Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blade Guards for the Uninitiated

This is a blade guard. This is something you are going to need if you are going to be hanging around the ice rink for any length of time. Nothing says "NooB" like an unguarded skate blade. Skate blades are not (as some of my coworkers would like to believe) sharpened like a razor. They actually have two edges, (two!) and there's a hollow between them. Those fun turns and snowplow stops are achieved by working those edges. The edges are also fairly easily damaged, so guards are the solution.

These guards are constructed of some very hard rubbery material, and the blade is meant to slip neatly inside for those runs to the bathroom, concession stand, vending machine, or walking on the cement stairs of stands simply because you can and those kids in rentals can't. The floors of our rink are covered in some rubbery material which is fine to walk on in skates, but the SRS BZNZ kids wear guards.

When K first started, the people at the pro shop told me I wouldn't need guards. So I didn't get them. But as we kept skating, K saw the other kids with guards and began asking.

As a treat, I had them sent to him while he was out visiting grandpa over spring break. I thought that would make him feel good. When I asked if the blade guards had arrived, Grandpa said, "Yes, but they're too big. You need to return them."

Huh, the description said "universal," for all blade sizes. I was confused, but I'd figure it out when i got the guards in hand.

A few days later, when K came home, I opened up the guards.

Guards come in four pieces, and arrive with four screws and four springs. There are no instructions. (First Rule of Skating: DON'T TALK ABOUT SKATING.) On the bottom, there are a series of measurements. I looked at K's skate blade. They had "7 1/2" on them. Well, this wasn't too hard to figure out. I measured out to halves of the guard, got a breadknife and my cutting board, and set to sawing. Saw saw saw, plastic rubber dust was everywhere and the edge was mangled and raw. It took me twenty minutes per guard.

When I had the halves cut to fit, I put the spring in the channel, and screwed in the screws in the holes provided. The screws were Catch Screws, catching the rings on either end of the springs. I stretched the springs as far as they'd go, tighter is better, right? Right! I screwed those catch screws with the end of my kitchen shears, which have a flat blade on one end. Kitchen Skate.

I then repeated the process with the other guard, wondering if the sawzall might be a better alternative and easier on my breadknife. These things are fucking HARD! An hour later, I snapped the finished guards on K's skates. I realized that these things actually have a FRONT and a BACK. The BACK side of the guard has the longer upturn, and the FRONT side has the shorter upturn that goes around the toepick. Lidwina was on my side that night, and I had managed to bumble the things together correctly.

Sort of.

That weekend, K was clomping around on the cement stairs, once forbidden territory and smirking at the kids below. Imagine his embarrassment when I took off the guards and one popped apart in my hand. The spring was stretched too tight and the catch screw was straining at the stress. He looked on in horror, the two halves in my hand.

"Go skate!" I hissed at him. He scuttled off for warmups, and I reassembled the mess while picking off the damp and smushed skittles that someone had been kind enough to spill on the upper levels. Dammit. Shuffles' mom came up to me and began initiating some conversation about the class, while I tried desperately to move the screws and springs around in a fashion that would not lead to the guards falling in half every time they were removed from the skate. "Uh huh, yeah, sucks," I nodded in tacit agreement to whateverthehell she was going on about, trying to maintain some professionalism.

Those guards held together with some reassembly required every other day, for about two weeks. Then I lost them. They did not turn up in the Bin of Lost Blade Guards, so I can't help but smirk at the surprise that oh-so-clever mom or dad has when dealing with their "free" guards.

When we got the new (to you) skates, I bought new guards as we now owned some blades with some cred. The nice man looked at me and asked, "Do you want me to put these together for you?"

I could have bought him a beer.

Remember this the next time you see some gilded ice pixie on TV snapping on her cute little guards as she traipses off the ice. Those things are fucked up.

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