• Justin Schultz

Skate Sharpening Information

Precise Skate Sharpening

The two most important pieces of equipment you have are your Helmet and your Skates.

On this page let’s talk about your skates and how they should perform for you.

There are many factors to consider with your skates and one of them is your skate sharpening.

If your skate is sharpened incorrectly your game will suffer and nobody can afford to have their game be anything but the best each and every time you hit the ice!

Here are a few things that you should consider when you are going to have your skates sharpened.

What’s the size of the player? (weight)

What is the Rocker or Radius of the metal on the skate?

What is the ice condition, hard ice or soft ice?

Deeper hollow provides more grip.

Less hollow provides better glide.

With all these factors having an effect on your performance, you will not want to take a chance on anything but the BEST Skate Sharpening.

At Hockey Zone Minnesota we sharpen all skates to precision. The hollow will be the depth you want it to be and the inside edge and outside edge will be even.

Your Skates will be sharpened the same each and every time.

Anything else and your game suffers!

SHARPENING CARDS AVAILABLE AT $35.00 FOR 10 SHARPENINGS, A SAVINGS OF $15.00

Before we discuss sharpening, we must first look at the BASIC principles of ice-skating and how skates work. While on skates, the skaters body weight places pressure on the sharp edges on the blade, and the blade “digs” in. This gives it both grip and glide. The skate gets its grip from the bite angle set by the hollow and also its glide from the hollow. Glide occurs because there is a film of water under the skate that acts as a lubricant. Many factors effect how much grip/glide you can achieve, including weight on the skate and ice temperature. However the most important factor in achieving the optimum balance of grip and glide is the quality of the skate sharpening, the rocker radius and the bite angle set into the edges.

The above describes just the "gliding" stage of skating, there are 3 others, acceleration, stops, and turns. How your skate is sharpened and how your rocker is shaped and balanced will effect these stages as well.

When skates are sharpened, a hollow is ground in between the two outside edges. A skate with a deep hollow has very pronounced and aggressive edges with a bite angle that is more direct into the ice. Deep hollows have pro's and con's. The deeper hollow gives the skate more bite, but the skate controls the skater. If you want to be in control of your skates, a deep hollow is not for you. In addition, while deep is great for sharp turns, the edges sink in the ice more, causes drag and slows you down. So, while the player may see performance gains in turns, they will loose some performance in speed and may also have difficulties in stopping, controlling the skate in lateral movements.

Shallower hollows produce faster speeds but don't grip the ice as well as their edge bite angle is not as direct into the ice. A loss of acceleration, agility and tightness of turns could result, that is, until the skater learns edge control. A hockey skater needs a balance of speed (acceleration & glide) and agility (turns, pivots and stopping). Finding the proper hollow that will give each individual player this balance can only be achieved through trial and error, and perhaps even several adjustments.

A perfect example of how just skate sharpening alone can make performance differences is to compare an Olympic speed skater with a hockey player. NHL players have reached speeds greater than 20 miles per hour, but some speed skaters can exceed 37 miles per hour! Is the speed skater a better athlete? Not really, but the reason for the speed difference is simple. The best way to trap more of that "gliding" water under the blade is to have a shallower or flat hollow to reduce drag, and to have more blade touching the ice to disperse the weight which causes drag. For Speed skaters, their blades are long and optimized where virtually all of their blade’s surface is touching the ice. This, combined with flat hollows, gives them great speed. However, speed is only one part of skating, maneuverability and agility is the other. That same Speed Skater has to take it very easy on the corners or he could fall. With all that blade on the ice and no hollow, he can achieve great speed but at a big sacrifice in turns and agility. For the hockey skater, a mixture of speed and agility must be achieved. How this is best obtained is with a proper hollow that is selected based on many personal and external factors, and also a proper blade radius. Hollows are put on your blade when you get a normal skate sharpening. Radiusing though is optional, something that serious hockey players will have done once a season to obtain maximum performance. Simply changing the hollow can improve performance significantly, but it does not produce the same end-results as a custom radius that is matched to suit the skater’s individual style of play. Check out our Skate Profiling page for more information on custom radius's.

Basic Sharpening Explained A common myth is that one sharpening can be sharper than another. Untrue! All skates are sharpened to the exact same sharpness. It's the depth of the hollow, and evenness of the edges that makes a skate feel sharper or duller. Basic sharpening places a hollow or groove in the skate blade. To do this, the sharpener must first shape/round the edge of his grinding stone to a specific radius. Radius of Hollow are not complex to understand, it's simple basic math. Everyone who completed elementary school knows what a 1/2" radius circle is, right? You remember, you take the compass instrument, pull out the pencil part 1/2 inch, place the pointy part on the piece of paper and twirl it around till you have a circle. Bingo, you have a 1/2" radius circle. The sharpener uses a similar instrument to the compass to shape the outside of his grinding stone to 1/2", except his instrument has a diamond cutting tool on the end instead of a pencil. His stone now has the same shape on the outer edge as that 1/2" radius circle you drew on the paper. Now when he applies a skate to the stone, the 1/2" radius is transferred and cut into the skate blade. The curve of the radius creates a groove or hollow between the two edges on the outside of each blade.

If you look at the illustration above or look straight down your skates blade, you can see the edges and the hollow in- between. How deep or shallow the hollow is depends on the radius you select. A 3/8" radius will create deeper and more pronounced edges than a 1" radius. The depth of the hollow effects your play, sometimes positive, sometimes negative.

No single hollow setting is right for every hockey player. A pro shop with a house cut or "regular" that sharpens every skate the same way is doing a disservice to the skater. There are many hollows to choose from, and several individual factors need to be considered before a hollow is chosen; age, experience, weight, position, ability, strength, skill, ice temperature and more. I'd say approximately 80% of my new customers have a hollow on their skate that is not the best for them. So, whether you get a conventional sharpening, a Flat Bottom V, a Z-Channel or a A-TRAP Goalie cut, we are sure we can help you find the setting that works best for you.

Our Process A properly sharpened blade can make a noticeable difference in overall skate performance. Have you ever had your skates freshly sharpened then step on the ice and can't skate very well? I think we all have at one time or another. What we got was a poor, rushed, or inadequate sharpening. Before actual sharpening, several steps must be taken by the sharpener to ensure the sharpening will come out correctly. First, the blade must be fully inspected for straightness, edge damage, surface condition, and width (blade widths vary quite a bit and if not checked by caliper the edges WILL turn out uneven). Failing to perform all these checks usually results in a poor sharpening. At "No-Icing", we thoroughly examine every skate, and adjust our machine's settings for perfect alignment.

The next step is to determine the depth of hollow. We explain hollow selection in more detail on this page, but did you know that if you are a lighter weight player, you can use a deeper hollow than a heavier player, or that shallow hollows can increase your speed? Don't feel bad, most old-timers don't have a clue either. Be prepared the first time you bring your skates to us for sharpening to spend a little time discussing your options. At No-Icing Sports, we will explain hollow choices to you, and we will educate you on the pros and cons of each setting. We will then pick a hollow that we feel is best for you, rather than just giving you the one-size-fits-all generic grind that other shops cal their "regular". We don't have a regular at No-Icing, everyone gets a customized hollow.

Before we sharpen any skates on your first visit, we ask the skater to fill out a Skater Profile Form, which is a short questionnaire about your skating style and hockey game. From the information you provide, we help you determine an optimum setting for your ability and style of play. If you are a new skater or parent, we will recommend one for you or your child to try. We will evaluate what we think is right for you by first evaluating your weight, hockey position, experience level, age, leg strength, personal preferences, and ice temperature. After you select your hollow, we will sharpen your skates (both to the exact same specification).

If you already know the hollow you like, we will sharpen to your wishes. If you are not sure, we can also measure what your current sharpener has put on your blade and match it. Sometimes though, we can't figure out what your previous sharpener had done as we often get several different hollow measurements on the same blade, likely from a poor sharpening job. In these cases we'll pick the most likely hollow and have you go try it.

OK, I like my hollow, now what? Now that we found your favorite hollow, the process is not quite over. Yes, it will be much simpler now, we will retain your setting in our records so every time you visit you get the exact same cut for consistency. Plus, all you have to do now is when you, your wife, or whomever, brings in or drop off your skates for sharpening is to give us your No-Icing Sports Customer Number (Card issued when you fill out your Profile Form). We have all the info we need on file. Some have asked why we don't write the hollow on the bottom of the skates like other shops. Simple, your hollow doesn't stay constant, and must be adjusted occasionally for weight gains/losses, skill improvements, position changes, summer ice temps and more.

As I said, the tuning process is not completely over. As you develop as a skater, change positions, gain or lose weight, or as rink ice temperatures change, you may need minor adjustments in hollow to maintain optimum performance. Just let us know when the skates don't feel right and we can discuss hollow changes and other options.

How Important is Ice Temperature? The ice temperature where you skate is an important part of the hollow selection process. There are two types of ice, "Soft Ice" and "Hard Ice", also referred to as "Slow Ice" and "Fast Ice". Slow ice is generally any temp over 23 degrees and fast ice is 17-23 degrees. On soft ice, your edges sink deeper into the ice and slow you down and make you tire easy. With hard ice, more edge is needed to get a good bite into the ice. If you are playing at different rinks, your skates will feel very different from one rink to another. For example, if you are playing at Tri-Town, which normally has soft ice, and are skating on a 9/16" hollow that works well for you there, ... if you now go play at the Blue rink at Skate 3, which has very hard ice, you likely will be slipping out and not have enough grip.

So what do you do? While it is not always economically feasible to have your skates sharpened everytime you change rinks, if you do have an important game, tournement or tryout, then you may want to have your skates sharpened for that ice surface. NHL pro's do this for virtually every away game. At their game-day morning practice they test out the ice and their skate's performance. Then if necessary, have their equipment manager change the hollow to suit the ice condition.

Just let us know if you are changing from soft to hard ice or vice versa and we'll adjust your hollow as needed. You can ask the rink manager or even the zamboni driver what the ice temp is, they just read it off the compressor guages. To make this process more affordable, check out our sharpening passes which lower the cost of sharpening significantly.

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