Peter’s lesson

Peter dropped off four sets of skis back in April with a view to getting a lesson at some point. Finally in early July the planets aligned and we were able to get to work on his K2s. Here are a couple of shots from the pre-lesson work:

Crossways scrape on the base – there were plenty of these
All the scrapes and gouges filled ready for scraping






By the time Peter and Kurtis arrived all the K2s needed was a quick edge & wax. There were two of them so they got a ski each to work on.

One good thing about working on skis in July is the natural light flooding into the cave, as well as no need for beanies or buffies. All very civilised.

Here’s Peter diamond filing an edge:






And here are the finished skis:

Ally’s full house

Alasdair has done the sums and realised that paying someone to service a house full of skis only makes sense if you’re a Russian oligarch. So he called up looking for a lesson.

Full house, of skis, dewaxing

Sadly he came up against the new ManCave hard line on lessons – you have to have the skis tuned by me first before turning up for a lesson. There’s a good reason for this – if you’ve had skis machine serviced and the edges are all over the place & case hardened too then chances are the lesson involves watching me wrestling and swearing for thirty minutes before you get to do anything.

So in some ways it was a relief to find that Ally’s Atomics complied pretty well with the usual horror story. Regular readers will know that all Atomics leave the factory with 1 degree base bevels & 3 degree side bevels, sharp to the tips. Readers may also have spotted that production line servicing outlets tend not to change their angles between skis, so there’s a tendency for all the skis to come out the same. Ally reckoned that he’s had the skis seen to twice, in different resorts. One edge had a nice break of slope, indicating that the first “service” had taken the side edge down from 3 degrees to 2 degrees. At least that guy had finished the job – the following effort had tried to give the edge a one degree bevel, but gave up before the whole edge was finished. It was obvious before even starting as the rust looked different on the two faces and there was a clear line between the two.

So, that took a bit of sorting out. The other edge on the same ski had something very odd – the edge was more than 3 degrees. That means that the first pass with the file in a 3 degree guide only took metal off the part of the edge nearest the base. It’s so unusual that I spent 5 minutes checking that the file guide wasn’t bent or the file somehow sitting wrong. Definitely the edge and not me, so more wrestling and swearing to bring it back to three degrees. The other ski was similarly out of spec and the edges well hardened. I didn’t mention earlier that the skis also had the common Atomic issue of concave bases, so I spent some time flattening , filling & structuring the bases before getting onto the edges. So the single pair of skis consumed a lot of time before they were even ready to be waxed.

The rest of the family planks were less abused and didn’t take too long to get back to manufacturer’s specs, then two coats of wax for everyone and polish to a high shine. Here they are waiting to be picked up:

So the point I started to make at the top of the blog is that it’s better to learn ski servicing on sorted skis than it is to watch me beat them into submission for an hour. Ally just needs to ski the wax off these for a week or two then he can come back and be inducted into the dark arts of the ski tech in a sensible amount of time, then he can start saving a (small) fortune on tuning costs, with the added satisfaction of knowing he’ll have the same bevels on both edges of his skis…

Matt’s Lesson

Matt brought round his Nordicas for some TLC. Here they are after a dewax:

They showed up a little bit concave with the truebar but well within acceptable limits. There were a few lumps & bumps & base gouges so these were filled and Matt got to scrape the repairs flat. Remember kids – steel scraper & brush for base repairs; any other times keep the steel away from the bases – you’re allowed brass brushes and perspex scrapers for waxing but no steel.

Once the base is cool it’s time to sort the base edges. It’s becoming clear that people aren’t always 100% clear on what bevels are for, which is understandable given the ease of distribution of misinformation in the current era. So, you need edges to cut into hard snow & ice when you want to make a turn. When not turning, you want the steel out of the way as it is more draggy than waxed P-tex and you don’t want your skis to start turning by themselves. So we put a small angle on the face of the edge that faces the snow, typically 1 degree, max range probably 0.5 to 2 degrees. Smaller base angles (according to ski tuning orthodoxy) are for slalom guys who want their skis to initiate turns very quickly; bigger angles are for park dudes who don’t want their edges digging into the rails or for anyone who fears their tails digging in on mogully slopes. Naturally some forum experts advocate blended base angles (eg 1 degree underfoot, 2 degrees at the tails – make up your own variations) but this could be a case of keyboard cowboy differentiation signalling.

Side bevel discussions are particularly incendiary and make the Brexiteer/Remoaner arguments look demure and even handed. You do need to put an angle on the side edge, but should it be 1, 2, 3, even 4 or 5 degrees? Who knows. I run base 1 and side 3 on my Atomics because that’s how they leave the factory. Lots of other brands run 1,1 or 1,2 and people seem to be able to turn perfectly well on them. But don’t let that stop a heated argument in the bar! Here’s Matt giving his Nordicas 2 degrees.

Once the edges are sorted, and Matt’s edges had a weird ultra-sharp burr that had to be eased out before gummi stoning them to perfection, it’s out with the £6 Tesco iron to wind up the purist wax dudes. Seriously, the thermostats all come from the same supplier in China whether you spend £6 or £300. Plus the steam holes don’t fill up with wax and burn down the garage, regardless of what you might read. Just fiddle with the heat setting until your chosen wax melts slightly reluctantly and there isn’t much smoke and you’re away. And wear a proper half face respirator with A1 or A2 filters. Matt is planning to head to Braehead with his Nordicas so it was a quick rummage in the wax bucket and out popped the Datawax graphite & fluoro “indoor snow” special wax.

Once the wax is scraped a quick & careful waxy brass brushing to push it into the structure…

…then some serious elbow grease with the nylon brush and hey presto – another delighted customer who knows how to maintain his own kit.



Robyn’s lesson

Robyn came round for a lesson on board tuning after her dad told her what a great idea it is.

Her K2 board looked nice but had a crazy concavity that was as bad as any I’ve seen – you could have slipped your pinky under the true bar at the worst bit. However flattening board bases takes much too long for a lesson so we patched and scraped a couple of gouges, edged & waxed the board and hey presto – ready to set a new speed record on the nearest hill.

Brian’s lesson

Brian was interested in dabbling in the dark arts of ski tuning, so once he had signed the ski tech secrets act (cunningly disguised as the ManCave workshop disclaimer) we got to work on his Völkls. After base cleaning and the flatness check it was straight onto the base bevels. Like a lot of clients Brian had a long story explaining why he couldn’t dry off his gear after his last run – naturally it’s never the fault of the owner but no amount of self-justification alters the fact that you will lose a bit of steel from your precious planks if you let the rust worms nibble your edges.

Here Brian is sorting his base edges with one of the Moonflex diamond files. He has looked after his kit (rust notwithstanding) and it didn’t take much to get the edges cleaned up. As always I encourage clients to sharpen up to the tips and make sure they take a 200 grit diamond stone to the mountains so they can detune the tips if the skis are too grabby. It’s always easier to take an edge off on the slope rather then try to make an edge.

Side edges are 2 degrees, or 88 degrees if you are an inverse sort of person, and again we had to scrape off more steel than we wanted to get to bright metal. It’s a real shame to have to pick the hedgehogs of swarf out of the panzar file just because of a bit of water left on the edges a bit too long.

We soon got Brian busy with the waxing iron. This is the bit most people enjoy as they chase the melting edge of the wax up the base, especially the low temperature, runny base renew wax I like to use under the top wax.

Brian was pretty privileged as I cracked open a brand new wax scraper so the wax pretty much scraped itself. Doesn’t matter how carefully you sharpen your old perspex scraper it just never gets as sharp as a brand new one. At this point I want to point out that Brian arrived at the Man Cave with his fingers plastered up and that wasn’t the result of a new scraper incident.

Brian’s off to Chamonix in April so we agreed beforehand to apply the yellow Alphamix wax for soft spring snow. Sadly there was far too much blethering during the tutorial and we ended up using Zoom Universal instead, due to an autopilot error. No matter as it is supposed to be good to zero Celsius too, but really, pay attention John.

Of course people think they’re on the home straight when they’re ironing in the top wax but the most physical part of the whole service is coming – the brush up to a high shine. Usually I try to get sharp photos for the blog but this blurry job captures the effort & speed required.

Once Brian had headed home the other skis got a once-over. They were both Ogiers and definitely piste-bashers with narrow mid sections. They both had a bit of base gouging to sort and one set had a noticeably convex base. As always these base flatness photos are a drag to take and they don’t really show what you can see as you slowly drag the true bar down the base so once again you’ll have to trust me and use the eye of faith:

Once the gouges were filled & scraped the SkiVisions tools were pressed into service to bring down the central hump and to impart some new structure to the repaired base.

A couple of the edges had seen some life as the ragged edge here shows. Ignore the glossy black strip, that’s just a bit of lubricating water from filing the base edges. If these were back country skis I would be relaxed about the edge nicks as you don’t use edges when surfing bottomless powder, but of course these planks are intended to grip like limpets to the crunchiest corduroy or bluest ice on a knackered piste so really the dings have to be filed out to make a smooth edge. Cue yet more fur balls of filings all over the floor.

Finally all the gear is polished up – using the right wax this time – and ready for their class photo:

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.


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.

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…

John’s Whitedots – lesson

John has waxed & edged his own stable of skis already but wanted to make sure he was doing it right. As ever we’re happy to oblige. Remember, getting a lesson doesn’t cost any more than having me do the work.

He came round with a set of Line Sir Francis Bacons which looked OK at first glance but proper inspection with the hand lens revealed a break in one edge – more on that in a future blog post. Once the tears had dried we got to work on his Whitedot Carbonlite touring skis.

As always, following a brief inspection the bases were checked for flatness with the true bar. Well they were sort of true with a bit of an M shape going on longitudinally and a definite bulge under the heel binding on one ski. Nothing too radical but worth watching in future. It’s the sort of thing you can’t see without a true bar & backlight so if you’re the sort of person who skips medical check ups in case the doc finds something then maybe the true bar isn’t for you.

Next step as always is to double check the base bevels with a sharpie and file in the appropriate base file guide. They were already at 1 degree as per manufacturer’s guidance so they were just given a few swipes to clear rust and a couple of minor scratches.


Before we could do any edging the sidewalls needed planing. Although the skis had been tuned once before there was a good bit of plastic in the way of the edging tools. As always getting the right combination of weight & speed to plane the sidewall perfectly smooth takes plenty of time & patience, especially as these walls had been left pretty lumpy by the last guy. If in doubt many fast & light strokes always beat one huge heroic effort. And finally, don’t be frightened to use a knife to remove big lumps if the alternative is shattering your planer blade.

Although pretty new the skis had been tuned once, in France. Whitedot changed from a 1:1 base:side bevel to 1:3 in 2014 so in theory the skis were new enough to have the more radical sides. Out with the sharpie once more, and we found that three of the edges were pretty much one degree with one edge significantly less than one degree. This is unusual and is probably due to the last guy not planing the sidewall radically enough and the file riding on plastic sidewall not steel edge. If he took skis with a 3 degree edge bevel and took them down to 1 degree (because that’s what the previous year’s models were and not everyone checks bevels before they start tuning) then he will have taken plenty of steel off the edge and his files may well have been riding on plastic even after a cursory bit of sidewall planing.

Anyway we’re here to edge & wax skis not cast aspersions about other techs, so on with the edging. John opted to keep the 1 degree side bevel as he’s been happy so far so it was just a case of getting the right combination of speed, weight, file noise and flair:

Like a lot of activities when you get it right it feels right so I think John achieved his ambition of getting more confident on the edging side of things. As always chrome file then 300 grit diamond then 600 grit diamond then gummi the edge back to just sharp not silly sharp.

John tried out a few angles with the wax scraper, including this one pictured left. As always touring skis are a drag to scrape just because they are so big.

The scraping showed up the weird M-shaped bases again but some furious brushing left them in tip top condition. Here’s John showing off his planks and just ready to head back home and dig out a few more sets of skis for the treatment.

Now the easy ones have been done it’s nearly time to sneak another peek at the Bacons – if we’re feeling strong enough…

Ski Tuning Lesson

Myles couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn how to edge and wax his Armadas for the same price as having me do them, so he brought them along to the man cave for a lesson. It was pretty cold so Myles gets to use the thermal coveralls and he sensibly brought his own World Cup beanie.

Although the skis were bought from a mate there was no evidence of them ever having tasted wax and the grinder striations on the base and side edges made it clear they were still waiting for their first tune up:

You can just make out the mechanical grind marks at 45 degrees to the edge

2-sharpieArmada don’t bother to put any tuning info on their website but good old Jon Coster at the Piste Office has done his homework and reckons base 1/edge 2. It’s good to check so out with the trusty Sharpie to colour up a length of edge.
Once that’s done a couple of light swipes with the file in the 1 degree guide take the ink off completely indicating that the base edges are indeed 1 degree.


3-filingThe base edges have very little marking or gouging so all we do is a few passes with the steel file to take off the mechanical markings then a pass with the 200 grit diamond file for luck. Base edges only really need attention after you have gouged them on rocks so this should see them good for a couple of trips.


4-planingThe side edges present a slight issue – Armada have somehow managed to make the plastic tops of the skis protrude very slightly over the steel edges and they have added a load of extra plastic at the binding area. We can’t see any good reason for this but it means leaving a lot of colourful curly plastic on the floor with the sidewall planer.

5-edgingOnce we have access to the edges they are also checked and 2 degrees it is. Armada manage to score a point for marking the skis L & R so we know which edges to give the extra attention to. One edge has very slight scratching but it comes out completely with some elbow grease. After the steel file, 200 grit and 600 grit diamond files the edges are gleaming like a samurai sword and too sharp so the gummi stone is used to bring them back to sharp but safe rather than hazardously sharp.


7-waxingThere are a few minor gouges on the bases but nothing too serious so it’s time for base wax. The skis are quite wide & long so it is, frankly, a laborious process to iron in then scrape off the wax but the bases really needed it. Myles is planning a trip to the Alps in January so as the crystal weather ball doesn’t stretch that far we opted for Zoom Universal which is supposed to be good for -10 to 0 degrees C.

8-scrapingScraping the bases highlighted the slight concavity we had measured right at the start of the process but like the base gouges we put the lightly railed base into the “maybe later” tray.

After a thorough brushing the skis looked like new, minus half a pound of superfluous sidewall plastic. It was so cold we ran back inside and even forgot to do the “proud owner shows off skis” photo at the end.

Don’t forget if you want to learn how to manage your own equipment it is the same price as a normal service. Edge and single hot wax should take 2 1/2 to 3 hours, base & top wax slightly longer. Get in touch here.