Figure Skating Blades 101
Just remember, an expensive blade will not make you a better Skater. It is more beneficial to upgrade Boots and Blades as your Skating Skills improve. For new Skaters, Blades with a smaller toe pick and rocker radius is preferred to make it easier to learn foundation elements. You should look to upgrade your blades when you start to work on higher level jumps. The Skaters weight and physical ability is also something to be considered when choosing a Blade. If you are thinking about progressing in the sport then you will need to understand that Skates are meant to upgraded as your skills improve. Do not attempt to find a pair that will last forever.
What is "edge"?
If you observe your blade carefully, you'll find the blade has a reversed U shape which shows two edges. The side that's facing away from you is called the "outside edge" and the side that's facing between your feet is the called the "inside edge". Edges are fundamental for Figure Skating. All Figure Skating Elements are rely on quality of execution of these edges.
How do the expensive blades differ from the cheaper ones?
We get asked this question very often and there are generally a few reasons:
1. The quality of the steel that's used to make the Blades are different. The more expensive Blades are made by a higher grade steel which results in greater durability of the edge in between each sharpening. For example, the steel of a Gold Seal Blade is a higher grade compared to a Mirage Blade. A higher grade steel also means the Blade can withstand larger and more demanding jumps.
2. The higher level blades will have attributes that will assist the Skater to perform high level elements. This can range from a larger toe pick, different pick designs to side honed and parabolic blades.
3. Some higher level blades have a lighter holder (e.g. the Revolution series). These carbon fibre holders not only make the Blades lighter but more importantly, they help with shock absorption when landing jumps. We have Skaters who have solved knee pain problems after converting to Revolution Blades. This is also SkatersEdge's top pick for our own Skates.
What are Radius, Rocker and Profile?
Blade Radius refers to the curvature of the blades from front to back and determines the amount of blade contact with the ice. The smaller the radius the less ice contact and therefore better mobility.
Different sections of the Blade will have a different radius. Each of these radius are called a “rocker”. The back part of the blade is primarily used for gliding and stroking while the front rocker is used for turns and spins. A 8 foot radius is flatter than a 7 foot radius. The 8 foot radius will give you more speed and stability whereas the 7 foot radius will give you more mobility. Generally for beginners and petite Skaters a 7 foot radius is recommended.
The profile is the combination of the rockers positioning, the length of the rocker and curve of the rocker.
Most coaches will recommend the John Wilson Coronation Ace Blades as a follow-up Blade to beginner blades. The Coronation Ace has a smaller radius which makes it easier to perform turns and spins. As the Skater improves and begins to perform higher level jumps, sometimes they will prefer a flatter profile as it offers more Blade contact with the ice to help with landing jumps.
What is the Hollow?
Hollow is the depth of the "U" shape you see when observing your blades from the front. Hollow Radius is a measurement of how deep the hollow is between the two edges on the Blade. This directly influences the Skaters edge and control. A larger radius will have less edge and a smaller radius will give more edge.
A good sharpening technician will determine your blade hollow depending on your Skill Level, Body Weight and Discipline. A one inch hollow is frequently used for freestyle. Children/petite Skaters usually require more hollow than adults. Hollows can be changed by sharpening, if you find it very hard to adapt to the blades after sharpening then it is likely that the hollow has changed without proper reasoning. The hollow needs to be checked prior to sharpening and any changes must be consulted with the Skater.
What is the difference between Parallel and Parabolic Blades?
Parallel: Blades with same thickness along the full length of the blade.
Parabolic: Blades that are thinner in the middle but thicker on both ends. Parabolic blades generally increases edge grip when cornering.
What are Toe Picks?
Toe picks are generally used for launching jumps, without Toe Picks it is almost impossible to perform toe-assisted jumps. Higher level blades such as Gold Seal, Pattern 99 and Phantom features larger Toe Picks.
There are primarily two types of Toe Pick designs, Straight-cut and Cross-cut.
Every design has it's pros and cons, they are sumarised as below:
1. Straight-cut Toe Picks (Pattern 99): more depth when picking hence increase jump height but require more precision to get an efficient take off.
2. Cross-cut Toe Picks (Coronation Ace, Gold Seal, Phantom): lesser depth when picking but has high grip so is easier to get a consistent pick.
How to look after my Blades?
Use Blade Guards when you walk on surfaces other than the ice, this way your blades will stay sharper for longer so you don't need to visit your sharpening technician so often.
After every session of skating, wipe the blades thoroughly (especially the dull strip at the bottom) and keep Blade Soakers [skatersedge.co.nz] on until next session. The blades will have condensation on them when you get into a warmer environment, if Soakers are not used then they'll rust pretty quickly. The rust will affect the gliding speed of the blade and will need to be sharpened to remove the rust.