In how to sharpen ice skates by hand at home or at the rink, I explain three simple and easy steps to give your ice skate blade smooth and sharp edges in no time. But can you actually sharpen ice skates at home without a machine? Yes, you can, but the handheld ice skate sharpening tools available aren’t designed to eliminate professional skate sharpening altogether.
Everyone I know who sharpens their skates at home or in the locker room pre-play uses a handheld sharpener as a touch-up tool. The tool I recommend is (Amazon affiliate link. As an associate, I earn a commission for qualifying purchases) this V-shaped Blade Edge Enhancer.
It’s cheap, works well, and is easy to use. Use the sharpener to do in–between sharpenings and save yourself a trip or two to the skate technician.
Also Read: How to Sharpen Skates on a Machine
Can You Actually Sharpen Skates By Hand?
Yes, you can sharpen ice skates by hand, and the best way to do it is by using a sweet stick. Give your skates 2-3 light swipes with the sweet stick to get burrs and nicks off of the blades. However, you shouldn’t replace expert sharpening at a pro shop with manual sharpening with a sweet stick. A handheld skate sharpener is a useful item to store in one of those small inner pockets of your skate bag, a re-edger to hold you over if you lose an edge or when you forget to have your skates mailed over to a service provider.
You can also use a flat file to perform the same task. In this post, though, I focus on using a sweet stick because it works much better. At least for my husband and me.
Why Use a Handheld Ice Skates Sharpener?
The most common reason to use a handheld device to give ice skates a sharpening at home is to reduce how often one pays for pro sharpening. Jason, my SO, owns the tool I mentioned above and uses it to give my and his blades a touch-up a moment before hitting the ice rink.
I’ve seen that using this tool does reduce the number of times he takes the blades to the skate shop for sharpening. The nearest pro shop happens to be 50 miles away. Going there is a real road trip, one that necessitates a bit of moving things around the weekly schedule to organize.
Also Read: How to Sharpen Ice Skates Using a File
Sharpening ice skates with a V-shaped blade sharpener such as a Sweet Stick can help knock off 2 to 3 trips to the rink shop or wherever you get your services. He saves about $7-$10 each time he doesn’t pay for a sharpening. Considering the low price, it makes complete sense to own this kind of re-edger.
How to Use A Sweet Stick to Sharpen Ice Skates
A sweet stick is an easy-to-use handheld skate sharpener. The tool comes with a V-shaped sharpening stone on one end. Well, there were no instructions of any kind on how to use it, but hubby was able to smoothen his hockey blades without much effort.
Whether you’re looking to enhance the edges of hockey skates, goalie skates, speed skates, or figure skates to optimize skate performance, you don’t need any technical skills to use the tool. Follow the steps described below to hone your steel with a sweet stick:
3 Easy Steps to Smoother, Sharper Edges
Here they are:
Step #1: Hold the Tool Right
Hold the sweet stick properly before you start the sharpening process. You want to hold the tool between the thumb and forefinger with the thumb on top.
Use the right hand to grip the tool if you’re right-handed and the left one if you’re left-handed, obviously. But if you’re ambidextrous and can use both hands equally well, it doesn’t matter which hand holds the skate or sharpener.
Tip: Don’t hold the sweet stick precisely perpendicularly. Instead, hold the sharpener at an angle to the blade. That’s how it works best.
Step #2: Grab Your Ice Skates
Using the other hand, turn your skates upside down so that the blades face up. Make sure the toe faces away from you.
Step #3: Make 2-3 Light Passes Down on the Blade
Now, it’s time to do the real work. And the work isn’t much at all.
Point the V of the tool to the toe of the blade. Apply light pressure to run the tool forward and backward down the entire length of the steel. Give the blade 2 or 3 strokes and repeat the process with the other skate. That’s all there’s to manually sharpen skates by hand at home.
And you just did it!
Blade care tip: Applying too much pressure on the Sweet Stick can break it. Be sure to run the sharpener very lightly down the blades. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
Does a Sweet Stick Last?
If you handle a sweet stick with care, it should last you reasonably long. Unless you’re dropping it on the floor all the time, it’ll serve you well and for long enough. Hubby’s sweet stick hasn’t broken, yet, and he’s owned it for at least a year. But I’ve come across a few unhappy users of the product.
Quite frankly, the head of our tool could be more durable. Some disgruntled users of this very tool complained that it didn’t last more than a season. Some even said that it didn’t survive more than a single fall on the floor.
All that said, proper handling should definitely prolong the lifespan of this small skate sharpener. Not applying too much pressure can minimize the odds of the tool breaking during sharpening.
The Downside of Sharpening Ice Skates By Hand
While you could save yourself two time-and-money-consuming trips to some far-away skate shop for a sharpening, there’s a downside to sharpening with a sweet stick.
Hubby has noticed that using the sweet stick to touch up his blades before a skate session tends to push the edges in, toward each other. They do feel noticeably sharper afterward, but that extra sharpness comes at a price.
In Jason’s case, the guy at the skate shop needed to grind more steel off the blades than they otherwise would have if manual sharpening had not been done. And more aggressive grinding definitely reduces the longevity of the steel. And who wants to replace expensive ice skates every other season just because they saved a few bucks hand-sharpening?
Also, removing burrs from soft steel blades can be problematic. Be careful when honing soft steel blades with a sweet stick. Graf steel and Easton steel blades popped into my mind. Some skaters have found that a sweet stick tends to chip the dull blade when it encounters a burr on the edges. You’re looking to sharpen your blades, not to chip and ruin them.
It’s Best to Get a Full Sharpening
I’ve talked to quite a few ice skaters concerning the issue of giving skates a manual sharpening at home. And pretty much everyone tells me it’s best to pay for a full sharpening at a trusted pro shop.
As long as you can get someone who knows how to correctly and precisely make the hollow profile you want, paying $5-$10 for the expertise really shouldn’t ruin your finances.
A pair of trained, dexterous hands get to sharpen your blades as per your specific instructions. And, your blades are likely to last longer because the technician won’t need to grind off the edges more than is necessary.
Does Hand Sharpening Ice Skates at Home Make Sense?
Yes, sharpening skates using a handheld grindstone does help keep edges sharp, allowing you to do fewer trips to the skate shop. It’s easy to do, and the tool is inexpensive.
But using your hands to sharpen your blades shouldn’t be a way to replace professional skate sharpening. Rather, hand skate sharpening should be used as part of a general blade maintenance routine aimed at fixing tiny nicks when you can’t get a full sharpening for whatever reason.
This tool also comes in handy when you step on something lurking in bad-quality ice and lose your edge. Oh, and using skate guards to protect your blades helps.
If smoothing a new sharpening to keep your edges sharp for longer is what you want, then sharpening your skates by hand could be a good idea. But any kind of sharpening without using a specialized machine could be counterproductive. So, be careful.
How Long Do You Wait Between Full Sharpens?
Most skaters I’ve talked to say they wait 6-8 weeks between sharpens. But that’s when they routinely use a sweet stick, file, or honing stone to re-establish the edges as needed. Your blades will always have enough “bite”, and it’ll make sure you won’t slide sideways on the ice throughout the game.
In the end, everyone decides how long they want to wait before consulting a skate tech for proper sharpening.
What If I Don’t Want to Sharpen My Skates By Hand?
If you don’t trust your untrained hands around your expensive blades, don’t worry. Instead, find a legitimate sharpening service who accepts mailed-in ice skates/blades for sharpening. Well, it costs more in terms of time and money, but it’s 100 percent worth it if the provider is good.
If you can, get an extra set of steel blades so that you have something to use each time you send in your other pair for a sharpen.
Sharpening Ice Skates By Hand: Conclusion
The best way to sharpen ice skates by hand is to use a sweet stick. But a sweet stick won’t give you the same amount of sharpness you’d get from a full sharpening at a pro shop. At best, a sweet stick works as a stop-gap for when you can’t get to a skate tech or don’t want to drive miles just to have your steel sharpened.
Hockey players who use a sweet stick to deburr their skates typically use play for 6-8 weeks before the blades need a full sharpening. You get to save about $7-$10 each time you choose to manually sharpen your skates at home. But convenience is the whole point of it.