A Deep Dive Into Skate Sharpening

In this blog post, we discuss how slight adjustments in the hollow can enhance your on-ice performance.

By Steve Jankowski

Every time you step onto the ice, you trust that the two thin pieces of steel attached to your skate boots are properly sharpened to allow you to skate safely, and at your best. However, not every skater realizes that how you get your skates sharpened can enhance your performance on the ice.

To the uninitiated, or untrained eye, one might think that the skate blades all skaters are skating on are sharpened similarly to a knife in your kitchen. However, this is not the case. Most hockey skates feature a steel blade that is approximately 3 mm in width, and when sharpened properly, have a groove ground out of the center of it by the grinding wheel, called the hollow. This leaves two raised edges, as seen in the image below:

hockey skate blade

Different Styles Of Skate Sharpening

Here, we can take a more nuanced look at that hollow, and how changing the geometry of that hollow, your on-ice performance can be enhanced.

Some players prefer their hollow to be deeper, which will dig into the ice more for more grip. This is beneficial to players that like to make quick turns and stop and start frequently, similar to how Patrick Kane skates.

Others prefer a shallower hollow, which permits the player to glide across the top of the ice more effortlessly, which affords greater top-end speed. Players who utilize a long stride and are more north-south in their playing style might prefer a shallower hollow. A good example of this style of play is Jonathan Toews.

We can quantify the depth of hollow using the radius of a circle that would fit into the hollow of the blade. Now, fractions can be confusing in a vacuum, so we attached the following chart to our Blademaster skate sharpening machines at all three stores to make it easy to reference when you come in to get your skates sharpened:

skate sharpening chart

The icons at the bottom of the chart represent what our standard hollow is for each variety of skate we can sharpen. For example, in the absence of any request from the customer, we would sharpen a hockey player skate at 7/16”. You can, however, request any of the hollows seen on this chart prior to us starting work on your skates, and we will accommodate that.

Additionally, we have the capability of sharpening skates with Fire Rings on our Sparx skate sharpening machines. The difference between the traditional hollow and the fire hollow is seen below, with the Fire seen on the right:

Similar options exist with the Fire that allow for more bite or more glide. Be sure to ask us about that when you bring your skates in for sharpening.

As always, feel free to ask us any further questions about this process, and check out the video on our website for a look at how we do the work on our Blademaster machine.

We look forward to seeing you in-store, and helping you skate at your best! Check out the video at the bottom of the page to see our skate sharpening process. Contact us today with any questions or to schedule a time to get your skates sharpened!

About the author:

Steve Jankowski has been working at Gunzo’s since August of 2009, and has been passionate about hockey his whole life. Steve plays a few times per week when his work schedule allows it. He earned his Bachelor’s of Arts in Communications and Media from Northeastern Illinois University in 2011, and is now putting those skills learned in the classroom to use on this blog, and in the videos on gunzos.com. You can find Steve at our Morton Grove location five days per week.