New skis – do they need a service?

Richard dropped off his brand new, never been skied Head Icon TTs for a wax. There has been a lot of hot air exhaled online on the question of whether brand new skis are as good as they can be or do they benefit from a going over from a decent tech before use. The arguments boil down to:

The “Don’t touch ’em” side:

  • Surely the manufacturer uses the best possible wax prior to shipping?
  • Surely the manufacturer uses the best possible grinders for base & edge angles?
  • Surely the manufacturer’s tight QA/QC wouldn’t allow convex or concave bases out of the factory gate?

The “Give them a once over” side:

  • They just plonk whatever spray on wax will stop the edges from rusting in transit.
  • They run the skis through the edging equipment as fast as possible and only change the stones/belts/grinders when they break.
  • The skis are still cooling down as they leave the factory and you should anticipate a bit of warping in transit.

Now I have never had the pleasure of visiting a ski factory so I can’t comment directly, although I have seen some interesting QA/QC diversions come out of Chinese factories on other products – and let’s face it, the majority of skis in the shop today are made in China.

So I’m going to record a few photos and let you make your mind up about the big debate, for these skis at least.

Flatness – not bad, not as good as Emmett’s Heads a few months ago, slight concavity but not significant enough to be worth photographing.


Base edges showing unevenness where the grinder has bounced along, most noticeable on the inside edge where the light reflects.





This side edge shows where the grinder has gone from one angle to another, probably relating to the side cut of the ski passing a certain angle, or possibly just from the ski bouncing as they throw it through the machine as fast as possible.

This is something similar but over a longer distance- you can see the edge reflecting the light getting thinner and thinner from the top of the picture to the bottom.





This photo shows a small ding on the edge – nothing serious but very hard to avoid this sort of thing in a container full of skis making their way from the far east to the UK. You can also see that they have ground the plastic above the edge with the grinder rather than planing it out of the way. Fair enough, why waste the time planing the plastic, but it does mean that their grinder wheel will fill up with plastic and won’t make a clean cut after a while.

My brief from Richard was to clean the bases and get base then top wax onto the skis so I didn’t touch the edges. He’s planning to come back for  a lesson in March so he can sort them out himself after that.

Nothing wrong with the bases, look at that lovely stone-ground linear discontinuous structure. No easy way to get that without the stone-grind machine, although cross-country skiers have little steel rollers that they can use to impress different structures on their narrow planks.

Waxing is easy on these fairly narrow skis – here
they are after the base wax has been scraped and brass brushed to force it all into the structure grooves. Even at this stage it’s looking a bit shiny (right).

Finally the second coat of Zoom Universal has had its hour soaking in and scrapes and brushes to a high shine (left).

So you’ve seen the photos and I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions on whether the factory finish meets your own standards.


Alex’s Custom

The tidal wave of Burton boards continues with Alex’s snazzy Custom:

He was quoted a one week turnaround at one of the other providers in Aberdeen but is leaving on Friday so he took advantage of the fast ManCave turnaround to get his gear sorted in good time – 18 hours from drop off to ready for pick up in this case. We can do it faster if you need it – call to see what we can do for you.

The tops looked fine at first…

…then you spot the split:

Holy smoke! Not much we can do here as the tip flexes so much no amount of glue will help. However it’s Alex’s choice if he wants to use it like this and we’re here to sort the base.

Once the many, many gouges are filled:

They need to be structured:

As always the clear & colourless P-tex means you can still see the gouges even though they have been filled. However I’m waiting for some coloured P-tex strips to come so maybe some coloured base repairs will look a bit better. Or, more likely, will have a slightly mismatching colour repair. Anyway the edges looked liked they have never been serviced, still showing a light crisscrossing grain from mechanical edging. The edges, like the rest of the board, have lived life to the full (and beyond) and show some signs, like the missing curve of steel below:

Bases and sides are both 1 degree and both need plenty of work to recover a good edge but once there sorted they are very nice. As always I like to treat a freshly structured base to some purple Zoom base renew wax first and the base soaked it up like a first pint on a Friday night. It’s a big board and scraping and brushing takes a while but finally the top wax is shined up and the base (let’s not dwell on the split top) looks like new:

Angus’s Lesson

Yet another Burton board wandered into the cave today, with 11 year old Angus hiding somewhere behind it. He sees the benefit in taking control of his own destiny and learning how to edge & wax his kit.

He’s been keeping it looked after and he learned how the Sharpie can be used to quickly find the current angles. The edges were bang on 1 degree base & side which makes things easy for us. He’s a dry
slope dude and his edges don’t suffer from stone bites but the base! Lord above. However it was an edge & wax lesson so we politely avoided the base issues, this time anyway.

Side edges were a breeze but needed a tiny bit of plastic to be planed off and the toe edge was noticeably less sharp than the heel edge so it took a bit more effort and elbow grease to get just right. Angus is still at school so hasn’t completely lost the ability to listen once and do what he’s told straight away, which is refreshing. He picked up the difference between the right & wrong noise & feel for the diamond files very quickly which was gratifying.

Finally we couldn’t ignore the P-tex battlefield that is Angus’s base any longer. Here’s a photo of Angus getting busy with the iron that will go down a storm with all the girls at school. The base has the usual dried out white lines that we associate with excessive dry slope bashing and it was a bit reluctant to soak up the wax to begin with but we soon beat it into submission. When the board comes back to the cave the base will be flattened, filled, structured and waxed which should reset it to like new and will help new wax adhere better.

Following some scraping and brushing, which pretty much proved that some jobs are simply easier for bigger stronger people, the board came up pretty well and is ready to start bothering the nylon at Garthdee again.


A brace of Burtons

Friday saw a set of Rossignols and a pair of Burton boards dropped off.

Burton A is a 2006/7 Uninc 154 which has a set of graphics which may not be to everyone’s taste – sort of a cross between Judge Dredd and Guernica:

Burton B is a 2012-ish custom restricted which has a rather inoffensive cocktail theme:

And – wait for it – scratch and sniff citrus patches on the base:

Good to see that the Burton techie team hadn’t been wasting their time between 2006 & 2012. Interestingly Burton A had quite a few nicks and scratches on the base but edges in great condition whereas Burton B was the other way round.

Burton A:

Burton B:

Filling the base nicks was easy enough, apart from the fact that the scratches kept going from black to coloured P-tex and back again – leading to the odd bit of colour creep – the black wisp coming from the head of the brandy-drinking, cigar-smoking pig shouldn’t really be there:

Once the Burton A base was sorted – well not 100% sorted as it had a bit of a concave thing going on that was improved but not eliminated – you only have so much P-tex on a base after all:

yes this is before and the other one is after – it’s about 0.5 mm better, honest…

So once the gouges were sorted edging & waxing were a doddle.

Burton B, on the other hand, needed a lot of edging work. One thing the Burton Tech Team had achieved in six years, apart from the technical triumph of the scratch’n’sniff patches, was the introduction of the Frostbite edge. Great name, and supposed to address the reduced edge contact you get with a board with pronounced camber. So what is frostbite in real life? It turns out to be a tiny bit more metal under the binding area, barely discernible with the naked eye. Anyway both the edges had unfortunate 45 degree flats on them:

The light really shouldn’t be reflecting from the edge like that and it takes a surprising amount of edge filing to get rid of it. I consider myself a conservative tech – you only get so much edge to play with over the life of your gear – so I hate having to file away tonnes of good metal to recover an edge. However better to have the edge there when you hit that icy patch…

It was nice to get back to the Rossis after the boards and they too had lovely bases but slightly knackered edges. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds about the graphics…

Nick’s family skis

Nick dropped off three sets of skis for edge & wax prior to heading to the hills for a holiday. What seemed like a simple job got a bit more complicated.

First a quick shampoo to clean off any remaining wax and crud:

Then base flatness check, shave the tops of any gouges, scratch them up to help the P-tex stick and then they’re ready for a scrape & structure:

Once the bases are sorted the base edges were done – still no drama – all three skis are one degree and the base edges were anyway in good shape.

However, it all went a bit Pete Tong when the side edges presented themselves. The Salomons & K2s should be 2 degrees and the Atomics 3 degrees. Instead all three sets were somewhere between one and two degrees, and they all exhibited a bizarre wave down their length – think of thumb prints on a pie crust except along a steel edge:

I drew some red lines on the photo to try to highlight them but you might just have to trust me. The edges have the tell-tale longitudinal, continuous striations left from tuning so they didn’t leave the factory like that – someone has done it to them. I can only imagine someone has used a hand-held grinder or something. The file guides just don’t let you make the wavy thing.

Anyway the most appropriate course of action, following a few seconds of incredulous head-shaking, was to reset the edge angles to what they were when they left the factory. It’s a shame as whoever reduced the edge angles must have removed quite a bit of steel to do it and now here I am removing yet more steel to put them right.

So once the edges are sorted and the huge fuzz of swarf has been swept up it’s a relatively simple case of wax, scrape & brush to a high shine. Nick is already looking for a lesson when he returns and if you have a lot of skis to look after it certainly makes financial sense to do it yourself.

Rossi core shot repair

As well as dropping off his K2s Colin handed over his wife’s beautiful new Rossignol Savory7 skis for attention. I’m a fan of understated tops that aren’t drowning in busy design and definitely a fan of black bases both aesthetically and to work on. The tips and tails of these skis have a hex mesh construction to save weight and this is covered with translucent blue film. You don’t really notice it until the sun shines through the tip like a techie stained glass window. Lovely job by the Rossi stylists.

However they are meant for skiing not hanging on the wall so the Chamonix trip had taken their toll with its less than perfect snow cover.

Bases were a bit scored and the base edges
were showing a lot of scratching. Reached the end of ski no. 1 inspection without too many concerns, but ski no. 2 had a nasty little surprise in store. Something had managed to rip the base right down to the fibreglass core.

There’s no alternative in these cases to cutting out the damage to leave a clean wound with undercut edges – meaning the edges of the hole are cut wider towards the fibreglass core to help the repair material stay in. What you do next depends on who you listen to – some people glue in cotton or wood to give the P-tex something to grip; Toko used to do repair powder that was supposed to be ironed in. I am firmly in the “clean it and coat the bottom in metal-grip” camp as the metal-grip will happily grip the glass and make a good substrate for the P-tex. I wasn’t able to take a compelling photo of the undercut edges so you’ll have to make do with what I did get. You can just about see on this photo that the Savory7 bases are only 1mm compared to others which are typically 1.7mm. This is to save weight and is part of the touring ski equation – light, strong cheap – pick any two.

Once the P-tex is melted in it looks like any other repair splodge and just needs to be scraped & structured:

Once the edges are honed and the bases get their two coats of wax the repair is just about visible but certainly not noticeable. Lovely skis returned to lovely condition and ready to find some snow.

Colin’s K2s play an encore

Having confidently said that Colin’s K2s would “only need a swipe and a wax to keep them going all season” he proved me wrong by heading to Chamonix and beating them half to death. It certainly looks like the thin snow at the start of the season has been keeping ski techs busy.

However despite appearances…

…there wasn’t actually too much wrong and they just needed the gouges scratched up, filled and a light restructure. Perhaps the worst bit was the number of near-edge grooves that needed Metal-grip rather than plain old P-tex. Although it’s great at gripping metal it doesn’t like wax so it tends to leave little matt streaks at the edges once the bases are polished up. Nothing to worry about and here are the K2s with some of the other backlogged planks:

Rachel’s Lesson

Rachel dropped off two sets of skis, bravely volunteering her own K2s for a lesson while her other half’s Heads joined the queue with the others. Both sets had a few gouges on the base so we extended the lesson to cover prepping, filling & scraping the gouges.

First though the bases weren’t perfectly flat so they got a quick once over with the base planer. Once the bases were flat, gouges filled and scraped level and the bases restructured it was finally time to set the base bevels. The edges were pretty rusty and dinged (“I’ve had a lot of fun making that big a mess of my edges”) but they were happy to succumb to a few passes with the file guide. The side edges, on the other hand, put up plenty of resistance with the first edge refusing to play ball. Although the sidewall was conscientiously planed away the panzar file zinged away making that distinctive, high pitched riding on plastic noise regardless of what we tried. Eventually it was beaten by inhuman amounts of filing with a 200 grit diamond file. Naturally the next three edges all behaved themselves impeccably. Despite the beaten look of the steel they took a nice edge – here’s Rachel just putting the icing on the cake with the gummi.

The extra time used on base planing, gouge filling & filing the cussed edge meant that we were keen to get the waxing sorted quickly. Fortunately Rachel proved to be a world-class wax scraper, and despite protestations that she never irons she was a dab hand at that too. It could be argued that we didn’t spend the prescribed amount of time waiting on wax for either base or top coat but by now the combined stomach rumbling sounded like the Harley Owner’s Club firing up for a quick blat to Flora’s café so we pressed on.

The final result was worth the suffering and the K2s were at least as gorgeous as the Heads. Here’s to a great holiday in Morzine.


Kristin dropped off her Salomon skis for service. They seemed to be called Bamboo which I guess reflects their composition.

Good looking, nicely understated skis but unfortunately the true bar check indicated that the bases were seriously concave:

That strip of light wants to be thin & consistent width not big in the middle and small at the edges. However the bases and base edges were in excellent condition so it seemed a shame to batter half a millimetre off them both before they were bashed enough to really need it, so the bases were left alone. This time anyway!

If you are wondering why base flatness matters the primary concern is the base & edge angles are both referenced from the base, so a bulging convex base will give higher base edges than the edge guide reads and vice-versa for convex. In theory you should also find that convex bases seem to need extra angulation before the edges bite, and concave bases can seem a bit grabby, especially when you doing something that needs bases flat to the snow like being dragged up a Poma button lift. the exception to all of this is wide, all mountain tips which Atomic at any rate says should be slightly concave. They don’t say how to achieve this if they have lost the concavity mind and I don’t know any tools that could get it for you.

Usual edge & wax job and here they are all shiny and ready to go again. Just watch out for hungry pandas on the slopes.


Linda’s Lesson

Linda found time to visit the man cave for an edge & wax lesson on her venerable Rossignols. Despite their advanced years the bases were in great shape except for a smear of rust on the edges:

Well a bit more than a smear but superficial really.

As always the party begins with donning the appropriate size & weight of coveralls, then a base flatness check. Unlike most modern all-mountain skis which tend to be a little concave at the fronts then flat under the binding to the tails, the Rossis were nice and flat at the front trending to a little concave towards the tails. Still, the lovely condition of the bases meant we would have been particularly cruel to charge in and start flattening.

Base edges are one degree and they needed little more than a few swipes to get all the Sharpie ink (and rust) off and settled into their old glory. Linda is using the 200 grit diamond file in the photo which is just long enough for the base file guide and needs careful finger support to keep it all together. Diamond file enthusiasts will note the spray bottle of highly specialised diamond file cutting fluid (Aberdeen tap water) on the bench.

A key part of learning to tune your own gear is to involve all your senses in the job. Fingers are great at feeling inconsistencies that you might not see; files running on plastic sidewall instead of steel edge make a high-pitched whizz and nothing really beats the 10x hand lens for getting to see exactly what’s going on. Lots of people struggle with hand lenses but Linda got the style straight away – hold it close to your eye and move your head close to the area of interest. Sadly all she got to see here was rusty pits on the inside of her edges but no matter – she’s around the curve of the tip so we don’t really care other than for aesthetics.

The side edges were a little odd in that they appeared to be somewhat rounded. Normally they reflect a single flash of light as you move your head sideways – they are after all supposed to be flat. Linda’s edges seemed to be a bit convex and reflected light like the back of a spoon. Who knows what has gone on there in the past. Anyway the edges took a few strokes with the sidewall planer to shed their overhanging plastic then a few aggressive swipes with the panzar file to get flat enough to file normally. After that they were fine and were given the usual chrome file, 200 grit diamond, 600 grit diamond and a final swoosh with the gummi to keep the edge sensible.

Linda opted for base Renew wax and Universal top wax:

And in a matter of minutes the skis were glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife, as Meatloaf once sang:

Look at that lovely original structure, still looking great after all these years.

Finally no lesson is complete without a shot of the proud owner showing off her handiwork – remember for the usual £23 cost of the edge & wax she got to do all the work herself. Just picture the satisfaction you could have hurtling down an alpine slope knowing that you had tuned your skis yourself…