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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Tuning, Maintenance and Repairs › Base Repair: Advice on how to use a "hot air welder"
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Base Repair: Advice on how to use a "hot air welder"

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
So the good news is that I bought a great tool last season. It was a p-tex gun for repairing bases. I got this one (first on page) Base Repair Pistol with Brass Tip.

Since Mammoth did not have a lot of snow last year, I kept busy repairing holes that my ski buddies and I seemed to be very good at making. It works pretty great, but when I want to do a repair with clear, there is basically no good way to clean the thing so that nice clear p-tex comes out. Even if I could buy a second tip (which I don't think I can), I don't think it would matter.

I also bought one of these Hot Air Welders a few years ago, but really never figured out how to properly use it. It seems to be very good at heating up the area surrounding the repair and not as good at melting the p-tex that I want to use to repair the hole.

I was wondering if anyone has any experience at using an air welder and if they would not mind giving some pointers on proper use.

Thanks for the feedback in advance and have a great season!
post #2 of 18
Sounds like it simply is hot enough. What temperatures does it produce? You need somewhere between 400 to 900 degrees F.
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Alpinord I am pretty sure it is hot enough. It can melt the p-tex it is just that it seems to be perhaps too hot. Here is a better description of what I seem to have problems with:

- I read somewhere that if I heat up the base too much, it will make it hard to the point where it won't accept wax anymore. I don't know how hot / soft / molten / etc. it would have to be to do this, but I wanted to err on the side of not damaging the base more than I have to. When I hold the p-tex near the ski, the base seems to start to get melty before the repair material really gets flowing.

- Should I be trying to drip this in or something? I mean does the hot air simply replace flame (from p-tex candles) in this case and I am just still dripping in the p-tex? The problem with that is the hot air seems to blow it all over rather than let it drip properly when I tried to do this in the past. I can control airflow, but it will still do this to some degree.

Thanks for the help either way.
post #4 of 18
are you using plastic welding rod(looks kinda like spaghetti)? not the drip ptex or sticks you use in your ptex gun?
post #5 of 18
DOH! Good point waxman, 3mm welding wire should work better then, it sounds like. There's some verbiage on various welding options on our base repair page.

I'd be real curious to know how a $30 air welder works versus the ones costing over 10 times that. What are you using for a compressor?
post #6 of 18
I'm wondering how well base repair powder would work with that machine.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Waxman Good catchI have used both and think that the string is more similar to the materials that originally are used with these machines in other applications.

Alpinord As a follow up to the previous comment, it operates at 600 degrees F. My thinking is that the machine works fine and is VERY similar to those that cost 10 times that much. My suspicion is that I don't really know how to properly use it rather than problems with the actual machine.

When I bought this thing, I looked at some pictures of the expensive machines and it is pretty much identical. I can't seem to find any pictures of one at the moment to compare it to, but I will try and locate one. Feel free to link to a machine if you know of one.

The only differences that higher end machines have in my memory is an adjustable temperature dial (potentiometer) in line with it, and if I recall correctly, a different (smaller? or perhaps a variety of) nozzle(s). I could easily install a potentiometer that would control temp if I knew that is what it is, but none of the ones sold on ski repair sites to my recollection even had a temp adjuster. Besides, for another $30 you can get one from the same place as I linked that has that feature (they didn't have it when I bought mine two years ago).

I will take a picture of the gauge and post it, but that allows it to work with any air source that can supply the minimum required air. I am using my regular old 5 gal 120PSI compressor for it. Since it is designed to operate at 3-4psi, I don't think the compressor is a limitation. Besides, when they sell these with the compressor included, it is not so much a compressor and more a fancy blower since higher PSI are not required for operation and really only a constant fairly low pressure feed. I have run it between 1-2psi to keep the blowing down a bit more and my guess is that it runs a bit hotter when I do.

My guess is that it would be the worst possible repair medium. Without covering it, it would just blow it all over. With covering it, I would imagine an iron would be better. Just imagine trying to use repair powder with a torch whose flame exited at a higher "wind" speed. The
thing is very pointed in where it delivers heat and so would likely deliver a very uneven solution at best.
post #8 of 18
Check out SVST's Base Repair page for one image.

Here are other Plastic Welders.

Thanks for the descriptive info. Looks like I need to order one and take it for a test drive....

My shop compressor is right at my tuning stand and is easy for me to use. You had me wondering about a smaller, benchtop/airbrush compressor as an option for others. It doesn't take much of a compressor to generate 3psi.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks Alpinord. Too bad you don't live closer. You could come by and try mine out and tell me what you think over some beers. I am totally self taught (mostly from trial and error . . . and more error) and I really appreciate the comments that you and the others have had on the thread. I don't do this for a living in any way, but do enjoy learning very much.

Any other ideas, techniques would be very helpful.

Oh yeah - here is the pressure gauge

and a closeup of the welder and the stand. It is tough to get scale from this picture, but it it quite thick - 3x as thick as your average soldering iron

post #10 of 18
I'm a learning by crashing and burning....err....doing : person as well in a lot of areas. Hooking up for beer and telling lies is always fun. Here or elswhere.

Here's a link for thermoplastic welders and a 'How to Weld' primer. Note the different tip options, including the feeder.

What is the wattage of your welder? From a couple sources I'm wondering if a 650 watt welder is the correct wattage for base repairs.

I've been wondering about Harbor Freight and their very low prices. Kinda reminds me of Walmart where "there are no good bargains at WalMart, only cheap products sold cheaply." Here's some comments of Harbor Freight & Chicago Electric. Sounds like for weekend warring and tuning you might be fine (and hopefully more) with this tool, but there is quite a spread between it and the other options out there in the cost and proably quality department.

If you don't have any source for welding wire send your address and I'll send you some to experiment with.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ok - I didn't have any major repairs that warranted busting out the welder until last week so that is why I didn't provide an update. Good news though, I think the advice, some info from the how to / videos on the thermoplastic welders sites and more practice have straightened things out.

What was wrong? Well a couple things.

I think the biggest thing is that I was trying not to heat up the base since I had read that overheating a base ruins it (for things like accepting wax). The thing is though that heating up the base before the melted p-tex drips on the ski helps it to bond. So now I blow some hot air on and around the repair spot before melting the material on.

The next thing is that I am not shooting the hot air down at the repair string and the hole anymore. Instead I am shooting the hot air at the repair string itself. So the repair string is held perpendicular to the ski. The hot air is being blown parallel across the ski. The p-tex drips (flows really) down the repair string into the spot to be repaired. The first couple passes I used too much material, but got better at controlling the amount.

Finally, I was careful to use a versa-planer to take the excess material down darn close to the base before steel scraping it to finally flatten it. The repairs were clean, strong and in many cases I could not even see evidence of where the repair was at all.

It is a slower process than candling or the p-tex gun, but I think it makes the best repairs of any of them now that I allegedly know what I am doing.

Thanks to everyone for the help on this.
post #12 of 18
Thanks for the update. I see that they also have an air welder that has a mini blower.

A feeder tip would make the job go faster.

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Alpinord View Post
Thanks for the update. I see that they also have an air welder that has a mini blower.

A feeder tip would make the job go faster.

That self contained blower does look pretty good and inexpensive if you don't have an air compressor. The one I have has a pretty cheap air valve, but the other one and this one seem to be a lot better for the money.

As far as the tip is concerned, can I buy that from Slide Wright? I don't see it on your site, but you are a supplier for SVST and maybe you can order one and sell it to me. Since the repair string is just bigger than 3mm would you need the 5mm tip or is there some play in the 3mm tip?

BTW, I will order from Slide Wright now as opposed to where I was buying things since you have been so helpful and I would like to support your company - not that the folks I was buying from are bad in any way. My orders are small and infrequent, but thought I should mention it. You are very knowledgeable and generous with your expertise and I appreciate it.
post #14 of 18
Thank you Mondak. This has been an interesting thread and your insights also appreciated.

Regarding the tip (along with about anything) I can order them. My cost however, is about 3 times the cost of your welder and you might want to poke around for a cheaper alternative (as will I). There is also a tip cleaning brush that might be worth considering. As far as size, I assume you'd match the tip size to the wire you are using.
post #15 of 18
I'm wondering if anyone has ever tried a standard heat gun with tips for welding bases.
These ones from Steinel have electronic control of temperture and you can control the fan speed way down to very slow.


you can purchase them at a lot of places. gun alone is between 185-270$ depending on where you buy. At least it would be good for other stuff like boot fitting. If you can accurately set the temperture maybe you wouldn't have to worry about melting the boot.

What would the temperture be for welding ptex base? and is sintered base a different temperature?

This Special is available for 149$ but the gun doesn't have the controllable fan, just 3 settings like most heat guns.
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Alpinord View Post
My cost however, is about 3 times the cost of your welder and you might want to poke around for a cheaper alternative (as will I).
I wondered if that would be the case. All the tips that I could find pricing for were around $150. Honestly, I don't have any trouble managing the repair string and the gun etc. I have been using a pair of pliers to hold the material, but I might be getting brave enough to hold it with my bare hands since the heat is fairly concentrated and controlled. If not, I have been thinking about just using a scrap of copper tubing to do it. Kinda thread it through the tube and use that to direct it. I would think it would serve 90% of the value of the speed tip.

Tog I don't think those will work. The thing about the cheap welders that I have linked above and the expensive ski specific welders that are available at fine ski tuning supply stores is that they have a fairly narrow tip on them to concentrate the air. Those heat guns will just spread it out all over the place. I would guess that if they COULD melt the material, they would just blow it all over the place. I don't see those as a use-able option.

As far as the temp is concerned, I think it takes roughly 550F to melt p-tex or so. I would guess that a little more would help the material flow properly in this specific instance, but I don't know.
post #17 of 18
I would think they would work. The plastic welding tip is used with a 9mm reduction nozzle on the heat gun. (about 3/8 inch) The welding tip then uses 6mm rods (about 1/4 inch) I'd bet you could get a different tip to use with smaller rods or make your own.

As for the blower, you can turn the air down to approx 3.6 cfm. (now if you use the reduction nozzle I guess this goes up?)
The plastic welder that you show with the compressed air seems to use 2 1/2 cfm at 3psi. according to this:
see page 3288
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tog View Post
The plastic welder that you show with the compressed air seems to use 2 1/2 cfm at 3psi. according to this:
see page 3288
Cool link although I don't think that the welder uses 2.5 cfm @3psi. That is just the specs on the compressor that they will sell you separately if you don't have a compressor to run their welder.

Hey - if it works well, let us know. Always good to learn what works and what doesn't.
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