Heading into my 5th season of skate sharpening, Ive heard alot of uneducated assumptions about different aspects in my field. Not to sound arrogant and cocky about what Ive learned in my industry, but I take great pride at being the best that I can be and as knowledgable as I can be for my customers. With permission from Rosey (yes I actually asked, he is the GSH Top 5 king), I want to help educate you gongers on how to keep the wheels greased as best as you can, and maybe help answer any of the questions you may be asking yourself every time you get up to the sharpening counter.
5. The Finger Nail Test
I see this time and time again, every hockey dad, mom, and player like to grab a finished skate, hold it blade up, and run their thumb nail vertically along the blade and scrape off a thin layer of their thumb nail as they check both edges along the blade. Although this test does infact let you know that an edge exists on the blade, it doesnt give you a feel for what you’ll be skating on. If this is confusing you, try this next time: instead of using your thumbnail, use the opposite side of the nail and drag down with your skin. You wont cut yourself (as long as you are sure not to move sideways) and your skin lets you feel the strength of the edge and the quality of the finish done by the sharpener.
4. The “Magic Stick” (or Y-stick) is a great way to save money on skate sharpening
The Magic Stick is a tool with many different names, but one function: to take flattened out edges on skate blades, grab them, and bring them back to straight. With one pass along the blade, there is a noticable difference between the once dull skate, and the now “sharp” skate. This tool was designed as a “final minutes of the 3rd period and I blew an edge” quick fixer, but I have seen alot of people who abuse it, and over use the tool to the point where they actually break the edges off the blade from the repeated folding process (fold, skate on and flatten, fold, skate on and flatten, etc) and damage the blade to the point where we as sharpeners need to grind away a large amount of blade to repair the damage done. This is a great product to have on the bench or in your bag as a quick fix tool, but please dont overdue it to the point of damaged blades. One pass will restore your edge (but weaken it) and it is recommended you get your skates done afterwards.
3. Since my skates are made of fabric and re-inforced, I dont have to dry my skates off and I can walk around on them.
Ok, so maybe I havent heard someone actually say this, but its obvious alot of people think it. Far too many pairs of skates come in for sharpening soaking wet in their skate guards (guards full of holes and soaking wet) often still covered in snow. I cant emphasize the importance of drying off your skates when you get off the ice. Stainless steel will still rust, and assuming that your cloth skate guards will soak up the moisture and protect your skates is ridiculous. Having that water surround your blades for hours results in “rust bubbles” that sink into the steel and rust it from the inside (freaky I know!) The worst part gongers? Is that no matter how often I grind steel away, they always appear the further I go. They do not go away once they happen, so best to avoid them from the beginning.
The whole skate guard thing is simple. Any sort of skateguard without a groove for the blades to sit in is not meant to be walked on. Period. No matter how thick the skate guard is, it will rip from continued walking on…plain and simple. Rubber bottoms or plastic is all that will work, any sort of cloth will not, so when you buy a cloth skateguard from me and walk on it and complain that its ripped, dont be suprised when I look at you like an idiot.
2. The Flat Bottom-V sharpening is better than conventional sharpening
I get that the new and exciting technology in skate sharpening has got the attention of hockey players and parents, but just because its new doesnt mean it will make you a better skater (which seems to be a common misconception around my parts). There are advantages, just as there are disadvantages to different sharpening hollows. For more information on the technology behind, and some information on the FBV sharpen (a little biased, but it provides alot of info) go to http://www.blackstonesport.com/technology.cfm
1. The sharper I get my skates, the better
This one made it to number one because it seems to be the general idea among all ages, beer leaguers in particular. Alot of people seem to think that sharper (or a deeper hollow) is the best performing and longest lasting sharpen; which couldnt be further from the truth. To answer that question quickly, the deeper the hollow, the taller and more pointed the edges are (making them weaker). A bigger player (like an adult) puts alot of pressure and weight on those two edges and wears them out very fast. A flatter sharpen will both last longer, and give you more glide and less leg fatigue at the expense of losing or lessening that “bite” feeling in deeper hollows.
Dont be afraid to experiment with different sharpenings because they all have their specific advantages and disadvantages. Any legit sharpener can give you a quick education and suggestion at the counter but dont be afraid to do some homework yourself.
That settles up my list gongers, hope some of you learned a thing or two and if you have any honest questions about skates or any sort of gear in general you can DM me on twitter (@cgrays12) and I can most likely answer it. After 4 years managing a hockey store buying product, and collecting pro gear in the process, theres almost nothing I havent seen or come across.