Before we breakdown how often rental skates should be sharpened it is important to know the science behind how ice skates actually glide. This will give you a better understanding of how much dull skates actually affect a skaters’ experience. In addition, this will give you a better understanding of which hollow to use when sharpening.
Each blade has two edges, an ‘inside edge’ on the inside of your foot, and an ‘outside edge’ on the outside of your foot. In-between those two edges is a ‘hollow’, or some call it a ‘radius’. When you skate forward your edges are actually melting the ice in the hollow of the blade, making you glide. This is why a deeper hollow (1/2” - 3/16”) is made for more experienced skaters, as it bites deeper into the ice, allowing for tighter turns and faster acceleration. A shallower hollow (5/8” – 3/4”) is better for inexperienced skaters giving them a wider melting point in the hollow, allowing for better balance and more glidability. This takes less effort for skaters to push forward. In addition, this makes it easier to stop because the blade isn’t biting into the ice as much.
If your skates are not sharp you will not have a hollow to melt the ice, making it very difficult for you to glide forward. If it looks like skaters are walking instead of gliding when trying to skate that means the skates need to be sharpened. Unsharp blades can be caused by them being overdue for a sharpening, skaters stepping on the plastic between the rubber mats, or stepping on concrete.
A handy tool to help you keep skates sharp between sharpenings is a sharpening stone, otherwise known as a sweet-stick.
What hollow is ideal for rental skates?
In most cases rental skates should be sharpened with a 5/8” hollow. There are pros and cons of a 5/8” hollow, but overall your skaters will have a better experience when using a 5/8” hollow. Most people who rent skates are novice skaters and are not looking to do sharp turns and quick stops. Most likely the majority of skating will be gliding around in a circle. This is ideal for a 5/8” hollow. The Pros behind a more shallow hollow is that there is a wider melting point giving the skater better balance. In addition, when trying to stop, the blade won’t cut so deeply into the ice, which will allow for a nice gradual stop, instead of a sharp abrupt stop. Some may say they sharpen their rentals with a deeper hollow (1/2”) so they won’t have to sharpen the skates as often as one would with a more shallow hollow. This is true, however renal skates are not the best treated skates. Most renters accidentally walk on cement, metal or plastic when entering the ice or while in the locker room which cause the skate to dull anyways. Having skates in rotation to be sharpened more often will give you the opportunity to find nicks, scratches and dull points on the blade. When a blade has a nick in it it’s crucial that the skate be sharpened right away. A nick along the edge of your blade will catch the ice differently than what a skaters expecting and will most likely cause them to fall. Nicks can be difficult to see with the naked eye, running your finger down both edges of the skate blade is a better way to determine if you have a nick. You’ll be able to feel if there are any spots that feel different than the rest of the blade.
How Often Do I Sharpen Rental Skates
The rule of thumb is to sharpen ice skates after every 15-20 hours of use. This is typical for athletes who play hockey or figure skate multiple times on a weekly basis. This consensus is based on a few factors:
First is how the skates are being used. Advanced skaters are going to put more wear and tear on the blade as they are doing tighter turns, stopping abruptly and skating at faster speeds. Beginner skaters are not going to put so much pressure on the blades because they will not be doing tight turns and short stops.
The weight of the skater also plays a role in how often you need to sharpen ice skates. Heavier people put more pressure on the blade than lighter people, which digs their blade deeper into the ice, giving it more bite. This will dull the blade quicker than a lighter person skating.
Ice conditions are the last factor that affect the sharpness of ice skates. Harder ice (typically outdoor rinks or rinks who chill their ice at lower temperatures) is harder to cut into. The blade has to work harder to cut into the ice, making it dull quicker. Soft ice, typically indoor rinks who chill their ice at higher temperatures, cuts ice like butter and does not take as much effort to melt the ice in the hollow of the blade. This makes it so your skate stays sharper longer.
These are the key factors that affect when you need to sharpen your ice skates.
The reason it is so difficult to know when to sharpen rental skates is because all of these factors vary between users. Multiple body typed people at different skill levels can use the same pair of skates in one afternoon, applying different pressures to the blade. Because rental skates change hands so many times throughout the day, it is best to stay on the safe side and sharpen the ice skates after 12-15 hours of use with a 5/8” hollow. If you offer one-hour skate sessions, try and sharpen the skate after 12 sessions. This will ensure all of your skates are always sharp and allows you to keep a close eye on what kind of shape the ice skates are in (if they have any nicks, cracks or scratches). The blade is one of the most important aspects to having an enjoyable experience while ice skating. This is what connects the skater to the ice and should be a high priority to take care of.
If you are on a tight budget and cannot afford to sharpen your skates as frequently or do not have the man power to do so, I would highly suggest having sharpening stones or sweet sticks on hand, so as skates come off the ice you can quickly dry the skate and run the stone on the edges to give them a sharper feel. This only takes a few moments and will allow your skates to be more functional for longer periods of time between sharpenings.
For your reference here are a few options for sharpening machines and sharpening tools you can use at your facility.
Skate Sharpening Tools
Skate Sharpening Machines
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