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HOW WE STARTED, WHAT WE’VE DONE SINCE 1977 AND WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW

by Sid Broadbent. P.Eng. Pres.


For our 30th anniversary we’re taking this summary of our activities and printing it as a technical paper to accompany our SKATEOLOGY MANUAL.



The intent of a Web site is not only to allow one to pronounce the advantages of one’s products as we are doing elsewhere under appropriate captions but also to announce whatever technical advances one has made in the sciences associated with one’s business. In 1977 when we initiated our company, science was an unknown word to the industry. Not a single engineering drawing anywhere controlling the design of a skateblade and no methodical effort at all towards understanding the mechanism of skating.


To an engineer this was anathema.  So we decided to correct that deficiency, introducing a discipline we termed Skateology - ‘The Science and Technology of the Edge/Ice Interface’.  a takeoff from the term Tribology - ‘The Science and Technology of Contactual Surfaces in Relative Motion’ - a technology in which I had been deeply involved as an aerospace engineer. And remember the blade is one half of a bearing system – the other half being the ice.


Then we needed precise terminology to describe skating phenomena and blade properties to make Skateology meaningful, in fact, just to be able to write intelligently. So we put together a Glossary of Terms giving precise explanations for existing terminology and added terms as needed. e.g., Bite Angle ; Angle of Lean ; Un -levelness Angle ; ROH for Radius of Hollow; EROH for Equivalent Radius of Hollow; rc for Radius of the Path of Skater’s CoG;  L describing ‘Overlay’ - the horizontal offset of the skater’s CoG from the blade print;  H & h, the vertical and slope heights of the Skater’s CoG from the blade print and Bladeprint, the instantaneous portion of the ice engaging the blade in motion.


The USFSA thoughtfully published some of our earliest results in 1983 in their Magazine, issues February through May, entitled ‘Dispelling the Black Art of Skate Sharpening’. Customers still refer to them. They were also the nucleus of our Skateology Manual which came to the attention of the US Olympic Committee who provided us a research grant covering the years 1987 through 1992. An interim report covering much of this activity is listed with our other technical publications under the captions of Skateology & Skateometry publications. The grant was issued by the Sports Equipment Technology Committee (SETC) of the USOC.


A major outcome of all this, as far as skating equipment was concerned, was the realization that skating boots still embodied walking boot features - a carry over from two centuries ago when the skater walked to the local pond and the skate had to fit the very boots he/she was wearing. This demanded that the skate’s mounting means, the sole and heel plates, had to incorporate compound curvatures and angles in order to mate with the boot. Unfortunately, and to the disadvantage of the present day skater these walking boot features are still embodied. Compounding all this was the absence of any standards with respect to these peculiar geometries. The ski boot industry had got out of this dilemma many years ago - simply flattening and aligning the sole and heel surfaces in the same plane, often as a single un-interrupted surface!


The SETC provided grants to researchers in nearly all Olympic recognized sports basically to assist sports based industries with little or no research resources, but when it came to suggesting that skating boot manufacturers remove walking boot features from their product, a deafening silence ensued.


By now we were using the term CoPlanar to describe this flattened geometry and working with last manufacturers verifying the practicality of the idea. It wasn’t really new anyway but no one wanted to admit that a more scientific approach was available – that what they had been doing for so long was less than optimum.  Klingbeil, a purely custom manufacturer of skating boots with a long background in orthopedic footwear wasn’t bothered one way or the other – they made their own lasts for every individual customer and using a coplanar geometry was equally easy.(‘Last’ is the term used to describe the model on which footwear is formed and the process is termed ‘lasting’.)


We prepared ‘generic’ CoPlanar last drawings explaining how any boot manufacturer’s proprietary last designs could be adapted to the CoPlanar format, i.e., eliminating walking boot features while keeping proprietary features confidential. By now we had invited these US manufacturers: Harlick, Riedell and S. P. Teri to take advantage of our grant’s funding and acquire a comprehensive set of CoPlanar lasts gratis.


S.P.Teri took full advantage of this offer in a full range of widths and lengths but the others remained somewhat, shall we say, chagrinned; understandably proud of excellent products and outstanding workmanship, merely following tradition. They didn’t want to jerk the status quo. For most coaches, the simplicity of the CoPlanar principle was far too profound, but they usually wanted to appear authoritative in recommending a specific skate blade.


We then took it upon ourselves to design the CoPlanar skateblades to go along with the CoPlanar Boots. For an engineer that was pretty easy, and fortunately MK Skates, the largest and foremost manufacturer, seeing the benefits of this design concept, gave me access to their plant, even the front door key, and so that’s how we started manufacturing CoPlanar Skateblades. I really have to salute David Whitworth for taking this initiative. New Brazing fixtures were needed to accommodate the planar alignment of sole plate and heel plate that actually simplified production and certainly enhanced quality control. We designed and made them here in the USA and I took them over personally to MK. Then with the take-over of MK, HD Sports continued manufacture and added a Pattern 99 version – progress was progressing. The skate blade manufacturers would be only too pleased to adopt this simplified manufacturing, it is the boot manufacturers who have resisted, for them to embrace the concept implies that what they’ve been manufacturing over the past two centuries was and remaining technically flawed. This scientific assistance from the USOC was ignored. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the approx. 4000 hours that I devoted to the project over five years and I did get a nice paper certificate with the 5 circles emblazoned on it !!!!


Another major effort within the scope of our USOC grant was the development of a Skateology Test Laboratory for assessing the Coefficient of Friction of Skateblades, and Bob Sled & Luge Runners - see our report on this under ‘publications’.


Since 1977 I had been manufacturing the ICEskate Sharpener and learning a great deal, edge geometry vs performance and   for me, a researcher in the field of tribology, this research opportunity was a dream come true.


In a relatively few years out ICEskate Sharpener became the foremost machine throughout the Figure Skating world and the official sharpener for most International events and we are duly proud to report that it has been:


THE OFFICIAL SHARPENER FOR THE PAST OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES

2002,1998,1994 & 1990 and we’re pretty sure several national teams brought along their INCREDIBLE EDGERS in 2006


Our latest version - The INCREDIBLE EDGER extends the same precision and ease of operation to Hockey Skates with superior Hockey blade clamping essential for perfect sharpenings.


The products described on this Web Site are exclusively my own design but naturally with due recourse to the prior art and responding to recommendations of skate technicians and skaters. Also complying with my own experiences as an expert skater for over 50 years and the full breadth of engineering disciplines plus manufacturing and processing technologies that has been my career as a Professional Engineer for even longer, mainly in Aerospace.


Consequently our sharpeners reflect aerospace technology not the battleship construction methods that other brands seem based upon. We’ve replaced huge 500 lb table tops with precision hardened and ground guide rods as used in modern machine tools throughout industry. Our sharpeners, being modular in design can replace a Tabletop Three Header at half the price and provide better performance. They are now ideal for the Arena as well as the specialist.


We’ve also been steadily evolving the attachable/detachable toepick concept another recommendation of our USOC research as embodied in our Goldquest model illustrated in our brochure now added to this web site.


A yet further development is the Blade Wellness Gage to detect the sharpening problem so apt to result from sharpening figure skates on those hockey based table top type sharpeners. Again please refer to it’s separate web page.


Sid Broadbent P.Eng. President.                                                                      January 2008



Continued September 2009


An adaption of hockey skate design has recently infiltrated the figure skate market initiated by Rob Rudolph, known as the Paramount. It differs mainly in that the blade holder is aluminum and the blade extends only a very small amount, minimizing the amount of steel involved and reducing overall weight. I assisted Rob from the outset giving him my CoPlanar rocker profiles. I figured that since my research into blade design was prompted my the USOC to assist US skaters, he, as a US bases manufacturer was entitled. At the same time I pointed out the difficulty of determining edge accuracy with his design and that remains a major problem: neither the small protruding portion of the blade nor the small flat areas of the stanchions are parallel with the plane of the blade.


An even more recent entry, the Matrix 2, closely copying the Paramount, is a very definite improvement: deliberate facets on its aluminum body are parallel to the plane of the blade and the protruding blade surface are likewise flat and parallel.  Such surfaces facilitate checking the trueness of the edges (squareness).


Another claimed innovation is the flat bottomed V groove by Blackstone. This was in fact patented by a Harry W. Redmond in 1983 with great acclaim as the groove of the future. Blackstone even uses wording from Redmond’s patent. I referenced the V option as early as 1977 and had hoped test for friction characteristics sometime during the course of our USOC grant. Ironically we were directed to divert research to Bobsled and Luge runners but before funding ran out in 1991 we did perfect technique for skateblades and achieve excellent data for just one groove geometry. It is now time to revive this technology and prove or disprove the claims of Blackstone. We plan to take up this issue in the foreseeable future or encourage others to understand its importance.


Sid