All About Skating Blades

We put this section together to help you understand the different parts of a skate blade, what some of the technical terms concerning skate blades mean and to help you understand why ice skating blades should be chosen according to skate level and skating specialty.  

To compare figure skating blades click here.
 

How Are Figure Skating Blades Made?

Figure skate blades start out in three separate parts. TOE plate. HEEL plate and the part that actually does the work on the ice (sometimes called the RUNNER). The blades are made from long strips of steel which vary in Carbon content depending on the quality of the particular skate blade that is being made. For instance, a Majestic would have a lower grade of steel than say a Phantom or Pattern 99. Although the steel used for all blades hardens to the same standard, the better grade would keep its edge longer (under equal conditions).

Once assembled the blade is chrome plated, then the chrome is removed from the edges by grinding (this is the line that you see each side of the blade edge) so that hardened steel and not chrome is at the working surface.

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

Why Are Some Figure Skate Blades So Expensive?

The cost of blades is determined by many factors.  Cheap blades are nickel-plated and made of softer steel.  These are typically beginner blades. They usually require more frequent sharpenings because they are easy to nick and dull quickly. The solder used to attach the blades onto the soles of the boot may not hold up to the stress of repeated landing from jumps.  John Wilson and Eclipse products are all silver soldered. Mitchell & King silver solder theirs, but the top quality blades such as Phantom, Gold Star etc. are hand brazed with bronze.

The more expensive blades are made from a higher grade of steel.  The higher grade of steel allows skaters to keep their edges longer and to need fewer sharpenings. They also flow better over the ice and can improve jumps and spins for the more advanced skater.  Some of the newer stainless steel blades have an aluminium chassis or titanium chassis which takes weight off the skater and will help increase their height in jumps. The increased height allows the skater more time to complete rotations. The Jackson Matrix blades are are an example of a lightweight blade and are highly corrosion resistant.  However, for figure skaters new to the sport, the most expensive blade isn't going to make you a better skater. Purchase the blade needed for your skate level.

What is Radius?

Radius and Hollow are terms often used to describe figure skating blades. The main effect for a skater of both radius and hollow is mostly on edges and control.

Radius, also called the Rocker,  is a measure of the curvature of the blade from front to back. It is commonly measured in feet. If you drew a circle with a 7 foot radius and aligned a blade to the inside of that curve, the blade would match the curve.

Radius determines the amount of blade that actually touches the ice. A radius of 8 feet is less curved, or flatter, than a radius of 7 feet. A radius of 8' will give you more speed.  A smaller radius of 7 feet, will make you more mobile. For the beginner or petite skater, a 7' radius is fine. This is why most coaches recommend the Wilson Coronation Ace and/or MK Professional for their beginner skaters through intermediate/advanced skaters. You can do turns with less chance of falling as there is less blade on the ice therefore it gives you more agility. Generally a smaller radius, or more curved blade, will result in deeper edges and smoother three turns.

  However, as you become more advanced and start double and triple jumps you will want a flatter blade (8 foot ) to give you better edge control. Due to more blade on the ice, you can start to prepare your body position for takeoff without falling off the edge so easily.  

What is Hollow?

Radius is fixed.... Hollow can be changed by a skate sharpener. Changing the hollow on your figure skate blade is probably the most drastic thing you can do to change the feel of your skating. Hollow or grind refers to the concave surface on the bottom of a correctly ground blade. It is a measure in inches of the groove that runs down the middle of the blade.  The normal range for hollow is 1/2" to 1" with 5/8" being typical.  

A one inch hollow is less deep, or flatter, than a half inch hollow and results in less predominant edges. This is a typical hollow for ice dancers as it will allow them to transfer from edge to edge quickly. Flatter hollows require a more correct lean to prevent skidding and requires frequent sharpening, but yields an easy glide and clean tracings.

Deeper hollows result in two precise edges. Many ice skating blades come with a factory hollow of 3/8" which is considered a very deep hollow and will be UNFORGIVING on freestyle blades, unless you are a child or have a very petite frame. Usually children will need a deeper hollow than fully grown adults. This type of grind yields crisp and fast 3-turns, ability to hold a very deep edge when landing jumps, and allows for fast spins IF you have them centered.

A half inch is usually as deep as a freestyler would want to go. Most people will be around 3/4" to 1". Beginners should definitely be in this range. This hollow will allow you to sense how a proper edge should feel, and at the same time be forgiving in things like T-stops.

What's the Difference Between Parallel - Parabolic - Tapered Blades?

Most skating blades have the same constant width along its full length the edges are Parallel. However, Parabolic blades are thinner in the middle section and thicker at both ends. This increases bite angle for reduced slippage on the ice.  Side honed blades also channel water and ice away from the blade. You can tell side honed blades because reflections appear inverted.

Tapered blades are thicker at the front near the toe picks and thinner at the tail, i.e. the edges are not parallel. Tapered blades reduce drag or friction on the ice. Some models or custom made blades can be both side-honed and tapered.

What's the difference Between Toe Picks?

There are several types of toe picks.  Some are Straight Cut, some are Cross Cut and then there's the K-Pick.

The straight cut pick will allow the skater to quickly dig into the ice deep.  This will allow skaters to get height on their jumps.  However, it may also make them lose momentum.  The Cross Cut Pick doesn't dig as deeply into the ice, but will keep the pick from sliding on the ice.

The K-pick design has a set of extra 3-4 picks to the standard toe-pick. This feature is supposed to provide more control and better anchorage to the ice on toe-jumps. According to blade manufactures, the jump height can increase by 5-10% and the jump length by about 20% on toe loops and flips. No significant improvements in height and length have been reported for the Lutz, although the improved stability on the take-off supposedly makes for more consistent jumps.

What is Heel Lift?

The clearance of the toe pick off the ice is determined by the heel lift.  Knowing where your toe pick is in regards to the ice is one of the basics of ice skating. Many a skater has learned that tripping over their toe pick is NOT FUN!  Higher heel lifts provide more clearance between toe picks and the ice, whereas lower heel lifts result in less clearance.

What is Stanchion Height?

Stanchion Height is the actual height of the blade from the ice to the sole of the boot.  Depending on the height of the stanchion depends on how much skate clearance you have. The Eclipse Crescent has a lower stanchion height.  It puts the skater closer to the ground and thus helps with balance.  Along with the 7' radius, this blade is great for beginner skaters who are just learning to skate and find their balance.  The Wilson Gold Seal has the highest Stanchion height.  This is of particular importance for male skaters as it gives them better skate clearance.  They typically have a wider, longer boot and it will allow them to skate with deep edges without their boot dragging or scraping the ice.

Buying new blades

Check the blade sizing charts to get the blade length for your
specific brand of boot. If you have a question about blades, email us!

Figure skaters new to the sport.... the most expensive blade isn't going to make you a better skater. Purchase the blade needed for your skate level and upgrade equipment as your needs change.  For example, a skater may need to upgrade skates when they move from basic skating to their first jumps or from double to triple jumps.

Sharpening Figure Skating Blades

Take your skates to a pro shop or ask some regular skaters at your rink where they get theirs sharpened. Skate sharpening is NOT a do-it-yourself project! Skates are expensive and it only takes one bad sharpening to turn them into scrap metal!

Skates  properly sharpened will have a smooth concave grind accurately centered along the length of the blades, edges squared (parallel to the bottom of the boot) and level with each other (inside edge at same height as outside edge) for the length of the blade. Proper sharpening will maintain the correct rocker for the life of the blade.

Beware of how some shops do their sharpening: Some shops flat-grind the blade first, and then hollow grind. This wears the blade at an accelerated rate. Also be aware that some sports stores sharpen blades using techniques for hockey skates, which are not useful for figure skates and it can take only 1 bad grinding to ruin a pair of expensive blades.

Mounting Blades

Improperly mounted blades are almost impossible to skate on. The blade must be correctly positioned and aligned on the boot. The boot heel & sole contours must be flush with the blade mounting surfaces to avoid twisting the blade. Please have your local rink or a professional mount your blades.
 
What Is A Temporary Mount?

   A temporary mount has screws placed only in the slotted holes, so that you can try them and make minor adjustments (a blade position slightly closer to the big toe is sometimes favored). Don't do any jumps until the best position of the blades has been found and more screws have been inserted.

Many skaters choose to leave a few holes open and not insert all the screws so that if they need to remount a different blade, they have a new area for placement.

How Do I Check For Mounting Problems?

Check the blades to make sure they are straight, properly sharpened and mounted perpendicular to the sole.  Have someone watch to see if your blades "make snow" as you try to skate on an edge. If they do, this may be a mounting problem and can be corrected by a slight shift of the blade mounting. You will need to tell the person remounting your blades which edges you are having trouble with.

You can also check if your blades are mounted correctly by yourself (you need recently sharpened blades for this test to ensure that the edges are even):

    * Find a clean patch of ice, gather some speed and glide on two feet in a  
      straight line keeping your body upright with your feet directly under your   
      hips. Try this several times, both backwards and forwards.

    * Go back and look at the the traces. 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), it means  
      that your weight on that blade falls predominantly on the edge tracing that  
      line and the blade is unbalanced.

    * If you are leaning mainly on the inside edge, have the blade shifted to the
      inside and vice-versa. You probably only need a small shift so try moving
      it by 1or 2mm and then repeat the test.


What Is A Warped Blade?

Several factors can cause warped blades. The blade may have shifted sideways slightly when the front or back pair of screws were tightened on the temporary mounts. 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. Such a heel will twist the blade.   

Buying Used Blades

Look at the thickness of the dull strip on the sides of the blades along the edges. They were three or four millimeters when new. If they're now thin, then the blade has been sharpened many times. The concern will be that the rocker may be distorted after many sharpenings which is almost impossible to restore without specialized equipment.

Put the skate upright on a table, and check the position of the bottom toe-pick. The blade should be touching the table within one or two inches of the toe pick. If the blade touches the table further back, it means that the toe-pick is too low (probably a consequence of successive sharpenings). If the blades touches closer than 1 inch, the master toe-pick may have been ground off and the blades will be useless for learning spins and jumps.

Ask the skate sharpener at your rink to examine the blade. They can tell you if the blade is bent, incorrectly mounted or obviously damaged by abuse or bad sharpening.

Maintenance

Always wear 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, which 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 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, rub a drop of oil or Vaseline along the bottoms of the blades.