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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DIY big kid customization PART II: Installing roller skate plates

This is part two of a series on roller skate plates. Normally I like to include all info on a single topic into one blog post but this topic is just too detailed and I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone. Part one talked about plates, sizing and different ways to mount them. Part two I’m going to share my own experience in mounting my plates, as well as how to adjust DA45 trucks that have an adjustable pivot pin.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing what I did. It seemed to work but there may be some blatant errors in my methods. Any experts out there? Please correct me so I can keep the info accurate for others!

Things you’ll need

  • Plates
  • Mounting Hardware
  • Cushions
  • Screwdriver
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Pencil/marker
  • Skate tool
  • Additional wrenches that fit your hardware (may vary depending on your plate model)
  • Drill and drill bit (Bit should be sized appropriately according to the plate manufacturer’s directions)
  • Something to trim the bolts after installation. Dremmel, bolt saw thingy of some sort
  • Rag
  • New laces (you’re taking apart your skates so you may as well replace your laces)
  • A friend to help you and for moral support

Step 1: Take apart your skates

Take off all your laces, tape, toe stops, wheels and hangers until you’re left with an empty plate. Save your cushions if you want to use them on your new plates. You can read more about how to take apart your skates here.

Step 2: Trace the outline of your existing plate

I was a virgin at all this so I decided the more markings on my skate to help centre my new plate, the better. I just used a pencil.

After everything’s removed, you can outline your existing plates.

Step 3: Remove the plate

Using whatever tools needed (I needed a screwdriver and skate tool) remove the plate from your skate. Make sure you take note of positions of washers, etc. because you’ll be installing similar hardware back on in the same fashion.

To get to the toe hardware inside the boot, shift the base of the boot tongue to the side to expose the hardware.

Once everything is removed, give the bottom of your boot a cleaning; careful not to erase your pencil lines.

I used a screwdriver and skate tool to remove the plate

Dirty and gross. Use this opportunity to clean them up!

Step 3a: Fill in your old holes

I didn’t do this step but in the articles below there are some suggestions as to what to use to fill them in. But I’ve heard a hot glue gun will work or any other adhesive-type material that will fill and harden appropriately.

Step 4: Decide where your axles are going to sit

I literally stood on my new plate wearing my boot (I re-laced my skate for this step) and freely moved my foot around until a) the front axle was positioned near the base of my big toe and then b) shifted slightly until the axles felt in a natural position for my feet.

I strictly went by feel. I sort of bounced and shifted my feet around in my boot so I could see if the axles were in a natural position to easily take off from a jump. Having an extra set of hands at this point is helpful so you can hang onto them if you slide off the unsecured plate and they can mark the positioning of the axles on the side of your boot so you can repositioning it after you mark your centerline.

After I made my axle marks I compared both plate positions on each boot to ensure they were positioned the same (front to back) by measuring the plate position from the back of the heal.

I found one was shifted a little far forward than the other so I marked an average position between the two and then stood on my axles again for a final check.

You may have to do this step several times to find out what front/back position you want your axles in. Try far forward, centre and rear mounts so you can feel the difference. Don’t forget to refer to the references in my first article for info on the different mounts.
**Edited to add: thanks to Steph in the comments section who pointed out there is a ‘left’ and a ‘right’ plate for the Avengers. Check your mounting instructions carefully or check with the manufacturer to ensure you put the right plate on the right foot. (Thankfully I got it right the first time)

Step 5: Determine your boot centerline

I initially tried to use existing markings to determine the centerline for my boots. I had a hell of a time with it. I don’t know if it’s because my skates are well-worn and stretched, or because my right foot is a ½ size bigger than my left, but one skate would always be way off centre compared to the other every time I measured.

So instead, I marked the centre of the heal on both boots, then I put the boots on and marked where the space was between my second toe (next to the big toe) and the third toe. Make sure you lace up your skates for this step so your feet are sitting as they normally would in your boots.

Using a ruler I drew a straight line from the heal centerline to my new front markings. Doing it this way I found the centerlines mirrored each other on the boots.

NOTE: I PAINED over the axle positioning and centering for HOURS. This was easily the hardest part.

After I had them centered to the best of my ability, I found how different my centerlines were from the factory markings. So I was either way off or the factory markings were off. Regardless, I took a deep breath and continued on my brave journey.

Once you think you have your desired position, you can tape your plates to your skate and walk around them on a bit to be sure because once you hit the next step, there is no going back!

You can see by my centerline, it doesn’t match with the factory centre markings. I lined up the front centre with my toes in my boot.

**UPDATE April 18/12 This is Amanda’s advice from the comment section. I wanted to include it as well in my main post because it’s great info… “The easiest way to measure your centre line is to determine where you want your front axles to be. Mark those points and draw a line horizontaly across the boot between them. Measure the centre point of that line and mark it. Draw a line down the sole of the boot from the centre point of the heel to that centre point. That’s your centre line. The centre line will always be different depending on how far forward or back you want to place your front axles.”

RESOURCE

Quadskating.com: How to centre roller skate plates (article)

Step 6: Prepare to drill

This is what I SHOULD have done… positioned the plates according to my markings onto the boot and then wrapped 20 rounds of duct tape all the way around the boot to secure them in place.

But I didn’t.

Afraid to ruin my beautiful leather boot, I loosely taped the plate in place to use as a guide for drilling, confident of my drilling abilities.

On my first attempt at drilling through the bottom of the boot, the plate came loose and wiggled everywhere and forced me to stop and reposition the plate again.

So don’t do that. I should have learned from that mistake and super-taped the plate on the boot.

Instead I opted to mark the holes with a pen and drill the holes without the plate in place.

If any of you handy-er derby girls have a workbench with a vice to hold your skate in place, that’s most helpful. I did my drilling on the living room floor holding the skate with my free hand.

Going slow and steady, I managed to drill all the holes. However, with my lack of skill and experience, I realized my drilling wasn’t completely accurate and my holes were off.

Drilling for plates isn’t like installing Ikea furniture where you have a little wiggle room a 1/16 of an inch on either side of your mark.

Well crap.

Step 7: Mounting the plates on the boot

Luckily my drilling wasn’t TOO far off and I was able to muscle my plates onto the bolts I inserted into the boots. We’ll see if this slight adjustment will have any long-term effects on my skates, but I think I only have about 10 months of life left in these boots anyway.

I ended up using the bolts from my previous plates as they were exactly the same as the new bolts that were provided and they fit into the new plates. As a result I didn’t have to track down something to trim the ends of the bolts as manufacturers supply super-long mounting hardware that will need to be cut after installation.

Once I inserted the bolts into the boots I realized that some of the inner sole was going to have to be trimmed out so the bolt would recess easier to be flush so it wouldn’t dig into my foot.

As a test, I fully tightened one bolt and while the bolt did some work at removing the sole as it was recessing, there was still lots of debris in there to keep me from getting the bolt fully flush.

So I grabbed a little knife and carved a small portion of sole material out immediately surrounding each hole inside my boot.

That seemed to help and I continued tightening the hardware on each skate until it was tight and the heads were flush inside my boot.

RESOURCES

Quadskating.com? Drilling roller skate plate mounting holes (article)

Sin City Skates: DIY Plate Mounting (PDF)

Step 8: Admire your big kid customization

I was mentally exhausted after this process and immediately vowed to never do it again. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind and try to tackle it again.

So pretty!

Step 9: Put everything back together

Now you can put on your NEW hangers, wheels and toe stops and do your final tweaking of the action of your skates.

Depending on your plate, you will need to figure out your new tightness for your trucks and, in the case of my new plates, adjust your pivot pin. My old nylon plates merely had the trucks seated within the pivot cup. The new plates allowed me to adjust how deep the pivot pin sits within the cup.

It’s not a hard adjustment to do, but difficult to explain. So check out these articles and videos on how to adjust your plates!

Leadjammer Skates: Pivot pin adjustment (article)

Create-A-Skate.com: Improperly adjusted pivot pin can cost you a king pin (article)

Adjusting the action of your skates

Final results!

I’ve been skating on the new setup for about a month now and I really love them! I think I’m going to have to play more with the truck action because these new plates are super-responsive so I don’t necessarily have to have the trucks loose for more turning action. If I can tighten my trucks and still maintain good turning power, it will give me more overall stability.

The weight of the plates feel no different from my previous set and I’m finding I’m a bit lighter on my feet (due to the change in positioning of the axles under my feet? Maybe!)

And the white plates look really cool 😀

That’s my plate-change journey! Questions, comments or advice? Please post in replies! I found the biggest challenge was finding a single article with all the information I need to do this process so I’m hoping to add to update these posts as more info becomes available! Share! Share! Share!

As requested in the comments section, here is a bottom photo of my mounted plate…

20120215-072227.jpg

DIY big kid customization PART I: Selecting roller skate plates

This is part one of a series on roller skate plates. Normally I like to include all info on a single topic into one blog post but this topic is just too detailed and I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with a massive post. Part one is going to talk about plates, sizing and different ways to mount them. Part two I talk about my own experience in mounting my plates, as well as how to adjust DA45 trucks that have an adjustable pivot pin.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing what I researched. There may be some blatant errors in my info. Any experts out there? Please correct me so I can keep the info accurate for others!

Not being able to afford a new set of boots and plates and my existing boots still in decent shape, I decided to just upgrade my plates. As CRDA skater Negative Nancy told me, (paraphrased) skating is much easier when you’re not fighting with your equipment. And it’s true! After many truck adjustments and changing cushions, I felt still really weighed down by my skates. It was time to try something new.

So I ordered these babies.

Sure Grip Magnesium Avengers

This is the first post of what is going to be a shit-tonne of information. I found this whole ordeal of selecting and installing my plates pretty exhausting and even now, over a month since taking on the task, I’m not sure if I would do it again.

I found I had to do a lot of research and glean information from here and there, because selecting plates and how you mount them is an extremely individual choice!

Should you get new plates?

If you’re wanting to upgrade your skates but not wanting to shell out for a whole new package, it’s a great way to save some money. It’s a personal choice, really. But for me, I felt my skates were limiting me a bit. I wanted to turn harder and faster and they just weren’t cooperating with me; hence my decision to change.

The plates I chose are double-action 45 degree trucks, which means 2 cushions per axle and the kingpins are at a 45 degree angle. This model also has an adjustable pivot pin, which allows a bit more tweaking of your skates. I’ve never skated on anything but 15 degree in derby and borrowed another skater’s 45 degree setup to make sure I didn’t hate them. After skating on them I decided to do more research before making my purchase.

Luckily I like to read on the interwebs and I found some articles that talk about the kinds of plates that are available and their pros and cons. It’s important to analyze what your current setup is NOT doing for you and then try and find a product that fits what you want. Read. Read. Read. Better yet, ask to borrow skates that have a different setup from your own to get a feel for the difference.

For me, weight was a huge issue so I had to find a lightweight plate model. I also wanted to stop fighting with my cornering and I read that 45 degree trucks allow you to turn with less force. So the Sure Grip Magnesium Avengers were a great fit for me

Here’s some articles about plates and trucks to help you get started on your research…

Plates in Brief

Sure Grip: Plates? (PDF)

Anatomy 101: Skate Plates (article)

Leadjammer Skates: What’s all this noise about plates (article)

Quadskating.com: Quad roller skate trucks (article)

Sin City Skates: 45 Degree Kingpins (PDF)

What size of plates do I order?

I wanted to go to a short forward mount, which was to give better response, agility and maneuverability. I thought I was ordering the right size for such a mount, but then after receiving my plates I realized I should have gone one size smaller. Again, you have to do your research to figure out what size of plate is best for the kind of mount you want to do.

In the end I think it turned out well though because if I did go a size smaller, it would have handicapped my skating for a longer period.

The manufacturer of your plate should have a handy-dandy chart on what size plate to order based on your skate size. Look for ‘plate specification’ documents for info like that, as per this example.

What’s short forward, you ask?

Essentially you are ordering a plate that’s a size smaller from what you would normally skate and then you mount them closer to the front of your boot so the front axle is more forward of the ball of your foot (base of your big toe). It forces you to stay on the balls of your feet more and better turn radius because your wheels are closer together.

I’ve also read that it allows more power when pushing.

WARNING! This setup is not for new skaters as there is more empty space at your heal with this setup, meaning if you aren’t always weighted forward, you will not have your wheels at the back of your heal to catch you if you lean back.

Even though I didn’t order the right size plate, I decided to do the short forward mount as best I could with what I had.

RESOURCES

Quadskating.com: Where to mount roller skate plates (article)

Green Wheels Magazine: Skate Plates (article)

Derbylife.com: Ask An Expert: Plate Mounting – Short/Forward vs Standard Mounting (article)

Make your purchase!

The good news is if you make a mistake and hate your new plates, you will likely have a market to sell them within your league. But if you do your research thoroughly, I bet you’ll pick the right ones!

Make sure you double-check what the seller supplies with the plates, especially if you’re buying them used. Make sure that cushions and mounting hardware are included and if it isn’t, purchase the appropriate kits to complete the set!

Check back for Part II where I share my (stressful) experience of mounting my own plates.

Jumble Jam

Hi readers. A lot has been happening the last couple weeks so here’s a jumble of thoughts and things that’s been going on.

Last game of 2011

At December 3rd’s bout in Medicine Hat our team came out with a win which was so amazing. While our first half was a little inconsistent, during the second half our entire team meshed and things we have been working on so hard came to fruition. Watching jam after jam, every play was executed in textbook format. It was a beautiful thing and I was so proud of everyone.

The crappy thing, well for me, about that game is that I pulled myself out after the first half. I took a nasty blow to the back of the head at the end of the first half which resulted in another skater falling over my head. For the curious, you can see it below. (Jam starts at the 42:00 mark, crash happens just after the 43:00 mark)

At the time of the hit I remember thinking that my neck doesn’t bend like that, even on a good day and at half-time I was met with shakey knees, dizzines and nausea. After getting checked out by the EMTs and chatting with my coaches, I decided it wasn’t worth risking a second blow and further injury.

It was a good decision as the ride home was rough and I could barely move the next day. After a visit to the doctor, it was determined I didn’t have a concussion (whew!) but had a pretty nasty case of whiplash. X-Rays for precaution and a few chiropractic and massage appointments later and I’m feeling next-to-my-old-self. In my follow up my chiro didn’t notice anymore swelling in my neck and he’s given the okay to do some light contact.

Crosby’s off skates again

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins has suffered a setback from his head injury, which happened in January. He made his return to game play in November but announced yesterday post-concussion symptoms have returned and he’s now out indefinitely.

I just have to say what an amazing role model he is for professional and amateur athletes, contact sports in particular. I’ve seen my peers in roller derby skate with concussions, broken noses and the like. I have to admit, I get why they do it.

For one, it’s hard to pull yourself out of a sport you love so much. It’s also hard to pull yourself out because in many leagues, you’re competing for a roster position with all the other skaters. If you pull out, will you be considered a ‘wimp?’ I know it crossed my mind with my recent incident.

Whether we like it or not, the pressure to perform for your team is there at the amateur level. And I’m sure there are many who still have the view that if you don’t have an ankle dangling from the bone or blood pouring from your face, you should be contributing. Concussions are invisible, as are many other injuries one can acquire in roller derby. Those with that kind of mindset are not only putting themselves at risk, but others who are around them as their focus and skill will not be 100%. Even if they put themselves back into the game with the best intentions, they become a liability skating injured.

But Crosby is changing people’s view on such injuries, showing it’s okay to take time off, get better and you CAN come back just as strong if you stay dedicated to a plan to make yourself get better. Even off skates, he’s an amazing ambassador to sport… ALL sports… and I hope amateur coaches and players take notice.

Skating with an injury is just dumb.

Gear talk

Old & new kneepads. I was most surprised how the exterior protective cap was stretched out.

New kneepads!

Speaking of injuries, I FINALLY replaced by kneepads. I honestly thought I could maybe get a couple more months out of my old ones. But looking at them side-by-side I can see now how horribly stretched out and compacted they were.

Admittedly, I added some foam of my own inside my old pads to try and extend the life. It actually worked okay and I got 1.5 years out of them.

*DISCLAIMER Don’t do what I did. It was stupid and could of horribly backfired. I’m not going to try and extend the life of my kneepads by inserting foam ever again.

New plates!

During my week off skates I decided to give my skates some TLC. So I pulled ALL the tape off of them and I gave them some love. But it was also to give them a good inspection to see if I could get another year out of the boots.

Giving some love. I had A LOT of layers of tape on my babies. I don't remember the last time they were neeked.

Minor repairs aside, they’re still doing okay, but I’ve been saving some pennies in anticipation for an upgrade so I’ve decided to get some new plates.

Sure Grip Magnesium Avenger with 45 degree DA45 trucks.

Pretty, right? These magnesium babies are lightweight and the trucks have 45 degree double-action stuff on it. The axles are closer together than my previous pair and I’m excited on how this will change my footwork and derby stance. (I’ll have to lean more forward and the shorter axle distance means tighter turning)

What’s great about roller skates is that you can take them apart, so if I decide to get new boots next year, I can take these plates off and attach them to the new boots. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures when I do the install. I hope they come soooon!

Less than 20 days until the end of my year of fitness goals!

I’m excited to be compiling info in anticipation of a wrap-up post for my year of fitness goals. Having to take time off for my injury has made me feel incredibly behind with exercise and diet, but yesterday I hit up the gym once again and it was like I never left! It felt great and I’m almost ready for another weight increase. And I’m ridiculously excited to write some new goals for 2012 which will include some serious muscle-building and change in diet.

Watching the skaters at the Blood and Thunder World Cup also inspired me. It’s so exciting to think many who were there competing at a national level were where I was only a few years ago. As a result, focusing on my head game and adding more skills to my tool box that I can pull out instinctually are on my list. I’ve contributed two years as a board member to the league, so I’m also looking at possibly backing down from that so I can focus more on my skating. I think that will help a lot.

****

Thems my jumbly thoughts! I’d love to hear what you think about the pressure to play injured (Have you had pressure to do it?) or any new goals, gear, etc that you’re racing towards for the end of 2011!

Until next time, readers! ❤