January 5, 2013

Soakers, Guards, & Drying: How To Look After Your Blades

Although seasoned skaters will know the drill when it comes to keeping their skates in the best state possible during everyday use, beginner skaters may be wondering what the deal is with blades, protection, and storage. This post is for you guys, and I hope it clears some things up!

Everybody's routine is different, and the products and tools you use to look after your skates and blades will surely change and be refined over the coming months and years of use. There are however, a few key steps you can always take to ensure that your blades are kept in the best shape possible. Read on to hear all about it!

Wiping Down Your Blades
This is absolutely key and no skater should forget to do this, lest you end up with a (partially) rusted blade. Use an old tea towel, bath towel, a rag of terry cloth, whatever you have to hand. The most important property of the fabric you use is that it is absorbent. You also need to not care about it getting filthy, so it's best to use something that you can consecrate to your skate bag, never to be used again as a regular towel.

Once you take your skates off following a session, be sure to wipe down your blades quite quickly, in order to not let any moisture sit on the metal. This involves both removing excess ice and slush, and then going over the entire blade with care to ensure the metal is dry. The only truly important part can be considered to be the under side of the blade -the part which touches the ice- but it's good practice to keep the entire blade dry, to avoid rusting and any potential damage to the blades on the whole.

Soakers
This now brings us to the subject of soakers. These are the soft blade protectors which can be purchased or easily home-made to guard your blades during transport. They are made of terry towelling fabric on the inside, and often a decorative material on the outside. The terry cloth absorbs any residual moisture to keep the blades safe and sound, and provides protection against knocks and bumps during transport. It's important to protect your blades in this way to avoid potential chipping of the fine edges on which you skate; getting chips out, if possible at all, can be a long process and often necessitates grinding down a lot into the blade to remove it. The result is a great reduction in the length of time you can keep your blades (each time you have your skates sharpened, you bite a little bit further into your blade's “reserve” - so having a lot ground off at once is like having multiple sharpenings, thus reducing the life of the blade).

Once you've finished wiping down your blades, you should place soakers on your skates before putting them into your skate bag or case.

Skate Guards
Guards come in several shapes and sizes, but they all share one common property: they are made out of moulded hard plastic, and afford the highest amount of protection to your blades.

You should wear your guards when you're wearing your skates (and remember to take them off before stepping on to the ice, if possible! We've all been there at least once!). Don't store your blades in these hard plastic guards: they do not have an absorbent capacity and the tiniest amount of moisture on either the blade or the interior of the guard can cause rusting and damage to occur.

Always wear these when you're not on the ice, around the rink (while still wearing your skates). Walking on anything other than ice or rubber (the material out of which most ice rink flooring is made around the rink's perimeter) is a potential hazard to your blades health, and should be treated as such.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of what these key tools are, and how you can use them to best look after your dearest skates. Don't forget to check out my tutorial for making your own DIY soakers, and let me know how it goes by getting in touch via one of the numerous contact methods listed below!

Until next time, take care of those blades!
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