Ski tuning for the determined do-it-yourselfer
December 7, 2006
We’ve written several times about prepping skis and boards for the season. Several readers have asked for details. Basically, all you do is take off the old wax and add new. Simple as that. But it isn’t that simple, and if there are any doubts about the ski release bindings working, it’s best to have a ski shop test them. In the old wooden ski days, most skiers did their own waxing. Now, few recreational skiers do that. Too much fuss, most say. Well, a well-waxed ski or board is about 30 percent easier to turn. You don’t wax just for speed; you wax for easier turning. So here’s the program in a digest version.
• If available, use two vises to hold the ski in place (tough to do with a snowboard). Place the ski so that you don’t have to bend over too far to work on it.
• Remove the old wax. You can do this with wax remover or with a plastic scraper tool. With the scraper, work from tip to tail, holding the blade at a reasonable angle. This can be messy so don’t do it in the living room over a rug.
• Ski shops apply fresh wax with an electric waxing tool. Most of us get by with an old electric iron. Holding the iron at an angle, stick wax is melted and dribbled on the ski base. You don’t need to cover the entire base with wax; a dribble trail is enough as you will soon melt it over the entire surface of the base. Once you’ve splashed on the wax, go over it again and again to make sure the wax gets into the pores of the P-Tex base. Unfilled pores act as suction cups and slow skis and make them more difficult to turn. Set the ski outdoors for a half hour to let the wax harden.
• Then with the plastic scraper again, go over the bases, tip to tail, scrapping off the new wax. Don’t worry, what you want to stay will stay in those pores. Do this until the surface is smooth and blobs have been flattened. Lots of wax will roll.
• With a straight edge across the base, check for flatness. If the metal edges are high, you’ll be on “rails,” and the skis will be difficult to turn. If the base is higher, you’ll be on “pivots,” which means the ski can wander all over the place. Either of these problems may be beyond your ability to fix; take ’em to a ski shop.
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• For the edges: With a fine file, take out the worst of the nicks. Be careful not to change the bias or angle of the edge as set by the manufacturers; they know what angle works best for their skis.
• Run a finger along the edges. You’ll feel nicks and dings. Remove these first with a diamond stone, then with a gummi, Colorado or Arkansas stone (don’t know which state is best) go over the edges again to take out any striations left by the diamond stone. If you’re really fussy, do this again with silicone carbon paper or a ceramic stone.
That’s it. You might want to pull an old sock over the tip of one ski to keep it from marring the wax job. Or you may just say, “To heck with it; this is what ski shops are for.”