Custom Radius for Skate Sharpeners

Custom Radius Ice Skate Contouring Process

Blademaster Custom Radius

There are other Ice Skate Contouring systems available, but these pages deal only with Custom Radius II and to a lesser extent Custom Radius I.

To obtain Custom Radius equipment pricing or to order Custom Radius equipment, contact: Blademaster

According to Custom Radius documentation, a conscientious operator can apply the Custom Radius system to all types of skates. While this is technically true, my experience has shown me that it is only practical with Hockey, Goal, and Speed skates. Contouring a pair of figure skates is a no-win situation because you will never be able to charge enough money for the time you will spend contouring the figure skates, and it is unlikely you will have a happy customer in the process. I contoured a pair of figure skates once, but the blades were damaged before I started, and I did the job only as a research project. The skates were much improved at the end of the project, but they still weren't good enough for competitive skating, and contouring the pair required 4+ hours of my time.

Bent Blades

Who benefits from contouring?

In two words, all skaters. With very few exceptions, ice skate blades, as delivered from the factory are not ready for the ice, as it is economically impossible for any ice skate manufacturer to provide a matched pair of accurately profiled, balanced, and sharpened blades to meet an individual skater's preference. Instead most manufacturers provide an excess of blade stock and leave the actual shaping to the skate shop. A major contouring is theoretically required only once in the life of an ice skate blade. In practice, the more a skate is subject to poor sharpening, the more likely it is to require further contouring. It is a fact that there are skate sharpener "pretenders" who can and do remove a contour during one skate sharpening session.

The importance of straight blades


As in all skate sharpening you should start with straight blades . Blades may be bent from normal use, or they may be bent because the blades are incorrectly mounted on the skates. Use a blade straightener to straighten bent blades. A bend resulting from normal skate use, will straighten easily. A bend resulting from an incorrect blade mount will not straighten easily, and may even return to its bent state while you are grinding it. Incorrectly mounted blades are easily recognized by a practiced eye, and most are given away by the rivets used to mount the blade. Incorrectly mounted blades always have rivets that do not seat on the blade holder properly, and appear to be applied at various angles, but not all blades with sloppily set rivets are mounted incorrectly.. If you discover an incorrectly mounted blade, you should advise your customer to have it repaired before getting the skates contoured. If the blade fault is discovered while the skate is still in warrantee, the repair can be made without expense to your customer.

Tip #1

The anatomy of a hockey skate profile

Skate Profile

The longitudinal shape of a hockey blade has three profile zones; Toe Radius, Working Radius, and Heel Radius. The Working Radius must be radiused or profiled for optimum skating performance. The Toe and Heel Radii are smooth arcs which are blended away from the ice, and into the Working Radius.

The curve of the toe radius allows the skater to get up on his/her toes for that first few quick strokes when accelerating. The more metal left in the toe radius, the harder it is for the skater to dig in with his/her toes for quick starts.

The curve of the heel radius allows the skater to get "down 'n dirty" when cornering. The more metal left in the heel radius, the more upright the skater remains when cornering, and thus makes wider turns.

Pick the Working Radius (Rocker Radius) that's right for your customer

Custom Radius II provides a choice of stock Rocker Radii (RR) and these are:

  • 7-foot/9-foot (2.13M/2.74M)
  • 11-foot/13-foot (3.35M/3.96M)
  • 28-foot/Straight (8.53M/Straight)
  • 104-foot/Straight (31.68M/Straight)

The smaller the Rocker Radius, the smaller the area of blade contact with the ice. A smaller blade contact area has less"bite" and thus allows less resistance to lateral movement, which translates into greater maneuverability. A larger blade contact area has more "bite" which translates into better acceleration and stability.

Tip #2Tip #3

Determine the pitch


Custom Radius II provides an infinite range of blade pitch, and this is determined by moving the adjustable block on the right-hand side of the control block. There are fixed reference points which are; S(small children), F(forward), D(defence), Fig(figure skates). The fixed reference points are handy for quick setup, and they give you a means of establishing standardized pitches, but you can set the mark anywhere along the scale for a true custom pitch.

Tip #4Tip #5

Measure the boot

In fact you're going to find the "balance point" of the skate. For this you will use your boot gauge and you will measure the outside dimensions of each boot. Place the heel of the boot at "ground zero" of your boot gauge. If you've been following this missive, then you will align the heel of the boot against the inside edge of the left hand clamp of your radius bar and clamps assembly. The boot gauge has a "large scale" and a "small scale". Without moving the skate, note the point on the large scale adjacent to the toe of the boot. Locate the corresponding point on the small scale, and make a mark on the runner (steel part) adjacent to the point on the small scale. This mark becomes your "balance point". Repeat the procedure with the other boot.

Tip #6Tip #7

Measure the runner height

Measure the Runner Height

Measure the runner height from the plastic blade carrier to the bottom of the runner (where it makes contact with the ice). Take this measurement from a point very close to the front of the rear pillar of the blade carrier. Once again you have to measure each skate. If the runner heights are different, select the skate with the smaller of the two measurements. If the measurements are the same, then select either skate. The purpose of this exercise is to grind the smallest runner first, since what comes off easily does not go back on easily.

Tip #8


In review, you have selected the Radius Bar you want to use, and you've already fastened it and the Radius Bar Clamps in position on your grinding table. You've dressed your rougher wheel, and you've chosen the skate you're going to start with, so now the skate goes into the contour fixture.

(A) Place the skate into the contour fixture similarly to the way you'd place the skate into a regular skate glider, except that this time you keep the heel of the skate to the left. Push the plastic blade carrier against the front vise jaw of the contour fixture, align the "balance point" with the center line of the contour fixture, and clamp the skate firmly in place. At this time it's a good idea to make sure that the contour fixture lock collar is at the outside end of its shaft, and locked there.

(B) Move the contour fixture with the skate to the rougher wheel and adjust the contour fixture center screw so that when the contour fixture is rolling smoothly on the radius bar, the runner is just "skinning" the rougher wheel.

Tip #9

(C) Pull the runner away from the rougher wheel, and turn on the grinder. Move the runner to the rougher wheel, and slowly feed it into the rougher wheel with the contour fixture center screw.

Tip #10

Continue to feed the runner slowly until the rougher wheel is cutting completely across the area between the centers of the pillars on the plastic blade holder. Once you have satisfied this condition, the working radius has been established on this skate.

Tip #11

Right now, it's a good idea to pull the runner back from the grinding wheel, and turn off the grinder.

(D) Move the lock collar on it's shaft so it is snug against the contour fixture control block, and tighten it in place.

(E) Then back off the contour fixture center screw several turns.

(F) Remove the first skate from the contour fixture, and replace it with the second skate. Repeat the grinding process with the second skate. This time however, instead of stopping when the grinding covers the area between the centers of the pillars, you stop when the contour fixture control block stops against the lock collar.

(G) Tip-trimming is freehand, (the only part of the contouring done without the radius bars) and should be done in small increments to avoid overheating the runner. Remove all the necessary stock from the runner with the flat face of the rougher wheel, and don't use the corners of the rougher wheel. A corner of the rougher wheel will dig into a runner very quickly, and the resultant nick may necessitate reprofiling the skates.

Tip #12

(H) After tip trimming, just freehand sharpen the skates as usual.

Contouring Tips:

Tip #1 - Be careful not to break the blade while you are straightening it . We recommend that blade straightening always is done at the owner's risk. It is not necessary to use ultra precise means to confirm straightness. The most practical criteria is "When it looks straight, it is".

Tip #2 -
7-foot (21.3M) - Figure skaters. Provides excellent mobility.

9-foot (2.74M) - Hockey skaters. Popularly considered the optimum RR for hockey, because it provides excellent maneouverabilty, but in practice it is not the optimum RR for every hockey player.

11-foot (3.35M) - Hockey skaters. This is an excellent general purpose RR for hockey skaters, and provides excellent results with all but the most rabid hockey hot-dogs. Recommended for younger hockey skaters (up to age 12 years old).

13-foot (3.96M) - Beginner hockey skaters and recreational skaters. The extra large footprint provides excellent stability and speed.

28-foot (8.53M) - Goalies and short track speed skaters.

104-foot (31.68M) - Goalies and long track speed skaters.

Straight - Goalies.

All new goal skates have straight profiles, but some goalies like a curve. Err on the side of caution by using a straight goalie profile unless the goalie asks for a curved profile.

Tip #3 - Consider a basic premise of ice skating; "The pressure of a sharp edge on the ice melts the ice at the point of contact. The water produced is trapped in the hollow between the two edges of the blade". This phenomenon produces the "flow" which makes ice skating so effortless. It follows then that the more water that is trapped, the greater the flow, and the best way to trap more water is to use a larger footprint. Using an extra-deep hollow when sharpening does not have the same effect as increasing the Working Radius. Extra-deep hollows produce aggressive edges which cut into the ice, and actually reduce the amount of water that is trapped.

Tip #4 - Many modern skates come with a built in forward pitch. For instance, CCM Prolite III has a higher than usual heel pillar which gives the skate a toe-down attitude. Allow for this when you are selecting pitch. For this reason also, the "S" setting may be a pretty severe pitch, so consider dropping back to "F".

Tip #5 -
"S" is generally meant for beginners, (up to 8 years old). The idea of the "S" setting is to give the skates a steeper than usual forward pitch. This simulates skating downhill. Since beginner hockey players usually stop and wait for the play to come to them, we try to encourage them to keep moving. Because they're now skating downhill, their skates won't let them stand still, and they have to catch up with their skates. To stay in one area means they have to learn to circle, and this is what the coach wants to see.

The "F" pitch unlocks the knees, gives the skater an aggressive forward posture, and at the same time brings the skater's shoulders down over the puck.

The "D" pitch unlocks the knees slightly, and brings the skater's center of gravity over the balance point of the skates. The purpose here is to allow an easy transition from forward to backward skating and vice versa. Since the "D" pitch is considered neutral, it also the pitch of choice for recreational skaters.

When choosing a pitch for a skater of the female persuasion, consider the physical differences between males and females. For instance male body mass is centered higher in the torso and therefore the male center of gravity is higher. Female body mass is centered lower in the torso and therefore the female center of gravity is lower. Consider giving the gals a little more forward pitch.

Tip #6 - Many people resent it when you leave marks on their expensive skates, so for this reason it is advisable to put your reference marks on the runner since they can easily be removed at the end of the job. Use a pencil or marker. There are boot stickers available which help identify a Custom Radius job, and they're supposed to help promote your service, but for the same reason be careful about applying them to any skates.

Tip #7 - You may have to get creative with small skates because there isn't enough room to make measurements in the usual way. If you've measured correctly, your marks should correspond with a straight line extended from the front of where the shin bone should be if the skater's foot was in the skate.

Tip #8 - Final preparation is the rougher wheel. The standard wheel supplied with Blademaster skate grinders is a Ruby Aluminum Oxide, 80-grit, K-hardness wheel. I find that a White Aluminum Oxide, 60-grit, J-hardness wheel gives me better results. Whatever grinding wheel you're using, make sure that the grinding surface is dressed clean and square before you start contouring.

Tip #9 - It may be necessary for you to relocate the radius bar on the radius bar clamps. Try to stay in the center of the contour fixture center screw throw so you don't run out of adjustment room.

Tip #10 - Use firm pressure to hold the runner to the rougher wheel, but do not jam it. Let the rougher wheel do the work. When the rougher wheel is cutting freely without resistance, it's time to feed the skate some more. As a guide, use a feed rate of about 1/6 of a turn on the contour fixture center screw. You may find that more or less than this rate is better for the job you're working on.

Tip #11 - Because you will be working on some skates which have already had the runner tips trimmed (and maybe over-trimmed), you may not be able to grind all the way to the centers of the pillars without seriously compromising the life of the skate. In this case it is acceptable to stop grinding once you have covered the area between the front and rear pillars. You may also observe that you often grind more from the front half of the runner than you do from the back half of the runner. This is normal because it's a natural effect when you apply a forward pitch. It is also normal because nearly every "experienced" pair of skates you contour will have too much ground off the rear half of the runner, and you will have to equalize and overcome this damage by removing stock from the front part of the runner, and this includes skates to which you are applying neutral pitch.

Tip #12 - While the curvature of the tip is an "eyeball" job, you may wish to make yourself some templates to guide your tip trimming and make it consistent from skate to skate. Typically you could trace the outline of your tip template on the runner you're going to trim, then just grind to the mark. This also works if if you offer a "tips only" service to your customers. At any rate NEVER grind right to the plastic blade holder.

Where to find me

I am closed.

Connect with me on: