Winnipeg's Skate Sharpening Rip-Off

An opinion of Winnipeg's Skate Sharpening as seen by a professional skate sharpener

You've likely been had

Skate sharpeners have always had a variety of competence. Yesterday's consumers shopped for value and quality. Better skate sharpeners were sought after, while less capable skate sharpeners ceased operating due to lack of consumer interest before they could inflict a lot of damage. In recent years, consumer values have changed. Today's consumers shop for convenience and price, thereby allowing the "Bad Guys" to flourish.

How does your skate sharpening stack up?

What's bad?

A condition symbolic of poor skate sharpening is the deep hollow. The deep hollow itself is merely an annoyance, but it is often accompanied by other conditions which in combination, amount to destruction of the skate blade.

  • Retempered Skate Blade.
  • Reshaped Skate Blade Profile.
  • Changed center of balance of the skate.
  • Over-ground skate blade tips.

How to tell if your sharpening is bad

  • You regularly ask for a deep hollow sharpening.
  • You rub your blades on the boards after sharpening.
  • Your skate blades chatter during a hard stop.
  • You don't skate as well as you feel that you can.
  • Your blades show traces of brown or black color.
  • Your blades have good height in the center, but the tips are ground away.
  • You are unsteady on your skates.

Younger skaters are most vulnerable

It's the kids who suffer the most from poor skate sharpening, and who most always do so in silence. Smaller Skates are more prone to being damaged by poor skate sharpening, and light weight skaters are at a further disadvantage because they are not heavy enough to overcome the effects of poor skate sharpening. Parents dismiss their child's dilemma with "They're too young to know". Well the kids do know, and it's time they were listened to.

There are parents who:

  • Outfit their child with the finest skates money can buy.
  • Spend bags of money on skating lessons, and prestigious skills camps.
  • Cheap out on skate sharpening by shopping for the free sharpening.
  • Accept poor skate sharpening just because it's convenient.
  • Claim that their child doesn't know the difference.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A skate sharpening operation is comparatively cheap to set up, and skate sharpening itself is perceived to be very easy to do. Accredited skate sharpener training is almost non-existent.

Only a few skate sharpeners can be considered full-time professionals. Aside from being familiar with his equipment, a professional skate sharpener will have at least a working knowledge of: alloys; abrasives; skate blade design and manufacture; heat treating; as well as be sympathetic skaters' needs. True skate sharpening professionals are continuously alert for new information, and are always learning on the job.

Unfortunately, most skate sharpeners:

  • Have a "real" job, and sharpen skates as a way to make a fast and easy buck in their spare time.
  • Are employed by the sport shop they work in as stock or sales clerks first, and as skate sharpeners last.
  • Have never received formal skate sharpening instruction.
  • Have been trained by someone who has only limited skate sharpening skills.

Why are blade profiles changed?

Because of the lack of standards and limited training, most skate sharpening is done as "best guess". Most skate sharpeners don't regard skate sharpening as a total service, and focus on one or two aspects of the whole job. The most common skate sharpening mistakes are unthinkingly changing the blade's profile, the blade's center of balance, or both. The fast fix to counter a destroyed or damaged blade profile is to grind a deep hollow. In fact, skate sharpeners who lack the proper skate sharpening skills routinely resort to grinding ever deeper hollows to compensate for their own inadequacy.. Grinding a deep hollow in turn causes further erosion of the blade profile.

Some skate sharpeners "Rocker" skate blades, either on request or because they honestly believe they are helping the skater. Rockering is a free-hand operation, and is inexact at best. Rockering is the placement of a heel-to-toe arc on the skate. Rockering is often wrongly believed to be the rounding of the blade tips by grinding.

The Home of the Free-bie

Everyone likes a bargain, and if it's free, "I'll take two." Consider yourself. Would you do your best work if you weren't being paid for it? A store offering free skate sharpening en masse must control expenses, which means minimum wage, and minimum competence. The volume of response would dictate that quality is sacrificed for speed. Such a store makes good money selling new skates as well as replacement skate blades. There is ample motivation to favor sloppy skate sharpening and over-grinding. Better yet if the same skates are returned weekly for sharpening.

The Loud-Mouthed Schnook (L.M.S.)

Every team has a L.M.S. who is someone who knows a little about everything, and a lot about nothing. Arena halls and dressing rooms are the domain of the L.M.S. eager to offer an opinion whether it is wanted or not. Skaters taken in by poor skate sharpening advice and misinformation are always victimized by it. For reasons already mentioned, bona fide skate sharpening professionals are rare, and all can be found within their own shops. Therefore skate sharpening advice from a L.M.S. is not professional quality, and this advice should be treated with the skepticism it deserves.

Common sense makes your edges last longer

Sharpeners and Skaters alike must accept that skate sharpening does not begin and end with putting a hollow grind on the skate blade.

Some advanced skaters get their blades "tricked up" so they can hot-dog when they're on the ice, but this is a personal choice.

Tricking enhances some aspects of a skaters ability while degrading other aspects. The rest of us can get along without tricking.

It is a myth that a deep hollow grind contributes to longer edge life. Properly profiled skates don't need a deep hollow grind. While a deep hollow grind on new skates seems to result in longer edge life, this effect only lasts until the rocker radius has been corrupted by the action of grinding the deep hollow.

Making edges last longer is the responsibility of the skater, not the skate sharpener. Skate guards are an excellent way to protect edges. Walking on arena floors with bare skate blades is a sure way to ruin your edges.

In other words, if you take care of your equipment, it will serve you well for a long time.

Repairing the damage caused by poor skate sharpening

In the worst case, skate blades need replacing. In other cases, the skate blades may be saved by using a proven profiling or contouring system such as Custom Radius.

Reprofiling restores blade shape, and balance, and is a cost effective way to repair skate blades. Reprofiling costs on average 20% to 30% of the price of blade replacement.

Reprofiling involves removal of material from the skate blade, but in an orderly and measured way. Metal cannot be added to damaged skate blades, and blade tips which have been ground off cannot be restored without blade replacement.

Freehand skate sharpening routinely causes erosion of a blade's profile. Capable skate sharpeners can control this erosion, and keep it to a minimum.

Automated systems such as: C.A.G. One; Dupliskate; and Universal Coin-Op employ their own internal profiling mechanism, and strive to reprofile with each sharpening. Reprofiling is a complex process which is only trivialized when done by automat.

Newly profiled skates can be corrupted again by poor skate sharpening. Unless you are careful where you get your skates sharpened, you may be wasting your money by having your skates repaired by reprofiling.

Keeping the damage from recurring

The best defense against suffering skate damage caused by poor skate sharpening, is to be choosy where you shop for sharpening. If you know a capable, reliable skate sharpener, whom you trust and have confidence in, stick with that skate sharpener.

However if you shop where you can get the free ride, or just because it's convenient, then you are leaving yourself wide open to getting shoddy workmanship, and no value for your money.

Unless you're destitute, put less importance on getting something for nothing, and put more importance on getting value for your money.

Listen to the skater, because it's the skater who uses the skates. The skater should have the last word as to when and where the skates are sharpened, and yes, the kids know when they have a good or bad sharpening.

Avoid last minute skate sharpening by getting it done well before you have to use your skates. You shouldn't have to accept convenience over competence.

Be wary of using automated skate sharpening systems.

Try to ignore the ravings of the L.M.S.

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