Tuning Blog

by John Ellis, U14/16/FIS Coach, Gear
Geek, and SprongoMan.



  Where to start? Here's an
introduction to basic daily tuning

  • 13 Oct 2012 8:23 AM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    1st step to Great Performance!
    Every Tuner
    should be able measure base flatness. It isn't hard to do. Actual flattening is harder, but can be done quickly with the right tools and techniques. Even if you have a shop do all your new ski prep, you should at LEAST be able to measure the product the shops are providing, and to monitor the ski as it wears.

    I am holding 1 edge up for illustration purposes, but this is what you should see: a shadow with a little light creeping through.

    To measure flatness using a true bar and light (the most common method), Hold the ski such that it is pointing DIRECTLY at a light source (but not the sun). Put the true bar onto the ski between the light source and your eye. Note where the light is coming through. These are the "low spots." The bar is riding on the "high spots." If there is NO light coming through, that indicates 1 of 2 possibilities: 1.) The ski is perfectly flat OR 2.) you aren't hold the ski at the right angle to the light. #2 is usually the right answer.


    Here Ty is showing:  Light -> Bar -> Eye. You MUST be inline with the light source.

    A FLAT base is one of the most important steps in extracting top performance from a ski, AND in helping a good skier develop "touch" and/or "snow feel." Why? Because  if the base is NOT flat, the ski cannot behave the way the designers of the ski intended. As a skier, if the skis won't perform properly, the skier will naturally "compensate." This means extra movements/stances that are not helping the skier ski well.

    This means that EVERY racer from the youngest novice to the most advanced should have a PERFECTLY flat ski. Especially the youngest- so that they can learn properly right from the start (no bad habits).


    The amount of light coming through SHOULD BE VERY little. So how you hold the bar and ski in relation to the light source is critical.


    All you need to check flatness: Light and a True bar


    To flatten, you need sandpaper and a sharp scraper. Above I have a Ray's Way Flattening Tube and Ski Visions Planer with carbide bar. This is my preferred combination.


    Start but lowering the high spots with sandpaper. The Ray's Way roll increases pressure to make the job faster. Sand to loosen the material then...


    Scrape away the loose plastic with the planner. Go back and forth between the two tools until flat. Recheck with the True Bar between each cycle.


    Put one of the structuring stones in the planer to finish the job.

    Modern race skis have a MUCH better factory finish than they used to. Generally, new skis come relatively flat- especially the top FIS models. But at least 90% of new skis that I look at need flattening before they hit the snow- IF you want them to ski as designed. Tips and tails are the most critical.

    I have run at least 100 experiments with ski flatness over the years, and I am still always amazed  how big a difference removing .001 to .002 of material can make to ski performance. Many skis are concave by .005 to .010. They are no fun to ski on at all- once you have experienced a GREAT tune. Put in the time to get your skis flat and it will pay you back on the hill!

    BTW: There are a FEW tuners who advocate concave skis for racers. I have skied on the products and don't enjoy them at all. While it is TRUE that those skis have a natural propensity to carve, it is also true that the skis ONLY want to carve. On injected ice, the skis may be useful and powerful. Everywhere else, they limit the racer's ability to adjust line. Especially in the NW, FLAT is FAST!

  • 30 Sep 2012 3:00 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    Everyday Repairs
    One area of ski work I haven't covered is the everyday repairs that come up: minor delaminations and base gouges. There are several ways to fix each of these defects, but I will start with the most basic repairs and then build on that knowledge.

    Basic Base Repair. Tools/Supplies Required: P-Tex Candle, matches, and a SHARP plastic scraper. You already have the scraper, right? So all you need is a few candles and matches. $5 worth of candles (about $1/each) will last through all but the rockiest season.

    To repair a small gouge, simply light the candle and let it drip onto something metal (not flammable) for 30 seconds of so. Then bring the candle over the gouge and drip overlapping drips all the way along the length of the gouge. Repeat at least once, 3 to 4 times may be required for deep gouges. When done, blow the candle out and hang it over something NON FLAMMABLE until it has cooled and solidified. P-Tex candles burn EXTREMELY HOT and the molten plastic can burn skin or anything else it touches very quickly. Be CAREFUL!

    After a minute or so, the repair will have cooled enough to be scraped. GENTLY scrape the excess plastic off of the repair until the ski is again flat. Then use a brass brush to restore the structure (or something like) in the area of the repair. Wax the ski, and you are done! Easy, eh?
    The advantages of P-Tex candles are that they are cheap, easy to work with, and compact. The disadvantage is that the repairs are softer than the surrounding base material, so consequently they aren't all that durable. But every tool kit should have a few candles in it, as sometimes a quick repair is all you really need.      (pictures to follow)

    Basic Delamination Repair. Tools/Supplies Required: Epoxy, masking tape (or base tape), panzer file, sandpaper, and clamp(s). Less than $20- especially if you already have a panzer file.

    Repairs steps an pictures to follow.

    More advanced repairs to follow also.


    -Gadget
  • 25 Sep 2012 6:15 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    I hope you enjoy this article by Famous Tuning/Waxing Guru Blake Lewis. Thanks Blake!

    scrapertherapy.pdf
  • 02 Sep 2012 10:40 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    World cup and other shops put on clinics for learning the basics in a relaxed environment. Blake Lewis offers 1 on 1 clinics if you want more detail, and I am available also if you have questions.

    I haven't put on a tuning clinic in a couple of years. If there is enough interest, I will do one this fall or winter. Let me know if you are interested, and what you want me to demo.

    If Ty and I get around to it, we are still planning some videos, but I may only post to Sprongo (rather than YouTube) to keep a bit more information within CMAC.


  • 06 May 2012 7:45 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    Bill Cook died April 9th after 98 1/2 years of inventing, thinking hard, and giving. He was a skiing pioneer in the Pacific North West, skiing at Mount Rainer, Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass starting WAY back in 1938. When he heard of Crystal Mountain opening, he bought a cabin in the Dalles in 1962. That cabin became a haven for 2 generations (so far) of CMAC racers- including my son- thanks to his generosity and foresight.

    I probably asked Mr. Cook hundreds of technical questions over the 5 decades I knew him, and remarkably, he almost never failed to have a great answer for me. But I learned more from him than he knew, because I also watched how he lived, what he valued, and what he found worthless. Bill Cook valued people (especially friends and family), the mountains, simplicity, safety, and economy.... and speed. He didn't care much for snobbery, and he only barely tolerated stupidity.  His engineering solutions sought to do the most with the least. Sometimes he invented totally new designs with essentially nothing- found materials only. 1 of those designs (the cabin woodshed) survived over 40 years, and only the nails in it were not sourced on sight. Mr. Cook valued nature, but he was not afraid of ruining it by using it, nor was he intimidated by it.

    I probably would not be Gadget if not for Bill Cook, and it is also quite unlikely I would be a CMAC coach either. 

    If you have ever seen the cap I wear the most, you might wonder what "Cook's Cabin Speed Shop" is. Now you know.
  • 06 May 2012 7:43 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    This is an on-going project as I seek to find the best rust preventatives.

    6/03/12 update:
    One of my old K2s is being recycled into Research Duty. I am leaving it outside in the weather  with the following edge treatments:

    1.) untreated (as a control)
    2.) Hard Wax (rubbed on)
    3.) Liquid Teflon
    4.) Liquid Teflon topped with hard wax
    5.) Dupont Silicone/Teflon spray
    6.) Dupont Teflon spray
    7.) Piloil Silicone spray
    8-10.) 5-8 + wax
    11.) Paste wax
    12.) liquid wax

    6/11/12 update:
    After 1 week of sitting outside in the weather, here are the results:

    Worst (not surprisingly): Untreated:


    Paste wax worked a bit better:


    Tied for first with no visible rust are the two Dupont sprays:

    Teflon sprayed onto paper towel then wiped onto edge:


    Teflon + Silicone Sprayed onto paper towel then wiped onto edge:


    I will probably attempt Phase II allowing them to rust all Summer... just for curiosity.

    9-02-12:
    Good, hard wax rubbed into the edge is an amazingly effective rust preventative. I have been waxing edges FOREVER- so I assumed there must be better techniques/materials by now, but all the alternatives I have tried are either worse or only marginally better. When in doubt, dry your edges well, then rub a fairly hard wax onto the edge. Without buying anything new for your kit, you will make a big difference in the quality of your edges.
  • 24 Apr 2012 10:27 AM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    Many of the hard core waxers/tuners are talking about and/or building hotboxes. So is that it? Is warmer waxing the answer to Perfect Glide?  How warm should skis be when working on bases and edges? How about when checking base flatness?


    Our new hotbox hangs over the top of my work bench.

    Temperature for ski work:
    As cold as possible for edge, base and structure work- within reason. 35-45 degrees is about ideal. ESPECIALLY if working on base flatness, a cold base is very important. That is the condition the ski will be in when on the snow. If you check flatness when the ski is quite warm, the ski may actually be concave when cold- due to the different expansion rates of plastic and steel.
    But WAX as WARM as possible- up to 100 degrees plus. The ski will absorb more wax more quickly, and will be less temperature stressed. Modern ski adhesives are pretty good, but excessive temperature stress (change) may cause them to age quite quickly and fail prematurely. That can mean a delamination, or a ski that loses its "life."  Bad either way.

    Here is what I do:
    When a ski needs to be cleaned and/or saturated with wax, I try to do as much of the work in 1 sitting as possible. I will wax wash 1 ski (of a pair) 1-5 times (as required) until the wax scrapings are clean, THEN I will wax the ski with the wax of the day while the ski is quite warm. If at home, I pop the warm ski into the hotbox to soak for a few hours. Then I repeat with the 2nd ski.  Done this way, the ski only goes through 1 full heat cycle yet is waxed as many as 6 times.

    I will add much more soon...
  • 27 Feb 2012 9:35 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    Wax is one of the sexier tuning subjects. Ok, who am I fooling- there are NO sexy tuning subjects.. except to devoted (read: obsessed) shop geeks. But, among that crowd (over imbibed, and slighty slow on the uptake), this may at least SEEM like a sexy subject!


    (My main wax kit and some bulk wax)

    But really, wax (dope as it was once known) has always been a bit mysterious, shadowy, and secretive. I will NOT change that (or even try), as I enjoy a little obfuscation now and then as much as the next guy. However since this IS SUPPOSED to be an educational blog, I will show you some stuff and let you peak into my wax kit a little. But only if you don't tell anybody.

    I have been in many wax rooms this year, and I've seen a lot of the same thing: People waxing in much the same way we have for the last 40 years. Yes, wax has changed some, structures have improved; vises, benches and all tools have improved... yet the overall methods are much the same. I don't spend too much time in those wax rooms, as I find it distracting. I do most work with very different methods, and with very different tools. Why? Because I do so MANY skis (well over 300 pairs this year), that I am FORCED to find better, more efficient methods to get my work done. As of this date (4-3-12), I have a backlog of about 16 pairs to get through... (sigh) I will show the BEST way I have found to do things by the traditional methods and also how to do things by the newer methods I have developed.

    Q: Hey! I've been in those wax rooms, and I think it is pretty impressive. How come you are such snob about it all?
    A: Ok, you win. Watching the racers put such care into their skis IS impressive. I love it actually.
    Q: So what's all that about "old methods" and all?!
    A: I'm talking about new ways to wax and new tools. Saving time, wax, and money.
    Q: Like?
    A: My favorite method of applying high-end waxes is with a RAY'S WAX wax wizard.

    Using a wizard, you just crayon the wax onto the surface of the base, then run the tool back and forth, pushing with a lot of force. The tool drives the wax INTO the base. There is almost no waste once the tool becomes worn-in... and once you gain some experience with it.
    Q: That sounds hard. How long does it take?
    A: 5-10 minutes per pair. And it isn't that hard.
    Q: I can wax that fast! Why should I change?
    A: Sure you can, so can I. But with this tool, there is little scraping, no cooling, no waiting, and no wax fumes.
    Q: Wait-what?
    A: Yeah- you push the wax into the base, scrape lightly once or twice, brush, and polish. No scraping means no mess, so there is little clean up.
    Q: How much does it save?
    A: At least a 75% wax (and $) savings.
    Q: How durable is the wax?
    A: It seems very similar to ironing- quite durable, that is.  Oh, and did I mention- you don't need any POWER! You can wax a ski almost anywhere, anytime.
    Q: Where can I get one? What do they cost?
    A: About $20 at World Cup in Bellevue OR AlpineSkiTuning.com OR Tognar.com
  • 27 Feb 2012 9:34 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    Wax Tools: Irons, scrapers, brushes, corks, Wax Wizards, Polishing/buffing. Hotboxes, Hot sleeves, etc... you'll see soon.

    Basic wax tools:


    BUY A RAY'S WAY WAX WIZARD!! You won't regret it. This basic kit (above) will do MOST waxing tasks. The kit includes: A sharp plastic scraper, a ski iron, 3 brushes (brass, nylon, and horsehair), a polishing cloth, and a RAY'S WAY wax wizard.

    Rotobrushes: If you wax 4-6+ pairs of skis a day, rotos are nice because they save time. If less than that, they are an expensive luxury tool IMHO. I have a complete rotobrush setup, but I find I do not use it everyday.

    I will add more later...
  • 27 Feb 2012 9:33 PM | John Ellis (Administrator)
    Some of the many speed potions I possess are below. These are the basic, inexpensive waxes that should be used everyday. Using ample hydrocarbon waxes daily ensure your skis will get faster all the time. Use plenty of wax.

    BTW, the scrapings are (somewhat) recyclable. I gather up the scrapings, bag it, and use it as a fire accelerator at the cabin. That works great, and it is fun to use! ONLY do that with Hydrocarbon waxes however. Fluro should not be burned.



    They are mainly used for hotboxing, wax washing (warm scraping), and for a base wax below more expensive waxes.

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