Ski Servicing – How? What? Why? A basic how to guide for servicing beginners...
The world of ski servicing can be very confusing, so many tools, so many methods – where do you start! The following is a basic step by step starter guide to ski servicing. It will help you learn how to do it, why you should and which tools to use.
Unlike popular belief, servicing is easy. You just need a little bit of knowledge and it doesn’t need to take too long or cost too much money.
Why should you service your skis?
The two most important things to help you ski at your best, are keeping the edges sharp and the bases waxed. This allows your skis to grip, turn and slide better, the amazing feeling you had when your skis were new!
If you want to perform better on your skis, then you have two options: you either take them regularly to a reputable servicing workshop and pay to get them serviced, or you could save some of your lovely hard earned wages and do it yourself.
If your skis haven’t been serviced before and have had a lot of use, you may need to get them professionally base ground before starting work on them yourself.
Assemble your workbench and vices and make sure you have a clean clear area to work. Put some brake retainers on and make sure your skis are dry before starting...
When servicing your skis it’s best to start work on the base, then sharpen the edges and finish with waxing.
How do I repair holes in the base?
Any repairs should be done before edging or waxing, on a clean base. Carefully remove any protruding base material with either a sharp knife or metal scraper. Before starting any repairs clean the holes with wax remover, so that the repair material bonds better.
There are different ways to repair holes to the base. The easiest is to use a P-Tex repair candle. More permanent repairs can be achieved with a P-Tex gun, home use versions are now available. Any core shots or deep holes where the metal edge is visible under the base should be repaired initially using metal grip and then finished / top-coated with P-Tex (candle or gun) as the metal grip bonds better to metal and/ or core material.
Using a hotplate and blowtorch get the plate hot enough to melt the metal grip without it vaporizing. Hold the strip of metal grip over the hole and press the hotplate into the area so that the metal grip is forced into the hole. Work it so that it covers the area but try not to completely fill the hole so that you can top this with P-Tex as this will bond to wax a lot more readily.
Light a P-Tex repair candle with a lighter and hold the P-Tex stick horizontally letting it drip onto a metal scraper. Hold it close to the scraper, until the P-Tex is no longer smoking and the flame is blue. Hold it close to the ski and drip the candle into the holes.
TIP: Put a metal scraper on top of the dripped in P-Tex and press down to remove any air bubbles.
Allow the P-Tex to cool and carefully scrape off any excess repair material with a metal scraper or coarse bastard/dreadnought file. The method will depend on whether you’re using P-Tex, Metal Grip, or a P-Tex repair gun. Without pressing too hard, slowly shave off layers of excess P-Tex repair material until the base is flat again.
After any repair work, brush the base with a steel brush to smooth the filling and give it some structure. This will help to blend in the repair with the rest of the base. This can also be achieved with coarse grit base paper.
Always use a protective glove when sharpening the edges to prevent cutting your hand if you slip!
How do I sharpen my edges?
The first step is to clamp the ski or snowboard in a vice, with the base facing away from you and the edge you are about to work on facing upwards. Make sure your base is flat with no obstructions. With a file in an appropriate holder, sharpen the edge working from one end of the ski to the other. Use short overlapping strokes, gradually lengthening them as you do each pass down the ski.
Check your file every few passes to make sure that it is not clogged with filings. Clean them off the file with a file brush, otherwise they can scratch and may burr your edges. Use the file brush along the diagonal of the files teeth to get the filings out of the grooves. Also keep an eye on where the filings are going, be careful not to push them into the base, as they can be difficult to get out.
Finish with one long stroke from one end of the ski to the other. Now turn around the ski, so the base is still facing away from you, but you are now working on the other edge. Repeat the steps above in exactly the same way. It doesn’t matter if you are working from tip to tail, or tail to tip, the edges will still get sharp whichever way!
How hard should I press with the file?
Let the file do the work! Don’t press too hard; let the sharp file do the work. Pressing too hard will also create burs and you’ll have more chance of slipping off the edge.
How much should I sharpen the edges and how will I know when they are sharp?
One trick is to draw along the side of the edge that you are about to work on with a permanent marker. Sharpen the edge and once all the black has disappeared they should be sharp enough. If you gently run the back of your fingers across the edge at 45 degrees, you can normally feel whether they are sharp or still rounded. Another technique is to side your nail across the edge at 45 degrees and see if it scrapes off a bit of your nail!
I’ve been told there’s lots of different edge angles, how do I know which one to choose?
There are many different edge angles available, however as a general rule most recreational skiers, starter racers and younger racers use 89 degrees and more advanced racers 88 or 87. A sharper angle will need more skill and angulation of the ski to be able to control the shape of the turn. A more acute angle is generally used for Slalom compared to GS and speed events.
Do I need to sharpen them completely from end to end and do I need to blunt off the tip and tail?
Always sharpen the whole length of the edge, otherwise you’ll be left with no edge at the middle of the ski and loads at either end. If you then prefer them not too sharp at the tip and tail then you can easily dull them using a gummi block. This is called ‘de-tuning’.
The amount you dull the skis depends on the type of ski or board and the ability of the skier. Shaped carving skis don’t need as much de-tuning as the older straight skis. Carving/shaped skis perform so well because more of the edge is in contact with the snow. If you blunt them too much you’ll reduce how much they can grip. A lower level skier on the other hand would much rather rotate and skid their skis to keep control without their edges catching, so they would normally have their skis blunted off more. T
o de-tune any part of the edge use a gummi block, a semi-abrasive rubber block, and run it along the edge fairly firmly at 45 degrees, the edge will then feel more rounded. Most carve skis would have both edges blunted off approximately 4”-6” or less at either end, older straighter skis would be blunted approximately 6”-10” at either end. On race skis, any point that is in contact with the ground is normally kept sharp, but this is down to personal preference.
Turn the ski over in the vice so that the base is now facing upwards. Scrape the base with a plastic scraper to remove any old wax and dirt. Then wrap a piece of fibretex around a scraper or wooden block and run this along the base to remove any edge filings.
Do the bases need cleaning before waxing?
Yes, otherwise the base will get clogged up with dirt, reducing how much wax it’ll absorb. The best way to remove old wax and dirt is to ‘hot scrape’ the bases. Iron a soft wax onto the base, while the wax is still warm scrape it off. If the base looks very dirty, then they can be hot scraped again till the wax that you scrape off is clear. You can also use wax remover, but it can dry out the base. If you use wax remover, a citrus-based formula should be kinder on the base and not dry it out as much. Wax remover is very good for cleaning wax from scrapers, files and tools.
TIP: The scraper will get clogged with molten wax; keep wiping the wax off the scraper before each pass.
What wax should I use and why?
You can either iron on the wax or use a paste wax. Hot waxing (ironing on the wax) is better for the skis, getting deeper into the pores of the base and lasting longer. Waxing stops the skis drying out, reduces friction and helps the bases slide better. This makes your skis easier to control and not so susceptible to damage. Paste waxes are easy to apply, but don’t last as long. They are ideal as a top up in between hot waxing. Both of these waxes are available as a universal temperature wax, so they’ll work in most snow conditions, or specific to temperature bands – running faster if you’re racing.
How do I put wax onto the ski and how much should I use?
Paste waxes normally come in a liquid or paste form, which you sponge onto the base. Leave it to dry for 1-2 minutes and buff it up with a soft cloth, forming a hard sheen to make it last longer.
To iron the wax onto the ski, hold a block of wax against the iron and drip the wax along the base. There should be enough wax on the base to let the iron easily slide across it, if it starts to stick drip on some more wax. The iron should be hot enough to melt the wax, but if it starts to smoke, lower the temperature. While the wax is still warm, scrape the edges of the skis. Leave the rest of the wax to cool, usually for approx. 15 to 30 minutes, but ideally overnight. Once the skis are cool, scrape the wax off the bases using a sharp plastic scraper. To scrape the wax, tilt the scraper away from you at approx. 45 degrees to the ski and gently push the scraper away from you.
How often should I wax my skis?
The more often a base is waxed, the more wax it will absorb. Ideally you want to wax your skis for every time you use them. Racers – wax for every training session. Recreational skiers – wax for every holiday and maybe supplementing with another wax mid week.
TIP: If a base looks grey or feels rough, it’s usually dry and needs waxing, otherwise it’ll run slowly and also be more susceptible to damage. Extreme cases of this greying to the base is called ‘Base Burn’.
Do I need to do anything to my skis and board if I’m not going to be using them for a while?
Don’t put them away without servicing them, otherwise the bases will dry out and the edges will go rusty. When you wax your skis leave a thick layer of wax on the base and edges and don’t scrape it off until you’re ready to use them. Also, if your skis are already serviced you’ll be ready for one of those last minute trips that can occasionally crop up!
Which brushes do I need to use? Brushes can be used in many ways, from cleaning the base, to putting structure into the ski both before and after waxing.
Cleaning - Use a Brass, Steel or Tampico Nylon brush, to clean out any dirt, filings and old wax from the base.
Re-structuring the skis - Use a Steel brush. This can be used after repairing, base grinding, or on brand new skis. The steel brush will break down any roughness left from the work done to the bases and will put a fine structure back into the skis. Also good for dry grey bases to allow more wax to get into the base.
Brushing out wax - Use a Brass Brush followed by a Nylon Brush to remove any excess wax. When you scrape a ski you only remove the layer of wax that is on the top surface of the skis. The skis will glide better if you remove the wax that is deep in the structure of the skis.
Finishing - Use a Horsehair Brush to polish the ski. This will give a good finish to the ski and is also anti-static, so stops dirt being attracted to the ski.
Clean base of old wax. Using metal scraper.
Sharpen side edge with smooth/fine file and then finish with fine diamonds. Use diamond with honing oil or if not available water. (Burrs or shiny parts - use alu-oxide stone, or course diamond) Make sure you clean files regularly - file brush and wax remover on diamonds.
Clean the base using Fibretex or a Tampico brush.
Re-open structure of the ski with a brass brush so wax will absorb into the base.
Wax with a warm base wax to get deep into the ski. Scrape base wax while warm and wax straight away with hard dryslope wax while base is still warm. This will allow the hard dryslope wax to absorb better and stick to the ski. Scrape the metal edges of skis while wax is still warm so that the wax comes off easier. You can also use Zardoz before waxing with the final hard wax.
Waxing for training - leave wax thick and don’t scrape. Apply a layer of Zardoz Teflon lubricant when cool. Brush with a horsehair polishing brush.
Waxing for racing - wait for the wax to cool and scrape off with a sharp plastic scraper till the base is smooth. Brush with a brass brush (or hard Nylon brush) to smooth the wax and finish by polishing with a horsehair brush. Apply a layer of Zardoz Teflon lubricant when cool.
Start waxes – various start accelerators can be used at the top of the course just before you go, including Clearglide gel and Hydrazorb spray.