You’ve found your perfect pair of skis or snowboard. What happens when it needs a little tuning up?
Not everyone has the luxury of having access to a tune shop at the home resort, local boardshop or anywhere else near them for that matter. For those of you who struggle to find this convenience to those snow sports enthusiasts, this one is for you. Keeping your skis or snowboard in tip-top shape is one the most crucial parts of enjoying your time mashing around your local resort. A properly kept deck or set of sticks can make or break your day. Crappy edges, core shots, dry bases and tons of other factors can destroy your time on snow if you don’t pay attention to what your board is trying to tell you and that is, “FIX ME!”.
We’ve collected some photos and some tips to show you how to properly use ski/snowboard tuning equipment. These techniques and step-by-step tips are guaranteed to keep your board in great shape. We’re covering base repair, waxing, detuning, scraping, buffing, sharpening, the whole nine yards. Giving your deck a little T.L.C goes a long way and ultimately will let your board ride faster and hopefully retain a little more life to it.
Basic Tuning Tools
These are a handful of basic tuning tools you will need to get the job done. Brushes, file, a wax scraper (metal or plastic), P-Tex, gummy stone, lighter, tuning iron, and most importantly wax. The power drill with the brush attachment and accessories is a real labor saver if you can get your hands on it but is primarily a tool you won’t find available for purchase at your local shop. You local tune tech will normally have one on hand for their own use.
Tuning Your Base
-Board Doctor and House Tune Shop Manager, Derek Lee, demonstrates a proper base grind. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
The first step to getting your board and gear dialed in before taking any other action is a base grind. A base grind is done on a belt sander like the one shown above and is used to eliminate any mild scratches, remove dirt, residue and get the base clean to help any repairs or waxing get in touch with the base better. When using a belt sander it’s important to start from one end of the board and follow through in a single motion all the way to the other end. Make sure to apply a firm amount of pressure by holding the top sheet of the board against the belt. Repeat this step until the base is clear of any remaining wax, dirt, or scratches that you were trying to eliminate.
-Derek Lee demonstrating a proper edge gouge fill with a clear P-Tex. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
If you have any large base impacts or scratches, it’s always a good measure to fill those deeper cuts with P-Tex. P-Tex is made from a high weight polyethylene powder, that is what your snowboard base is made out of. You can purchase P-Tex in a stick form like the one featured above. Grab a lighter and light the P-Tex stick until it begins to melt, and fill in any deep cuts, core shots or any gouges that were not fixed with a base grind. It’s important to completely fill the cut so no moisture gets into the core of the board because once the core absorbs moisture, your board or skis will gain a much sooner than expected expiration date. Once you have filled the cut or gouge, let it sit for about 5-10 minutes and return to the base grinder to remove excess P-Tex from the base.
-Chances are you don’t have one of these in your garage.. visit your local tune shop for proper edge sharpening. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
Tuning your edges, whether it be to sharpen or dull them, will determine how well your board turns and handles on edge. Sharpening your edges will give you a better hold on your carve and a more powerful ride. If you’re riding in the parks you’re going to want to keep your edges a less sharp by dampening your edge and making them more dull. The edge sharpening machine above spins a round stone that allows you to run your edge across its table and creates a sharper angle on your steel edge once it has been worn down over time.
-Derek shows the proper way to use a gummy stone on your edges. Slight angle with a consistent singular swipe. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
In this photo, a gummy stone is used to round off your edges. Gummy stones can be a rail rider’s best friend by dampening your edges to keep you from catching on rails but still leaving enough bite to keep a good hold on snow. Most higher caliber rail riders use a file on their edges which is proven to be effective but takes a lot of control from the board and is theorized to weaken your edge by taking so much off. To properly use the stone, simply start on one edge of the deck and run a smooth gradual swipe to the opposite side. Feel your edge between every few sweeps until you get the desired feel.
-Like Mr. Miyagi said, “Wax on, Wax off.” PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
Now that your base has been cleaned, edges are tuned and any impurities have been fixed, it’s time to get waxing. There are numerous ways to wax your snowboard or skis, with the option of rub on waxes, race paste, etc. But the best-proven way to quench your board or skis thirst is with a solid old fashion hot wax. In this process, you’ll want to grab your tuning iron, not the clothes iron from your mom’s closet, plug it in and wait for it to gain some heat. Once the iron is hot, you’re going to press your bar of wax against the iron’s surface and evenly drip the melted wax across the base of your board or skis. It is easiest to start from one end of the base and finish at the other, making sure that your base is evenly coated with wax.
-Derek demonstrates heating up the wax we just added to get it to spread and soak in across the base. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
Now you’re going to take your iron and glide it across the wax which will spread the wax evenly across the base. The wax is going to melt once again from the drips you put on the base in the last step. With this step, it’s important to keep an eye on where the wax is drying and if there needs to be more waxed added/melted. Make sure the wax is spread evenly across your base to avoid wax build up and unwaxed spots.
-A proper display of the correct angle your wax scraper should be at while scraping. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
Once your wax is applied and you have given the wax some time to set, approximately 15-20 minutes, now it is time to scrape the excess wax off to leave a smooth finish. Grab your plastic scraper or the metal one to take a little more off, place the bottom edge at roughly a 45-degree angle and make long continuous strides from one end of the base to other. Do this several times, until you see the wax come to an even level all across the base.
-Finishing off your base will keep your base riding fast and well maintained. PHOTO: Connor Nelson-
Now that the wax has been scraped and a fine layer has been left on the base, it’s time to buff it in. You can use your tuning brush for this step or a household nylon fiber pad will do the trick. Use the same motion you used while scraping to buff in the wax, long strides across the base will help the wax to become smooth, to provide a smooth ride on snow. Brushing down any impurities also helps the wax bond together, so the wax doesn’t fall out or start to break off from the base during riding time.
With these steps on how to properly use ski/snowboard tuning equipment, you now have the tools to keep your skis or board running smoothly all season long. Regular maintenance on your base keeps your set-up fast, healthy and protected from most minor incidents that can occur at your local resort. A fresh wax, well-tuned edges and any repairs to core shots or base blemishes will make a huge difference to how your skis or snowboard operate on the hill.
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