Salem High School hockey information and statistics from the first season to the present

Ron Chisholm's Skate Sharpening

Sharpening Questions

Presented by:   Ron Chisholm - a dedicated hockey fan, parent of four players, and past player and coach of many years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do new skates need sharpening?

Absolutely, new skates out of the box must be sharpened. Skate manufacturers avoid costs by not sharpening new skates.  There is also the liability issue.  Imagine the lawsuit possibilities not to mention the bad publicity resulting from cuts caused by people handling sharpened skates in the stores.

How often should my skates be sharpened?

Under normal conditions, a skate sharpening for the serious hockey player should last for about three to five hours of ice time.  Skating on outdoor ice only one time may require the skates to be sharpened before their next use.   Damage to the blades from stepping on concrete or hitting metal objects such as a goal post or someone else's skate can strip an edge and require the skate to be sharpened, no matter how long it has been in use.  Don't wait until you are on the ice to realize that your skates need to be sharpened.  Be aware of the signs that your blades are getting dull.  Are you having problems on your turns or stopping?  Check your skates after every use.

How can I tell when my skates need sharpening?

When skates begin slipping on hard turns, pushing-off, or cross-overs, this is an indicator of dull skates.  Visually inspect by looking down the length of the blade.  Check for stripped edges, gouges, or dull looking (worn) edges.  Any of these visual indicators will tell you that the skates require sharpening.  A good method to determine sharpness is using the fingertips, however this method requires a great deal of care to prevent cutting and a good "feel" to recognize the condition of the edge.  Make sure that the skate blade and your fingers are warm and dry; hold the skate in one hand with the blade up and carefully and lightly move your fingertips over the edge of the blade at a 45 degree angle.  A sharp blade will cause a drag on the fingertips.  This should be done at several locations along the edge of the blade.  Do this for both inside and outside edges of each skate.  This "feel" must be acquired and has to be practiced.  Check your skates this way immediately after sharpening so that you will recognize what a sharp blade feels like.  One word of caution, NEVER run your fingers down the length of the blade, as a serious cut may result.

How much sharpening is left in these hockey skates?

When the blade height at the center of the blade reaches 1/4 inch, then the useful life of the blade is gone.  It can no longer be properly set in a skate sharpening clamp and the skater is probably scraping the plastic blade holder on the ice while taking a sharp turn. When the blade tips are ground away, your blade life is further shortened, and your blades may be wasted before they reach the minimum height.  A careful sharpener can do much to prolong blade life and protect the skater's investment.  Some inexperienced sharpeners with a heavy hand can unnecessarily over-grind away blade material, especially at the toe and heel by excessive rockering of the blade.  Other sharpeners will cross grind every pair of skates as part of their process, using the rationale that this provides a clean, flat surface for sharpening.  This will remove the existing hollow on the blade and results in the unnecessary loss of valuable steel.  Cross grinding should only be used in contouring skates, removing rust, and repairing heavily damaged blades.  These are good reasons to avoid impulse sharpening at unfamiliar rinks and skate shops.

How can I get rust off my blades?

Rust is not as big a problem as it used to be.  Stainless steel blades have greatly reduced rust formation, but it is still fairly common on the bottom of the blades and is caused by not properly drying the skates before storing them.  Rust on the blade bottom can be ground off during sharpening.  Rust on the sides of the blade often cannot be removed without corrupting the side of the blade.  Using a flat sharpening stone or steel wool along the sides of the blade can help to remove some of the surface rust.  Abrasive cloth for cleaning copper tubing works well for this removal.  Goalie skates and inexpensive skates are now the biggest offender for rusty blades.  These blades are often made from carbon steel and will definitely rust if not cared for.  Years ago, when the goalie skate blades were all carbon steel (no plastic blade holders), most of the blade was chrome plated to prevent rusting.  The better goalie skate blades are now made from stainless steel.

I just had my skates sharpened.  Why am I falling when I make a turn? 

The most typical cause for this is uneven edges on your blades.  In this case, the falling will usually occur when the turn is made in one direction.  The only solution is to get the skates properly sharpened again.  Another reason for falling on turns could be that the blades are worn down too low, causing the plastic carrier to hit the ice.  In this case, blade replacement is required.

What is a radius?

When someone asks this question, I have to ask which radius they want to know about.  First of all there is the radius of curvature of the blade, which refers to the contour of the blade.  The radius of a skate blade is a portion of a circle that is ground onto the blade.  A detailed discussion of this topic can be found on the Custom Radius skate sharpening page.  The other radius is the Radius of Hollow or simply "hollow grind".  When the skates are sharpened, the blades are ground to produce a concave hollow in the center producing two distinct edges on the blade.  The depth of the hollow grind is measured as the radius of a circle that is cut into the blade.  More information about the hollow grind radius can be found on the Radius of Hollow page.

What is "Flat Bottom" sharpening?

Flat Bottom sharpening is an old concept that was not put to use until a short time ago.  The idea is to put a flat surface between the edges of the blade instead of the circular hollow used in the standard type of sharpening.  The purpose of this method of sharpening is to obtain increased glide and speed without sacrificing edge control.  An additional benefit is a reduction in leg fatigue.  Because of a decrease in friction, less effort is required to get the same skating results.  More detailed information on the Flat Bottom Form Dressing can be found here.

Do goalie skates need to be sharpened?

Speaking from my own experience as a goaltender playing up to and including the international level, I almost never used to allow anyone to sharpen my skates.  I hand stoned them for many years and had them sharpened very infrequently.  The reason for this was that I could never get them sharpened properly.   Because the blade of a goalie skate is much wider than a regular skate, the hollow must not be as deep.  If an inexperienced sharpener does not adjust the radius of hollow, the edges may be too pronounced. This will cause the goaltender to catch an edge while going from side to side and make him/her fall down.  Also, because the blade is wider, the skate holder must be adjusted to make sure that the center of curvature of the wheel meets the center of the blade.  Usually, a separate holder is used to sharpen these skates so that the adjustments to the holder are minimized.  It was not until I learned how to sharpen my own skates that I appreciated the benefits, and found that properly sharpened goalie skates are critical and help performance.

Should I dry these skates before you sharpen them?

Some places will charge extra if the blades are wet and have snow on them. The plastic blade carrier holds onto the snow and moisture especially on the original style Tuuk blade holder.  So, please do yourself and me a favor and clean and dry the plastic carriers as well.  Any water from the melting snow will wreak havoc on the bed of the skate sharpener if not immediately removed.

Additional Sharpening and Skate Information

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The information on this site has been collected from official scoresheets and from on ice observations.  As such, the final statistics are not to be construed as official or sanctioned by the Salem High School Athletic Department or by the NHIAA.  However, much of this information is not available from any other sources.

2014 Ron Chisholm & Associates
Salem, NH