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Author Topic: Home Sharpening Appliances  (Read 660 times)

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Online tstop4me

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Home Sharpening Appliances
« on: May 12, 2017, 11:28:06 AM »
That is expensive, I pay £6, which is roughly 7 USD. If you have the readies, you could always get a home sharpener:

https://www.sparxhockey.com/pages/products

You could get some money back by sharpening for others, albeit it might be too much hassle depending on where they live. Sadly the unit is not (yet) available in the UK.

I've been keeping an eye on this unit.  One guy I know saw it demo'd on hockey skates, and was impressed.  I don't think it's ready for figure skates though, and I don't care to be the guinea pig.  By the way, you skate on hockey skates, right?  Sharpening charges for hockey skates are typically a lot less than those for figure skates (even in the States).


[Mod note: no harm, no foul.  Just wanted to give this topic space to continue while encouraging the original Expect the Expenses discussion to move along.]

Offline beginner skater

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2017, 01:59:49 PM »
  By the way, you skate on hockey skates, right?  Sharpening charges for hockey skates are typically a lot less than those for figure skates (even in the States).

£6 is the same amount that I pay in the UK for figure skates. I extend my sharpenings, as going on the recommended amount of every 20 -30 hours, I reckon being an amateur that I skate 1/2 the mount of strokes as a more competent person. :D

I mainly extend the hours because to get a proficient sharpening I have to make a special trip for 1 hour 10 mins to the town with the rink at a time I dont normally go.


Offline Leif

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2017, 03:54:44 AM »
I've been keeping an eye on this unit.  One guy I know saw it demo'd on hockey skates, and was impressed.  I don't think it's ready for figure skates though, and I don't care to be the guinea pig.  By the way, you skate on hockey skates, right?  Sharpening charges for hockey skates are typically a lot less than those for figure skates (even in the States).

The place I go to charge the same, and I know a good figure skater who trusts them. The problem is nearby sharpeners are dreadful, so I have to drive an hour extra on the way home from work to visit a good place. I was injured twice thanks to a bad sharpening by a local rink. The first aid guy who treated my head wound was the person who sharpened my skates.  :o

They claim the Sparx box does figures, but you'd have to ask a figure skater who'd used it to be sure. Yes I am an evil hockey skate wearer.  :) I'd buy a Sparx box tomorrow if I could.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2017, 05:17:00 AM »
you could always get a home sharpener:

https://www.sparxhockey.com/pages/products

...You could get some money back by sharpening for others...

The Pro-Filer (about $100), and if you can stand the relatively coarse 1/2" ROH stone as the only choice, and the old Berghman tools ($5-20 used on eBay), are adequate hand tools that will also do the job. Since they take off metal more slowly than a power tool, probably less prone to mistakes. It takes about 5 minutes to do - but driving to a good pro shop, and waiting for service, takes longer.

If I understand how it works, I like the look of the Sparx spring-loaded clamp. A nice solution to holding side-honed blades with varying thickness along the length, as well as warped blades. But I wonder if it will fit Ultima Matrix or Paramount blades. Also, there appears to be no way to adjust or maintain a specific rocker profile. I think it will gradually round off your sweet spot, and maybe the back of your blade as well. I also worry it may take off much too much metal. The hand tools give you more direct control. I've been sharpening mine with them for a dozen years or so, and am very pleased with the results.

If you want to do your own with any tool, I suggest you tape the toe pick, and maybe be very careful at the back of the blade, to protect them. 

As far as sharpening for others, if you recruit business at a rink with a pro shop, or watch people test your sharpening there, you could get both the pro shop, and the rink that rents them space, upset with you. Otherwise I would have done it long ago.


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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2017, 07:11:20 AM »
The place I go to charge the same, and I know a good figure skater who trusts them. The problem is nearby sharpeners are dreadful, so I have to drive an hour extra on the way home from work to visit a good place. I was injured twice thanks to a bad sharpening by a local rink. The first aid guy who treated my head wound was the person who sharpened my skates.  :o

They claim the Sparx box does figures, but you'd have to ask a figure skater who'd used it to be sure. Yes I am an evil hockey skate wearer.  :) I'd buy a Sparx box tomorrow if I could.


(a) If it's indeed standard practice in the UK for sharpeners to charge the same for figure skates as hockey skates, then you guys are lucky.  If you ever travel to the States to skate and need a sharpening, however, be prepared for sticker shock.  In my area, good sharpeners charge ~$8 for hockey and ~$20 - 35 for figure.  I've checked websites for other parts of the States; and approximately the same differential applies (maybe the low range for figure is $15).  The only shops I'm familiar with that charge about same or only a slightly higher fee for figure (~$10) are the mass-market sports shops that I wouldn't trust.  There is extra work for figures that justifies some higher charge, but I do recall comments from some sharpeners to the effect that "We charge a lot more for figures because we can."

(b) Last time I checked the Sparx site (some time last year), it said figure skates require a special adapter, not yet available.  Just checked again.  I see that the adapter is now available.  There is also a video demo of the figure adapter in action.  My first reaction is that the adapter design is iffy.  I wouldn't purchase the Sparx unit without getting a live demo (good thing I have a stash of old blades as guinea pigs).  In the Sparx forum, a poster asked whether anyone had direct experience with the Sparx for figure skates.  No replies so far.

(c) I haven't been following exchange rates.  Wow, I hadn't realized that the pound is down to ~$1.29.  I haven't been to the UK in many moons.  It was a pricey holiday, because the pound was ~$2.30, if I recall correctly.  When my UK colleagues used to come over on business, they would always go on a buying spree because of the strong exchange rate, and the lack of VAT in the States.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2017, 07:45:55 AM »
A comment on SPARX--well, on a system previous to SPARX. It's an amusing story.

According to my old sharpener, one of the big blade manufacturers once made a sharpening machine, that instead of having wheels, used a tape (metal tape covered with diamond dust) that through some process I've forgotten, could be bent and would HOLD the ROH dialed in. He and a few other well known sharpeners (there are such people--who worked for shows and NHL teams) were called into a demonstration. He said it was amazing. He was impressed. And the machine was cheap! (a couple of hundred dollars) Then he and the other sharpeners pointed out the sharpener could only be used if the blades were taken off the boots. The blade manufacturers hadn't thought about sharpening blades on the boots, because they only put a sharpening on blades as they came off the line.
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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2017, 08:55:43 AM »
A comment on SPARX--well, on a system previous to SPARX. It's an amusing story.

According to my old sharpener, one of the big blade manufacturers once made a sharpening machine, that instead of having wheels, used a tape (metal tape covered with diamond dust) that through some process I've forgotten, could be bent and would HOLD the ROH dialed in. He and a few other well known sharpeners (there are such people--who worked for shows and NHL teams) were called into a demonstration. He said it was amazing. He was impressed. And the machine was cheap! (a couple of hundred dollars) Then he and the other sharpeners pointed out the sharpener could only be used if the blades were taken off the boots. The blade manufacturers hadn't thought about sharpening blades on the boots, because they only put a sharpening on blades as they came off the line.

OK.  So that machine did have a limited market for blade manufacturers.  But just to avoid any confusion here, [the machine you describe is totally unrelated to the Sparx], and the Sparx is designed to sharpen blades mounted on boots.  How well it handles figure blades remains to be determined.

ETA further clarification in [...].

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2017, 03:43:28 PM »
There is another portable machine made by ProSharp which is much more expensive, in Europe anyway. I've read the Sparx is a copy but that might be unfounded.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2017, 03:59:12 PM »
There is another portable machine made by ProSharp which is much more expensive, in Europe anyway. I've read the Sparx is a copy but that might be unfounded.

We had a discussion here about a yr ago on the ProSharp:  http://skatingforums.com/index.php?topic=7239.msg86211#msg86211.  At the time, no feedback on the low-end units.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2017, 01:14:04 AM »
With long-wearing 440C stainless blades and weekly hand-honing, I've extended the interval between sharpenings to ~60 hrs of ice time.

Why do you have to hand-hone so often? 

I have not tried it.  I sharpen at about the same frequency you do.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2017, 08:28:39 AM »
Why do you have to hand-hone so often? 

I have not tried it.  I sharpen at about the same frequency you do.

(a) I like my edges sharp.  Some sharpeners routinely intentionally blunt the edges a bit after sharpening.  I always need to specify that the edges be left sharp.  Hand-honing maintains consistent sharp edges.  Without the hand-honing, I'd need to sharpen more frequently to maintain a consistent sharp edge. 

(b) I skate a fairly regular schedule most of the year; currently 1.5 hrs/session, 5 sessions/wk.  I found that I can get by with hand-honing every 2 wks; but, unless I keep a log, I forget when I last did the hand-honing.  So, it's just much easier to do it weekly; I skate M-F, and do maintenance on Sat.

(c) Just to clarify, I do not use a whetstone for honing, as most sharpeners do.  I use a smooth butcher's steel, commonly used for honing ("steeling") cutlery as a finishing step after abrasive sharpening.  Very little metal is removed; and a sharp edge is re-formed and maintained, if done sufficiently frequently.  I've found it also takes care of small knicks; small knicks tend to get worse, if left untreated; large knicks need to be removed with an abrasive; so I'd rather nip a knick in the bud, so to speak.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2017, 12:44:45 PM »
I keep reading "SPARX" as "SPANX" - lol
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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2017, 12:48:16 PM »
I use a smooth butcher's steel, commonly used for honing ("steeling") cutlery as a finishing step after abrasive sharpening.

What a great idea...

Steels mostly straighten rather than sharpen. I think 1 out of every 2 or 3 times good skaters go for a sharpening, they could just have straightened their edges. They could go with a lot fewer sharpenings, and get a lot longer blade life if they understood that.

It is possible to merely straighten with a stone too - carefully. You feel a steel takes off less metal?

When you say it fixes nicks, does it just re-straightens the edge there, or does it somehow also polish the nick away?

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2017, 01:43:23 PM »
I keep reading "SPARX" as "SPANX" - lol

Well, the right woman wearing the right SPANX can set off a shower of hot SPARX.  ;)

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2017, 01:45:46 PM »
[Mod note: no harm, no foul.  Just wanted to give this topic space to continue while encouraging the original Expect the Expenses discussion to move along.]

Good move.  This topic was diverging from the original thread.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2017, 04:42:02 PM »
What a great idea...

Steels mostly straighten rather than sharpen. I think 1 out of every 2 or 3 times good skaters go for a sharpening, they could just have straightened their edges. They could go with a lot fewer sharpenings, and get a lot longer blade life if they understood that.

It is possible to merely straighten with a stone too - carefully. You feel a steel takes off less metal?

When you say it fixes nicks, does it just re-straightens the edge there, or does it somehow also polish the nick away?

"It is possible to merely straighten with a stone too - carefully. You feel a steel takes off less metal?"

Stones are abrasives.  Typical whetstones used by sharpeners for hand-finishing are ~220-320 grit. They will remove metal via abrasion. You can get finer grit stones.  A steel, especially a smooth steel, will still take off less metal. Maybe the ultrafine grit stones that's essentially a variety of polished glass remove as little metal as a smooth steel; but those are pricey and fragile, so why bother. 

"When you say it fixes nicks, does it just re-straightens the edge there, or does it somehow also polish the nick away?"

I'm talking about small knicks, such as caused by small abrasive particles on the ice; not large knicks, such as caused by banging one blade against the other.  Re-straightens the edge, does not polish the nick away.  For a small knick, there typically is a small flap of steel hanging on.  If you catch it early, you can straighten out that flap with a steel (or polish it off with a stone).  If you leave it, it will eventually tear off.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2017, 07:06:21 AM »
We had a discussion here about a yr ago on the ProSharp:  http://skatingforums.com/index.php?topic=7239.msg86211#msg86211.  At the time, no feedback on the low-end units.

Interesting. I looked up the Wissota and it looks like an affordable sharpener. Although not automated, it does have the advantage that changing RoH does not need a new wheel, you just dress the grindstone. But it generates steel dust, so I guess it's not really suitable for use in the spare bedroom, and I'd be concerned about rust from keeping it in the garage. We have a very damp and cool climate. But I bet it costs a fortune in the UK.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2017, 04:37:26 AM »
Actually, I've been making some home-made sharpening tools, described in other threads, consisting of a "stone" created by gluing sandpaper (some of you call this Emory paper) around a dowel rod of the appropriate radius, combined with a strap of leather, which is used as a handle to help center the stone on the blade. It costs very little to make. Dowel rods are under $1 (USD), you get get a pack of assorted sandpaper for $1 at a dollar store, and you can use ordinary white glue - a bottle is $1 at such a store. Then you can make lots of them for that price, with various degrees of coarseness. (Incidentally, dowel rods are measured by diameter, not radius.) Comes to a few pennies / tool.

As with the more professional grade hand tools, you slide the cylindrical stone along the hollow, using the handle to keep it centered. You take a few strokes in 1 direction, then reverse the position of the skate, to make sure the 2 edges are symmetrical, and repeat. And you tape the toe pick to avoid making a mistake and rounding it.

It's not as nearly good as the professional grade hand tools - it takes practice not to blunt the edges, and to keep the same edge along the whole blade, and it may not stay perfectly circular. But it ways a few grams at most (I use short lengths, under 1/2" long, in my pocket), and fits easily in a pocket, so it is great for emergency repairs. I've also used it to sharpen. In particular, one problems with the Pro-Filer is that neither of the stones are very coarse, so it is hard to make major changes - e.g., altering the hollow, sharpening a blade that has completely lost its hollow, or worst of all, changing the rocker profile in a significant way. I can glue on very coarse sandpaper to make major changes.

In this thread mnrjpf99 talked about using a socket from a socket wrench kit - more circular, sturdier - instead.

My point is, sharpening tools don't need to be that fancy, if you are only sharpening for yourself, so can spend a few extra minutes. In some respects, hand tools give you better control, and can remove less metal. There is little point for an individual skater to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a tool that is fast enough to make money running a pro shop business, and impressive enough to scare customers away from doing it themselves.

I may try a kitchen steel, for straightening edges. Sounds like a great idea!

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2017, 05:07:50 PM »
My point is, sharpening tools don't need to be that fancy, if you are only sharpening for yourself, so can spend a few extra minutes. In some respects, hand tools give you better control, and can remove less metal. There is little point for an individual skater to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a tool that is fast enough to make money running a pro shop business, and impressive enough to scare customers away from doing it themselves.

From previous posts in this forum, I believe you and Bill_S have been satisfied with the Pro-Filer for many years.  I tried it for a while, could not get consistent results, and dropped it.  I believe AgnesNitt posted that she tried it for a while and then dropped it upon the advice of her sharpener (it was messing up some of her edges).  So, if you get good results with the Pro-Filer, that's great.  But it has its limitations and is not always successful, even for experienced DIY'ers.  Home-built tools, such as you describe, will take a lot of finesse to get good, consistent results.  Congratulations on your success, but I'd rather spend the time on my skating.

I think there's a good market for a small power sharpener at the price point of ~$1000, assuming (a) it has a viable auto-feed system to eliminate the need for mucho hours of operator practice to develop the right touch, (b) it does work on figure skates (doesn't damage toepicks and maintains profile), and (c) it's reliable and has a long service life under home use.  Reducing costs by using mandrels with a fixed ROH, instead of a diamond dresser to change the ROH is a good idea.  Professional sharpeners don't like to change out wheels because it's too time consuming and cuts down on their throughput.  But for a home unit, it's fine (and you're not likely to change the ROH often).

At a price point of ~$1000, there's no need to go into business and compete with local pro shops to recoup the purchase price.  My current sharpener currently charges $25.  Last time I was in the shop I spoke to a mom with two daughters who skate heavily.  She gets their blades sharpened every 2 wks.  That's $50 every 2 wks; she's spending over $1000/yr in sharpening.  Even at a more relaxed $25/month, you would spend $1000 in 40 months, less than 4 yrs.  The price of consumables for these machines is not very high.

Sharpening hockey skates is much cheaper (~$8 in my area).  But hockey is often a family activity.  I have an acquaintance who's very interested in the Sparx.  He and 3 sons play hockey.  So that's $32 per round of sharpening.

Cost aside, though, one of the biggest gripes I hear from figure skaters is the sheer hassle of getting a good sharpening.  I know several who drive 2 hrs one way.  One well-established sharpener in my area is so booked up that he has an ~1 mo waiting list; appointments required.  My sharpener doesn't take appointments, so it's hit or miss what the waiting time is.  I can call in advance to check that the wait time is reasonable, but by the time I get there, some mom just dropped off 8 pairs (some parents take turns in a pool, bringing in skates for a group of kids).

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2017, 10:06:47 PM »
There are many major differences between figure and hockey blades. From the simple sharpener perspective, one of them is that there are no hockey blades (that I know of) that are side honed. I.E., that are the same width down and along the whole blade. None of my blades have been side-honed either. Which makes it a lot easier for a simple, relatively cheap tool to sharpen it. So it is relatively easy to do a good job with simple tools. If I remember right, tstop4me, your blade is side-honed, in a fairly complex manner.

Almost any tool requires time to master - including Pro-Filer. It isn't a complete test to try it for a few minutes, or even a few hours and give up. It took me years to figure out all the potential issues to be dealt with. Including
  Pre-recording the initial profile shape.
  Reversing the orientation of the skates every few strokes, to keep things symmetrical.
  Checking how even and symmetrical the edges are, and correcting for it.
  Using a polishing fluid (oil, or water, though water needs to be reapplied often, but potentially makes less of a mess in your bag) to get really clean edges.
  Starting with the coarse stone if there is significant sharpening to be done, then finishing it with the fine stone.
  Rotating the stone reasonably often.
  Altering the gap to fit the thickness of your blades - a difficult to solve problem with some side-honed blades.
  Lining it with tape to avoid scratching the sides (I used to oil the sides, but tape is better)
  Looking at the edges under a microscope while I was learning, to see how they look.
  And so on.

It would have taken a lot less time to master if someone had mentioned those things. The person who sold me my first Pro-Filer kit showed me the basics of using it - but didn't discuss any of those issues. And it would still have taken time to master.

It is possible a properly designed spring loaded clamp could solve the side-honed blade problem. The Berghman tool comes closer to that - you adjust the width of the gap with a wingnut, acting against springs which try to close the gap. You can find pictures at eBay - http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2380057.m570.l1311.R1.TR1.TRC0.A0.H0.Xberghman.TRS0&_nkw=berghman+skate+sharpener&_sacat=0 . That makes for a much closer fit gap. It can adjust the gap automatically for the width of the blade as you slide it along the blade, which would be desirable for some types of side honing - but it is a lot of spring pressure to fight if you use it that way. Perhaps if the sides of the gap were padded with compressible foam tape, instead of something like the scotch tape or athletic tape I've used... but you would have to do that carefully and symmetrically. I haven't tried it, since I don't have side-honed blades. While you are at it, you could replace the somewhat crumbly and coarse natural stones that those old Berghman tools used with something modern, synthetic, and also get a fine grain cylinder for the final sharpening. There are lots of placed to order abrasive cylindrical sharpening stones. You could even use the stones from a 1/2" ROH Pro-Filer kit, if you already have one. (I did try that.) It's not the ideal length, but that doesn't matter much.

There is also a lot of technique to the final deburring (or whatever) and hand-finishing with the flat stone, to create good, uniform edges. That's what produces the final edge, and it is hand work.

Professional grad pro shop sharp bench tool skate sharpening machines take a lot of time to master too. The really good sharpeners spend many years and tens of thousands of hours mastering the skills of controlling these machines. Hardly surprising - they are essentially machinists, and all master machinists spend years mastering their art. And they need to master the final hand finishing too.

In contrast, based only on the website, it looks like the Sparx tool would take far less time to master. Sure, some of the same things might apply - I'm sure a polishing fluid, and finishing with the fine stone right is needed to make the final edge. But there is no real hand guidance of the power tool, except for an initial centering of the blade, done using a good screw adjustment system, with a magnifying glass, which is a great idea, along with a cut depth adjustment. Sure, you can't correct for big problems, such as profile issues, and it will almost certainly gradually round off the sweet spot - so once in a while maybe you go to a first class professional.

But I still think you could go a lot simpler. The Berghmans were mostly designed right, even if the stones were the technology of the day, and the springs a bit strong for handling side honed blades. The problem is, all the patents are expired, and the company went out of business. I guess no one things they can make enough profit selling an old design. The pro-filers are a lot prettier - though maybe that can be fixed. Shorter stones too - 3" is too long for side honed blades whose thickness varies along the length. And they should have been available with other ROH's.

It's not surprising to me that figure blades can be charged more to sharpen. The blades are also more expensive, so if the sharpener messes up your blade (e.g., straightening sometimes breaks the blade), replacing it will be more expensive. Many hockey sharpeners have had a very bad experience. Due to their inexperience with figure blades, they mess up top end figure skating blades, and are then expected by the customer to replace the figure skating blades, which may cost $500-$800 at the high end.

Besides, the very best hockey sharpeners mostly don't work on a piecemeal basis, for the public. They work on salary, for a professional team, and probably earn pretty well. The main stated qualification of the best known hockey sharpener that I know of in my area who works for the general public is that he used to be an "assistant equipment manager" for The Washington Capitals" (an NHL professional hockey team). And just incidentally - he won't touch figure skating blades.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2017, 01:35:25 AM »

Cost aside, though, one of the biggest gripes I hear from figure skaters is the sheer hassle of getting a good sharpening.  I know several who drive 2 hrs one way. 

Indeed. I tried a local rink, and they messed up my hockey skate blades, I injured myself twice. I have been warned by several people not to use the shop at the other local rink. I tried a bloke in a shed recommended by a friend - he has a shed with a sharpener at the bottom of his garden - but the sharpen was so-so. Buy my friend's sharpen was perfect. So every 3-4 weeks I do a 45 minute drive to the good place. They tell me sharpening is not rocket science, it's not hard. So why are so many places poor, and how do they get away with it?

I contacted the UK Wissota agent, didn't even get a response.  :(

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2017, 11:32:51 AM »
I tried a bloke in a shed recommended by a friend - he has a shed with a sharpener at the bottom of his garden - but the sharpen was so-so. Buy my friend's sharpen was perfect... They tell me sharpening is not rocket science

I'm sorry about this long polemic, but I'm a bit of a bug on sharpening.

When it comes to skates, high end knives,  steel tools, and razor blades, there is a lot of very sophisticated science and metallurgical technology, some of which is over my head. A lot of people study edges produced by various sharpening techniques (including chemical sharpening), using electron microscopes, like the beautiful ones at at Science of Sharp. What constitutes "sharp" is very complicated, and the definition varies from person to person and application to application. People have worked for millenia honing sharpening technique. [No pun unintended.]

Skaters differ a lot in what type of edge they want. It even depends on what they are used to. So it isn't surprising that your friend loved that guy's edges, and you didn't. For example, I used to bend and polish the sharpening burr into an extremely thin foil edge, something I learned from a Don Giese, a competitive speed skater who also coached hockey and figure, and ran a shop, which cuts into the ice very effectively. Many hockey and speed skaters, and some figure skaters love that, but you must use blade guards if you want to walk even a few steps off-ice, even if the floor is covered with rubber padding, or you bend or break that edge into something quite useless. (But straightening a bent edge can work.) (In addition, some types of skating, like some of the sideways slides used in hockey, especially by goalies, and by figure skaters doing skidded double jumps and above, are easier with a dull blade, or one which has a dulled skid point. Then I got a job at an ice rink, and did some volunteer instructing, where it was too time-consuming to use guards all the time. Many coaches (which "m not) feel the same way, at least when coaching, and many kids who don't pay for their sharpenings are simply careless. So now I come somewhat closer to a true deburring.

Mike Cunningham, called by some the world's best, who prefers to cater to the figure skating elite, believes that blades should be less sharp, so that they feel the same before and after sharpening, if you do it reasonably often - many of his customers go straight from his shop to competitions, without trying them first. Though that requires a lot of experience - he has about 50 years. And some of his customers want it sharp. Some of his customers also want a dulled skid point, and/or want asymmetrical edges, and he works to fit their needs. He also thinks side honed blades are pointless, but gives his customers whatever they want. He sometimes uses very fancy tools to study blade shapes. (He wasn't at all surprised or impressed when I brought a fancy precision calipers and a microscope to his shop, when I spent some time watching him work. He used a micrometer instead, and I've copied that.) He keeps a card file on what each regular customer wants - something that makes sense to a very high end sharpener, but is quite impractical for technicians at a shop who might be expected to sharpen skates in under a minute, after minimal training; time is money.

John Harmata ("Mr. Edge") is another skate tech, also called by some (including himself) the world's best,  who love to cater to the figure skating elite. He believes skates should be very sharp: in a phone conversation I had with him, he apparently likes foil edges. And he also believes that side honing often helps. He'll only charge you $15,000 for his week-long class on becoming a better skate tech, $3,000 on sharpening alone  - and most of his customers are probably already pretty good and experienced ones. I suspect they then spend a lot of time afterwards practicing his methods, before they can become good at them.

Pretty much all the really good skate techs have decades of experience - and, unfortunately, they are almost all ready to retire. :) A lot of them have machine shop or comparable backgrounds. For those of us without such a background, there is a lot to learn.

So, yeah, it is comparable to rocket science, and there is just as much black art as science to it. (From what I've read, that is true of rocket design too. Especially when using hydrogen and hydrazine.) You could as well ask, "How hard can it be to make something burn?"

Maybe I should make a Youtube video on sharpening with hand tools... - though I can't call myself an expert - I've only done it for about a dozen years, none of it professionally, and I'm not a very good skater, so I couldn't show very well how different types of edges affect skating. I have also made a lot of mistakes, though I think that to some extent an "expert" is someone who has already made the biggest mistakes.


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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2017, 02:33:29 PM »
It's not surprising to me that figure blades can be charged more to sharpen. The blades are also more expensive, so if the sharpener messes up your blade (e.g., straightening sometimes breaks the blade), replacing it will be more expensive. Many hockey sharpeners have had a very bad experience. Due to their inexperience with figure blades, they mess up top end figure skating blades, and are then expected by the customer to replace the figure skating blades, which may cost $500-$800 at the high end.

Have you come across a real instance in which a sharpener actually reimbursed a skater for blades he screwed up?  I know several skaters who complained and asked for compensation, but I don’t know anyone who got anything (and one person got a pair of  ~$600 Gold Seals damaged beyond salvation).

None of my blades have been side-honed either. Which makes it a lot easier for a simple, relatively cheap tool to sharpen it. So it is relatively easy to do a good job with simple tools. If I remember right, tstop4me, your blade is side-honed, in a fairly complex manner.

No, my blades (Wilson Coronation Ace and Eclipse Aurora) have simple parallel-edge geometry; no taper, no parabolic, no side hone, no dovetail, no thin edge/thick body, no special features at all.

Almost any tool requires time to master - including Pro-Filer. It isn't a complete test to try it for a few minutes, or even a few hours and give up. It took me years to figure out all the potential issues to be dealt with. Including
.......
And so on.

I didn’t give up after a few minutes or a few hours.  I used it for at least a year; for the first couple of months, playing with it for ~2 hrs each week.  I addressed pretty much all the issues you listed (except I didn’t feel the need for a microscope; a 7X loupe was fine for me) ... and more (since I have a lot of experience in abrasive finishing).  And I needed to develop a different set of tricks for the Aurora than for the Coronation Ace. 

By your own admission, it took you years to get all this sorted out.  That’s hardly what I would consider a ringing endorsement or testimonial. 

If there is a $1000 solution that works reliably out-of-the-box within a reasonable timeframe (which to me would be on order of a day, certainly not on the order of years), I’d buy it for sure.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2017, 05:21:57 PM »
I'm sorry about this long polemic, but I'm a bit of a bug on sharpening.

When it comes to skates, high end knives,  steel tools, and razor blades, there is a lot of very sophisticated science and metallurgical technology, some of which is over my head. A lot of people study edges produced by various sharpening techniques (including chemical sharpening), using electron microscopes, like the beautiful ones at at Science of Sharp. What constitutes "sharp" is very complicated, and the definition varies from person to person and application to application. People have worked for millenia honing sharpening technique. [No pun unintended.]

Skaters differ a lot in what type of edge they want. It even depends on what they are used to. So it isn't surprising that your friend loved that guy's edges, and you didn't. For example, I used to bend and polish the sharpening burr into an extremely thin foil edge, something I learned from a Don Giese, a competitive speed skater who also coached hockey and figure, and ran a shop, which cuts into the ice very effectively. Many hockey and speed skaters, and some figure skaters love that, but you must use blade guards if you want to walk even a few steps off-ice, even if the floor is covered with rubber padding, or you bend or break that edge into something quite useless. (But straightening a bent edge can work.) (In addition, some types of skating, like some of the sideways slides used in hockey, especially by goalies, and by figure skaters doing skidded double jumps and above, are easier with a dull blade, or one which has a dulled skid point. Then I got a job at an ice rink, and did some volunteer instructing, where it was too time-consuming to use guards all the time. Many coaches (which "m not) feel the same way, at least when coaching, and many kids who don't pay for their sharpenings are simply careless. So now I come somewhat closer to a true deburring.

Mike Cunningham, called by some the world's best, who prefers to cater to the figure skating elite, believes that blades should be less sharp, so that they feel the same before and after sharpening, if you do it reasonably often - many of his customers go straight from his shop to competitions, without trying them first. Though that requires a lot of experience - he has about 50 years. And some of his customers want it sharp. Some of his customers also want a dulled skid point, and/or want asymmetrical edges, and he works to fit their needs. He also thinks side honed blades are pointless, but gives his customers whatever they want. He sometimes uses very fancy tools to study blade shapes. (He wasn't at all surprised or impressed when I brought a fancy precision calipers and a microscope to his shop, when I spent some time watching him work. He used a micrometer instead, and I've copied that.) He keeps a card file on what each regular customer wants - something that makes sense to a very high end sharpener, but is quite impractical for technicians at a shop who might be expected to sharpen skates in under a minute, after minimal training; time is money.

John Harmata ("Mr. Edge") is another skate tech, also called by some (including himself) the world's best,  who love to cater to the figure skating elite. He believes skates should be very sharp: in a phone conversation I had with him, he apparently likes foil edges. And he also believes that side honing often helps. He'll only charge you $15,000 for his week-long class on becoming a better skate tech, $3,000 on sharpening alone  - and most of his customers are probably already pretty good and experienced ones. I suspect they then spend a lot of time afterwards practicing his methods, before they can become good at them.

Pretty much all the really good skate techs have decades of experience - and, unfortunately, they are almost all ready to retire. :) A lot of them have machine shop or comparable backgrounds. For those of us without such a background, there is a lot to learn.

So, yeah, it is comparable to rocket science, and there is just as much black art as science to it. (From what I've read, that is true of rocket design too. Especially when using hydrogen and hydrazine.) You could as well ask, "How hard can it be to make something burn?"

Maybe I should make a Youtube video on sharpening with hand tools... - though I can't call myself an expert - I've only done it for about a dozen years, none of it professionally, and I'm not a very good skater, so I couldn't show very well how different types of edges affect skating. I have also made a lot of mistakes, though I think that to some extent an "expert" is someone who has already made the biggest mistakes.

Such high class sharpening may well suit top notch figure skaters, but I don't need perfection. The errors I've seen are gross errors.

The skates I has sharpened in the shed were checked and found to have uneven edges. Also he did not use wax or oil on the last cut, so they would create more friction on the ice. He probably took more care with my friend's skates. I had the skates I had sharpened at the rink checked, and the edges were at very different heights. I've checked skates sharpened at the good place, using a blade angle tester, and the edges are near pefect. And they feel good on the ice.

There are many common errors including not dressing the wheel often enough, and not aligning the blades with the wheel. It can be laziness, or lack of training.  Poor skaters probably don't realise that part of the reason for their instability is the sharpening. And that is sad, and not a good way to attract people to the sport. It took me months to catch on. As an intermediated skater, I can now feel a bad sharpening right away.

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Re: Home Sharpening Appliances
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2017, 09:30:27 PM »
I just realized that there is a fairly simple way to fix the Berghman sharpeners overly strong spring action, that makes it impossible to slide it along a blade with horizontal side honing (e.g., a parabolic or tapered cut). All one would need to do is to put a rubber band around the side of the sharpener opposite the side with the gap.

I don't want to test it - I don't have a side honed blade, and I refuse to mess up my current blades by putting on the 1/2" radius of hollow that the Berghmans were designed for. But I think it would work.

I won't call that solution elegant. Elegant would have been to design the sharpener with weaker springs in the first place. There were back then side honed blades of all the shape types that are common now, because I have seen such mention in books dating to the 1890s, and the Berghmans were made, if I remember right, around 1929 - 1950 (I might be a little off). So they should have taken that into account - if I understand correctly, the Berghmans were the primary professional sharpening tool at the beginning of that era, before companies like Blademaster started making power tools that allowed pro shops to sharpen more blades / hour, and which also had the overwhelming advantage of making it look like something too big, heavy and expensive (the high end machines, with multiple sharpening stations, are around $20,000-$30,000) for customers to buy.

Can anyone with an engineering background explain to me why the Berghmans would have had such a strong spring constant? I wonder if it has to do with the fact that the cylindrical sharpening stone is the pivot, so that the spring constant affects how much pressure is on the stone. In contrast, the stone in the Pro-Filer is a little loose, and can move around a bit while sharpening, which requires you to sharpen fairly carefully, and adjust for movement. Another respect in which the Berghmans were a very well thought out tool, one that should be made again, with appropriate minor updates.