More often than you’d like to think, we run into bent skate steel. Bent steel can be caused by a myriad of things, most common of which are a puck off the blade, steel being bent straight from the factory, and steel that is being bent by the holder (either a warped holder itself or a holder mounted improperly to the boot). It is important to indentify bent skate steel for a couple reasons: A) It can affect performance and B) It can make sharpening a blade with level edges from heel to toe pretty hard if not impossible with larger more serious bends.
With mild bends (at or under a few thousandths of an inch from the toe/heel to the center of the blade, which is about the thickness of a piece of paper), we recommend keeping them in mind, but not rushing off to the proshop to have them replaced. A mild bend can also usually be straightened when inside of a skate clamp while being sharpened to assure consistent edge height from heel to toe.
For the more serious bend (one which measures anything at or above 10 thousandths of an inch from the toe/heel to the center of the blade), we recommend heading to the shop as soon as possible and replacing it. Here’s why a seriously bent blade should be fixed or replaced. Even if the skate clamp could straighten the steel out enough for the sharpener (Sparx or human) to put on an even (level) edge, the performance of the skate will likely be impeded. Once removed from the sharpener’s clamp, any bent blade will relax back to its bent condition.
Why Replace It?Put on a fresh and smooth sheet of ice, most experienced skaters can feel the difference between different RoHs (deeper hollow feels slower). Most experienced skaters can feel the difference between a blade with a smooth surface (effortless glide) and one with a rough surface (resistance to glide). Most experienced skaters will also likely feel the inefficiency of skating on a bent blade. As the skater rocks from toe to heel and back the bent blade will be tracking on a different line and this is likely a contributor to skating inefficiency just like any other skate sharpening related error.
In summary−fix or repair seriously bent steel if you care about performance.
For those that don’t mind skating on bent steel we have this little trick to offer up. We find that sometimes the reason a bent blade cannot be straightened by a skate clamp is because the skate holder itself (e.g. Tuuk) is bent and is warping the steel. If you remove the steel from the skate (again, very easy to do with Bauer Lightspeed Edge holders) the skate clamp on the sharpener has a much easier time straightening the steel and the resulting edges will likely be more even (level).