The last time you were on the ice you were having trouble keeping your skates from slipping out from under you and one of your friends told you it was time to get your skates sharpened. Makes sense they were sharp, you’ve used them a bunch, and now they are dull. So you went to your local pro shop and asked the person behind the counter to sharpen your skates. “How do you want these cut?”… You were not prepared for this… It’s possible when you bought your skates the person just defaulted to something standard for you, but you don’t know what that was. How can you have different sharpness? Which one is best for you?
To understand the process we need to first take a look at the design of a “Runner” (the skate blade)
- Each skate blade actually has two edges on it. If you flip your skate upside down and take a look you’ll notice a slight U shape in the blade. (images below are exaggerated)
- “Radius of Hollow” is an industry term for the depth of the U shaped cut that will be transposed onto your skate blade.
Different Options for Radius of Hollow
The smaller the radius, the deeper that U shape is, the further you can cut into the ice; giving you a sharp bite into the ice allowing for tighter turns, quicker starts, and more grip on the ice.
The larger the radius, the more shallow that U shape. This allows your blade to glide better on the ice, translating into better top end speed and less fatigue.
A few additional considerations when choosing your radius:
Two players on the same hollow are going to experience them differently based on their weight. An extra 30lbs is said to feel similar to going sharper by ⅛” in size.
The type of ice you are skating on
You may notice that at one rink you really enjoy ½”, but feel like you are wearing a parachute at another rink. The softer the ice, the more your edges will bite into it. Switching from very hard hockey ice to softer figure skating ice roughly feels like ⅛” although again this is another subjective comparison. The same rink at different times of the year may even warrant a change in radius.
If you take lots of short strides a deeper radius might be better for you. If you take long strides a more shallow radius would likely play more to your strengths.
Generally speaking ½” and ⅝” are considered the standards so we’ll bench mark off that.
⅜” Lots of Bite, lighter players
½” Standard Radius, good for beginners learning their edges, and harder ice
⅝” A popular choice for players looking to balance a good edge with top end speed
¾” Lots of Glide, Heavier Skaters, or those who regularly play of softer ice
1” Goalie Cut
Most pro-shops can go lower and higher than what is listed and even give you sizes between the ones listed above to really customize your edges.
- If you have a lot of chattering when you are stopping, try moving up one size to a more shallow cut. If you currently use ½” try ⅝”.
- It is fairly common for players to not like their sharpening until after they have skated on it once or twice. This suggests you might want to consider going up a size for a slightly more shallow cut.
- If you feel like you need to get your skates sharpened after every game, you might want to consider trying a cut one size smaller, for a bit more edge.
- Radius is something most hockey players find themselves experimenting with over time. Start with one of the two standard cuts and feel free to move up or down in ⅛” increments to figure out what works best for you
- You will likely find that you need to get your skates sharpened more often if you skate on outdoor ice or synthetic ice. Both of these tend to wear your edges more quickly than a standard indoor facility
- Flat Bottom V is different than the standard U shape cut. It certainly had its positives, but it is not available everywhere so we will save that for another post
- Skate Profiling is another concept altogether. For most beginners I’d suggest just sticking with what you have. We’ll address this in future posts
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