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Leveling the Playing Field (Skate Blade Edges)

posted Jan 16, 2015, 10:12 AM by Skate Doctor   [ updated Jan 21, 2015, 11:26 AM ]
Skates are one of the most important pieces of equipment to a hockey or ringette player, or figure skater. They are your direct connection with the ice. If your skates aren't maintained properly, it will surely affect your game.
You've probably heard us talking about the squareness or level of skate blade edges. If you've stopped by the shop, you've seen us meticulously checking and balancing the edges of skate blades until they're nothing short of perfect. But, why is this so important? Are we suffering from a major case of OCD, or just going the extra step to ensure that you're set up for success on the ice?

Let's start with a bit of background. All skate blades start out as a thin, mostly square piece of steel. Some blades are thinner and others are thicker. This varies by the type of skate, type of blade, purpose, manufacturer, etc. When you get your skates sharpened, a pattern or "hollow" is ground or cut into the bottom of your skate blade. This is the inverse (or opposite) shape of what we've dressed our cutting wheel, and can be traditional/conventional radius of hollow (ROH), or Flat Bottom V (FBV). Furthermore, each shape can have different degrees or depths, which give you more bite or more glide (essentially higher edges or lower equal edges).
An exaggerated, radius of hollow (or ROH) at left, and an exaggerated, Flat Bottom V (or FBV) at right. Both are pictured as even/square.

As your blade comes in contact with the ice, it actually melts a small amount of the surface of the ice to create the glide you feel while skating (queue "The More You Know" music). In order to turn, stop, accelerate and use your skates to their full potential the edges ground into your skates during sharpening must be even! Seems like a simple concept, right? Well, you'd be surprised how many skates are sharpened incorrectly with horribly uneven edges. This is usually a combination of improperly configured equipment, inexperienced operators, bent skate blades, lack of attention or a technician who simply doesn't care. Even a small degree of error can lead to a miserable time on the ice. When we put our edge-checker on your blade, we want it to be perfectly level on both sides of the gauge. If the gauge is tilted on either side, your skate is not sharpened properly!

Uneven (improperly sharpened) edges at left, and even (properly sharpened) edges at right. See the difference?

Some of the symptoms of uneven edges include:
  • Difficulty stopping
  • "Chattering" or "chopping" sensation when stopping
  • Inability to turn in one direction
  • Feeling like your skates are "slipping out" from under you
  • Feeling like you're "missing an edge"

We sometimes get a request to sharpen skates off-center so that it is easier for the player to stop. This is not advisable because while you may have an easier time stopping, you may not be able to turn, fall while turning, or have issues with cross-overs or balance. We always sharpen your skates with even edges, but can reduce the hollow depth of your grind (from 1/2" to 5/8", for example) to give you less bite. In the end, you still have perfectly even edges, but they're less aggressive.

A quick mention to all the old-school goalies out there - we also prefer to sharpen your goalie skate edges evenly, but try different grind depths to find your sweet spot for push-offs and/or shuffling.

At Skate Doctor, we check every skate for even edges at 3 points (toe, middle, heel) after sharpening. You may also see us check skate blade edges before sharpening if we feel something is off. That's right, through our experience we can feel AND see when there is an issue with a skate blade or previous sharpening.

We also calibrate and check the accuracy of our gauges frequently using a certified square piece of steel. Feel free to ask to see our edge checker on your skates before and/or after sharpening - we want you to know that we've done our job (or how your skates looked before they came in)! That's why our experience and process leads to a better, consistent sharpening every time.