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MK’s Universal Rocker Profile Template. Circa 1987

Dr. Darel Phillips, one piece, carbon graphite, light weight, sole and heel component.

The term COPLANAR derives from my research activity for the US Olympic Committee. I was selected for a grant in 1987 with the mandate to improve the Figure Skate.  My aptitude for this was apparently based on the series of articles I presented in USFS’s Skating Magazine in 1983 entitled ‘Dispelling the Mystique of Blade Sharpening’ plus my research into blade friction and dynamics at the edge-ice interface. This was one of 17 grants awarded to engineers and scientists to assist industry involved in Olympic sports. My ensuing report: ‘Research into Skate and Boot Design and Blade Sharpening with Recommended Design Improvements’ is listed under Skateologist Publications and available for a nominal fee. The following catalog sheets explain the theory and substantial advantages of the concept not least of which would be better quality control.(From hereon we will refer to the metallic device that attaches to the boot as the skate, the blade being merely that part of the skate that contacts the ice, sometimes termed the runner. This makes for explanatory clarity.) The other major recommendation of my research was a detachable toepick design that has now, only recently (twenty years later) been brought to production status as will be explained. (Please note the free hand sketch on the cover of my above mentioned USOC report - a Coplanar Boot and Coplanar skate with a detachable toepick.) Mission now accomplished.

Immediate contact with the blade companies MK and Wilson, then separate companies, was a prerequisite. Of the two, MK showed enthusiasm allowing me free access to their manufacturing plant - as a professional engineer I could be of considerable help them - for free! I was appalled, neither they nor Wilson had a single drawing of their product. Blades were made to crude templates. So I persuaded MK to buy me a drawing board and instruments and proceeded to convert their conference room into a drawing office. The drawing board folded up and stored there until my next visit. By now I was privileged with a front door key but questioning why they  and any other skate manufacturers incorporated walking boot features in their product: the toe-spring and the crown in the sole plate and the angle on the heel plate, termed the heel kick. They would say:no change from a century ago when your great, great, grandfather walked down to the pond in his walking boots and needed skates to fit!’ We have no option but to match the boot as best we can but it’s a compromise, with enormous variation amongst boot manufacturers but everyone knew that. Skate to boot mismatch was a perennial to skaters and the skatetechs who did the mounting. Blade positioning was and still is critical to performance and skeletal/muscular alignment; a problem Daryl and I regarded as our mandate to resolve.

Basically, walking boot geometry really complicated skate manufacture, first of all there were no dimensions to work to and the adjustments regularly needed to the brazing fixtures to suit varying toe-spring geometries very arbitrary. Complicating the issue, dance skates had an even different combination of contours, needing yet different adjustments. No wonder there was seldom an accurate fit between skate and boot. There there were no standards set up between skate manufacturers and boot manufacturers was likewise lamented by my partner with a like mandate in the skating boot facet of the industry, Dr Daryl Phillips. Podiatrist.

Dr. Phillips answered a basic question: did the skater need these walking boot configurations? -Of course not; industry had kept on keeping on - doing the same old thing from the time when these walking provision were necessary - as mentioned above. The solution: eliminate these walking boot provisions, flatten the sole interfae and aline with the heel while preserving foot posture with respect to the profile of the blade.  The Coplanar idea was born! I was thrilled that Darrel (Dr. Phillips - we were on first name terms in this research) concurred on this solution - there were no skeletal/muscular advantages for keeping the walking boot configurations and the neutral posture of the foot in coplanar configuration advantageous, not least in the better ability to align the blade along the neutral axis of the foot. Daryl’s other concern was boot weight and his suggestion of a carbon-graphite composite sole and heel is shown in accompanying photograph. Bonded to a boot’s ‘upper’ structure it was tested by an elite skater through all triples and back summersaults with no problem. However it required certain techniques industry didn’t want to develop.

After Daryl left the project I pursued the coplanar boot aspect of the research using research funds to provide boot manufacturers with Coplanar lasts, completing a full compliment for SP Teri before funds terminated in 1991. Future funding promised by the USOC would have covered the provision of lasts for Riedell and Harlick but the USFSA disallowed this. Klingbeil was very supportive of the concept but didn’t require any such lasting, their custom manufacture covering coplanar and traditional configurations equally well.   While boot manufacturers agreed the Coplanar configuration involved no additional manufacturing cost, their adoption of the concept would have been virtual admittance that their current manufacture (and that for the past two centuries) was less than optimum, plainly ignoring or not bothering to comprehend the advantages of Coplanar for: the skate/blade manufacturer, the skater and the skate technician. Coplanar was put on the back burner - actually removed from the stove entirely.

Then there was the attitude of the distributer. Their dominating concern is, understandably, continuity of livelihood, new models are a hazard to their inventories would it become obsolete, would it become obsolete, money locked up in unwanted stock. Mostly they didn’t want to promote and without the direct support of boot manufacturers, Coplanar didn’t fare well. Maybe no more that a thousand pairs reached the ice. At the 2010 winter Games, only two pair competed.

As the manufacturer and designer of the only skate sharpener designer for figure skates, I was intrigued with MK’s use of one rocker profile for their entire range of blade sizes, see photo of one of the four templates they had in the shop for checking that, a fifth they gave to me. Surely that profile should be proportioned to the size of foot and possibly the weight of the skater.  So, in designing Coplanar skates I proceeded to introduce proportional rocker profiles. Fortunately all this evolution was occurring at the time MK was switching from stamping blades from the steel sheet to water jetting, at least for their quality blades; fortunate because the cost of stamping dies for the Coplanar designs would have been prohibitive. They would be water jetted and with the digitized input required for water jetting, design opportunity was now wide open making. Proportional profiling of the rocker became a practicality, My Coplanars were the first of that genre. I also took the opportunity to add the safety slope at the tail of the blade the characteristic triangular hole incorporated to reduce weight that the idea otherwise entailed. All this was a first in the history of skating. A first also in providing actual drawings.

These same rocker profiles were used when we switched to laser cutting for the blades.  The coplanar brazing fixtures for manufacturing these models I designed and manufactured this side of the Atlantic. Their intrinsic planar geometry made them a much more practical apparatus as agreed by MK’s brazing foreman. When HD Sports took over MK they undertook to continue manufacturing my Conquest, Conchord and Proquest brands and agreed to add a Pattern 99 model all using the same brazing fixtures.

Development of the detachable toepick, the other major recommendation of my USOC funded research (none personally in my pockets) has taken a lot longer and in 2008 it began to reach the ice in prototype form with a trademark name of GOLDQUEST. My announcement flyer is provided under the GOLDQUEST title explaining a) its unique ability to sharpen the full length of the blade, preserving the critical profile in the NSZ, b) its doubling of blade life, c) lifetime interchangeable toepicks (your lifetime) termed Icepicks, d) optional Icepick designs interchangable e) pristine border facets and edges and of course Coplanar. But we might have to relent on this latter feature just to get its advantages to the skater, converting to a aluminium bodied model in keeping with current lightweight trend. More to come on this matter. Please note the photograph on the following page showing the latest cam design all of which is now covered by an issued US patent with international patents pending.