Whether you’re beginning a new season of ice hockey or dabbling in some figure skating, you’re going to need to know how to keep your skates sharpened and ready for action at the rink. Every once in a while you’ll notice that your ride isn’t as smooth as it should be and maintaining the proper blade is imperative to your performance. Speed, control, and overall performance, it’s all affected by how well those pieces on the bottom of your skates are taken care of, so let’s learn how.
What is a Blade or Blade Hollow?
So, we probably all know where the blade is at on an ice skate. It’s the sharp edge that makes it possible for skating to happen on the ice. But, what’s a blade hollow and why is it important?
When you have your skates sharpened, there will be a hollow groove cut into the center of the bottom of the blade. This groove is what counts as the “hollow.” How deep the hollow is cut is what affects the performance of the skate and why there are different recommendations depending on the sport and need of the athlete. For example, a deeper hollow is known for giving the skate a more controlled ride.
The hollow will also affect the rider’s feeling and how the blade interacts with the surface of the ice. That deeper hollow may give more control because it’s able to dig into the ice, while a shallow cut will help with speed and skimming over the top easier.
A skate’s hollow affects how it feels and more importantly, how it interacts with the ice. A deep hollow will place more pressure on the edge of the blade which causes it to dig into the ice. A shallow hollow offers more even distribution through the blades which causes them to ‘sit’ more on the ice surface.
Newly-sharpened skates are like a breath of fresh air. The new glide it gives your ride on the ice – for both figure skaters and hockey players, and the benefits of your turns and pivots becoming easier to manage, it’s a necessity of the sports.
You sharpen your blades when they get dull, wobbly, prevent speed, or begin to pull to one side.
Knowing when to sharpen your skates is key to keeping your performance level at an all-time high. Here are some quick tips on when it’s time to get it done:
- Your turns aren’t as quick or sharp.
- Your blades are biting the ice and keeping control.
- If you feel any nicks or gouges in the blade, or it feels dull to touch.
- If you can easily see a reflection in the blade’s edge.
Getting on a schedule for sharpening the skate blades is another habit that should be formed. Too often will wear them out before they’re natural time and not enough will be a detriment to your performance. The schedule, though, will depend on how often you’re actually skating on them. Usually, a happy medium sits around 1-2 times per month.
When you take your skates to be sharpened, the professional will cut out the steel of the blade, creating the hollow, between the two edges of the skate. The middle part will them be run along a grinding (or finishing) wheel.
The skate will be held in place by a jig while the wheel removes an extra material, causing the edges to become sharper. Depending on the alteration of the wheel’s face will depend on the size of the hollow created in the blade.
Here are some guidelines to follow depending on your position on the ice:
- Forward/Defense: 1/2” or 5/8”
- Goalie: 3/8” or 1/2” when experienced, 1” when inexperienced.
- Figure Skating: 1”
- Seasonal Sharpening: 1/2” in summer, 5/8” in winter
If you don’t want to take them to a professional every time, there are some tools that you can keep in your bag to give a quick sharpen here and there. They aren’t recommended for constant upkeep though and may, sometimes, provide more wear than good.
This handheld sharpener from Amazon is only $14.99 and makes for an affordable and easy way to smooth out the edges on an occasional basis or a quick refresher.
Other Factors To Consider
- Depending on the temperature of the ice, your skate blade wear will vary. The colder it is the faster the blades will dull.
- Stainless steel blades should last through up to 100-150 sharpenings.
- Outdoor ice will have a lot more debris than indoor ice. Your blades on outdoor ice will take more of a beating from various objects that they encounter such as dirt, leaves, rocks, and more.
- Beware of some sharpening shops. Even some dubbed professionals have machines that will give more wear and tear to your blades than help. For example, some places will flat-grind the blade before the hollow grind which will wear the blade at a faster rate.
- The quality of the steel your blades are made of will make a difference as well. Better blades will obviously hold a sharp edge longer than lower quality pieces.