Today Sparx launched a new product; one we’ve been talking about for a while, one we’ve been testing with NHL equipment managers and other professional skate sharpeners, and one we know many, many Sparx customers have been waiting for for a long time now.
Say hello to the Sparx Edge Checker
Some of you reading this are probably familiar with other edge checkers on the market today, for others, this is their first real look at a tool like this.
For both audiences, we wanted to provide some insight into the “why” behind the decision to design and build our own version of an existing tool.
There are three primary reasons we chose to do this:
We felt providing a tool like this would provide a way to both educate those new to skate sharpening and ensure they get the very best results from their Sparx Skate Sharpener.
For The Pro-sumer
Not all proficient skate sharpeners work in a shop or as an equipment manager. Many of our customers previously trained themselves on traditional table-top manual sharpeners and have worked hard to become very skilled perfectionists. We felt we could deliver an accurate, easy-to-use tool to them that will help them get the same great results they are accustomed to, just in a much faster and easier way and in a way that, perhaps, extends their skills to other members of their family or community.
For The Professional
We have sharpened and level-tested thousands and thousands of skate blades over the past few years. Thousands. We tried every edge checker out there and found, from a usability standpoint, they all had at least one fundamental flaw; sometimes more than one. First, there was no easy way to keep the 2 parts together. All edge checkers are comprised of two parts; the body and the measuring bar (aka, “tippy bar”). When working in a busy lab -or shop, or locker room- it was far too easy to lose track of one part or the other. Second, in some cases, you need a third hand to use it; between holding the skate, placing the body of the edge checker on the skate blade and tightening the set screw, it was just a clunky, inefficient process, and one that we were going through far too often. In addition to these two primary inspirations, we felt there were other changes we could make to the tool to improve the overall experience.
About the design
Created for the layman and the pro
As we have shared in previous posts, one of the great lessons we’ve learned through this process has more to do with the brain and the human body than it does skate sharpening.
Through on-ice testing, we know an edge height difference of .001” (one thousandth of an inch) is imperceptible by the human body. We know a difference of .002” is almost imperceptible. Very few (if any at all) skaters can consistently correctly identify which edge is high when there is a .002” difference.
While this may sound surprising given the looks of an edge checker measuring a .001”-.002” difference (shown in the image below), it’s important to maintain perspective. The width of the edge checker (~6” in the case of the Sparx edge checker) intentionally exaggerates any difference in edge height. This makes sense since, without it, a difference of .001” (and likely .002”) would not be detectable by the naked eye.
Folks might be more surprised by the fact that an edge height difference of .003” (still less than the thickness of a Post-It note) can be detected by some advanced skaters when on the ice. This is why a tool like an edge checker is important.
If you are a Sparx customer and you follow the alignment instructions during the setup process, an edge checker is an optional tool. Our specs are ultra-tight, and you are going to be within .001” of perfectly level; your skates are going to feel perfect on the ice. An edge checker will certainly help you get closer to .000”. While the physical performance impact of that improvement will be negligible, perhaps there is enough of a psychological benefit there to make it worth it.
Whether you are a Sparx owner or not, the desire to have this tool on hand is certainly understandable. What better way to ensure the results you are paying for fall within that .001” range?
Easy to use:
Three unique (two patented) features of the Sparx edge checker make this a convenient and easy to use tool.
Self-storing Measuring Bar - There is now no excuse for the parts of your edge checker to get separated. A simple flip of the measuring bar sets it right into a neatly designed storage area right on the back of the body. An embedded pieces of steel attracts the magnet of the measuring bar, securing it into its final stored position.
One-handed Clamp Trigger - No need to hold that skate between your knees while you set the measuring bar aside and fumble to place the edge checker body and tighten the set screw. Simply squeeze the Clamp Trigger, place the body and release. Remove the Measuring Bar from its convenient stored position and place it on the skate blade.
Optimal magnet strength - We’ve increased the strength of the magnet on the Measuring Bar to improve accuracy and responsiveness.
Easy to read:
There are also three features that make this edge checker among the easiest to read.
Short throat for consistent placement - With the Sparx Edge Checker, the center line is always the center line, regardless of the height of the steel you are measuring.
Overlap to counter wear and tear - You’ll notice the Measuring Bar is a bit longer than the measuring area of the body. This makes reading the results easier, and it safeguards that benefit against nicks and dents that might mar the ends of the bar and obfuscate the results.
Hardened stainless steel wear plate - The measuring bar, specifically the area below the magnet that makes contact with the skate blade, takes a bit of a beating over time. Something as simple as chipped paint can throw off a measurement. For this reason, we reinforced that area with a small piece of hardened stainless steel.
If you have questions about the edge checker, we encourage you to post them in our forum. We anticipate some discussion around this product and suspect you can be helpful to one another by sharing your experiences. We hope to facilitate that discussion and answer questions on that platform.