How to Sharpen Ice Skates

Having your ice skates sharpened and ready plays a crucial role in keeping your performance levels at an all-time high. So, it pays knowing when’s the right time to sharpen ice skates or have them sharpened by a professional.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to sharpen your skates and what you should know about the sharpening process.

How Often Should I Sharpen My Hockey Skates?

Hockey players usually settle sharpening their skates once or twice per month, but the honest answer depends on how much you skate. Simply put, the more often you skate, the more often your blades require sharpening. Skating aggressively twice a week is not the same as spending one hour a week doing recreational skating.

Also, there are additional factors to consider, like skating schedule, conditions, the temperature of the ice, blade quality, etc. You’ll have to figure out this over time and adjust your scheduled blade sharpening accordingly. Forming a schedule for sharpening skate blades is a good habit.

How Do I Know When To Sharpen My Hockey Skates?

Hockey skates back part

Dull blades tend to chatter, wobble, pull to one side, prevent tighter turns, or cause difficulties in maintaining control and balance. If you’re struggling to perform tight and quick turns, that means the blades of your skates don’t bite into the ice as they should. Carefully run your finger down the blade’s length to inspect for any nicks or gouges. You can also inspect your skates visually, under a bright light. If you see the reflection of your face in the blade’s edge, it’s time to sharpen your skates.

How Does the Process of Skate Sharpening Work?

Your skate blade is made of metal, just like a knife. However, unlike a knife with one V-profile edge, the blades on your skates have two edges, with a hollow between them. Think of an upside-down U –profile, similar to the ꓵ symbol. Basically, if you cross-section the blade, you’ll notice that the edge resembles a segment of a circle.

This rounded profile, called a hollow, is shaped by passing the skate blade along the sharpening wheel, also called a finishing wheel. Depending on the state of your blades, they might have to pass the finishing wheel several times until the blades are hollowed out and the edges are sharp enough.

It would help if you kept in mind that the depth of your hollow or its radius significantly affects your skates’ performance. A smaller radius, like ⅜” cuts deeper into the ice, requiring more effort and energy to skate and provide lower skating speed. However, they offer explosive acceleration and incredibly responsive turns. Larger radius, like ⅝” (up to an inch), offer more efficient skating and more speed, but limited acceleration and significantly slower turns and stops.

Sometimes the blades are in such a bad condition that they have to be re-profiled before they’re hollowed out and sharpened. Professional sharpeners use a cross-grinder, which runs perpendicular to the blade, to dull and flatten the blade. This is used to reset the blade completely, remove any highly impactful defects, burrs, corrosion, or the results of lousy sharpen. It’s also best used before any first sharpening of hockey skates.

Ways To Sharpen Your Ice Skates:

Sharpening your ice skates will drastically improve their performance, and subsequently, yours. However, this only implies if the skates have been sharpened properly. And there are several ways you can achieve that: you can either take them to a professional sharpener or sharpen them yourself.

This section of the article will discuss both methods in greater detail, emphasizing the manual, at-home sharpen with a file. But before we do, let’s talk about the professional sharpening method to sharpen ice skates.

Take Them to a Professional

You can have your hockey skates sharpened at almost any hockey gear store or a well-equipped professional who offers sharpe services and likely a sharpening machine of some kind. In either case, both businesses will have specialized equipment for sharpening hockey skates, especially when it comes to different blade hollow radii.

The professional sharpener will use specially designed sharpening machines and jigs that hold your skate blades parallel to the finishing wheel, creating the desired hollow radius. They’ll use the jig to make multiple, gentle passes over the rotating finishing stone, removing the least amount of material necessary to create a good hollow and achieve great results.

If your blades are badly damaged and require re-profiling, the professional might use a cross-grind machine, which runs its grinding wheel perpendicularly to the blade. It’s a more aggressive grinding method for removing major impediments, like nicks, dings, and rust. Cross-grinding completely flattens the blade and prepares it for the finishing stone, which creates a new hollow profile depending on the desired radius.

The same might apply to new hockey skates too. New ice skates have pre-set profile radii, and it’s a common misconception that the factory profile works the best. However, the factory profile shows the best tolerable results, given the standardized human measurements. However, if you’re on a slightly lighter or heavier side, the factory profile might impede your performance.

Generally, having your skates sharpened by a professional is the best possible way to keep your skates in good condition. However, if you don’t have any reliable, professional sharpening service nearby, you can sharpen your skates by yourself.

Manually Sharpen the Ice Skates With a File

Hockey skating

Sharpening ice skates with a file isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming and requires a precise level of skill and technique. This especially applies if you’re trying to make a hollow grind or a hollow profile by hand – it’s doable, but it takes time, patience, and skill. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A manual sharpening jig – you can purchase manual sharpening jigs specifically designed to sharpen ice skates. These often sell paired with honing stones and sharpen files.
  • A set of files – you’ll need a flat-file for metal. Hand files for metal are number-graded, with higher numbers corresponding to smoother finishes. We suggest you purchase one course and one smooth file.
  • Round or half-round needle files – These come in different radii and can be used to make a hollow profile.
  • Lubricant – Though generally unnecessary for filing metal, you can add some oil to prevent metal filings from flying around.
  • A rag or a workshop cloth – to wipe everything down and help you keep track of your work

Mount your skates in the sharpening jig, with the blades pointing upwards. Please consult with the  jig’s user manual on how to align the skates properly. The blades must be parallel to each other and with the jig’s guiding plate/rail. Make sure that everything is positioned and tightened correctly.

Next, place the sharpening jig on a surface, preferably a desk, which would allow you a free range of motion. Take your flat file, place it perpendicularly to the ice skate blade, and run it in a diagonal movement, from the heel, towards the toes. Make sure that you run the file across the blades in one single motion. Repeat the process 15-20 times and then repeat it in the opposite direction.

If your skate blades are in horrible condition, you might want to consider using a courser file to remove imperfections on the blade. Don’t file aggressively, and once those imperfections are removed, repeat the process described above, using a more delicate, smoother file. This will help you create a flat profile on your blade.

You can add a hollow grind to your blades after initial skate sharpening by using round or half-round needle files with a desired radius. Position the needle file parallel to the blade and run it in a straightforward motion from heel to the toes. This will help you create a hollow grind, but be careful – it’s challenging to achieve a concave profile by hand. If you want a hollow profile on your blades, take your skates to a professional sharpener.

Once you’ve completed the sharpening ice skates process, check the edges on each skate. Use the cloth to remove any leftover filings and oils from your blades, and check each edge for a burr – bits of displaced metal that have been pushed to the sides. You can remove them by using a small, fine-sharpening stone by gently running the sharpening stone against the blade.

Common Mistakes To Watch Out For

skates on the ice

Mistakes are part of the learning process; however, those mistakes might be pricey with some skates. Here’s what you should avoid.

  • Sharpen rarely – Sharpen skates regularly to avoid dealing with dull blades in your hour of need, like a game or a match.
  • Sharpen often – On the other hand, sharpening skates too often will cause more wear on your skates and reduce your blades’ longevity.
  • Sharpen too quickly – Sharpening too fast or too hard can heat the metal, and cause it to soften, which will impede the blade’s performance. Fast and hard sharpening can also cause burrs, rough spots, and chatter, which leads to poor performance.

sharpening can also cause burrs, rough spots, and chatter, which leads to poor performance.

Tips

Here are some tips for more effective sharpening:

  • Only sharpen your ice skates when you notice they don’t perform well or when you feel the blade has dulled. For most skaters, this happens every two weeks.
  • Always check and double-check the position of your blades when sharpening manually
  • Professionals will sharpen your skates more effectively

Other Factors to Consider

  • Outside ice is generally colder and thus harder than the ice on the indoor rink. Harder ice will cause your blades to wear faster. Additionally, outside ice has more debris, which only increases wear.
  • The quality of the blades is also important. High-quality skates usually have better-quality steel blades. Better blades will hold a sharp edge longer and provide better performance. Also, you can expect 100 – 150 sharpening trips out of high-quality blades.
  • Beware of some sharpening shops. Despite being dubbed as professionals, the service they offer might not be up to par. Make sure that you take your skates to a reputable professional for sharpening.

Conclusion

We hope that we provided you with some insight and practical knowledge on how to sharpen ice skates. You can treat this as a DIY project and do it yourself, or you can have them sharpened at a specialized store for optimum results and maximum skating performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top