new style of sharpening that was released into the skating market a few years ago as pictured above, Unlike the hollow cut it is shaped like a prolonged V shape.

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A Basic guide on Flat Bottom V grind depth.

The picture above shows you what this looks like. Sharpening professionals that use this type of machine, will tell you its the bee’s knee’s compared to the traditional hollow cut, but really have no explanations to the advantages of it apart from better gliding speed as it produces less friction with the ice.

When speaking to any experienced professional sharpener they will quickly tell you the dis-advantages is has – FBV can be be very “hit and miss” with only a short amount of meat on the blade used to give you edges unlike the hollow. Basically the edges can be very thin or non existent, also very easy to loose if you manage to step on cement or something rigid enough, where the hollow grind even if this occurs due to its shape can still display a edge that is usable on the ice.

On a trip to the USA in 2012 during a trade show we meet with numerous sharpening professionals and their feedback was that there was maybe 15-20 players in the NHL using this type of Flat Bottom V cut and that majority of professional players and figure skaters around the world preferred the traditional hollow cut.

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, 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. 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 cannot see the edge of a sharpened blade, so if there is a silver line along where edge should be it is damaged.  If you are falling or having difficulty doing a skill/task.

How often do i need a sharpen?

We suggest every 6-10 hours for hockey skates and 10-14 hours for figure skates especially if skater is struggling and/or falling doing a skill they could previously do earlier in the sharpening.  In the interest of skater and on ice safety, well maintained skates and blades will help to produce performance.  When a skater is falling because of poor edges, they are not having fun.

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