Making Great Ice: Did you scrape?

So your final flood is done, but did you remember to scrape before you put it on?

Flooded, pebbled, scraped and level: great ice made by the author. (Photo Jamie Bourassa)

That last scrape will do two things: it will take down any minor high spots, as well as take anything off the ice that crept in during all the floods. Before you start to prepare your ice for play, give it a quick scrape again to take care of any solid particles that accumulated on the ice when you were flooding.  Once you have done that, mop up any water and get ready to level the surface out.  Yes, I said level it out.  Even though ice will seek its own level, that doesn’t mean it is flat. When ice freezes, it will expand about 9 percent.  A good example of this is ice cube trays in the fridge.  If you take them out and look at them, you will see two things.  One, if you use domestic water, there will be a film on the ice.  This is caused by all the particles in the water coming to the surface. The same thing happens to your curling ice if you don’t use some sort of treated water.  The other thing you will notice is a crown in the centre of the ice cube (if it was lying flat in the freezer).  This is caused by expansion as the water freezes.  The same thing happens to your curling ice, which brings up a whole series of variations. In Western Canada, most of our clubs have dividers between the sheets. When flooding the sheets is completed, most will have a high centre.  Before scrapers were so prevalent, high centres were very common – not because of the tape down the middle but because of how the sheets of ice freeze.  In the East, it is more common to have no dividers.  There will still be a spot on the ice that is high, normally between the middle two sheets where there’s an even number, or in the middle of the middle sheet with an odd number.  If dividers extend only part way down, to the hog lines, then the high spot will vary down the sheet.  You will have to find out where these are. Now, back to scraping. With our initial scrapes, we are trying to fill in the low spots and cut down the high spots.  You need to double pebble your sheet with the coarsest pebble head you have.  Use cold water, not hot.  Be aggressive in the middle and always do the same pattern on one side of the sheet as you do on the other.  Once you have gone through your pattern, clean and mop the sheet and repeat the process using a different pattern.  Don’t be afraid to be aggressive when scraping. The most common problem I see is icemakers not taking enough off.  It is very hard to over-scrape. The ice will become so hard that the blade won’t cut any more off.  Continue to double pebble and scrape, changing your patterns so you don’t create a run. When your ice is flat and you are scraping off the majority of the new pebble every time, you are ready to prepare the ice for curling. Every club should have at least two blades for their scrapers, and busy clubs even more.  Always check your blade before you start scraping and let it cool down before the next scrape. Good luck in getting your ice ready. Next time, we will cover scraping patterns and pebbling.