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Tuning FAQ

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I think we need to develop a tuning FAQ. I'm not the guy to do that, given the age of my tuning knowledge (quite long in the tooth, although I'm learning to bring it current). Let's start a thread here that we can develop into an FAQ. In addition, if dipstik or another person would like, we'll stick a thread like that one at TGR so that it's available to all who want to learn to tune.

post #2 of 21
I think an epicski Tuning basics, how-to, guide, what have you would be a great idea. I would be happy to help with this, as I'm sure would others (Scalce, Atomicman.........)
post #3 of 21
post #4 of 21
I'll put something together - possibly tonight.
post #5 of 21
Originally Posted by HeluvaSkier
I'll put something together - possibly tonight.
It would be great if it could be a group effort. Perhaps we could have a thread for you to put up your guide, than others can comment on it, and hopeuflly we could find a way to agree, or to have some alternate methods where we disagree, before we put it up as a guide.
post #6 of 21
A great idea. I think the challenge may be to keep to the basic truths. When it comes to tuning, there is a fair amount of Voodoo that is practiced.
post #7 of 21
Originally Posted by Lostboy
A great idea. I think the challenge may be to keep to the basic truths. When it comes to tuning, there is a fair amount of Voodoo that is practiced.
Exactly. That's why a group effort could work (or not

We could come down to a certain amount of things we all agree on, these could even be labled as "basic truths." We could then offer alternate methodolgies.

The thread (a Sticky I presume) could then be annotated with disagreements and comments (via postings.)

It should also have a links post or two. Perhaps one for How-To guides on the web, one for tool sources, etc.

Question is how this would be organized initially. ssh, do you want to organize it? Would you like one of us to? I'd be happy to, I have credentials in curriculum development.
post #8 of 21
This I assume will operate much like it did with the Ski Gear FAQ that we put together a few months ago. Comprex just Pm'ed me a tuning guide that I sent to him a while back that should serve as a good base. I will keep it in line with what I do for race tuning, but those who are less serious (obsessive compulsive) about their skis may not do things as religiously as I do.


post #9 of 21

Tuning and Maintenance FAQ

I have tuned my own gear for years....I thought I was a know it all until I ran into SMJ at Wachusett....dude knows his stuff, esp re waxing...huge. Epic will benefit from his contributions re ski tuning and maint....

post #10 of 21
Originally Posted by hrstrat57
I have tuned my own gear for years....I thought I was a know it all until I ran into SMJ at Wachusett....dude knows his stuff, esp re waxing...huge. Epic will benefit from his contributions re ski tuning and maint....

My thanks for the praise Only been tuning for a few years, but I've had some good teachers and done a lot of research. My knowledge exceeds my experience though.

Any way I can help I'd be honored.
post #11 of 21
This guide will go through the process of hand tuning your existing skis. This is different from a tune that a shop will do. A shop tune is done with a series of machines. A ceramic stone will grind the base flat (putting a pattern in the base called structure, of which many combinations are available), an edging machine will put side and base bevels on the ski, and a waxing machine is usually used to wax the skis. The base grind should be done once a season, or as often as is needed (determined by how beat up the bases are), and the machine tune for the edges should be done as it is needed (when edges are burred, rounded, or otherwise completely destroyed). As long as your bases are flat, a proper hand tune is superior to a shop’s machine tune in every way. Edges typically need to be tuned or at least touched up every three to five times skiing in order to maintain maximum sharpness. Bases should be waxed at least every other time out, but usually a race ski should be waxed multiple times every time it is skied on. Wax serves more purpose than just making the bases slick. Multiple waxing sessions will actually allow the wax to soak into the base, creating a stronger, faster, healthier base for your skis.

Tools list:
Ski brake retainer or thick rubber band
File Guide
Base bevel guide
Sidewall stripper (planer)
Second Cut File
Diamond Stone (course and fine), (only to start with; not finish under normal circumstances and proper filing.)
Waxing Iron
Wax (temperature specific wax is good to keep around.)
Brass brush
Nylon brush
Plastic scraper

For Edge Bevel: (1, 2, and 3 degree side bevels are most popular. When you get above 3 degrees you will be sacraficing edge life for increased edgehold. This angle will determine essentially how sharp your skis are. If you angulate a lot (put a lot of force into the ski) go with a 2 or 3 on the side. If you do not use significant angulation you should stick with a 1. Use a FILE GUIDE - not one of those multi-tuner tools - they suck - all of them. By using a real guide, you can use any file you like. I have had the best results with Swix and Bludan files (Reliable Racing). Winning edge and Toko guides are inexpensive and very easy to use.

Base Bevel: This determines how soon the edge will hook up when you are transitioning into a new turn. Anything 1 degree or less will do. This will let the edge catch quite fast at the top of the turn, so there is no guessing if they are going to catch or not. If you want them to catch sooner you will want a .5 degree bevel. Try to stay away from a 0 degree base bevel. If you use anything over 1 degree, you will have edges that catch very late in the turn, and unless you are angulating a lot, you will be skiing on the base of the ski most of the time.

More to come...
post #12 of 21
Here's my first pass at an overview of tuning steps.

Tuning steps, not detailed descriptions:

Base prep

Inspect the base looking for areas that need ptex work.

Ptex any areas requiring it.

Remove excess ptex with a very sharp metal scraper. You can also use a panzar file for this, but it requires good skill as this tool can damage your base.

Edge work:

Base edges: Do not file as each time you file you will be increasing the base edge bevel which should be set by a stone grind and then maintained.

Diamond stone the base edges with a coarse, then fine diamond.

Run Gummi stone over base edges.

Side edges: File if needed. If in rough shape use a panzar (body) file, followed by a mill bastard. For regular filing the mill bastard file is sufficient.

Diamond stone the side edges with a coarse, then fine diamond stone.

Run Gummi stone over the side edges.


If desired hot wax clean the base, scraping the wax off while still warm.

Do not use base cleaner as it drys out the base.

Clean the base with a steel or brash brush.

Run a razor scraper, or a plastic scraper over the base tip to tail a few times to remove loose ptex hairs.

Wipe the base with fiberlene.

Drip wax on the base, you don't need a lot.

Run the iron tip to tail very slowly over the base, applying a slight upwards pull on the iron. Do not leave it in one place as it will burn the base. Evenly spread the wax. Do not heat to the point of feeling more than a little warmth on the tops.

Let the wax dry for at least ½ hour.

Remove wax from the edges with a plastic scraper.

Use a very sharp plastic scraper (sharpen often with a panzar file and/or burnishing tool)

Moving tip to tail in long strokes remove as much wax as you can. You can bend the scraper concave or convex to apply more pressure to the edge or center areas.

Wipe off loose wax shavings with a paint brush.

Use a brass brush aggressively to remove any remaining wax.

Wipe off loose wax shavings with a paint brush.

Use a horsehair brush to finish wax removal and to polish the base.
post #13 of 21

Edge Tuning Guide

The Edge Guide:

New skis:
Many recreational skiers will argue that you do not have to tune a new ski. This philosophy is a good one unless you really know how to tune a ski. If so, you should follow the steps in this guide before you ski the skis and at least give them a light tune. Waxing is something that you should not compromise on, and new skis should be waxed at least 3 to 5 times before they ever see snow. Race skis usually require a base grind (unless the race room ships them prepped), a hand tune, and 10+ coats of wax.

Put your skis onto the vice with the bases facing upward. Scrape any excess wax from the base with the plastic scraper, and proceed to use the brass brush to get any remaining wax off the base. Wipe the ski clean with a rag and you should be ready to attack the edges.

Base Bevel:
Decide what bevel you will be using on your skis. It is best to have this bevel preset by a shop tune and to only be touched up when you have rounded the edge, or there are significant burrs on the edge. The base edge should not need to be done very often, and should not be done often, because excessive base edge tuning will result in a base-high ski, in which the edges to not touch the snow when the ski is flat on the snow.

Note: Before the process below, you may want to skip ahead to the side edge sharpening and use your side bevel and diamond stone to get rid of any burrs.

Put you ski into the vice with the base facing away from you (People will tell you to always work tip to tail, but this only matters if you’re really good with your left hand, otherwise you will never tell the difference between the edges that were tuned from the tip or from the tail.). Select you base edge bevel guide, and put the file into it with the tail facing up and away from you. Hold the guide on the base and pull toward you in long even passes down the ski. Very few passes should be needed, but you will be able to tell when the edge is sharp by pushing your hand down across the edge (parallel to the base).

Note: If burrs are present on the base edge you will have to use a diamond stone before using your file. Insert the diamond stone into your base guide, and run it along the base at your selected bevel. Diamond stones are multidirectional, so do not worry about running it the wrong way on the ski edge. Make sure you wet the edge or make a solution of alcohol and water as to not damage the edge or the stone during this process. Start with a course stone, and work down to a fine stone, or until burrs are not present. At this point you can start with the file as was stated above.

Side Bevel/Sharpening:

Strip the sidewalls if necessary, to gain full access to the edge. This will not hurt a cap ski. Companies actually make square of round blades depending on the type of ski you are planning on using the tool with. Usually cap skis like Atomic recommend the round blades, while sandwich skis seem to do well with the square blades. Run the tool along so that the blade is cutting just above the edge. Many people like to smooth the sidewall after this process is done, but if done properly, you should be left with a very smooth surface.

After stripping the sidewall (usually done only once or twice a season) use a diamond stone with your selected file guide to remove burrs and rust. Wet the side edge (water or a mix as described above) and place your diamond stone on your side edge file guide that you have selected. Run the file guide so that the diamond stone is in contact with the edge and will remove any burrs. The smooth surface of the guide will run along the base. The stone will sit on the top side of the guide, and pass along the edge (same for a file).

Once your edge is burr-free you are ready to start using your file. Place the file on the guide so that the tail is pointing away from you. Angling the file on the guide is usually a good tactic. Getting the feel for this process with take some practice. Pull the file/guide along the ski in smooth, even passes with your dominant hand. You will be removing material, as well as sharpening the edge. Make sure you are getting edge off the ski, but also maintain contact with the file guide and the base. The pressure should never be so much on the edge that you lose your angle with the file guide/base. Put the pressure against the base, and lightly on the edge (just enough to remove material). When you have made your initial passes with your main file, switch to your second cut file and lightly go over the edge. This will get rid of any burrs that the more aggressive files can leave. When the sharpness of the edge feels even (and sharp enough to cut you) you should be all set.

At this point you should be done. Wipe the edge with a rag every so often to make sure you are not grinding the filings into the edge. Your first tune may take a LONG time. Usually if an edge goes without a tune it becomes round - which takes a long time to correct. When you are done; make sure that the edge feels like a freshly tuned hockey skate. This type of tune will hold on ANYTHING. On ice it will wear to a normal edge after a day or two of hard skiing, but it will get you where you want to go in any conditions.

Try to learn the factory specs or manufacturer recommended specs for you edges for you skis. Many manufacturers will send your skis already set at the angle that they need to be set at, while others will send them at 0/0 and rely on the shop or user to tune them into spec.

Waxing is next…
post #14 of 21

Waxing Guide

The Waxing Guide:

Waxing is a very important procedure for your skis. Keeping your bases full of wax, and properly cared for can make a very big difference between a well cared for ski versus a poorly cared for ski. Of course a well cared for ski will slide better, that is assumed. It will also have a stronger base, and will not be prone to getting damaged by “base burn.” When ironing the ski, make sure that your iron is set to the proper temperature. There is really no substitute for a real waxing iron (as sold by Swix) but if you are not using a waxing specific iron, be sure that you are heating the iron so that it is just hot enough to melt the wax. If it is too hot, you risk damaging the base.

After filing, start out by using your brass brush to brush your bases to remove dirt, wax, leftover edge filings, and anything else that you picked up along the way. Wipe the ski down with a rag to get all of the debris off the base (assume facing up in your vice).

Cleaning Coat:
Begin by heating your iron to a low temperate, and use some inexpensive wax (Swix all purpose is good for this) to clean the base. This is done by dripping and ironing the wax onto the ski. Before it has cooled use your plastic scraper to get this wax off your ski. It will serve to clean out the rest of the debris in the base. More than likely you will see black specs and other dirt-like particles in the wax that you scrape off. Throw this wax away as it has served its purpose.

Warm-Scrape Coat(s):
This is usually the process that you will use for your primary coats of wax. Crayon warm (CH8 or 10 on the Swix scale is a good choice –or- use base prep wax) wax into the base (if using a cold wax it may need to be warmed up slightly to do this). Hydrocarbon is the best choice for prepping your base. Fluorocarbons in high volume can dry out your base. Before ironing drip some wax down the ski as well. Iron the wax into the base. Try to keep your passes as an even speed, and try to get the surface of the wax smooth and even. Let this cool off to where it is not shinny anymore, and scrape the ski with your plastic scraper. This will get any excess wax off the top of the ski base (the rest soaked into the base). Repeat this process several times for new skis or race skis. For routine waxing I will do this once or twice before putting on my final coat of wax. Before races it is common to go through this process 10+ times.

Final Coat:
Your final coat of wax is the coat in which you should be worried about temperature, as for the other coats the warm wax soaks in and melts much better. Crayon and drip this wax. This coat can be HF, LF, or CH waxes at any temperature. The goal for this coat is to get it thin, smooth, and even down the length of the ski. Too much wax and too little wax can be slow. When this coat has cooled, use your scraper to get most of the excess wax off the base. Use your nylon brush to go over the final coat and smooth it out even more. Horse hair also works very well in this instance, but the brushes can be VERY expensive. If you are not racing a horse hair brush can be overkill. Finally make sure the base is clean (wipe it down with a CLEAN rag if it is needed), and you should be ready to ski.

Note: For transportation purposes it can be useful to keep a thick coat of wax on your base/edges until you get to the mountain. At the mountain it is very easy to throw in your brush and scraper and get the excess wax off before you embark on your day of skiing. Just lean the ski against a ski rack, wall, or in a corner and have at it.



BTW: Feel free to add, subtract, or change anything in the above posts. It should give us a decent base (no pun intended) to work off from.
post #15 of 21
BTW, The three posts that I put in above are intended to read as one. The first is meant as a general overview, the second is meant as an edge guide, and the last is a waxing guide.
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
Good starts! Keep the ideas flowing and we'll boil these into a series of posts for an FAQ sticky. I'll help organize, but if you guys want to take the lead, that'd be great. Time is likely to be a bit rarer as the ESA approaches...
post #17 of 21
Thanks, that's great stuff: concise and easy to follow advice.

By a happy coincidence, I just upgraded my tuning equipment this week, dumping my old multi-tuner for BEAST 2/3 edge guide, 1 degree base guide, side planer with pansar file, medium diamond stone, tang-less mill file, Arkansas medium stone, a gummi stone, and some new scrapers. I've been reading up on ski tuning over the past couple of weeks, primarily on these fora and with the links provided to Swix and Tognar, but you put together a really great review. I'm going to print out this thread as a handy reference.

I'm going to pick up a true-bar this week, and with my wax stuff and vise already in place, I think I'm pretty much set.

Thanks again; your efforts are all very much appreciated.
post #18 of 21

make it easy

I have a pretty small equipment list and find that the 15 minutes it takes to tune and wax a pair of skis makes the task well worth the effort and adds much to the skiing pleasure. It's a "stitch in time" Kind of thing.

I have The Beast ski vise set, not perfect, but it stays set up on the work bench all winter. (Three skiers "professionally") in the family.

Rubber- band brake holders, Flip the ski bottom up, Rub fingers gently down edges saying "oooohh those rocks were bad" .

Then an 8 inch flat stone flat to the base to hit any high spots on the edges.

Pick up the square block of wood to hold the stone square against the edges and up and down the length it goes until the rough/high spots are stoned off. (Work hardened damaged edges take the sharpness out of a file faster than you can say "I should have used the stone".)

Then a pad of scothbright goes up and down the base to scrub off any dirt .

A look for damage that might required p-tex. repair as needed even if I can never seem to keep the patches in the damaged holes (Maybe I wax too well;-)

Then I pick up the 10 inch flat file and press it flat to the base. Up and down the ski length a few times trying to just touch metal. I only try to file the base and edges flat. No base bevel. I'm sure there is always some base bevel due to inaccuracy.
0.5 degrees is on .02 mm taken from the outside of the edge compared to the metal next to the p-tex. That's not much!

Then the edge file in one of those plastic file holder/bevel guides. (Two thicknesses of masking tape referenced to the base sets the side bevel to about 1.5 degrees. I think this tool is a tokico or something. A baby blue color, I've had it for years. Hardest thing is to keep the file sharp. I'm always shifting the file position in the holder to offer up fresh cutting edges on the file surface. File till the entire edge feels smooth and sharp. IF i'm not pulling metal with the file, I'm not filing the edges! Skating over hard edges with a dull file is a waste of time and effort. Make that baby CUT!

After filing, A scrub up and down the base with the scotch brite to clear off any filings and I'm ready to wax.

I have an old electric iron with a good thick metal sole, it holds temperature pretty well even when placed on a cold ski. Rayon works OK, just less than "smoke" temperature is right, blue wax (cold snow) takes a little more heat.

I drip on red wax, Iron it out quickly and then scrape right away to get off the dirt from the base. ( I start with cold skis, so the first wax hardens rapidly as the ski warms up under the influence of the hot iron) Then the wax operation is repeated, this time dripping on and then melting in the wax by repeatedly moving the iron up and down the base, remelting the wax during each pass. I try to have the wax stay melted for about 3 inches after the iron has passed over. Just feeling the warmth with my finger tips gliding along the ski top sheet. Fter five or so "remelts like this, I set the ski aside (Out in the cold) and repeat these same operations to the second ski.

After the sharpen and wax steps to both skis. the first ski is mounted in the vice and the plastic scraper removes just about all the wax. I'm no racer, so I don't "scrape thin to win". I just scrape till the bottom is smooth. then the scotch bright is rubbed again over the base tip to tail to the freshly scraped surface a couple of passes to smooth some more. After that, lightly brush the entire base with a fine wire brish, kind of a cross hatch. then just a brisk rub with an old tee shirt.

Viola! Done in about the same time it takes to describe.

Vise (vices of all sorts)
cheap flat shapening stone
Scothbrite pad
Block of wood about 4 X 6 X 2 inches
10 inch file (Ski style from the ski shop they are harder than most)
Edge file holder with special file
Soft wire brush
old rag and some wax.

A little practice to work up the routine.


post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 
SMJ and Cgrandy, would you guys post your posts into the Sticky thread I just created from Greg's posts?
post #20 of 21
Originally Posted by ssh
SMJ and Cgrandy, would you guys post your posts into the Sticky thread I just created from Greg's posts?
Done with a few edits.
post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 
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