Yes! Your little skater will need to get their skates sharpened on a regular basis. I see many little tots and beginners slipping and falling on the ice during learn-to-skate programs at the twin rinks where my shop in located. Some parents are unaware of the importance of a good skate sharpening. Think of it this way: your child will get discouraged if they are falling down a lot; they will not enjoy their skating experience. As they progress and get older and more skilled, they will be able to identify and expect a great skate sharpening. This is even more important if they progress to more elite levels of playing and when it is critical to get noticed by those Scouts and College/University recruiters. Who do you think they will notice, more, someone who is confident and great on their edges, or someone who is falling on the ice?
The best way to determine that best radius of hollow (ROH) is to experiment with several until you find the best one that works for you and/or your child. Never assume that—just because a Big Box Sports Store advertises ‘Professional Skate Sharpening’—they know what they are doing or have been professionally trained; they want you ‘In-the-door’ so that you may purchase their other products.
So, with that being said, here is the rest of the article:
Before you lace up your skates, make sure you do the following:
- Look at the edges of your blades. Do you see a reflective shine along the length of the blade? Yes? Then you have lost your edge;
- Lightly run your fingers or thumb along the inside and outside edges. If you feel any nicks or rough spots, you need to get them sharpened;
- Place you skates on a flat, level surface and take a look at the shape of your skate blade. If you notice that you have a very short length of blade in contact with this surface, you will probably ( depending on the size of the skate and length of the blade and the height of the skater) have to get them profiled or contoured. Remember, if there is not enough blade-to-ice contact or working radius, it won’t make any difference how deep a hollow you put on your blades, you will still be slipping out of your turns and losing your edges;
- If you want the BEST performance out of your blade runners get them profiled/contoured every 10 to 12 sharpenings or every two months; it will be worth the money. Most shops will only charge you $20 to $30 per pair;
- Bring your skates in early! No one likes to wait too long for a skate sharpening and Snipers Skate Shop @ The Stu Barnes/Grant Fuhr Arenas in Spruce Grove, Alberta will always try and get your skates done, promptly. However, we do not like to rush the sharpening process; it takes a certain amount of quality time to get the best results for you. Also, forget about jumping the queue: we will sharpen them in an emergency, but we will charge you more;
- Know your personal hollow. There are 20 different hollow grinds and dozens of Profiles/Custom Radii, that can be applied to your blade runners. Experiment and try 2 or 3 different hollows and profiles to determine what works for you. Different brands of skates will have their particular Stock Radius applied to new skate blades and their replacement blades. For example, the LS3 Edge Blades by Bauer has a 10 foot radius or about one and 3/4 inches of working radius. Also, consider different ice surfaces. Softer ice requires less or a shallower hollow; harder ice—more or deeper hollow.
- Beginners should skate on a shallower hollow until they learn to stop properly eg. 5/8ths. Once they learn to control their edges, they may decide to go with a deeper hollow. Also, you want more blade-to-ice contact or a larger radius on beginners skates. This assists with stability. Little Johnny or Jane can learn all the fancy tricks once they learn the basics.
- Invest in the best pair of skates you can afford. Less expensive skates sometimes come with sub-quality steel and are difficult to sharpen and they need to be sharpened more often.
- FEEDBACK, PLEASE! One thing that drives me crazy ( sometimes ) is the lack of feedback from players and parents. If you try a particular hollow or profile and you don’t tell the Skate Tech how it felt or if you think you want something with a little more edge, please, please tell us. We are not magicians or psychics—although some of us like to think we are. On several occasions, I have had new clients come in and they have no clue about what hollow they are presently using. I will recommend one—say a 1/2 inch to start—and ask them to let me know how they performed. Some will come back and others will assume that—since they didn’t like it—we can’t correct it. WRONGO, BONGO!
- Look at the Bottom of the freshly, sharpened blade. Is there a nice, shiny, smooth finish? If you notice perpendicular marks across the width of the blade, this means they were not finished properly. If you can, watch the Skate Tech: are they rushing through the sharpening, doing multiple passes ( I mean, 10 or more on each blade?); you need to go elsewhere. It doesn’t take many passes to get a good hollow.
- One last trick: Balance a coin ( a quarter, loonie or toonie if you are Canadian, eh?) on the freshly sharpened blade—in the middle portion—and see if there is a perfect 90 degree angle. If there is, then your skate sharpener deserves a Cookie! Or, at least, a pat on the back for a job well done.
- For Your Safety: ALWAYS CHECK FOR LOOSE RIVETS, BLADES AND THE OVERALL CONDITION OF YOUR SKATE!!
- One last, last thing. Ask you skate sharpener if he is a Member of Skate Sharpening University (SSU). If she or he is, then you have found the RIGHT PERSON.
- If you have any additional questions, please feel free to visit David at my Skate Shop and I will be very happy to answer your questions.
- Thanks for reading and sharing.