How to fix the toe stop threads in your roller skate plate

While toe stops are not required equipment on a skate, having a toe stop pop out and not realizing it during a game, often leaves the skater with comical falls and a couple of failed attempts to get up until they realize it has happened. If you’ve ever had a toe stop pop out of your plate during a game, it can sometimes do some serious damage to the threads of your toe stop and within your plate.

This happened to me at my last game. Luckily, because of my homemade toe covers, my toe stop did not bounce all over the track on its escape from my plate. It stayed with me and flopped around limply at the end of my cover. If you want to see how my covers kept my toe stop from becoming a hazard on the track, check out my post on making your own toe covers.

Depending on your plate, you either use a wrench or hex key to tighten your toe stops into your plate

Depending on your plate, you either use a wrench or hex key to tighten your toe stops into your plate

There can be a couple reasons why your toe stops fail. One is you didn’t tighten them enough. I’m not a fan of the small toe stop tools skaters often carry around because you can’t get enough torque with the small handles. I like using full-size wrenches or a hex key with a vice grip to help ensure their tightness so they won’t jiggle loose with the bumps and friction skating brings.

The other reason is your toe stop may be near the end of its life and you’ve turned it out too far out for the stem to support your weight and activity. RollerGirl.ca created a great video talking about this very thing. Check it out below.

Looking inside, you can see the damaged threads

Looking inside, you can see the damaged threads

I suspect the later is what happened in my instance because the damage appears to be only about a 3/8” down into my plate. Plus during the game I was forcing the toe stop back in and re-tightening so I could keep playing. (You don’t realize how much you use your toe stops until one is gone.) So there was a lot of damage in the first few threads as a result.

Instead of shelling out hard earned dollars for new plates, you can attempt to fix the damage by using a tap and die set. The tool will allow you to fix your plate AND your toe stop, if you think you still have life left in the toe stop and want to keep using it.

Calling in help from a handy friend who has handy tools, I set off to do a DIY fix.

Before you try and fix it yourself…

Contact the shop where you bought your plates to see if the damage can be repaired or the plate replaced under warranty. If not, and you’re lucky enough to have a roller skate shop in your local town that does repairs, I would bring it to the experts first! Your skates are an investment and not something to mess around with!

What you need…

set

A tap and die set

Someone you can borrow tools from, which  include:

  • A vice to hold your skate and toe stop (I suspect you could have a friend hold your skate with a wrench, but it would be tricky)
  • A tap and die set containing a 5/8” with 18 NF tap and die. This is the toe stop stem size and the thread size. *These sets are expensive. This is where having a handy friend is… handy! Or you may be able to buy individual bits at your local hardware store.
  • WD-40 or oil

Because I had never done tapping or die-ing before, I found a great video (below) that explains the process. The video starts out showing how to re-thread a bolt, which would be the equivalent of fixing the threads on your toe stop stem. Then he shows how to tap a nut, which would be the equivalent of tapping the female portion of the toe stop on your plate. It’s a great resource and he explains the process very well.

The video also talks about a thread pitch gauge, which you don’t need to worry about, as I’ve listed the thread size above. But if you ever need to rethread your plate hangers or any other bolt around the house, that is the tool you would use to figure out the pitch of those threads.

As my friend was helping me fix my plates, I took some photos so you can get an idea of the process…

This is the tap. It is used to cut the female portion of the threads. AKA inside your plate.

This is the tap. It is used to cut the female portion of the threads. AKA inside your plate.

With the skate in the vice, be sure to insert the tap exactly square so you don't cut into the threads crooked.

With the skate in the vice, be sure to insert the tap exactly square so you don’t cut into the threads crooked. Work the tool back and forth to clean out the damage.

Before and after tapping.

Before and after tapping.

Using the die tool on the toe stop stem

Using the die tool on the toe stop stem

The fix took about a half hour and after watching my friend do the job, I’d be pretty confident to take on the task if I had to do it again (if he lets me borrow his workshop).

Have you had to go through the process of re-threading your plates or toe stops? I would love to hear your experience or any further tips and tricks you can share!

UPDATE Sept. 12, 2013 – after skating on the re-threaded plates I’ve noticed my toe stops aren’t able to stay in tight with just the hex key adjustment (applicable for the Avenger plates). So I’ve had to add a washer and nut at the base of my plate to help hold it in there. So while I have extended the life of my plates with this fix, it’s not perfect. Re-threading will make that connection looser than what it once was – something I was initially worried about when I set out to do this DIY and now confirmed.

Available at auto supply stores, like Canadian Tire

Available at auto supply stores, like Canadian Tire

ANOTHER TIP: Grand Poohbah wrote in the comments below to add white lithium to your toe stop threads to prevent corrosion and to help avoid them getting misthreaded or seizing up. He also reminds us to not put our toe guards in between the plate and the nut of your toe stop as the toe guard material will compress and the nut will not sufficiently lock down your stopper. See below for his full explanation. Great tips!

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Guest post: Nine things I’ve learned in roller derby – year one

I’m pleased to welcome teammate and guest poster Gnome Stompsky who wanted to share her experiences and insights about roller derby with you! Read on and feel free to comment and share your thoughts and experiences!!!

Stompsky (centre) holds back a jammer with help from Belt-Her Face (right) and Molly Mulisha. Photo by league photographer, ISO Foto Studios

Stompsky (centre) holds back a jammer with help from Belt-Her Face (left) and Molly Mulisha (right). Photo by league photographer, ISO Foto Studios

By Stompsky

It’s been a little over a year since I started taking derby seriously. During that time,  I’ve gone from being a rookie to I guess what one would call an intermediate skater. In jotting down these notes, I am hoping new skaters will read them and think about the months ahead of them. I suppose too my audience is people considering derby as a sport, or those who might be questioning whether they want to keep putting in the time. It is helpful to know what to expect, and it is also helpful to know that every skater is constantly working to improve, and that none of it comes easily to most mortals.

    1. I have watched lots of people improve faster than me with less work put into it. This is frustrating, but ok. I think it is fair to say that I haven’t improved as a skater as fast as I would want to, or maybe as fast as other people have, but I am learning that my pace is my pace. This is a good thing to learn. The other nice thing to learn is that roller derby is patient, and will wait for you as you take your sweet, incompetent, uncoordinated, unfit time. People are nice in roller derby, and they understand it takes hard work to get better. Nobody grew up playing this sport. Nobody expects anything from you right away, and you aren’t expected to be an immediate expert. No one else is counting the weeks or the number of practices or the number of bouts like you are – and they are not wondering why you aren’t better than you are. Only you are wondering this. Everyone else just sees that you are trying and has respect for you because of that.
    2. I have not yet had that moment where roller derby “clicks” for me. They say it happens, but it hasn’t happened to me yet. In the meantime, I feel like I struggle with  something new at every practice. Every bout is a disappointment – not just in small ways, but as a totality of the experience. And yet, I keep doing it, so it can’t be that bad. Sure, I have been recognized by my peers as doing ok-fine (a couple of MVPs and suchlike) – but honestly, I don’t see it yet, and I still don’t think I really earned any of those recognitions. I still have not had any roller derby experience  – not one practice, certainly not one game  – where I felt like I owned it. What I am saying is that roller derby is hard and takes time. Frustration is the biggest challenge to overcome. It is a testament to how much fun the sport is that I continue to try to overcome it, and I don’t let it drive me away.
    3. I am my own worst enemy, and the only way to overcome that is hard work. From Kim Janna at a rookie camp last year, to Carmen Getsome at a boot camp, to 8meanWheeler at a scrimmage in Pitt Meadows this year, to pretty much every scrimmage/ bout bench coach, to fellow skaters, everyone who knows more than I do about roller derby and has watched me play or even practice says the same thing: you think too much, you hesitate, you’re unsure of yourself. And then they tell me to “keep skating” – in other words, they think I might have it in me to be a pretty good roller derby player but that time is not now, not yet, maybe not ever ’cause I’m actually getting too old. I have decided that this means that confidence is not faked, or at least I cannot fake it. I am either good at something or I am not. So in order to overcome my hesitation, I just need to be genuinely good at it. This takes time. Most things in my life come fairly easily to me, but this is not one. My second-year derby goal is to lose my hesitations.
    4. We are athletes, and we need to treat each other and ourselves as such. I did not know, when I joined derby, how much cross-training I would come to want to do, or how it would motivate me to set and attain off-track goals like running, weight lifting, or changes to my diet (I am just coming around to the fact that I need to eat more if I want to do this sport). Derby is teaching me a respect for myself that I never really had before – to treat myself to the dignity of a good diet, of decent sleep, of regular and intense exercise. This is what spoiling yourself looks like in my world, and I am starting to learn how to do it. I suspect treating myself in such a manner has had spillover effects on my mental acuity, ability to concentrate on work, and ability to focus on my kids.
    5. If you want to play roller derby, you have to show up. To practice, to boot camp, to other teams’ practices, to your own cross-training, to help with track set-up. Time on your feet is what matters.
    6. Roller derby’s cultural aspects are usually awesome and hilarious, but almost none of the performative counter-cultural aspects matter on the track. If derby’s badassery is what attracted you, or the weird outfits or the funny names, that is great. But know that the sport is a sport. And, if I may, I think it’s important to have some respect for the sport, and as an extension of that, for ourselves as women. So think about that, is all. Wear whatever you want and call yourself whatever you like, but think about it a little bit first. I want to be clear that I think having a conversation with society via what we wear is important, and derby does that it spades – our sport yells at people with a beautiful cacophony of performance.  I will probably weep if the day ever comes that I see White Trash Flash trading in her big-bird-lookin’ yellow fuzzy leg warmers for a pair of pivotstar leggings. Diversity is the best thing ever, and all sports is performance anyway. But we are women. Let’s be smart about our reality and the conversations we are having. This topic is super complicated, but probably what I am saying is “Back Alley BJ” is not a really great choice for a derby name.
    7. Roller derby’s true countercultural contribution is its relatively sophisticated approach to feminist praxis. I would argue it is the western world’s first feminist sport. Feminist philosophers/thinkers/intellectuals in academia talk a lot about ‘praxis’ – essentially putting ideas into practice. The ideas derby puts into practice every day, in no particular order:
      a) integration of different body types into athletic activity and sports performance and therefore into what our culture sees as ‘strong’ or ‘beautiful’;
      b) integration of lesbian/queer sexuality as a matter of course, not a matter of “tolerance”;
      c) doing it yourself, collectively, and pretty much non-hierarchically (bout production, fundraising, administration, coaching);
      d) upsetting traditional and/or unhelpful ideas about female “respectability” and “femininity”;
      e) dudes playing the sport as  equals to women, and men playing supportive roles in a women’s sport as women have done for men for generations;
      f) the men’s sport being as open to gay/queer sexuality as the women’s sport (I am told this is the case, and it makes me very proud of my sport when I hear it);
      g) upsetting the idea that women can’t work together or productively on projects of common interest, that women cannot work together because they are too ‘catty’ or ‘gossipy’ – if this patriarchal lie were true, derby wouldn’t be one of the world’s fastest growing sports;
      h) understanding that the best players are thus because they help others improve at the sport – a true commitment to the collective project through individual excellence. This latter point, I think, might be less obvious to outsiders than the others. Yes, derby has some irritating egos strutting around – but honestly, not much. The very best players – the ones who are truly our sport’s finest – are the ones who teach, who help others, and who give back and grow the sport by building up other good players. The tension between the individual and the collective is always present in anything we do, but what strikes me as most different between derby and other sports is the emphasis on individual excellence being tied to one’s contribution to the collective good.  This is why I can attend a Red Deer Belladonnas practice with some of the best players in Alberta, compared to whom I am a total yutz, and they welcome me, and maybe only one or two of them make fun of me behind my back (that’s a joke). No but seriously, there is something deeply right with a sport when you can show up to practice with some of its most elite players, have that be completely open to you as an intermediate skater with 18 months of experience, and have people support you, give you feedback, and genuinely want you to succeed. Derby is imbued with an ethic – at least it is now, it might change – that when others get good, it is good for our sport and good for everyone. It is not a threat. Good players want other good players to play with and against, and they want their sport to be as awesome as it can be.
    8. Is derby perfect? No. It remains overwhelmingly white, class-privileged (due to, I think, the time it takes and the cost), and it is hard for women raising families as lone parents to participate, though not impossible. Derby in other jurisdictions, as I understand it, has struggled with transgender inclusivity as well, though what I’ve seen in my own experience has been pretty progressive on the topic, and certainly better than other women’s sports.  Could we do better recruitment, could we think more critically about how we support players of different backgrounds? Probably. But the building blocks as a different kind of women’s sport – I would argue, the western world’s first feminist sport – are all there. If you think about your involvement in derby as an expression of some pretty radical values, I think you’ll get more out of your experience.
    9. Skate hard. Turn left. Hit people. Derby love.
    10. -Gnome Stompsky, #4746, Deathbridge Derby Dames