Sharpening Tales

Posted by Marion Cepican on

Skate sharpening is almost an art form, definitely a practiced skill. I recall the original movie, "Ice Castles," with the crusty old hockey sharpener guy providing an Olympic quality sharpening of advanced figure skate blades after a few moments of sparks and no consideration of hollow or even edges. Must be magic sparks, but then those movies are not exactly realistic. Test sessions are not executed in spot lights, you can't advance from pre-preliminary to Senior with one program containing a single salchow performed in an ice show, nor will anyone let you compete with one figure skate and one hockey skate even if some evil competitor swiped your skate.

Boots and blades are not magic and no matter how many of your friends and/or competitors wear a specific brand will it enable instantly clean jumps and perfectly centered spins. Most skate techs will advise that you follow the "If it's not broken, don't fix it" credo, but will fit you in the flavor of the month if you insist; with no guarantees.

During busy seasons, a marvelous variety of skaters come in the shop. They vary from first timers, old timers to professional hockey players and Olympians. Many have great stories to tell, and some provide the stories with the skates brought for sharpening.


For goodness sake, avoid storage in humid areas like garages, attics, and basements. Aside from the moisture damage, it may also cause unintended, unpleasant consequences.


One evening a gentleman brought a rather tired looking skate bag into the shop requesting that the skates inside be cleaned and sharpened for the season. They were now mostly recreational skaters, but that winter brought perfect skating weather at the Boston Frog Pond, prompting a resurgence in skating enthusiasm.

As I gingerly unzipped the skate bag, the odor of mold and mildew permeated the shop immediately prompting a few fast sprays of Lysol. While the skates were not vintage relics, they were definitely dated, exhibiting the characteristic heavy leather construction of Riedells from approximately the mid 1990’s. The boots had sufficient support and the blades were salvageable, fortunately, but as I turned the first boot over to secure the blades in the sharpener jig, a dead mouse fell onto my foot. Yep, unplanned and unpleasant consequences!

I walked over to the clearly embarrassed gentleman and requested that he remove the deceased mouse and check the remaining skate for additional rodent and arachnid housing (I hate spiders) before I continue to sharpen the blades. He willingly and contritely complied…outside. I cleaned and sharpened the blades, tightened the screws, waterproofed the soles, replaced the disintegrating laces, sprayed Lysol inside the boots and replaced the insoles. They were as ready as any decade old skates could be.



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