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Iron: Dakine MS-256 850W wax iron wired for 110V

Street Price: $36

Wax: Swix CH06, Nobi Blue, Hertel Hot Sauce

Similar products used: Toko Wax Mouse
Preferred product: Swix Thermonator

The first thing one notices about the Dakine wax iron is how light it is out of the box. The Black & Decker dinosaur is significantly heavier than my current dress shirt Rowenta but the Dakine is a feather. Mostly because of the light (thinner) base plate, I suspect. The base plate has a brushed-look machine finish with a palpable grain to it. The handle is on the smallish side for my (size L gloves) hands, but the twist-dial adjustable temperature control can be spun with the thumb without changing grip.

The first task was to drip wax onto the skis, using the melting of the wax to determine the proper setpoint since a) the B&D has no temp indicators and b) quite a few waxers don't trouble to look up the melting temperature before firing up the iron. The numbers on the black dial on the Dakine were hard to read, particularly whilst holding the handle, so that worked out. Note to self: figure out some way to highlight these.

Starting at the lowest possible heat setting, the Dakine was significantly slower to get to melting temps than the B&D. Not unexpected, perhaps, but those who wish immediate gratification won't be pleased.

The Dakine had no obvious preferred drip orientation; I held it the same way as the B&D (front side down/sharp tip down) out of habit. This may have been a good thing, as cord-side down has a bit of plastic gap 'tween plate end and the back of the iron. I didn't wish to chance trapping wax or misdirecting it, say onto the pants.

The B&D got fussy about midway down the first drip line along the ski: I had to readjust the temp setting downwards twice after I noticed wisps of smoke and condensing vapor. Not unexpected. Dakine- once the setpoint was sorted no problems.

Ironing the ski itself. The Dakine was again a bit slow, and I jogged the dial twice until I could get a reasonably fast remelt of the drip line. It took 4 passes down a 170cm ski before the molten trail got larger than 1.5 inches. Once the wax was molten, the Dakine rode noticeably higher on the pool than the B&D (2 inch trail in one pass) and scattered a lot less wax sideways. The Dakine never made scrapey contact with the ski edges. (Not true for the B&D).

Switching waxes, both irons should get a wipe down from previous efforts. I omitted this for the Dakine, and the grainy base plate finish trapped enough wax to give a wisp of smoke off as the temperature was raised.

The harder waxes were a repeat of the above: B&D first to melt and first to smoke and first to leave a molten trail. Dakine: no smoke, longer time, less scattering, no edge contact.

Overall impression: Worth the price, particularly for fluoro waxes, or unknown mystery-bloc. Definite points of improvement (visibility of temp dial, base plate). This iron defines the minimum of what I would wish for in any wax iron.