Frequently Asked Questions About Figure Skating Blades

Woman tying ice skates laces by a lake or pond. Lacing iceskates. Skater about to exercise on an outdoor track or rink.
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If you're new to ice skating, it's understandable to have some questions about the type of skates are appropriate for your needs and level of ability. Here, get some answers to the most common questions about figure skating blades.

What Makes Ice Skating Blades Glide Over the Ice?

When an ice skate blade presses against the ice, a thin film of water is created and melts the ice. This acts as a lubricant and allows the blade to glide.

What's the Difference Between a Hockey Skate Blade and a Figure Skating Blade?

A figure skating blade has toe picks at the top and is usually longer and heavier than a hockey blade. Most of the time, a figure skate blade is separately mounted onto a figure skate boot, but hockey skate blades are riveted to the bottom of hockey boots.

Both figure skate blades and hockey blades are mounted to a boot in the same way, but rivets are used for hockey and screws are used for figure skating.

What Are Some of the Most Popular Types of Figure Skating Blades?

Many intermediate, advanced, and elite figure skaters skate on the Pattern 99 blade manufactured by John Wilson. Other popular blades are John Wilson's Gold Seal and MK's Phantom. Many pre-intermediate figure skaters skate on MK's Professional model.

In recent years, Jackson Ultima blades and Riedell's Eclipse blades have become quite popular. The Eclipse Infinity blade is very similar to the Pattern 99 blade but costs less.

Paramount Sk8s Inc. makes lightweight versions of blades which have the same profiles as Pattern 99s, Gold Seals, and Phantoms.

The blades ice dancers and synchronized skaters use a shortened heel. The tail of a blade helps support jump landings, so a dance blade is not a good choice for single and pair skaters.

If a Blade Has Large Toe Picks, Does It Mean It's Better?

The theory that big toe picks are best for advanced figure skaters and small toe picks are better for beginning ice skaters is not completely accurate. What really counts is the front curve of the blade where ice skaters spin, jump, and land.

For example, John Wilson's Gold Seal blades have small toe picks, but many very advanced figure skaters do triple jumps while skating on Gold Seal blades. Gold Seal blades or blades with the same profile as the Gold Seal blade, like the 440SS 12'' Tapered Paramount Blade or the 420SS 12'' Tapered Paramount Blade will work for skaters of various levels.

What Materials Are Used to Make a Figure Skating Blade?

Figure skating blades usually are made of tempered carbon steel that is first heat treated. The blades are coated with a high-quality chrome. In recent years, lightweight aluminum and stainless steel blades have also become popular. Carbon steel blades are softer than stainless steel blades. High-end blades, such as the Pattern 99 and the Gold Seal blade, are made with a better grade of steel than the less expensive models.

Wilson blades were once made of Sheffield steel, which was one of the best steels in the world in the 1940s. Over the years, new and more modern materials for figure skating blades have been designed and invented.

Unlike most skating blades, which are made from carbon steel, Paramount blades are made from a lightweight one-piece aluminum extrusion and stainless steel runner. These elements are stronger than carbon steel and make a high-quality blade that needs to be sharpened less often than other figure skating blades.

Why Do Advanced Figure Skaters Buy Expensive Blades?

Expensive blades are usually made with a higher grade of steel which allows figure skaters to hold edges longer. Also, the more expensive blades don't need to ​be sharpened as often as low-end blades. Expensive blades flow on the ice better which may improve jumps and spins.

Do Expensive High-End Blades Make Better Figure Skaters?

Expensive blades do not make skaters better. Figure skaters should purchase blades that correspond to their skating level.

The idea that a beginning figure skater should not purchase expensive blades is incorrect. If a skater has the funds, he or she can purchase expensive blades if he or she chooses too. There are very little differences between blades. A larger toe pick may be the main difference.

What Do Terms Like Edge, Rocker, and Hollow Mean?

All ice skating blades have outside edges and inside edges. The edge on the outside of the skate is the outside edge, and the edge on the inside of the skate is the inside edge. For example, the left blade's outside edge is on the left side of the blade. The right side of the left blade is the inside edge. On the right blade, the left side of the blade is the inside edge. The area between the two edges at the bottom of the blade is called the hollow.

When looking at a blade from the side, it is obvious that figure skating blades are not flat, but are curved. Rockers (curves) are different in length depending on each kind of blade. The way a blade is curved does have an effect on how the blade feels to a skater. A smaller curved blade (radius or rocker) allows skaters to do deeper edges and turns. Beginners usually skate on smaller curved blades; advanced figure skaters usually skate on larger curved blades, but not always.

How Often Should Figure Skating Blades Be Sharpened?

How often figure skates need sharpening will depend on how much a skater skates and how hard he or she skates. Sometimes the edges no longer feel secure and a skater will know when the blades feel dull.