Sometimes as a parent I found myself frustratingly in the dark on the whole equipment end of things. Down in the weeds it's all about the boots, the blades, and the sharpening; when it came to the technicalities of sharpening I figured that my role as a parent was just to assure that my daughter did her own "homework." Since it was her sport she was the one who had to be "up" on the technology. So here in two referrals is all the gory technical details:
Even so I still felt a deep lingering uneasiness with this whole sharpening business -- it seemed that my daughter's success or frustrations could depend inordinately on some gent I barely knew with a couple grinding and polishing machines in his garage. Yeah he had testimonials and connections, and my daughter found the fellow from checking with other gals at the rink. But how could I tell how much he really knew, or how well he actually performed his duty? He would chat with my daughter about how she was skating, and seemed to listen intently to her concerns. Was he being sincere though or just going through the motions? I couldn't quite tell. What if he saved his best work for a couple of his favorites and then just glided through the rest of his sharpenings? And in my paranoia I even wondered if he wasn't maybe playing on my fears to manipulate me to a higher fee. I harbored my lingering suspicions.
I'm wondering now if this might be one place where the sport couldn't tighten up a bit. With advanced technology nowadays I'm surprised that somebody doesn't make a laser measuring device to display the sharpness and various curvatures along the length of each blade. It seems that you should be able to plop your boot into such a device at your local rink and know immediately if your blades are due for a honing, or if the quality of the job your sharpener did was up to snuff. Anyhow that's a small business idea for you mechanical engineers out there.
My other bright idea is that some skating website should take the opportunity to reduce the information assymetry in this relationship. You know, something similar to Angie's list or 1-800-dentist where a skater and her parents could find a list of local sharpeners along with testimonials and a five star rating. And speaking of ratings. . .
I really wonder if skaters, parents, and USFSA shouldn't push for some sort of licensing, standardization, or certification of sharpeners. It's one of those grey areas: few sharpeners make this their full time profession and yet aside from a small handful of other sports I don't know of many places where "equipment tuning" can play such a significant role.