Ask anyone who's sharpened skates professionally, and they will tell you that it's an art form. I worked in a hockey store for most of my teenage years, and even after all that time, I was constantly learning new techniques. Sparx aims to allow people to sharpen their own skates right in their home with perfect results every single time, saving a trip to the local hockey shop.
This isn't the first device designed to deliver skate maintenance in the home, but most devices are designed to maintain and extend an existing sharpening. Sparx, on the other hand, is designed to remove the hockey store from the equation and allow players to sharpen their skates on their own. All of the processes that require skill and practice are automated with Sparx, which means anyone can do it.
An important matter of preference for any hockey player is the radius of hollow, which is the depth of the blade. With traditional sharpeners, the person doing the sharpening sets the grinding wheel to the correct radius, but with Sparx, the user simply pops the machine open and changes the wheel to one specifically designed for that radius. Everything from almost flat to very deep is available, so players can get one that suits their needs. Additionally, the creators promise that each grinding wheel will sharpen between 30 and 50 pairs of skates before it needs to be changed, and wheels sells for US$49.
Centering and manually moving the skate at the correct speed is the main challenge behind sharpening skates, and with Sparx, that's not a problem anymore. The user simply places the skate in the clamp – where it's properly centered automatically – and presses go. The device will move the skate back and forth at the correct speed and deliver an ideal sharpening.
When you go to a hockey store, you'll usually find the skate sharpener in a separate room because of dust created from grinding down metal. With that in mind, the creators included a HEPA filtration system that captures dust and keeps it from flying around the room. This means it can be used in any room in the house, and not just tucked away in a garage or basement. Additionally, all of the moving parts are tucked inside the machine, so parents don't need to worry about their kids touching something they shouldn't.
For figure skates, the designers plan to introduce an adapter that will allow the machine to sharpen them, but it's not available at the time of this writing. Instead, they promise that it will be available around the time that the first Sparx units begin shipping.
Russell Layton, the creator of Sparx, is seeking funding on Kickstarter. The project has already passed its US$60,000 goal. Backers who would like to preorder a Sparx can do so for a minimum pledge of $599 with an estimated delivery date in November 2015.
The Kickstarter pitch video below provides more information on the Sparx system.