Blade Care & Sharpening

Blade Care

Your skates are the most important part of your equipment as a speed skater. The unique design and thin metal reduces resistance, making it possible to skate fast and turn with skill and precision. Proper care will ensure you will skate to the best of your ability and enjoy your time on the ice.

Directions for sharpening you skates in included below. We recommend that you get shown how to do it by an experienced skater (or parent) before your first attempt.

Sharpening: Speed skates must always be sharpened by hand using a jig and stone.  Never use a power grinder on speed skates.

Keep your blades sharp. How often you sharpen them will depend on how many times you skate and the condition of the ice. Learn to tell when your skates need sharpening. Most skaters sharpen their skates every 3 or 4 sessions on the ice; high performance skaters will sharpen between every race.

Warning: If you use a power grindstone to sharpen the blades you will permanently damage the blade. Power grinding removes the correct rocker and destroys the proper edge.

Drying: Dry the blades with a clean towel after each use. If you store your skates with even a few small drops of water on the blades, you will find rust on them within a few hours.

Rust acts like cancer on the steel, eating at the surface an weakening the blade, so you must remove any rust as soon as it develops. To remove small amounts of rust, put some oil on the blade and rub the spot with a burr stone.

Storing: Use soft guards when storing the skates with your gear between practices. Do not use hard guards for storage.

All club skates come with soft guards for storage. Soft guards are a knit, cotton or fleece fabric that stretches over the blades. Do not use the soft guards to dry off the skates. The damp material will cause rust to form.

Off-Season Storage: Club skates must be returned to the club at the end of the season, even if the skater is returning next season. If you have arranged to have club skates for summer camps, please help us with proper extended storage habits.

When storing skates for the off-season, make sure that they are completely clean and dry. Coat the blades with a little petroleum jelly to prevent any corrosion caused by damp conditions. Make sure that there is no weight acting upon the blades which might bend them during storage.

Guards: Hard guards are only used for walking the short distance from the dressing room to the ice surface. Never walk in your skates without hard guards; even a single step on a floor can significantly dull the blades and affect performance. Hard skate guards are used only to move from the dressing room to the ice.

It can take an hour or more to restore a blade edge that is lost by taking a few steps on concrete or walking on hard and dirty surfaces. Even a few steps on the soft floors, including the rubber floors of arena dressing rooms and player bench areas. will dull the blades and make skating difficult.

Keep the inside of your guards clean at all times. Little specks of dirt on the inside of your guards can damage the skating edge of the blade. (Tip: Washing your guards on the top rack of the dishwasher works quite well.)

Boots: Boots are made of leather. If they become wet, dry them slowly away from direct heat. If the side of the boot is being worn away by leaning over too far on the corners, a piece of tape can be used to protect the spot. Cleaning and polishing the leather from time to time and treating the leather with water repellent is also recommended.

Laces: Use soft cotton or waxed laces. If too long, remove a piece from the middle and tie the cut ends at the toe. Check your laces before you go skating and replace if they are frayed.

Sharpening Equipment

All speed skates are sharpened by hand. To properly sharpen your skates, you will need the following equipment. (Complete sharpening kits are available for members at the rink.)

  • a jig to hold the blades
  • a sharpening stone
  • a burr stone

Jigs

Skates in a sharpening jig.

Skates in a sharpening jig.

There are many types of jigs, some designed exclusively for long track or short track blades, or some which are used for both. The jigs the club have available for the use of members are suitable for sharpening both types of blades.

There are many ways to set up speed skates in a jig. The most important thing is to be consistent in whatever method you learn. As much as possible, always sharpen skates on the same jig so that the skates adapt to the idiosyncrasies of that jig. Changing jigs will necessitate several sharpenings before the skates are adjusted to the new jig.

When setting up the jig ensure that equal amount of each skate is showing behind the jig

The skates must be set up so that both blades are parallel to one another and level on top. The simple check to see if the blades are set up correctly is to take the stone and run it across the tops of the blades. A thin etch mark completely across both blades indicates that the blades are level, hence when the grinding starts, the blades will be worn down equally.

If the etched line only covers a portion of one blade, adjust the skates until a subsequent check shows a complete etch mark.

Stones

Sharpening stones are available in a number of sizes. The most common size is 11″ x 3″ because it is easier to hold and the extra weight will decrease the effort needed by the sharpener. Most stones have a coarse and fine side.

A small burr stone for removing burr built up during sharpening is the only other piece of equipment needed. These are usually fine grained and about 3″ x 1″.

When using the stones some people use oil on the stone to prevent grit from clogging the stone. Other people use water spray bottle with a mixture of soap and water.

A stone is worn out when valleys develop on its cutting edge. This will cause the stone to round off the skate blades and hampers the formation of a burr. Stones in this condition can be ground flat on a grindstone and re-used after a thorough cleaning. Valleys which can be detected visually are usually too large for effective sharpening.

Rockers, High Points, Flat Spots and Hollows

The rocker of a skate is the amount that the blades deviate from being perfectly flat or straight from tip to tip. For example, a hockey skate has a significantly greater rocker than a speed skate, and a short track skate has a greater rocker than a long track skate. The amount of the rocker can be measured by checking the blade against guides used for measuring rockers.

The location of the rocker along the blade (high point) can change if proper care is not taken when sharpening the skates. If the high point is in the wrong location the skater will lose efficiency.

Pushing down hard on the sharpening stone can result in flat spots and hollows. Visual inspections on a regular basis will assist in noting these problems early. If you have a concern regarding rockers, high points, flat spots and hollows, please check with the equipment manager or coach.

Difficulty in sharpening is directly proportional to the length of time between sharpenings and the care that the skate blade gets.

Skate sharpening seminars are normally held at the beginning of each season to teach new members how to sharpen their skates.