Hockey Skate Sharpening Explained

As a hockey player, you will be are of the need to sharpen your skates, but you may not be are of how this is done.

You may also be unaware of how sharp to do they need to be and how often skates need sharpening. We’re here to answer your queries by explaining hockey skate sharpening.

We will focus on the blade profile, how to sharpen and how frequently you should sharpen the blades. We aim to leave you feeling confident in the sharpening process.

The Radius Of The Blades

Hockey Skate Sharpening

An element to consider when sharpening is the desired blade radius. There is no right or wrong radius because it depends on what is comfortable for you and your skating style.

When the radius is smaller, it gives increases the bite into the ice, allowing for quick turns and fast acceleration, but at the same time, there is greater friction because the edges dig deeper hence the speed and glide will suffer.

A larger radius causes less friction and gives incredible speed and glide but less maneuverability.

The variable to consider when picking a radius is weight. A heavy skater needs a larger radius, while a light skater tolerates a small radius because they bear much weight on the ice.

When heavy-weight skater tries to skate on a small radius, they will bite into ice and, hence, have difficulty stopping without going over the top of the skate.

They will also experience reduced gliding power due to excess friction and find problems speeding fully. However, they can hold very tight turns.

Blade Profile

You may get confused between the profile of a blade and RoH because they both use the circle’s radius as their measurement.

RoH (the depth of the groove on the bottom of your skate blade) is measured in inches (or centimeters). While skate blade profiles, the measurement is in feet.

Imagine skate blade length as part of a large circle standard sizes are 9, 11, and 13-foot radius, although not limited to just those.

A small radius has less skate coming in contact with ice, while a larger radius has more skate blades in contact with ice.

Both radii have pros and cons, affecting every player. A smaller radius has better maneuverability and agility, while a large radius is good for speed. The sharpening type will diminish the ability to make quick sharp turns and accelerate faster.

Different Types Of Skate-Sharpening Hollows

Hockey Skates Sharpening Explained

There are many hollow types that every skater can choose from, but many pro shops commonly use ½” as their standard cut.

This ½” hollow has the right mix of glides that control most players but adjusting the depth of the hollow can offer several benefits.

How Sharp Should Your Skates Be

If you ever looked closely or felt at the bottom of your hockey skates, you will find two sharp edges with the middle hollowed out. The hollow can be shallow or deep, depending on your preference.

The skate’s hollows use inches to measure from 1’’ to 3/8’’ or ¼’. The sharpening of the skates includes passing them over a spinning stone that has a rounded outer surface.

When the shape of the wheel’s surface is altered, the size of the hollow imparted on the skates also changes.

A flatter grinding wheel has a large radius; therefore, the skate with a less hollow cut away from the center. The normal range is usually 3/8” to ¾”, but sometimes lower or higher are available too.

Sharpening is done because every hollow affects the feeling of the skate and its interaction with the ice.

A deep hollow puts more pressure on the blade edges, digging deeper into the ice, while a shallow hollow puts less pressure on the edges, thus digging shallower into the ice.

How The Skate Sharpening Works

Skate blades have two sharp edges connected to the hollowed-out region in between. The hollowed-out area is made by passing the blade along the grinding wheel.

The shape of the surface of the grinding wheel controls the size of the hollow on the skate blade. The size of the hollow on the skate blade affects the feeling and performance of the skate on ice.

Different Types Of Skate Sharpening Hollows

Three things matter when you want to produce an excellent skate-sharpening outcome.

Achieving those three things using the traditional sharpening methods can be challenging because of many human and mechanical variables, and the three factors are Even, Sharp and Smooth.

A skate that is appropriately sharpened should have sharp, even edges, and a smooth surface finish. These are explained below.

Even Edge Height

The quickest test for even edges is to lay a quarter on the blades’ top, and see if any visible unevenness needs to be fixed. The edges will likely be even when the coin appears to level.

Sharp Edges

Your edge is the key to confidently stopping and turning. An easy test for a sharp edge is to turn the skate upside down and run a thumbnail along the blade edge and softly pull it away from the blade.

A well-sharpened blade will scrape a layer of the thumbnail, leaving the remaining on the blade.

Smooth Surface Finish

Finally, check the blade surface. It should be silky smooth, and any visible lines should be faint and parallel to the skating surface.

A quick test that will determine the smooth surface finish is to take the tip of your thumbnail and place it perpendicular to the surface of the skating.

Press the nail gently against the skating surface and run the thumb the length of the blade.

If you feel the bumps, you will likely feel them when skating, which will be like a dragging feeling when you want to glide. Hence increased friction due to the pattern on the skating surface.

How Hollows Affect Your Game

Hockey Skates Sharpening

There are key performance differences between a small and large hollow radius. These are summarized below.

Larger hollow radius

  • Skates are dull
  • Suitable for heavy skaters with no trouble gripping the ice
  • Efficient skating
  • Sharp turns and stops
  • Less energy is lost in the ice
  • Limited acceleration

Smaller hollow radius

  • Skates are sharper
  • Good for light players
  • A lot of energy lost
  • Requires extra effort to skate
  • Turns and stops are more responsive
  • Acceleration is quicker and more explosive

How Often To Sharpen Your Skates

How Hollows Affect Your Game

The number of times to sharpen the skates is personal and depends on individual preference.

Some players sharpen their skates frequently, like after 2-3 hours of ice time, while others can take the entire season without sharpening.

It is important to note that colder ice makes the skates dull quicker; hence it is good to sharpen before your next game.

What To Do To Maintain The Skates In Between Sharpening

The honing stone is a good choice when maintaining your blades, and it smooths out any nicks and burrs that can appear on the sides of the blades. These nicks can catch the ice and slow you down so should be avoided.

However, re-edging tools should not be considered an alternative to sharpening. They are fine for occasional touch-ups but not proper sharpening.

Regularly review your skates to see if they need sharpening as this will ensure your skates are durable and perform well on the ice.

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