Skate Sharpening 101

With more and more outdoor rinks opening and hockey and ringette season in full swing it’s definitely busy season for skate sharpening. If you’re a little mystified of the what, why, how or where of skate sharpening this article is for you.

While some people go for years without sharpening their skates, most people will feel and see vast improvements to their skating with regular sharpenings. Sharpened skates allow you to grip the ice better. This will make it easier to turn and make it easier to push. For the absolute beginner it will make it easier to stand up and stay upright.

When to get your skates sharpened

Don’t know how to tell if your skates are sharpened? Here’s when you should get your skates sharpened.

  • When you first buy them. All skates are sold unsharpened. If you’re buying new skates they should come with a free sharpening.
  • When they have rust on the bottom. If there’s rust on your blade you’ll want to sharpen this off as it also makes your blade dull.
  • If there’s any nicks in your blade you’ll want to get them sharpened so that your blade is smooth again.

When you’re skating: If you feel like your skates are sliding out from underneath you or you’re skidding out on turns that’s a good sign that you need your skates sharpened. You’ll also notice that it becomes a lot easier to stop.

Off the ice: If you skate a lot you should get in the habit of feeling your blades by running your finger along them. Obviously be careful when you do this. Your skates should feel sharp on both sides with a hollow in the middle. A popular method is to run your nail along the edge and see if it produces any white shavings.

There is no hard and fast rule for how long you can go between sharpenings when you’re skating as it depends on the ice, quality of your blade, what you do when you’re skating and personal preferences. Skating on outdoor ice and stopping a lot will wear down your blades more quickly. So will walking on your skates on any non ice surfaces.

Where to get your skates sharpened

Not very place that does skate sharpening is actually good at it. Head to a place that specializes in skating/hockey or sharpening specifically. That means no big box stores. While big box stores may be a bit cheaper, people there usually have less training on skate sharpening and can leave you with a sharpening nightmare. Some of the things that can occur are uneven edges, too sharp or not very sharpened skates, rockered (rounded) blades or taking off to much blade when they sharpen. Get in the habit of checking your skates when they are sharpened as well to make sure that they feel ok. If they ever feel off all good sharpeners should have a level that they can check to see if your edges are even.

While you can buy small hand sharpeners or edge fixers these only work for a short period of time but will do in a pinch if you can’t make it to the sharpener. Also make sure you stay clear of the coin operated machines that you sometimes see at the arenas. If you are someone that is skating a ton and wants a home sharpener Sparx sharpeners work well but will cost you around $1000.

What kind of sharpening

Skates can be sharpened to different hollows (the hollow part in the middle of your blade). Typically people get between 5/8 and 3/8 with the 5/8 being less sharp and having less of a hollow and the 3/8 being more sharp and having a bigger hollow. 1/2 is the regular or standard sharpening and is in the middle.

If you’re just going for an occasional skate with friends I’d stick to the regular/ standard sharpening of 1/2.

For smaller kids that are pushing and gliding I would recommend a 5/8 or 9/16 as it will make it a little easier for them to stop and push.

For hockey players I would recommend experimenting to find what you like.

Flat bottom V is another sharpening style that can be found at some of the larger sharpening places and I have found it’s easier to adjust to and keeps the edge longer. It also has different hollows and most places have a conversion chart for you if you want to try it out.


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