Now there are purists out there that may say that taking a pocket skate sharpener to your prized blades is one of the truly greatest no-nos in the skating world. It will no doubt be argued that only a machine grind is capable of creating or restoring edges and therefore pocket skate sharpeners have no place near an ice rink. There will be many who think that as a distributor of a pocket skate sharpener (the Skedge) that this guide will be biased. Well, I wanted to set the record straight on these debates.
Machine sharpener v pocket sharpener
It is a very simple case that whilst both types hold the same aim; to sharpen skates, they are not mutually exclusive. Firstly, a machine grind is only as good as the machine operator and the customer's instructions. Machinists' abilities vary greatly and many people from professionals down to the enthusiast know this and often have a machinist and / or shop they trust. In the race to the bottom line, there is no incentive for many shops to take care of their customers because the customer base is effectively captive. Its not like you can take your skates in Tesco's and get them cut there. That is not to say that there aren't good machnists or stores out there but the real trouble is that you got to find one. However, once you have then you want to keep hold of them and hope they don't get hit by the proverbial bus.
Secondly, as a customer, you should know how you want your blades to be ground. You should not accept a grind that is not to your instructions. You should be prepared to examine your skates after a grind and be sure that you are satisfied. That is not to say that you should not heed the advice of a knowlegable machinist but if you know what works for you then don't hand over your money until you're happy. In some cases, you may have to pay more than the average for that expert service but is a false economy to go for many cheap grinds rather than fewer more expensive, but more expert grinds. Let's face it, you save a bit of money on a skate grind and then go blow it on a latte that your body will shortly expel anyway.
Thirdly, and this is really where the pocket sharpener is designed to help is that skate shops don't always grind on request and many aren't open when you need one. The pocket sharpener is designed to help restore the edge until you can get a proper grind performed. Often, the performance of the skate has declined a little and a pocket sharpener helps improve it. No one will ever argue that pocket sharpener will replace a machine grind but the two things that they can do is:
1 - help restore edge when its convenient for you; and
2 - extend the time between machine sharpenings.
Hence in terms of time and cost, the pocket sharpener is very valuable.
This is really not a debate about which is better than the other. The simple fact is both options are compatible and they serve the same aim but just under different circumstances. A good shop with a good machinist will do a better job than a pocket sharpener but a pocket sharpener is available 24/7 and will often do a good enough job that you can skate longer before you need to see your machinist.
Finally, you may well say that I sell a pocket sharpener so surely my view is biased. Well, I think I presented a balanced argument here. As I said, a machine and pocket sharpener broadly perform the same function but you trade effectiveness with convenience. For most people, they don't need a dedicated professional equipment coach so you should go for works for you. If you asked me if you should buy a Skedge so you don't have to do a machine grind then I'd tell you that you would still need to. If you asked me if buying a Skedge will save you time and money then I make no apology for answering yes because for most customers that is exactly what they find. More importantly though, if you asked a skate shop if a hand held sharpener is a good idea, there aren't many that will say yes so I am simply levelling the debate.
But if there is one thing I do support is that pocket sharpeners present a level of competition to shops that results in the overall standard improving then I can live with selling fewer skate sharpeners....we'll all get a deal in our favourite ice based sports.
Thank you for taking the time to read this guide. I welcome any comments via Ebay.