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How to Tune Skis (Helpful Guide)
Published: Nov 26, 2020
To get the most out of your equipment, you have to properly maintain your skis, or properly care for them after every run or season. Ski tuning is an essential part of skiing too, just like any other precision instrument, and skis should be tuned periodically to ensure optimum performance.
Different snow conditions can de-tune your skis at different rates, and if you feel like your skis aren't gripping well anymore, or are not being able to initiate turns easily nor not sliding on the snow as fast as before, then it is time for proper tuning.
How often you tune your skis will be up to your own preference, but you shouldn't go longer than six to eight days without a tune. So, how do you tune skis at home?
To properly tune your skis, you have to first hold the brakes back with the use of zip ties or stiff rubber bands. Then, remove any rust and burrs. Before properly sharpening the edges, detune them, and then finally wax your skis.
To gain more knowledge on how to do all these, read our guide below.
How do you know if your skis need tuning?
You first have to look at the bases for scrapes. While smaller scrapes and gouges can easily be fixed at home, you should get it repaired by a shop if it has big holes that expose the core.
Next, look for any rust and small burrs on the skis' edges. You can easily do minor edge work at home, but if your skis need extensive repairs and sharpening, you should take them to a ski shop as well.
Repairing the base
A damaged base can affect how well your skis glide, so it is important that you repair it.
Materials that you will need for a good base repair:
Steps for a good base repair
- Turn the ski base-up and securely, to hold it in place. If you don't have a vise, you can always use several stacks of books to support your ski.
- Remember to lock the brakes up and out of the way. Draw the ski brake in by depressing the pedal. The brake arms should pop up, parallel with the ski, and then hook a large, sturdy rubber band on one arm. You then have to take it over the top of the heel piece, and then hook it to the other arm.
- Check out the damage, and use a metal scraper to remove any extra or loose strand of base material around the gouge. A razor blade may also be used, but only for stubborn spots.
- Brush off any dirt or debris, starting from top to tail.
- Use a base cleaner to get rid of dirt and wax, and let the base cleaner dry completely.
- Finally, apply rubbing alcohol with a clean towel to remove any residual base cleaner.
Filling the gouge
- Fire up one tip of the P-Tex candle by using a propane torch or butane lighter.
- Wait until it's flaming; this may take a couple of minutes. Black carbon flakes will then appear in the burning tip, but don't let them get into the bases, because the P-Tex will not bond properly if it does get to the bases. So get them out of the way by letting the candle drip onto the metal scraper, and roll the candle's tip around until it's clear and carbon-free. Remember to keep the flame low and blue, instead of big and yellow, to keep the carbon at bay.
- Place the molten P-Tex candle over to the gouge, and hold it close to the surface. Then, let it flow into the hole. You have to start from the far edge, so that it pools in the middle. Note that the P-Tex will shrink as it cools, which is why you have to overfill it.
- Do a second round if needed, and then extinguish the flame. You then have to let the P-Tex cool for about 15 minutes.
- Next, take a sharpened metal scraper with a 90-degree edge, and hold it at a 45-degree angle. Use some short, overlapping strokes to remove all material that is sticking up above the base. Note that you can go in either direction; whatever works best for you.
- When the P-Tex is finally smooth and flush with the base, you're ready to wax it.
Sharpen the edges
Rust and burrs may cause drag, and will slow you down on firm snow. Thus, it's important that you get rid of abrasions to help your skis' performance.
Materials that you will need:
- Clean towels
- Gummy stone
- Diamond stone
- Rubbing alcohol
Steps for a good edge work:
- Start by placing your ski on a vice or a stack of books.
- Make sure to lock your brakes, so that they are out of the way. You may use a rubber band or zip ties to do so.
- Inspect the edges for rust and burrs with the use of a towel to avoid cutting your finger.
- Any rust and burrs should be filed smoothly by using a diamond stone. Wet the diamond stone, and then run it over the burrs slowly and carefully.
- Put pressure on the metal edge to avoid scratching the base material.
- Focus on the areas that have more rust and burrs, but make sure to cover the entire length of the edge.
- For minor rust, use a gummy stone, and run it over the edges. They are less abrasive than a diamond stone, so it is suitable for polishing.
- Repeat the process on the side edges by pinching the diamond stone to control it properly, then keep a light pressure to avoid overdoing it. Remember to cover the entire length of the side edges.
- Once you're done, run the gummy stone to polish it.
- Finally, use a towel and rub alcohol to clean off any residue.
Note that if your skis have more serious damages, you have to take them to a ski shop for a more in-depth repair or tuning, instead of doing the repairs yourself and damaging them more.
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