How to Tune a Ski

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This page will teach you all you need to keep your skis (or snowboard) in prime condition.

Steps

  1. Bring the skis in out of the cold. After a long day of skiing, you will want to bring your skis inside to raise them to room temperature. If you proceed to wax a ski while it is still cold, theres a chance that you will bubble the base and create a lot more work for yourself.
  2. Prepare skis for waxing. Once your skis are at room temperature, put the skis on a tuning bench, and secure the skis to it with a vice. Plug in your iron, setting at a temperature appropriate for your wax. Waxes that are used for higher temperatures generally require a lower iron setting than waxes for colder temperatures. If you make the iron too hot, the wax will smoke, and too cold, it wont melt effectively.
  3. Clean skis. After the skis are secure, use a cloth to wipe any remaining liquid or dirt off the base. Follow this by inspecting the ski for any scratches or core shots.
  4. Repair scratches if necessary. If you do not find any deep scratches, then proceed onto step 5, but however if you do then continue reading. If the scratches go all the way down to the metal, they need to be welded, and you should take them in to your shop, if there are lighter scratches that need repairing, then you will need to get a stick of P-Tex, a lighter, and a ski scraper. What you need to do first is light the P-Tex stick, hold the lighter to one end until it is lit like a candle (It will light a little faster if you first whittle the tip into a point). The burning end will begin to drip, you want to just touch this end to the scratch, so that the melted plastic drips off onto the ski. Try not to let the first few drops land on the ski, as they will be burnt and not hold as well. Fill the scratch completely, but do not overload the area, that just makes the next part harder. Wait until the P-Tex is cooled and hard, this shouldnt take more than a few minutes. When it is dry, use the scraper at about a 45 degree angle to scrape off any excess P-Tex until it is as flat as you can get it. It is best to take it to a shop where they can do a full base grind, but doing it yourself will save you a lot of money on smaller scratches.
  5. Edge the skis. The next step in the consuming process of ski tuning is Edging. Although edge angle is personal preference, most skiers use the manufacturers recommended angles which vary by brand from one to three degrees. These are the angles the ski was designed to work at, and unless you have a strong preference as to your own angles, they are probably worth looking up. It doesnt matter which edge you sharpen first, but what you need is a file guide and a file. You can get the files from a ski store for around $10, and although you can freehand your edges without a guide, it works much more effectively to use one. Use a black felt tip marker to draw a line down the edge, and then use the file until the black is completely gone. This allows you to make sure you actually do something to your base, but also so you do not accidentally file too much edge from the ski. Repeat this step for the other side, and once again on the other edge. After you have filed all the edges, wipe any edge fragments from the ski and proceed to use a diamond stone in the same way as you did with the file. However, before using the diamond stone, you must wet it (spit is fine), in order for it to work properly. After your edges are nice and sharp, run the diamond file at about a forty-five degree angle for a few inches at the tips and tails. This will dull the edges here and keep you from catching an edge on the hill, but will keep the edge sharp under your boot where you need it.
  6. Wax the skis. Its finally time to wax your skis. First you must select your wax. To do this, you must look at the upcoming forecast and choose a wax that corresponds with the temperature for that day. It is better to err on the cold side, because if you put on a wax for a higher temperature, your skis will become sticky and wont glide nearly as well on the snow. After you select your wax, apply it generously across the ski by placing the block against the iron and dripping it on. Once you have applied enough wax, "iron" it into your ski, being careful not to stay on one spot for too long and continuously moving the iron. After you have completely ironed the wax into the base, set the ski aside and wait for the ski to cool for about 25 minutes before continuing on. While you wait for the ski to cool, tune the other ski until this same point.
  7. Scrape off excess wax. After the skis have sufficiently cooled, place the ski back in the vice and use a plastic ski scraper to scrape the excess wax off the ski. Although there are metal scrapers on the market, theres a possibility that these will destroy the base structure of the ski, making it much less effective in the snow and thus much slower. Always scrap the ski from tip to tail, as this is the way your ski will move over the snow, and always angle the scraper towards you as you move down the ski. Scrape the ski until there is very little wax coming off with each pass, and then move on and repeat with your other ski.
  8. Brush wax. The next step in tuning is brushing the remaining wax from your base. Start with a stiff brush, such as horse hair, and again brush beginning at the tip of the ski and ending at the tail. Brush the ski out again until very little wax is coming out, and repeat this process with a nylon brush if you want to get a perfect wax. If you want to go all out you can then add a layer of glide wax, however this will only last a few runs, and if you want it to be perfect all day you will have to reapply it periodically. If you have done everything correctly, you now have a perfectly tuned ski that is ready to rip it up on the slopes! Have fun!

Tips

  • Ski tuning is an art, do not rush it.
  • When youre working on edges, particularly with a finishing stone, keep a firm grip and pay attention to what you are feeling; after a few tunes youll know when a polish is good and you can move up grit. Its sort of like listening to your edges, but through your hand.
  • Freshly tuned edges are VERY sharp. Never try to catch a falling ski with a bare hand.

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