An “Ah-Hah!” on the Ice Follies

They say it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools, but sometimes the tools matter.

I was having a particular difficulty with some of my techniques in my last class, particularly the “backward swizzle”.  Instead of the edge catching in the ice and pushing me backward like it was supposed to:

What I was getting was the blade skittering a bit across the ice.  So, after class I asked the instructor if maybe the blades were in need of sharpening.  He checked and they were fine in that respect, but there was another problem.

Figure skating blades have a curvature front to back.  This is part of what allows turning on the ice.  The blades have two edges with a hollow between them:

Skate blades

When the blades are straight up and down, you go straight forward or backward.  When you tilt the blade to one side of the other, the front to back curve guides the skate around in a curved path.

In hockey blades, the curvature is symmetrical front to back, but in figure blades it changes along the length of the blade.  You have a sharper curve near the front (called the “rocker”) a less sharp curve near the middle, and flattening out somewhat at the rear.  Here’s an example from a well established competition blade the “Phantom”:


The folk who sharpened my skates did them more like a hockey blade so that I’m not getting the tightening up of the curve at the front of the blade.  Now, this wasn’t causing my particular problem, the one that was causing the blade to skitter in the swizzles (probably not catching the ice at the right angle, or the right part of the blade), but might well be responsible for some of the other difficulties I have been having.

My instructor suggested I talk to one of the other instructors–the one that was his coach–who can see about getting the blade sharpened to the proper profile.

As I’m learning, there’s a lot more involved in this than one might think.

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