The Truth About Skate Sharpenings

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   This article will break down some of the myths as well as highlight the cold hard facts about skate sharpenings and your skate sharpener. At the end of this article, you will be better informed and able to ask the right questions to the sharpener taking care of your skates!

Let's first start with what hollow or radius works best for you.When you hear a skate sharpener refer to the radius or hollow on your skates, they are actually referring to the sharpness of your skates and the distance between your edges. The smaller the radius, the sharper your skates will be. A 3/8” radius will produce a very sharp edge and give your skates a deeper bite. A 3/8" radius also creates more friction while gliding and cuts into the ice much deeper when taking tight turns. As the hollow gets wider you will create less friction when gliding and have less bite when turning.These fractions are measuring the distance between your outside and inside edges. The radius of hollow can be varied from 1/4" of an inch to 1 1/2 of an inch, however most players will chose a hollow between 3/8" and 5/8". Weight and skating ability are probably the most important factors in finding the proper hollow. The picture below will show the differences of some of the hollow variations that can be offered.......Radius

         When talking with your skate sharpener, let's be sure they are asking you the right questions. Most players and parents just hand there skates to the local pro shop employee and simply ask "can you sharpen my skates please?" If your sharpener doesn't ask you any questions before taking your skates, you might want to think twice about bringing them back again, unless they already know everything they need to know about your skating conditions and preferences. Some of the questions you will want to hear are:

1. How do you like your skates sharpened?
2. Do you like a lot of bite or not a lot of bite?
3. What rink are you skating at? (The temperature of the rink has a major factor on the depth of your hollow)
4. Do you like to have more glide or more bite

These are only a few of the questions that your sharpener should be asking you. This is extremely important because it shows that your local pro shop cares about providing good quality service, but it also acknowledges that not all skaters are the same. It is important that your skate sharpener understands your skate preferences. 
Now let's go back to question #3, "what rink are you skating at?" this is something that can be crucial in picking a particular radius. Every rink is different that their refrigeration system and the temperature can play a major factor in how hard or soft the ice can be. Some might ask, what does that have to do with sharpening my skates? It is important because the softer the ice is, the more you will sink into the ice creating more friction when skating, while hard ice will have more glide. 
So, if a player likes his or her skates sharpened at 7/16" radius on the regular but is skating at a rink that has more humidity and is much warmer, they would probably benefit from having their skates sharpened at 1/2" radius, because it is a shallower hollow which creates less friction and less bite. 
The most import part of sharpening skates is making sure your outside and inside edges are completely level and square. This is the most common reason a customer may complain that their skates don't feel "right." When your edges are uneven, they may feel like they are dull on one side and extremely sharp on the other. This could be from the sharpener's inexperience, improper training, or simply not caring. The picture below will show you even edges vs. uneven edges.....

Skate sharpening is an art before it is a science. Your skate sharpener should treat every pair of skates as if they were their own skates and do the best job possible. Taking their time in understanding what you like, making sure your outside edge and inside edge are completely level, having a nice slow final pass so your edges have a nice clean crisp edge so that when you hit the ice you have the least amount of friction possible. The best person to do your skates is someone who has consistently sharpened your skates the way you like them. Don't be afraid to ask some questions and tell them what you liked and disliked about the last time he sharpened your skates. Take your skate sharpening more seriously because this is where your skating starts!  

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