Skate Blades

Blades are usually made in 1/4 inch lengths. Blades also have different widths and radii as well as different configurations of the "bulge" (spinning area) and toe picks. These all have major effects on the way that a blade "feels".

Figure skate blades start out as three separate components.

  • Toe Plate
  • Heel Plate
  • Working surface

These are punched out en masse by large presses. The blades are blanked out of long strips of steel which may vary in carbon content dependent on the quality of the particular skate blade that is requested (ie., Majestic would have a lower grade of steel than a Phantom or Patter 99). Regardless, the steel used for all blades hardens to the same standard, however the better grade would keep its edge longer if it was a comparative test.

The blade section is hardened before the three parts are put together to make the skate. this is done in large quantities and hung on a frame and lowered into a high temperature salt bath for a set period of time to be evenly heated. While it is still glowing red, they are quenched in an oil bath. The decrease in temperature causes the steel to harden, however, they are still too brittle to skate on. So, the blades are put into another salt bath of a lower temperature to bring them to 60? on the Rockwell scale. They are then removed from the frame and ground to a set thickness.

The toe and heel plates are then brazed to the blade. Some manufacturers choose silver soldering while other top quality manufacturers choose to hand braze with bronze.

The assembled blade is now chrome plated the profile is ground on and the chrome is removed from the edges by grinding. This is removed so that the hardened steel is what comes in contact with the ice and not chrome. The blades are then inspected and shipped.

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Buying New Blades:

The blade length is measured from the front of the sole plate to the back of the heel plate. Measure the length of the sole from toe to heel and fit blades which are 1/4 inch less in length.

Some people believe that they have to buy blades that are expensive in order for their child to become great skaters. Advanced blades require the skater to perfect his/her technique. Top of the line blades are designed for very advanced skaters.

Advanced freestyle blades have a longer radius and have large toe picks. Also the portion of the blade that is used for spinning is much shorter than on intermediate blades. This means that unless you are perfectly balanced and perfectly positioned going into and during the spin then you will start rocking on the blade. Intermediate blades like MK Professional, Coronation Ace etc., provide the skater more "room" to make corrections and continue spinning even if they are slightly off balance.

Just because MK Gold Stars are typically over $500 does not mean that they are automatically better blades than MK Pros or Phantoms. They are all processed in the same fashion. Simply put, certain blades are more expensive because of supply and demand and a few slight design modifications like side honing which makes them slightly more costly to produce.

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Buying and Checking Used Blades:

  • Look to see how thick the dull strip is on the side of the blades along the edges. Originally, they were 3 or 4 mm when they were new. If they're much thinner than this, then your blades has been sharpened many times. The problem here is that the rocker may be distorted after many sharpenings and it is almost impossible to restore without specialized equipment.
  • Put the skate on a level table and check the position of the bottom toe pick. The blade should also be touching the table within 1 or 2 inches of the toe pick. If the blade touches the table further back then it means that the to pick is too low, probably because of too many sharpenings. If the blades touch closer than 1 inch then the master toe pick may have been ground off. In this case the blades will be useless for learning spins and jumps.
  • Ask your skate sharpener to look at the blade. They will be able to tell if the blade is straight, incorrectly mounted or damaged beyond repair.

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Mounting:

Skates that are improperly mounted can be virtually impossible to skate on. The blade must be correctly positioned and aligned on the boot. To avoid twisting the blade, the boot heel and sole contours must match the blade mounting surfaces. If not, the surfaces can be trimmed with a rasp or shims can be added between the blade and the boot.

Blades are mounted as follows:

  • the center of the tip of the sole and heel are found and a line is drawn to join them
  • the front of the sole plate of the skate blade is placed in line with the front of the sole of the boot and the skate blade is centered along the line drawn
  • screws will be placed only in the slotted holes so that fitting adjustments can occur

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Checking for Mounting Problems:

If you are having trouble getting good edges first have the blades checked to make sure that they are straight, properly sharpened and mounted perpendicular to the sole. If the problem persists, have someone watch to see if your blades 'make snow' as you try to skate on the edge in question. If they do this may mean that a mounting problem has occurred which can be corrected by a slight shift of the blade mounting. You will need to tell the person remounting your blades, which edge that you are having problems with.

You can also check if your blades are mounted correctly by yourself but you need to have sharp blades for this test to work effectively...

  • find a clean patch of ice
  • gather some speed and glide on 2 feet on a straight line. Keep your body upright. Your feet should be directly under your hips. Try this several times backwards and forwards.
  • go back and look at the traces to see if the blades are set correctly. You should get a set of double lines for each foot. IF one of the lines is consistently thicker than its mate or if there is only one line, then it means that your weight on that blade falls mainly on the edge tracing that line ie., the blade is unbalanced
  • if you are leaning mainly on the inside edge then have the blade shifted to the inside and vice versa. You probably only need a small shift 1 or 2 mm to start with.

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Problems with Warping:

Warping may have occurred due to a number of reasons:

  • the blade may have shifted sideways slightly when the front or back pair of screws were tightened on the temp mounts, warping the blade from front to back
  • the holes for the permanent mounts might not have been positioned perfectly, warping the blade as above
  • the heel might not be perfectly level or flat with respect to the front of the boot. Old screw-holes may have created bumps on the heel or the boot might have been manufactured with an uneven heel, twisting the blade.

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Rocker:

The rocker is the curve of the blade from toe to heel and is based on the arc of a circle with a given radius. The curve at the front, behind the toe pick is somewhat sharper. It is this difference of curvature which allows you to turn an spin on the front of the blade.

The smaller the radius, the more rocker, therefore you can make turns with less chance of falling. the bigger the radius, the flatter the blade. This will give more speed. When a skater starts learning jumps they find that they need good edge control. Because they have more blade on the ice they can start to prepare their body position for takeoff without falling off the edge so easily.

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Grind or Hollow:

This refers to the concave surface on the bottom of a correctly ground blade. A small radius creates edges that will dig deeply into the ice while a larger radius digs in less but glides more freely. A hollow of 5/8" to 3/4" is recommended for beginners and recreational skaters.

The width of the blade should be considered too. A deep hollow with a 3/8" or smaller radius will be UNFORGIVING on freestyle blades unless you are a petite frame. This small radius would be ideal for dance or hockey blades.

A shallow "figure" hollow with a 1" or larger radius will require a more correct lean to prevent skidding and requires more frequent sharpening but it also gives and easy glide and clean tracings.

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Maintenance:

There are 2 kinds of blade covers:

  • hard rubber/plastic guards
  • cloth (usually terry cloth or flannel material) soakers

The plastic guards should be worn any time you step off the ice. Even "safe" rubber mats or carpets accumulate dirt and grit from the shoes of pedestrians and this grit will nick and round off the fine edges of your blades much faster than gliding across the ice. Do not leave them on your skates between sessions as they will trap water and cause your blades to rust.

The cloth soakers are put on after you have removed your skates and after you have wiped them dry with a rag. They protect your blades from bumping in transit and wick away any condensation so your blades won't rust. If you still have problems with rust or want to store your skates then rub a drop of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly along the bottoms of the blades.

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