|Presented by:||Ron Chisholm - a dedicated hockey fan, parent of four players, past player and coach of many years, and expert skate sharpener since 1983.|
Maintaining Your Edges
Many factors affect how often skate blades need to be sharpened. To help skaters make sharpening decisions, we take a look at some of these factors.
Skate Blade Material
Some blades maintain their edges better because of the type and quality of alloy in the blade. For example, a high quality carbon steel or stainless steel produces a tougher blade which stays sharp longer. The tougher alloys are more resistant to abrasion -- rough surfaces won't damage this alloy as readily, perhaps allowing for more hours per sharpening. As you might imagine, the quality of the blade material usually increases with the cost of the skate.
It's no coincidence that light weight skaters seek sharpening more often than heavy ones. Why? Because the blades of heavier skaters dig into the ice, providing good grip and stopping power without the benefit of freshly ground edges. Lighter skaters, on the other hand need better edges to obtain that necessary grip.
Some parents are neglectful in sharpening their children's skates thinking that it won't make a difference because they are just learning to skate. In reality, dull blades may hinder a child's skating development. They reduce acceleration and turning ability, and cause novices to work harder to obtain short distances. Conversely, properly sharpened skates may improve progress and increase the level of confidence.
Experienced skaters who know how to use their edges require regular sharpening.
Freshly sharpened skates may be more of a hindrance than a help on warm, soft ice. That's because sharp-edged blades tend to cut into soft ice, leaving ruts and causing skaters to feel like they are plowing along. A deep radius of hollow may also make skating more tedious and tiring on soft ice. Many players will change to a shallower hollow to accommodate the poor ice conditions.
On the other hand, skaters require sharp blades on cold hard ice. On this type of surface, the pressure of a sharp narrow edge causes the ice to melt slightly under the blade, thus providing the necessary water flow beneath the blade.
Indoor Versus Outdoor Rinks
Skaters who regularly use outdoor rinks require more frequent skate sharpening than those who use indoor ice surfaces. Outside, naturally occurring abrasive material, such as sand, salt, and dust particles find their way to the ice, and cause wear to skate blades.
In addition, outdoor ice tends to be harder because it lacks the luxury of temperature regulation. For this reason, outdoor skaters require sharper blades for more efficient glide.
Off Ice Abuse
The rougher the off ice wear, the more frequent the need for sharpening. Some young skaters wander off the ice and hit rough surfaces or hard objects. Others make too many trips across arena floors to buy treats at the snack bar. This type of use dulls and damages the blades severely. Sand and grit on the floors in the locker room and on the walkways create havoc with the blades causing nicks and pits that may require extra grinding to eliminate
Improper storage is another form of off ice abuse. If skates are thrown carelessly into a bag or into a corner, damaged blades are a likely result. Skates should be dried off after each use, and placed carefully into a designated storage spot to prevent damage and rust. Skate guards or other blade protection should be used when put into the hockey bag for transport. Skates, as well as the rest of the hockey equipment should be removed from the bag and properly dried between uses.
Use of Skate Guards
Edge wear can be reduced by protecting the blades through the use of skate guards. If skaters must go for frequent snack breaks, wearing guards will prevent damage caused by abrasive particles on the arena floor.
Skate guards should be used for transport only, never for storage. If guards are left on indefinitely, rust will develop on the skate blade.
Skate Sharpener's Competence
It's important to find and use a competent skate sharpener. If you find a good shop, stick with it. Jumping from sharpener to sharpener will cause problems with uniformity, since each one may have a different technique. If you have a problem with your skates, a good sharpener should be able and willing to help you get them right to your satisfaction. Adjustments may be required to the contour or radius of hollow to suit your individual needs. Patience may be required as adjustments are made. It may take more than one sharpening to find the correct settings.
Skater Preference - The Skater Knows Best
These factors mean nothing unless skaters' preferences are considered. Skaters know when their blades are dull, and they'll ask for a sharpening. On the other hand, some skaters may feel more confident with fewer sharpenings, and they should be listened to as well.
Parents and skate sharpeners can't second guess a skater's preference when it comes to skate blades. It's the skaters who have to do the skating, so let them make the decisions.
Take Care of Your Blades and Skates and They'll Take Care of You
The worse the condition of the skate blade, the more metal the skate sharpener must remove to obtain a good edge. Blades can be maintained by using guards, and a hand sharpening stone can be used at home to clean and de-burr (not sharpen) the edge of the blade. Protect your blades from excessive damage. Watch where you step; don't walk around with skates on while off ice; use skate guards during transport, and store them properly when not in use.
Loose or missing rivets is another problem to be considered. Rivets can become rusted and break off inside of the skate, causing them to either come loose or to fall out completely. Stress will then be put on other rivets, which may cause further damage. Skates should always be checked for this condition and defective or missing rivets should be replaced as soon as possible. It is recommended that the foot bed in the skate be removed after use to allow the skate to fully dry. Moisture that is trapped under the foot bed will cause the rivets to rust and fail.
Damaged or missing eyelets should not be overlooked. Damaged eyelets will cut into the skate laces and cause premature breakage. Damaged eyelets will also fall out and if not quickly replaced, the opening will be stretched and the lace may actually rip through the boot causing extensive damage. Damaged eyelets should be replaced as soon as possible.
Additional Sharpening and Skate Information
on this site has been collected from official scoresheets and from on ice
observations. As such, the final statistics are not to be construed as
official or sanctioned by the Salem High School Athletic Department or by the
NHIAA. However, much of this information is not available from any other
© 2020 Ron Chisholm & Associates