Meet John Oudt, inventor of the Sharp Master
A handy sized tool for sharpening skates
John Oudt felt there should be a faster, easier and better way to sharpen skates, which would also be accessible to people who do not sharpen skates on a daily basis. He did not think the old-fashioned skate sharpening jig met those criteria, so he invented and designed the Sharp Master, a handy sized tool for both sharpening and deburring. His invention gained him a place in the SME Innovation Top 100 of the well-known Dutch business magazine ‘Bizz’. The following is a translation of the full article as published in 2009. Back then, the Sharp Master was still very much a new and relatively unknown product. Nowadays, thousands of Dutch skaters rely on the Sharp Master for best skate sharpening results.
In the 1970s, the name of John Oudt was a familiar one in the world of skating. He was one of the top ten Dutch skaters until he threw in the towel in 1979. “I didn’t skate for the next fifteen years.” He stayed in contact with his favourite sport by becoming a race starter. When a number of veterans from the local skating club challenged him in 1994, Oudt put his skates back on. “I have never stopped skating since then.”
Sharpening skates involves too much ‘jumble’
As time progressed, Oudt became increasingly interested in the equipment involved in the sport. In fact, he was one of the first to try clap skates, and perfected and manufactured them for the firm of Zandstra. Over time , one thing that started to bother him was the fact that he “was lugging too much jumble around” whenever he went skating. Take, for example, the sharpening jig that was used to sharpen the skate blades. “It is an incredibly clumsy jig. Besides, the jig and inexperienced sharpeners don’t go well together at all. I wanted to make something that would be easier to use.”
A pocket sized skate sharpener
The idea came to him when he was playing around with the diamond plate, and, a little later, with some magnets. “It occurred to me that it ought to be possible to use the magnets as guides that glide along the blade, while keeping the diamond plate in position to sharpen the blade.” The Sharp Master weighs approximately 6.35 oz. It has a handy sized design very similar to a computer mouse, which makes it easy to take along in a jacket pocket during a pleasure ride or a lap around the track. “Every skater is a potential customer. At the moment, the sharpening tool is being sold in 35 shops specialising in sporting and skating goods, but it can also be ordered on the internet.”
Professional users are excited
Oudt started developing the Sharp Master about four years ago, but was unable to market it until January 2007. “I had to wait for the patent, so I could not possibly disclose my ideas earlier. Of course, by the time it hit the market, I had tested it extensively myself. In December 2006, I was starter at a race. Jacques de Koning, a member of the technical commission and a very critical man, saw the sharpening tool and was immediately impressed. He wanted one for his son, who is a sprinter, straight away.” Although many users are excited about Oudt’s invention, the Sharp Master is still in need of more carefully targeted marketing. “Sure, we advertised in shops and skating magazines over the last year, but that wasn’t as big a success* as we had hoped. There is more potential, and at the moment we are cooperating with SenterNovem to get the most out of it.”
* When the managing director of WebGenerator, a well known Dutch web design agency, read the above article there was no doubt in his mind that the Sharp Master would be an ideal product to sell online. He contacted John and together they set up SharpMaster.nl, a webshop targetting The Netherlands. WebGenerator takes care of all necessary web technology and John handles all orders and shipping – yes, he actually takes care of your order himself! The webshop was launched in 2009 and has sold thousands of Sharp Masters in Holland to date. In 2013, responding to numerous requests from interested skaters all around the world, a second webshop was launched to introduce this typical Dutch quality product internationally.