How to Sharpen Ice Skates at Home

You’ve just bought new ice skates and they arrived dull. Or, your beginner ice skates came sharpened, but after skating for a while, they’re beginning to feel somewhat lazy, stealing the fun out of your play. But why do you want to learn how to sharpen skates at home? Is it because the local rink lacks competent sharpeners? Maybe it’s because there’s no proshop nearby? Or, maybe it’s because the clueless guy at the proshop messed up your ice skates last time you went there, and you’re looking for options.

Get ready and sharpen those damn blades.

Why Do You Sharpen Ice Skates?

It’s because properly sharpened ice skates enhance the skater’s overall performance on the rink or outdoor, making ice skating a whole lot more enjoyable. Dull  ice skates have a very hard time melting the ice, and that makes gliding forward extremely difficult. If your playing around the rink on skates that need sharpening, people will notice. With dull skates, it seems like you’re walking when you’re supposed to be gliding around!

Which Edge Radius is Right for You?

During ice skate blade sharpening, it’s the grinding wheel on the sharpening machine that determines the depth of the hollow. Generally, the larger the radius of the hollow, the shallower it is and the smaller the radius, the deep the hollow.

Shallow Vs Deep Hollow, What’s Right for You?

Shallow hollow blades or hollows with a large radius have less pronounced tips and less edge after sharpening. Additionally, such a blade has less grip which means it’s easier to maneuver and experiences less drag which means they’re faster. If you skate on such blades, the overall feel isn’t remarkably sharp.

In contrast, blades sharpened to a small radius end up with a deep hollow and more pronounced tips. The blades have more edge and more of the blade stays in contact with the ice. And because such a blade cuts deeper into the icy surface, the blades offer more grip which means less maneuverability. With a large radius blades, you’ll glide faster and stop with ease. And stopping is critical to skating especially for beginners and intermediate level skaters.

In addition, grinding to a deeper hollow result in more drag or friction between the blades and the ice. That means you’ll get less glide with such blades (less speed), and it’s  generally more difficult to stop than is the case with a larger radius. The upside is that such a grind enables the blades to hold pretty tight turns and there’s a sharp feel to this hollow profile.

Generally, advanced level skaters generally prefer a small radius while beginner ice skaters and intermediate level enthusiasts favor shallow grooved blades.

Tip: if you give your skates to a sharpening shop and they don’t ask how much radius you need, go somewhere else. They probably don’t know what they’re doing and think everyone needs a ½” hollow.

Weight and Groove Radius

A heavier skater needs to go with a larger radius while a smaller skater would be better off with a smaller radius. And different skating levels work best with a certain sweet spot as far as radius.

For competitive ice dancers, the sweet spot hovers around 3/8″ to 7/16″ while ½” is great for basic or instructional hockey. For beginner level skaters, 5/8″ is more like it while recreational players should be OK with a ¾” radius. As for a hockey goalie, that optimal performance spot sits between 1″ to 1.25.”

When Should I Sharpen My Ice Skates?

How often should you sharpen your ice skates? Generally, a hockey skater or figure skater can skate for up to 20 hours without needing to give your skates a grind. And, the more often you’re on the ice, the more frequently you need to sharpen your edges. Other factors that determine skate sharpening frequency include the skater’s weight, the temperature of the ice, skating style and level, and ice quality.

Ice Skater Weight Determines Sharpening Frequency

A heavy ice skater needs to take care of their skates more often than a lighter skater. That’s because when a heavy skater steps on their blades, they dig deeper into the ice, and that gives the blades more bite. So, a lighter person skating sharpens their edges less often.

Rink Ice Conditions Matter, Too

If the ice is hard probably because your local rink chills the ice at extremely low temperatures, your blades are going to need more frequent sharpening. But if the ice is soft because the ice at the rink stays chilled at higher temperatures, your blades have a much easier time cutting into the ice.

Consequently, such blades don’t work as hard melting the ice in their hollow. So, if you don’t want to sharpen your edges that often, make sure to use a rink with ice conditions that help you achieve your goal. Generally, the higher ice temperature, the less sharpening frequency.

How do I know my skates need sharpening?

 It’s when turns become slower and not as sharp as they usually are. It’s when your blades keep biting the ice and refusing to glide. It’s also when there’s a couple nicks, cracks, or scratches in the blades. Also, if the blades feel dull when you touch them with your hand, it’s time to darken your local proshop’s door. The best way to know hockey skates or figure skates need sharpening is declining performance unless your skating prowess has declined due to other reasons.

Different Ways to Sharpen Ice Skates at Home

Beginner skaters wonder whether they can sharpen their skates at home. Since you’re here, I take it that you’re one of those folks. Or, you’re a skater and everyone else from your spouse to your kids skates.

 Another reason you want to learn how to give your skates a sharper edge at home could be that there’s no sharpening nearby. Or you’re tired of  making those frequent trips to the proshop and want an alternative solution.  Perhaps there’s a not-so-detail-oriented kid at the rink or at the proshop that screwed up your skates recently, and you’re not going back there no matter what.

Now, there’s at least three methods to sharpen ice skates at home:

1. Use a Sharpening Machine

You can invest in a sharpening machine and save yourself trips to the proshop. With an efficient machine, all you have to do is set it up, clamp your blades, and get the job done.

The first couple passes on the cross-grind machine focus on eliminating dings, blade rust, and nicks. Then the blades are transferred to the sharpening stone so the right hollow profile can be created. Finally, you need to use some finishing stone to make everything perfect.

Decent sharpening tools costs around $600, but if you want the best of the best home skate sharpening device, be ready to splash. The best options on the market cost as much as $1,000 or even more.

But there’s a learning curve to using certain sharpening machines, a sacrifice I guess you’re willing to make. And you know what? From a strictly financial perspective, buying a sharpening machine doesn’t make much sense if you’re a solo skater. I’m planning to buy one someday soon, but that’s because Jason, myself, our son, and niece are into skating.

What if you’re a coach and have 20 people at the rink each session that can use rented skates? Or, maybe you have a team of 20 and each hockey skater sharpens their ice skates in the rocker room as they change? In these situations, buying a sharpening machine makes sense.

I plan on sharing what I learn about sharpening ice skates using a machine with you once I buy the machine and test it out.

2. Use a File to Sharpen Your Ice Skates

Now, you can use a file to sharpen your blades at home. However, you’re going to need to have a certain level of skill and expertise before you can correctly do this. Even though pretty much everyone can learn how to handle this activity, it takes a long time to master the craft.

If you’re a beginner or have never used a file to sharpen your skates, please don’t do this at home. You’ll likely damage your skates. Or, worse, you might get injuries while doing it.

I’m not going detail how to sharpen ice skates by hand using at this time, but I’ll certainly publish a post on that pretty soon.

3. Use a Hockey Skate Blade Sharpening Stone

If you can learn how to use a skate stone, you can properly sharpen your skates at home. Note that this isn’t so much a way of sharpening skates as it is a way to fine-tune things after you’ve made a couple passes on your blades using an appropriate machine. You need to have a finishing stone for the purpose of deburring your blades to right the imperfections the sharpening process caused.

Note: Aside from using a sharpening machine, the other strategies are merely ways to give your blades a pre-play touchup. Or, maybe you want to smooth some nick mid-play and need some tool for the task.

In fact, using tools other than a well-designed sharpening device has been to known to cause more problems than help. Such tools tend to wear away blades, and that means using them can be counterproductive since you’ll have to replace your ice skates sooner.

Sharpen My Ice Skates or Pay Someone Else to Do It?

That’s up to you, really. But there’s a good reason even pro skaters have a sharpening pro take care of their blades. And no, taking your skates to a general sports goods store isn’t the best approach. Nor is talking your skates to the guys at the rink shop the best advice.

Where Can I Get My Skates Sharpened?

The best strategy is to take your blades to a recommended sharpening hands at a proshop. I’m not saying employees at proshops sharpen right each time. I’m saying they’re likely to be great at it because they do it the whole time for skaters of all skating styles. They’re specialized, you know, and that does mean something, huh?

So, next time you’re having small talk with that friendly pro skater at the rink, ask them, where do you get your ice skates sharpened? They’ll most likely to recommend a highly competent pro that’s skated for years before setting up a proshop in your neighborhood.

How much does it cost to sharpen ice skates?

Sharpening costs vary from place to place and from one proshop to another. Generally, though, expect to pay anywhere in the $10 to $35 depending on who does it and where the sharpening happens.

 I’ve seen someone from an expensive location such as New York say they pay $15 for the job while skaters in supposedly cheaper cities pay up to $30 per grind. Here’s the thing: keep asking around until you find a place that does an excellent job sharpening skates while charging enticing prices.

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