Skate sharpening is one of those things that stresses me out more than it should. Or maybe it’s something that stresses out all figure skaters (at least the adults — I imagine the kids don’t really think much about it and their parents do all the worrying), since we tend to be perfectionists, attentive to details, and picky about all aspects of our skating lives.

Before I moved, I went to two skate sharpeners, depending on their schedules and my needs. One was a very good sharpener but was only around on weekend mornings, but I liked going to her because she would do them right then and it would take 10 minutes (on top of the half hour drive there, and half hour drive back). But she was occasionally unavailable, so I would go to the second sharpener, who was not as good but serviceable. I didn’t like that sometimes I had to leave my skates overnight with him, though, which could affect my practice plans.

When I moved to a new city and rink, I asked around for recommendations and was glad to find a convenient option — the sharpener worked out of the rink I skated at, and was often around when I was there to skate. All I had to do was call in advance to confirm he’d be in the shop at a specific time, and I could usually skate right afterward, so it didn’t take much time out of my day.

But the last time I needed a sharpening, I had the devil of a time actually getting it done. I texted him in advance as usual, made an appointment, and went in. He was a no-show. He let me know later that he was running late, but I’d already gone home so we rescheduled. I had to wait till the following week till he could be in, my blades were getting very dull and I was starting to slide around a lot, but I didn’t have much choice so I agreed. The problem was, the morning of that appointment (a Monday), he texted me as I was on my way to the rink and said he had to reschedule for Thursday. Again I agreed, figuring better late than never.

But then he was a no-show again! This time, there was no apology or text or explanation, and I was getting incredibly annoyed. I also really needed a sharpening — I was two weeks overdue at this point, which doesn’t seem like much except that every practice was getting worse than the last, the duller my blades got. I started to lose my spins and was skidding my jump landings. On top of that, I was testing soon (this was before my silver moves) and I really couldn’t test on (1) dull blades, or (2) a super fresh sharpening that I hadn’t gotten used to.

So I asked around and found another sharpener, a 45-minute drive away. It’s not an ideal setup because the skating sessions are in the morning and the shop is open in the evenings, which means I couldn’t go to get a sharpening AND skate. Still, at that point I was past nitpicking, and so I called in the morning to confirm the sharpener’s hours, and was told to come by in the late afternoon. I made the drive over, and of course when I got there, I was told he’d called in sick. Urg!

I tried the same thing a few days later, and got lucky that time — the sharpener was in, and I was out the door with freshly sharpened blades in 15 minutes. Victory!

At least, I thought so… until I tried out my skates the next morning and couldn’t do a single thing! Turns out, he’d defaulted to the half-inch sharpening instead of the 7/16 inch I usually use, which was probably my fault because I must not have specified. My old sharpener used to check the setting before each sharpening and redo the same grind, and I must’ve thought the new guy would do the same. Alas, not the case.

I couldn’t return to that sharpener till the weekend, which means I skated a week on those wonky blades, trying to do skills I’d taken for granted, like regular forward 3-turns, or edge pulls, and failing miserably. It’s such a demoralizer when you can’t do a single thing right! I was ready to tear out my hair by the end of the week, because my practices felt useless and everything felt alien to my feet. When I got back to the sharpener, he confirmed that they’d been done at a half-inch radius, but on the upside he actually redid them for free, when I’d been prepared to repay since it was my mistake.

When I got back to the rink the next Monday, I held my breath as I stepped onto the ice, worried that maybe all the trouble I’d been having the past few weeks was really just me being a worse skater than I’d thought I was. Because even if my blades were sharpened wrong, shouldn’t I still be able to hold a simple edge, or know the basic mechanics of a spin without falling out before even making a single revolution?

The blades felt good, though, and I was thrilled to hear that beautiful edge rip on simple cross strokes and edge pulls, which I hadn’t heard in weeks. I tentatively tried a spin, willing myself not to skid out of the entry… and pulled off the most beautiful, centered forward scratch I’d performed in months. Success!

Also, apparently a good sharpening really IS everything.