Antique Ice Skate Terms
Author Cheryl Richardson
With contributions from sympathizers.
Fastenings (Bindings)- the part(s) of the skate that attach the platform to the wearer’s foot. Includes screws, metal rings, spikes, leather straps, buckles and/or rope
Blade- 1. the lower-most metal portion of the equipment that cuts into the ice surface. In antique skates, also known as the ‘runner’ or ‘skate’. 2. in modern skates, collectively, all parts of the skate below the platform or boot. This includes the runner, and/or stanchions and/or plate. In this case, the blade may be constructed as one piece or these separate parts may be fixed together by screws, rivets, etc.
Boot- the ‘shoe’ portion of the skate; includes the sole to which the blade or platform is attached, the leather upper and laces.
Buckles- flat frame with a hinged pin attached to straps to hold them in place.
Clamps- wide variety of methods to grip metal blades to the wearer’s walking boots. Often used a key or lever system.
Curl- the rounded, upturned part of the runner at the toe end. Curls can take many forms- high, low, closed, scrolled, turned back (swan, snake) etc.
Finial- decorative finish on the tip of the curl. Shapes include acorns, diamonds, balls, bells, etc. Not all curls end in finials.
Groove- a track cut down the length of the bottom side of the platform that accepts the top end of the runner when there are no stanchions
Heel Button- similar to heel spikes but rounded. Usually found in metal clamp-on skates. Heel buttons sometimes fit into a hollow metal receptacle mounted on the heel of the wearer’s boot
Heel Cup- a semi-circular brass or other metal ring fixed around the heel of the platform to prevent movement of the wearer’s heel. Heel cups are often lined with leather attached to the cup and with the straps attached to that leather to provide additional guidance for the heel.
Heel screw- a vertical projection at the back of the blade that slides through the entirety of the platform to affix it to the wearer’s boot at the heel end.
Heel spike- a triangular or otherwise pointed projection or screw pointing upward on the heel of the platform used to poke or screw into the wearer’s boot to prevent slippage of the heel.
Hollow (Gutter) - the groove down the length of the bottom of the blade that creates two edges facilitating grip on the ice.
Hook- the short, sharp metal projection at the top, front end of a runner that points backwards toward the heel and that pierces the wooden platform at the toe end, affixing it to the platform. The hook is not usually visible in the finished product.
Irons- a term from the late Middle Ages. In Dutch, the word ‘ijzers’ (irons) was used for many things made of iron. The Dutch word (ijzers) is still used by skaters, skate makers and collectors when referring to ‘runners’ or ‘blades’.
Laces- Cotton or polyester lengths threaded through eyelets and used to fasten and tighten the boot to the foot.
Mount- any support that attaches to the runner at its lower surface and to the stanchions on its upper surface. Most common in tubular skates in which the mount is hollow to lighten the blade. Mounts are usually made of aluminium or steel or in the case of modern skates, plastic.
Plate- the flat, horizontal section of a skate designed to either be permanently attached to the wearer’s boot with screws or fitted with some kind of clamping device to semi-permanently attach to skating or walking boots while skating. Most commonly found in skates with stanchions. The upper end of some very old (particularly blacksmith-made) runners without stanchions terminated in flattened or splayed projections bent to a 90 degree angle that created a type of plate that could be attached to the platform (almost as though the ‘stanchion’ itself was bent over).
Platform (Footstock)- the hard wooden interface between the blade and the bindings. The blade is permanently attached to the platform and the platform is bound to the wearer’s foot with straps, screws, etc.
Prow- the curved front of the blade; the part that rises up to the level of the platform or above.
Rings- 1. anchored to the platform and used to attach the straps as opposed to threading them through morticed slots. Because this method of fastening is quite old, the use of rings attached directly to the platform is usually found in blacksmith-made skates, pre 1860. 2. Rings are also found in some bindings that use morticed slots as well. In these cases, the rings connect the straps to each other so they may lie flatter when criss-crossed over the boot.
Runner- the lower-most interface between the skate and the ice; may be made of metal or bone. When a runner is made of bone it does not so much cut into the ice as glide across it.
Scroll- a finish applied to the end of a curl that enhances its aesthetic appeal. Can take the shape of a single large curl, a tight curl, reverse curl, multiple curls etc.
Shank- translated from the Dutch word, ‘schenkel’, a bone skate. Originated when the vertical shank bones of cows and horses were used horizontally to glide upon. Later, when metal skates appeared, ‘schenkel’, (shank in English) continued to be used to refer to runners or blades.
Skate- 1. in antique skates, a synonym for ‘blade’ when the term, ‘blade’ refers specifically to the metal portion of the apparatus that cuts into the ice. 2. another term for runner. 3. in modern skates, the entire piece of equipment including the runner, wooden platform, boot and/or bindings.
(Morticed) Slots- the horizontal holes cut through the platform through which straps may pass. There are usually two or three slots- sometimes four- toe, (instep if used) and heel.
Sole- in modern skates, the lower, hard part of the boot. Originally made of leather, now usually made of plastic.
Spike- each individual saw-toothed edge projection at the toe end of the runner, either singularly or within a set of toe picks.
Spike(d) Skate- translated from the Dutch, ‘prikschaatsen’, a runner with one (only) saw-tooth edge projecting from the toe of the runner to facilitate gripping the ice. Runners with a spike are the indirect forerunners of runners with toe picks.
Spikes- two or three small spikes arranged across the platform in the ball of the foot area to prevent slippage of the front of the foot
Stanchions- vertical supports between the runner or mount and the platform (footstock) or sole of the boot. Stanchions raise the wearer’s foot and terminate in a plate that provides the attachment to the platform or boot.
Straps- lengths of leather, rope or braided fabric that wrap through the slots or are attached to the sides of the platform with nails.
Step Down- when the wood in the heel is cut away lower than the rest of the platform to accommodate higher heeled shoes.
Toe Pick(s)- a set of outward and/or downward saw-tooth edge projections at the toe end of the blade that facilitate gripping the ice, particularly for balancing on the spot, some pushing movements and jumping.
Tubular (Tube) Skates- have tubular mounts made of hollow aluminium or steel into which the blade is fitted. Found in hockey or speed skates.