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It’s easy to go in for skate sharpening and think very little about the actual process. All we typically know is that when we brought in our skates, they were dull and now they’re sharp. As it turns out, however, skate sharpening requires special knowledge and precision on the part of the sharpener. Let’s take a closer look at the science behind skate sharpening and the effect different techniques have on our experience on the ice.

How does skate sharpening actually work?

There are two wheels that can be used in the skate sharpening process. One wheel is the finishing wheel. This wheel hollows out the center of the blade to a predetermined depth. The finishing wheel, also referred to as a grinding wheel, is passed parallel to the blade approximately 10 times.

The other wheel is the cross-grinder wheel. Just like it sounds, this wheel runs perpendicular to the blade, grinding off rust, nicks and other imperfections. It is then followed by a sharpening on the finishing wheel. The purpose of the cross-grinder wheel is to remove flaws on the blade and level it out so it’s a blank slate, ready for a precisely-cut hollow. Also, it’s standard procedure with brand-new blades to cross grind them before they are sharpened for the first time on the finishing wheel.

What is a hollow?

In the skating world, you may hear the word hollow but what exactly does it refer to? The hollow is the curved indentation down the center of the blade between its edges. In adjusting the depth of the hollow, you can adjust the affect the blade has on the ice. The depth of the hollow is adjusted by altering the shape of the finishing wheel’s surface. A flatter grinding wheel will have a larger radius and less hollow will be cut away from the blade. On the contrary, a grinding wheel with a smaller radius means more hollow is cut away, creating a deeper hollow. Typical hollow measurements at skate shops are ½”, ⅝” or 7/16”.

How does the hollow of your blades affect your game?

If your skates are sharpened with a larger radius grinding wheel, the hollow on your blades will be flatter. This scenario is best for heavier players who grip the ice easier and less energy is lost to the ice. A skater with a flatter hollow will skate more efficiently and faster but will be less quick when turning or stopping and will accelerate slower.

If your skates are sharpened with a smaller radius grinding wheel, the hollow on your blades will be deeper. This scenario is best for lighter players who dig into the ice less when skating and more energy is lost to the ice. A skater with a deeper hollow will skate less efficiently and slower but will be able to turn or stop and accelerate quicker and easier.

Some things to watch out for!

If, when you’re skating, you notice that you have sufficient bite when turning or stopping going one direction but not when you’re going the other direction, it’s likely that your blades were unevenly sharpened. If you have little-to-no bite in either direction and feel sloppy on the ice, your blades were probably cross-ground and not sufficiently passed over the finishing wheel afterwards to create the hollow you need.

It’s also important to know that frequent cross-grinding can decrease the lifespan of your blades. Additionally, if blades are sharpened too hard or too quickly, rough spots can form along the blade.

Applying your skate sharpening knowledge will help keep you at the top of your game. If you have any questions or you are interested in learning more, you can call us at 800-234-5522 or visit us online at