You don’t have to have special skates for figures, but they can help you skate them better. It used to be that every skater had two pairs of skates, one for figures and the other for freestyle, and a scribe or a scribe to share. The specialized equipment that was once used for figures is no longer readily available. Here are some suggestions for getting hold of these things.
Any old boots should work. The trick is that they need to be soft enough to let your ankle bend from side to side. New, stiff freestyle boots don’t allow this. Back in the day, people used to use their old, broken-down freestyle boots for figures. Now, there are four main options:
- Use a pair of old boots that you’ve retired
- Scour eBay and skate shops for a pair of old boots, used or new, that fit
- Get one of the pairs the World Figure Sport Society has available
- Have a pair custom-made for figures by your favorite boot manufacturer
Patch blades (blades that are designed specifically for figures) are not the same as freestyle blades. They lack the bottom toe pick and are sharpened to a much flatter radius of hollow. Both of these are modifications that can be made to existing blades: you can make a pair of old freestyle blades into patch blades by grinding down the toe pick and giving them a patch sharpening. If you don’t want to have two pairs of skates, you can ask for a combination hollow (typically around 3/4″) for both figures and freestyle. This was commonly done by low-test skaters back in the day.
Special blades designed specifically for patch are no longer made, but some stores still have old ones in stock. If your local skate shop has been around a while, it may be worth asking if they still have any. Here are some places that you can try. The models to look for include MK Silver Test, MK Gold Test, Wilson Figure, Wilson Comet Test, and Wilson Pattern 88.
- People on the Compulsory Figures Project Facebook group may have blades they’re willing to part with
- EBay occasionally has patch blades for sale
- Midwest Skate Supply, Novi, MI, has lots of patch blades available to order online
- Lake Placid Skate Shop, Lake Placid, NY, had some unused Comet Test blades available in 2015
- Simply Skating Consignment, Wyomissing, PA, has a few pairs of patch blades in stock as of June, 2019; models include Silver and Comet Test
- The Skater’s Edge WNY, Buffalo, NY, has about 10 pairs in stock as of February, 2019; models include Gold, Silver, and Comet Test and Pattern 88 in sizes 9, 9.25, 9.33, 9.5, 10.25, 10.5, 10.66, and 11 inches
- The World Figure Sport Society, Lake Placid, NY, has many patch blades available
- You can always have a pair made by asking your skate technician to remove the bottom toe pick from a pair of freestyle blades and give them a patch sharpening
|Blade name||Manufacturer||Rocker radius||Factory ROH||Notes|
|Comet Test||Wilson||8.5 ft||1 in||Matched for use with Coronation Comet; polished hollow.|
|Gold Test||MK||7 ft||1 in||Contoured radius toe pick; hide-honed; special hollow grinding. Essentially Phantom (freestyle blade) without the bottom pick.|
|Pattern 88||Wilson||7 ft||1 in||Available as one-piece blades or set of sole and heel plates. Blades can be detached and changed.|
|Silver Test||MK||7 ft||1.5 in||Parallel; contoured radius; shallow ground edge; based on MK Professional blade.|
|Wilson Figure||Wilson||8 ft||1 in||Small pyramid tooth. The low toe pick leads to this blade being mistaken for a freestyle blade.|
|Futurist T||Wilson||Toe pick as Wilson Figure.|
Sources: Alice Berman, Skater’s Edge Sourcebook (Kensington, MD: Skater’s Edge, 1995), 47 and John Misha Petkevich, The Skater’s Handbook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984), 40-41. The italicized text has been added, and the notes on Pattern 88 blades have been combined from separate entries for the full blades and the fittings.
Sharpening blades for figures is a bit different from sharpening them for freestyle because the radius of hollow is so large. Patch hollows start at one inch and go all the way up to three or four; freestyle hollows are typically around half an inch. With large patch hollows, there is little margin for error, so an experienced skate technician is essential. What follows is a list of skate technicians who have been recommended for patch sharpening in one place or another or said they can sharpen patch skates. Some of them will accept mailed-in skates for sharpening. If you have anything to add or are on this list and would rather not be, get in touch.
- Mike Bartow, Michael’s Skate Sharpening, Potsdam, NY
- Tim Burt, Florida Hospital Center Ice, Wesley Chapel, FL
- Dale E. Campbell, Columbus, GA
- Scott Cooke, Cooke’s Skate Supply, Wilmington, MA
- Michael Cunningham, Skater’s Paradise, Waldorf, MD
- Frankie & Joe Delecki, Eastern Ice Services, Myrtle Beach, SC
- Jonathan English, The Sharper Edge, Peabody, MA
- John Hess, Boston area, MA
- Patrick Kelly, Peak Edge Performance, Lake Placid, NY
- Dave Randall, Albany, NY
- Chris, Skater’s Edge, Cleveland, OH
- Jack Courtney, Broadmoor World Arena, Colorado Springs, CO
- Sasha Fadeev, Evanston, IL
- Bill Fauver, Nashville, TN
- John Harmata, Geppetto’s Skate Shop, Downers Grove, IL
- Bill Phipps, Evansville, IN
- Richard, Fred’s Skate Sharpening, Bloomfield Hills & Rochester, MI
- John Rohskothen, Rainbo Sports, Northbrook, IL
- Jess Stoery, Distinctive Edge, Northbrook, IL
Pacific coast section
- Jim Hambas, NW Skate Authority, Sherwood & Beaverton, OR
- Scott Irvine, Irvine Designs, Sun Valley, ID
- Jon Register, Skate Service Specialists, San Diego, CA
- Jake Brunott, Jake’s Figure Skate Sharpening, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
A scribe is a giant compass that draws circles on the ice. You can use it to draw circles for your figures, then skate on them, or to check figures you’ve skated. Typically they scratch the ice with a sharpened screw to make a white mark, but some skaters prefer to attach a marker to the end. The dark line drawn by a marker is easier to see on today’s white ice. Check with your rink management before doing this since some rinks do not allow it.
How to use a scribe
Here are some videos on YouTube. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to get you going.
- The scribe (Angela Edwards)
- How to use a scribe (Skate with Jen)
- Checking turn placement in double threes (Skate with Jen)
Where to get a scribe
These are some sources for scribes. If you know of any more, send them in!
- Figure 8 Skate Specialists, Ottawa, ON, Canada, has scribes in stock
- Scott Irvine, Irvine Designs, Sun Valley, ID, makes scribes
- The World Figure Sport Society can help you get a scribe
- Occasionally, scribes come up for sale on eBay
Need a bag to protect your scribe and avoid getting comments about the very strange looking musical instrument or weapon you’re carrying? Here are some ideas:
- Midwest Skate Company has scribe bags for sale on its website
- Bags for lacrosse or field hockey sticks seem to be about the right size for scribes
- A yoga mat bag might work
- You can try combining the straps from a yoga mat bag with a large poster tube from an office supply office if you have some craft skills
- You can make your own pretty easily from some canvas and a zipper if you know how to sew; with suitable skills, you can probably come up with something very nice
Scribe tips and tricks
- Scribes rarely need to be sharpened, but if yours does, you can sharpen it with a Dremel tool or ask your skate sharpener for help.
- Open and close your scribe with the tip pointing up. Extend the highest part first and retract the lowest part first. This way you won’t be awkwardly reaching for the high bit when it’s out of reach.
- If you don’t tighten the last screw all the way, when you spin around to scribe a circle, the end piece will go flying. This demonstration of Newton’s laws of motion may not be desirable when others are concentrating on their figures.
- Additions are welcome!