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How Often Should You Sharpen Your Skates?

Posted by AJ Lee on

It depends.

OK, that’s the worst answer when it comes to almost anything. Though when referring to how often hockey skate sharpening is necessary, it’s also pretty true.

  • Where do you play?
  • How hard is the ice?
  • How often do you play?
  • How good are your skates?

    These are all questions to consider, and the answers will impact how often you sharpen your skates.

    A rule of thumb is for every 15 to 20 hours of ice time, but let’s go beyond the basics.

    Signs That It’s Time to Sharpen Skates

    It’s time when:

  • Your blades “chatter” on the ice
  • You feel pulled to one side or the other when skating
  • You’re suddenly struggling with quick turns
  • You can feel nicks, gouges or burrs when lightly running a finger along the length of the blade

    Factors Impacting Time Between Sharpening

    The biggest factor is how often you skate, hence the rule of thumb based on ice time. It’s not unheard of for some players to sharpen their blades before every game, and others once or twice a year. If you’re playing twice a week, try dropping your skates off for a sharpening once a month and adjust from there.

    Other factors to consider include:

  • Indoors or out? Outdoor ice is typically colder and harder, thus wearing out edges faster. Further, debris on outdoor ice (sticks, leaves, dirt) inflicts more damage on blades.
  • Steel quality? Better steel holds an edge longer, necessitating fewer sharpenings.
  • Care habits? Newer players might step on a metal threshold and nick their blades, skates tossed into a bag without guards can incur damage, and guards left on too long can promote rusty blades.

    The Process of Sharpening Skates

    A skate isn’t a knife, which is to say it isn’t sharpened to produce one edge. Rather, skate blades are sharpened to produce an inside edge and an outside edge on either side of a “hollow.” The sharpening process grinds the steel of the blade between the two edges. The narrower the grinding blade, the deeper the hollow — in other words, a 3/8-inch hollow is deeper than a ½-inch hollow.

    The depth of the hollow can be adjusted based on your skating ability or style. The most common hollow, at least for beginning skaters, is ½ inch. A deeper hollow lets the blade sink farther into the ice, slowing the skater but providing more control. Conversely, a shallower hollow lets a skater go faster but requires more skill.

    Another factor is weight. Heavier skaters will need a shallower hollow — say 5/8 inch or ¾ inch — to prevent getting “stuck” in the ice. Lighter skaters can optimize control and stopping power with a deep hollow — 3/8 inch — that allows them to “dig in” when necessary, because otherwise they glide more easily.

    As for goalies, their blades have basically no hollow at all (1 inch and up).

    What About Youth Skaters?

    Let’s face it. Kids don’t know their skills well enough to reliably inform you when their skates need sharpening. Your observational skills will tell you more.

    If your youth player is suddenly gliding less often and always seems to be churning, inspect those blades. If another player seems to have become inexplicably quicker, or yours inexplicably clumsier, consider getting those skates sharpened.

    If nothing else, it’ll be like giving kids that boost we all got from a new pair of sneakers when we were young — these will make you fast!

    All of us, young or old, will benefit from regularly sharpening our skates. Feeling connected to the ice bolsters confidence. Feeling uncertain creates tentativeness. Sharper blades inspire that connection and keep you moving with purpose and control — and there’s no better way to play.

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