Recreational Ice Skates

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What are recreational ice skates anyway?

It's a term probably borrowed from wheeled inline skates and is used loosely by manufacturers and online shops. The most common meaning is probably something like a hockey skate without the Achilles Tendon Guard at the back, and with some sort of speed lacing or easy fastening system.

If you search or browse UK websites on the internet you'll come across lots of recreational skates in children's sizes, many of them adjustable for growing feet. Adults aren't well catered for in 2010 in the UK. If you're looking for hockey skates or figure/ice dance skates then there's no problem - but if you want something more modern then you may have to find a dealer who will order something in for you. This page shows various examples of skates including 3 with a hinged cuff.

Update September 2013: An internet search led me to Amazon where I was able to buy K2 Moto men's recreational ice skates. These arrived presharpened but I got them professionally sharpened as recommended. Murrayfield Ice Rink did a good job for £5. The boots are well designed and are easy to fasten securely providing good ankle support. Being soft they're not suitable for the rough and tumble of ice hockey. Click on the link above for a large picture or click on the Amazon link below for more details.


POWERSLIDE ICE THUNDER is the name of this skate from Powerslide in Germany. It's a cliché that German engineering is good and generally this is true. When the skates arrived on 15th March 2010 I tried them on and walked about my room and hallway. They were supplied sharpened after a fashion with a rough surface which I smoothed down by hand with a SkateMate.

The blades are thicker than most which means that a hollow-ground groove of 3/8 inch radius will be deeper and grip the ice well for fast turns, possibly too well for skidding to a stop easily. This turned out to be the case. It was a lot of work sharpening by hand with the 3/8 inch retrofit SkateMate and the groove was too deep. The left skate felt like it wanted to veer off to the left but I put this down to drag caused by imperfect sharpening.

I used the SkateMate's larger radius sharpener and made the groove shallower. On the 2nd day they were much better, more controllable yet still able to do fast turns. But still not right - I could glide long straights on my right foot alone, but not on my left. I could do curves on either edge on my left skate - but not straight lines.

The larger radius SkateMate spares arrived from Sweden. I used the coarse one then the fine one and was confident any remaining drag on my left foot would be gone when I tried them on the ice again. I still couldn't glide in a straight line on my left skate alone. I turned both skates upside down and compared them and, to my horror, found that the left skate had not been properly aligned when riveted onto the sole of the boot.

This photo shows my initial efforts to fix the problem. I set about this myself partly because I had lost faith in others, and partly for pragmatic reasons. The hassle and expense of sending them back was unthinkable.

The rivets I removed resembled tubes at the other ends, split in 6 and folded back to overlap and grip the holes in the sole. Brute force with side cutters levered them off. The photo shows the 3 nuts and bolts I used at first. I had left one rivet in the heel to pivot the skate around.

This picture shows what will probably be the finished job. The steel nuts and bolts I used were stronger than the rivets so I omitted 3 out of 8 at the front and 2 out of 6 at the heel.

The Powerslide website is very slick on a fast computer and uses terms like Trigonomic Fit, HSS-Heat Storing System, thermoregulations, Anatomical EVA foot bed - and Razor Blade made of stainless steel.

Unfortunately it fails to explain what these grand sounding technicalities actually mean. Nor does it mention the very important fact that the blades, whilst resembling hockey skates are actually considerably thicker. This makes a difference to their performance but goes unmentioned. Yet another website that places style before substance!

I measured my skates thickness with an electronic caliper:

Nike skates TUUK blades 2.98mm or 0.11in thick (Boot and T-Blade skate weigh 1010 grams)

Powerslide skates blades 3.44mm or 0.135in thick (Boot and skate weigh 1360 grams)

They are halfway between a hockey skate and a figure skate as regards thickness of blade. This may be advantageous to my style of skating - but it would have been helpful if the website had mentioned it. As far as engineering is concerned, the basic design is mostly quite good.

I replaced the supplied laces with cotton bootlaces from Timpson's and threaded them through backwards, knotting them at the toe and leaving a large loop at the other end. I had already fitted springloaded stoppers over the laces, so to tighten them I just pull the loop and slide the stopper down against the boot. This avoids having to tie a bow whilst trying to pull tight at the same time. The top eyelets are supposed to lock the laces but they don't work at all, unlike the ones on my Hypno inline skates.

The boot could have been softer allowing more forward flexing of the ankle; the hinged cuff gives excellent lateral support. The price was a fairly modest 60 UK Pounds. The (presumably) German design is good for the money - but, like 99% of everything they're made in China. Quality Control was disappointing for a company represented in the Winter Olympics.


T-Blades

Pictured here is one of my Nike recreational skates with the original TUUK blade removed and the T-Blade system fitted instead. At the time of writing (November 2010) no UK shops or websites had any recreational skates in adult sizes so I ordered T-Blades from Top-on-Ice in Germany. Grateful thanks to Leo Bleicher for email assistance because the website was in German.

More information on T-Blade from Wikipedia although the (horizontal) thickness of the blades is greater than the 1mm suggested. I measured mine at 2.98mm using an electronic caliper. The strip of metal is very thin vertically as I confirmed using a tiny magnet.

No, this isn't a flower. It's one of the rivets commonly used to attach skates to boots. Removing skates from boots and fitting replacements is not something I would recommend to skaters unless you have access to the specialist machinery used by manufacturers. If you want T-Blades you'd be better to buy new boots with them already fitted. This is likely to be expensive as only some of the top brand hockey skates use them.

To remove the rivets attaching the TUUK blades I used several methods. Where access permitted I used a small screwdriver or needle-nosed pliers to lever up the 6 tines into a more vertical state. Then I could pull the rivets off from outside without damaging the sole of the boot. I also drilled into the centre of the 'flower' in some rivets until the 'petals' came off.

The rivets inside the toes of the boots were impossible to work on so, because I was discarding the TUUK blades anyway, I cut away the plastic beside the head of each remaining rivet. Once the blades were off the boots, I used a hacksaw to cut the head off the rivets and pushed them through the sole from the outside.

Although my German order included a set of rivets there was no way that I could fit them especially in the toes of the boots without specialist equipment. Instead I used nuts and bolts. Even so, it wasn't easy to insert bolts from the inside of the boots. I used forceps and long-nosed pliers to manoeuvre cross-point headed bolts and washers into the awkward holes. On the outside I attached a washer and hex nut to each screw and tightened it, using my experience as an engineer to gauge how tight I could make it without risk of breakage.

Finally I used a hacksaw to cut off any protruding screw thread and filed them smooth. I used 8 bolts at the front and 6 at the heel. The T-Blade holders have numerous holes but only some matched existing holes in the sole so I had to drill a few holes. The cross-point heads of the bolts were sufficiently small not to be felt by the soles of my feet once the insole was replaced.

I've skated on these since mid-December 2010 and continue to love them. My skating style could be described as high-geared, long strides with a hard push and the skates make a satisfying crunching noise, especially when making tight turns. The tongues in the Nike boots had a tendency to form into a V shape irritating the front of my ankles. I've stiffened the tongues with Kevlar pieces and also now use Velcro strips to hold them snugly against my legs, so now any rubbing is between the tongue and the shell of the boot.

There may be some truth in the theory that because there's much less metal, it warms up and lubricates gliding on the ice. The strip of metal is very thin vertically as I confirmed using a tiny magnet. For more T-Blade information try this page.

Click on on the links for 2 images (pictures) of Google Chrome's translation of T-Blade Advantages and some Frequently Asked Questions. Each skate's entire metal content is only 5.5g - a British Pound coin weighs about 9g.

I changed the blades (runners) after about 15 hours skating because they were no longer like being on rails in a tight curves. I slipped and fell twice so at the next session I renewed the blades and got that amazing grip back again.

Update December 2011
I've just received another 4 pairs of runners from Top-on-ice in Mannheim, Germany via DPD couriers. Including VAT and carriage it works out at nearly £13 (13 UK pounds) a pair. I'm replacing them after about 20 hours now. Conventional blades are made from inferior steel and the sharpening process will never be as good as precision engineering in a German factory, so I reckon it's worth it.

I read that sharpening softens the metal, meaning more frequent sharpening - inconvenient and expensive, though possibly cheaper than the T-Blade option.

t'blade USA website

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