How to pick a blade and a good sharpener?
Picking a good person to sharpen your skates is a MUST! Unfortunately, it is hard to find out who is good, and who is really ruining your equipment. I have heard a coach say, “Oh I always use this person,” and know for a fact that sharpener ruined at least 3 pair of blades in one summer.
First, lets discuss a few things you should understand about blades.
- Every blade has certain radius to it from front to back. Some are considered flat: 8ft radius. Some have more of a curve: 7ft radius.
- Every blade has a “hollow.” The sharpener “dresses” a round stone to a certain radius to grind out the hollow on your blades. The deeper the hollow, the sharper the blade is. Too sharp and you can’t get off an edge to change to the other. Too shallow of a hollow, which we call butter knives, will not hold an edge and the skater will start to skid sideways.
Some skaters like a deep hollow, while others like a shallow. Just like a radius of a blade, it is a personal preference. I prefer a tighter radius that gives me a “rockier” feeling to jump from edge to edge during footwork. Elvis Stojko prefers a flatter blade to press off the ice when he jumps.
Armed with this basic blade knowledge, let us talk about what a bad sharpener can do:
- Change the radius of the blade. If the sharpener uses unequal or too much pressure while passing the blade across the spinning stone that sharpens the blade, the radius is ruined. You will start to notice the center of your blade changing and not being equal between your left and right skate. If a skater doesn’t grow out of a blade, they can last easily up to 3-5 years plus with regular sharpening. I have seen a skate sharpener ruin a pair of blades with this error which took off so much of the blade that they lasted less than a summer!
- Taking off the bottom toe pick! A mistake from a person who only sharpens hockey skates. You hear many horror stories of this, but they are getting less often. Doing this destroys the blades. Demand the store to replace your blades!
- Roll an edge. This means the sharpening stone doesn’t stay centered between the inside and outside edge. This will cause a skater to lose their edge when riding on the part of the blade that has been rolled.
- If you see that “automatic” skate sharpening machine that you put your money into…well…personally I wouldn’t do it…although it might be better than some butchers out there, which is scary!
A good sharpening should last 4 to 6 weeks if the blades are dried and taken care of properly. Of course if you are in an ice show and doing many hours on chewed up ice, that time can be drastically reduced. Ask around who sharpens in the area, and go with who the elite skaters use. There is only a handful of people in this world I trust (besides myself) to sharpen my blades. Choose carefully!