How to Bevel and Tune Ski or Snowboard Edges
Peruse answers to common questions below, as well as our tips collected over the years from our wisened cutomers around the world.
WHAT IS BEVELING
Beveling the steel base and side edges on skis and snowboards can greatly affect their performance.
Increasing the base edge bevel lifts more of the bottom edge off the snow which, because steel edges drag in snow more than p-tex base material, results in better glide and greater speed. Base edge bevel at the tips and tails also makes it easier to initiate a turn, since the outside lip of the edge is lifted slightly off the snow and won't catch unexpectedly.
Beveling the side edge surface helps increase the gripping power of a ski or board on ice and hardpack snow. The trick is finding the right relationship between the base and side edge bevel to match your needs.
Although factories aim to deliver accurate skis and snowboards with a 1/2 to 1 degree base and 1 to 3 degree side edge bevel, they sometimes arrive in shops with base bevels that vary in degree along the length of the ski or board...or are unintentionally high (in the 2-3 degree range versus the desired 0 to 1 degree range). This can be checked with a true bar (see graphic below).
Factory edge grinding also sometimes results in unintentionally overheated…and therefore overhardened…edges. If so, they require ‘softening’ with an aluminum oxide or diamond stone before the steel can be correctively filed or beveled in the future.
Racers and high-performance skiers and riders, however, may want to adjust the bevel more to suit their particular needs. A slalom racer, for example, might choose a 3 to 4 degree side and 0 to 1/2 degree base edge bevel for super sharp grip when making quick turns on an icy course. A giant slalom skier might stick with a 1/2 to 3/4 degree base edge bevel, but reduce the side edge bevel to 2 or 3 degrees so the skis glide fast, but aren't too grabby. Speed events such as Super-G and downhills usually dictate more base bevel and less side bevel. When
When American Bill Johnson won the Olympic downhill years ago, his skis were tuned with a 4-5 degree base edge bevel and a slightly reduced side edge bevel...this provided the fastest possible speed for Johnson on a relatively flat, soft downhill course. By contrast, Tommy Moe won his Olympic downhill gold with only 1 degree of bottom edge bevel. This was dictated by the steep, icy conditions on the course in Norway.
A mogul skier who pivots their ski underfoot and doesn't want tips or tails to catch in the bumps might prefer a 1.5 degree bevel on both the base and side edges. Extreme skiers who drop into ultra-steep or icy chutes will graduate the bevel along the length of their skis, such as a 2 degree side bevel underfoot that changes to a 0 or .5 degree bevel at the tips and tails. Conversely, they'll start with a 2 degree base edge bevel at the tips and tails, then taper down to a 0 degree base edge bevel underfoot. This allows their skis to get great grip underfoot (handy when you're perched above a cliff or crevasse), while allowing the tips and tails to turn easily in narrow chutes.
After any beveling, be sure to polish both the base and side surfaces of the steel edges as smooth as possible without dulling the cutting edge.
SUGGESTED SKI BEVEL RECOMMENDATIONS - Alpine & Telemark
Skier Base Bevel Side Bevel
Novice/Intermediate 1 degree 1 degree
Advanced All-Mountain 1 2
Expert All-Mountain 3/4 - 1 2 - 3
Slalom Racer 0 - 1/2 3 - 4
GS Racer 1/2 - 3/4 2 - 3
SG & DH Racer 1 2 - 3
SUGGESTED SNOWBOARD BEVEL RECOMMENDATIONS
Rider Base Bevel Side Bevel
Beginner 1-2 degree 0-1 degree
Intermediate 1 1
Freerider 1 1-2
Spinner 2 0
Boardercross 0-1 1-2
Halfpipe 1 1
Slalom Race 0-1/2 3-4
GS Race 1/2-3/4 2-3
Super G 1 2-3
MEASURING SIDE BEVEL ANGLES
It is pretty simple to determine the side edge angle on your skis or snowboard. Using a black marker (Sharpie, etc.) to color about 4" (100mm) of your side edge. Next place your finest diamond stone, or natural stone, in your side bevel guide or tool. Adjust your tool to 2°, or choose a guide that measures 2°. Using the guide or tool lightly pass the stone along the side edge, the stone will remove the black marker, depending on where it removes the marker will give you clue to the angle.
1. If all the black is removed you have chosen correctly and the angle is 2°.
2. If the black on the face of the edge closest to the base is removed, the angle is greater than 2°, readjust your tool to 3° and try again.
3. If the black on the edge closest to the side wall is removed, the angle is less than 2°, readjust your tool to 1° and try again.
It is not uncommon for actual angles on your ski or snowboard to measure slightly less or slightly more than the angle indicated on your tool, that's just variance that can happen when skis or boards are run through a machine. Go with the angle on your tool closest to the angle on your skis and you'll be good!
MEASURING BASE BEVEL ANGLES
If you're not using a bevel guide to set base edge bevels, use an automotive feeler gauge to check the gap between your base edge and a true bar laid flat across the base. Here's a chart:
Degree of Bevel Reading on Gauge
1/2° = .0015"
1° = .003
1 1/2° = .004
2° = .005
2 1/2° = .006
3° = .007
TELEMARK BASE BEVELS
Due to less leverage they get from their boots (relative to most alpine ski boots), some telemark skiers prefer a little less base bevel on their skis. They might go flat (no base bevel) underfoot, increasing to a 1° bevel at the ski tips and tails. They combine this with a 1 or 2° side edge bevel the whole length of the ski. This gives them a sharper, more acute edge overall for more grip, while allowing the tips and tails to release into and out of turns.
Jim D., Precision Ski, Frisco, CO
First, you can choose to use bevel "devices". These tools usually feature a plastic body fitted with small steel files (or other optional inserts), plus an adjustment that lets you dial in a desired bevel angle. The advantage of these tools is convenience, adjustability, easy to learn to use, and they provide pretty precise results in the hands of even a less-than-attentive or skilled mechanic. Their disadvantages include more frequent file replacement (since file inserts are small and wear faster) and less "feel" for the cutting action of the files. We usually recommend these tools for beginners, folks born without meteoric learning skills, or those less mechanically-gifted.
Secondly, you can choose to use bevel "guides". These tools reflect more traditional filing techniques in that they're used along with a regular 8" (or similar) mill file, or any diamond or hard (arkansas) stones. Their advantage is flexibility (use 'em with whatever favorite file or stone you prefer to bevel, deburr, polish or detemper rock damage), longer file life (since files are larger and you utilize their full cutting surface), greater cutting sensitivity (since your fingers are usually in direct contact with the file itself instead of a plastic tool body), and more bragging rights (since this is assumed by some highbrows to be a more refined craft ). Downside? Their use requires greater attentiveness and can take klutzes (like us) a little longer to master. Plus many bevel guides (but not all) are sold in degree-specific models...meaning you can't use the same guide for different bevel angles.
The bottom line? Bevel "devices" are akin to driving a Buick with an automatic transmission, while bevel "guides" are for those 'hands-on' folks who prefer using a stickshift and clutch.
KEEPIN' A LEVEL BEVEL
Before beveling edges, make sure the ski base is absolutely flat using a true bar and your favorite base flattening tool. Otherwise, if the base is convex, you'll get too much bevel...and if concave, too little bevel. Sometimes those expensive stone grinds change your edge bevel, and your favorite skis just aren't the same. To measure the amount of bevel on an edge, I darken the edge surface using a marking pen. I put a fine diamond stone in the beveling tool, set it for the angle I want to test, and make a light pass over the edge. If the stone removes marking pen ink across the entire width of the edge, the bevel angle is the same as what the tool is set for. If it removes ink from only the inside of the edge (next to the p-tex), then the bevel is greater than what the tool is set for. If it removes ink from only the outside, then the angle is less. The same test can also be done on side edges as well. Jim Lansdowne, Evergreen, CO
When side beveling skis start with .5 to 1 degree maximum and increase it slowly from there if necessary. Radical side bevels of 3-5 degrees do not provide the returns you might expect. Skis can be ruined by over-beveling and the performance characteristics of radical beveling aren't suitable for everyone. Start with less, and only after testing the performance on snow should you work slowly towards more side beveling.
Van Brassington, K2 Serviceman
CHECKING EDGE BEVEL
Before beveling the bottom or side surface of steel edges, color the entire surface of the edge from tip to tail with a permanent marking pen. As you bevel, you'll file away the color coating. This way you can visually monitor the amount and uniformity of bevel you're imparting.
-Matt T., Glendale, WI
EFFECTIVE FILING TIPS
If you're learning to sharpen steel edges with a hand-held file, carefully "listen and feel" for clean cutting action...as opposed to grinding sensations or noise. Grinding indicates problems...such as a dull file (resharpen or replace it); edge shavings building up under the file (clean it frequently with a file brush); or work-hardened edge sections caused by nicking rocks (use a diamond or pocket stone to cut away these ragged and/or glazed areas before filing). Your filing will be cleaner and crisper as a result.
If you're filing ski or snowboard edges, but find that your file isn't contacting the edge consistently, avoid the temptation to just bear down harder to make it cut. This indicates other possible problems that heavy-handed filing might just make worse...such as a convex base (check it with a true bar, then flatten the base as required with sanding, a hand-flattening tool, or a shop stonegrind); the edges may already be over-beveled (again, check this with a true bar...it may be necessary to flatten the base a bit to "erase" some base bevel); the file may be bent so that it's not contacting the edges (check the file against a true bar to see if this is so and flip it over or replace it if necessary); there may be old wax on the base that's gumming up file teeth (scrape all excess wax off the base first with a plastic scraper, and then keep file teeth clean using a file brush); the ski or board may have recessed edges (some come from the factory like this to simulate a predetermined base bevel); or, heck, it might just be late and you're wiped from a hard day on the hill, and don't realize you're filing a pair of nordic race or jumping skis that don't even have steel edges (get some ZZZ's dude!).
Be aware that right- and left-handed tuners almost always bear down harder with their predominant hand when filing. This can create more bevel on one edge of your ski or snowboard than the other. Try to apply even pressure with both hands when working, and apply pressure directly over the steel edges (not the ends of the file) so as not to bow or bend the file, and use base and side edge file guides to insure precise bevel results on all edges along their full length (don't feel like this is wimping out or cheating...it's what world cup tuners do, too!).
The other remedy for bearing down harder on a file with your predominant hand is to file tip-to-tail down one edge, then tail-to-tip up the other. This will pretty much cancel out any discrepancy in bevel angles caused by uneven pressure...but, again, you're better off using a bevel guide with your file rather than risk uneven or variable results.
File with a slow, steady rhythm using overlapping strokes...filing too fast produces heat that can be detrimental to files and steel edges. File teeth are designed to cut in only one direction...not back and forth. You can detect this by running your thumb down the file face and feeling for sharpness. Always file in the cutting direction only and don't bear down on the return stroke, or teeth can quickly be damaged beyond repair.
Use light pressure when bearing down on a file whenever possible...a good clean file will still cut quickly with less wear and heat build-up, plus there's less chance of bowing the file which can result in a convex base and heavily or unevenly beveled edges. Keep a file brush handy and use it every few strokes, and store files carefully to prevent unnecessary damage or wear.
LONGER FILE LIFE
1) Avoid the missionary position...never stack files atop one another or they'll literally wear each other out. Store each in it's own plastic case if possible.
2) Brush their teeth...a file that is frequently brushed with a file card will cut better and last longer.
3) Chalk 'em up...rubbing a thin layer of most any common chalk into the teeth will help the file slide more easily along the base, doesn't load up with steel shavings that would otherwise be ground into the base, absorbs oil from your hands that would otherwise contaminate the base, and doesn't impair cutting efficiency.
4) Soak 'em in file sharpening solution...an 8-12 hour (overnight) bath will actually eat away some old metal, exposing sharp new teeth. This will usually work at least twice before retiring your files. Please note, however, that this trick does not work with chrome files.
5) Stop backsliding...files are made to cut in only one direction. If you backdraw a file two or three times, it'll break off teeth and you'll end up having to buy a new one.
6) Avoid case-hardened edges...when a steel edge hits a rock, the resulting friction creates enough heat to temper (or harden) the edge at that location. The steel will look very shiny and glazed, and is so hard that it can chip the teeth on a file. Use a diamond stone to remove all the glazing before filing this edge.
7) Before you start using a new file, put a piece of masking tape on one face of the file and work with the other. When the file starts getting dull (begins skipping or rolling along an edge instead of cleanly cutting it), expose the unused face and cover the worn side.
8) Put a piece of cloth tape (from a first aid kit) on the surface of any file bevel guide where you clamp on your file...it'll create some cushioning that'll help keep the file from shifting around while beveling.
9) Don't use wraps of tape around one end of a file to bevel the base edges on sidecut skis. Due to the radical change of ski width from tip to waist to tail, this technique will create more base bevel underfoot than at the tip or tail, which is just the opposite of what you want. On a traditional ski, this variance might be as little as 20% but on sidecut skis this variance can be as much as 50%. Instead, spring for a bevel guide or device to ensure getting the results you want.
Stone grinding ski and snowboard bases can sometimes work-harden steel edges. This is due to the friction involved and means you may have to remove it with a diamond stone before filing, since a work-hardened edge can be harder than the file.
Keith R., Sandvik Tools Co.
Fisher has produced some skis with "Plasma" edges. These are regular steel edges that, after the skis have been made, are zapped along the lip by a laser for a split second. The intense heat created work-hardens the outer surface of the steel from a normal rating (Rockwell 40) to a very hard (Rockwell 62) rating. This hardening is done to reduce edge wear for recreational skiers who, generally speaking, are less attentive to tuning needs than serious skiers or racers. To tune these babies, you'll first need to remove this hardened surface with a diamond stone before filing or beveling with regular files or edge tuners.
Use 6" or 8" files for side edges...these files are thinner and flex more easily than longer models so they'll conform to the sidecut of the ski or snowboard better. Take your choice of 8" or 10" files for base filing skis...or a 14" file for snowboards. For simplicity's sake, an 8" file is the best choice for both side and base-edge filing.
If you're just starting out and are a bit of a mechanical klutz (no offense)...we recommend getting an edge tuning or beveling device (see Bevel Tools). Although they don't provide quite the same "feel" as a mill file, they're mighty hard to beat for convenience, consistency, and quality filing results.
Good files are a joy to use, so it only makes sense to take good care of them. Use a file brush to remove steel filings and wax build-up after every three or four file strokes. To minimize clogging and prevent oil build-up from your hands, rub ordinary chalk into the teeth. Don't use too much or too little pressure when filing, push or draw the file only in the cutting direction, work in overlapping strokes from tip to tail, and always lift the file off the ski or snowboard on the return stroke. Don't lay files flat on the workbench, or store 'em stacked one atop the other...they'll get dirty and dull very quickly. We store our files individually in plastic sleeves or cases, and soak them in file sharpening solution when they start getting dull...this doubles or triples their average life.
I use a cheap grocery store-brand toothbrush (and replace it based on the recommendations of 4 out of 5 skiing dentists) to brush the filings out of my side edge tuner and riller tool. I also file the other end of the brush (it's soft and wouldn't dream of hurting your skis or teeth) into a shape to clean the wax from the center groove of the ski base.
-Jay H., Shawmut, ME
Have you ever had a problem cleaning p-tex or wax from your files? I use my heated wax iron to warm up my files a little, then brush out any stubborn debris with my file card. Remember to wipe off the iron base afterwards so it's clean for your next hot wax job.
-Phil Lind, Louisville, CO
SAVE YOUR HANDS
To avoid shredding the palm of your thumb when filing edges, put on a band-aid vertically along the outside of your thumb and then wrap tape around the thumb from the first knuckle down to the base at your palm.
Josh Greenfield, N.J.
FILE CLEANING TIP
To help remove stubborn wax or gunk from a file that resists a file brush, briefly heat the file with a propane torch, then brush again...most everything should come off easily when warm.
Fingers gnawed to the quick? No nails left after hours of tuning friends' skis? To save fingertips and help guide your file when side filing, hold a popsicle stick under the file with one or two fingers like it shows in the drawing.
-Jonathan K., Telluride, CO
I like to wear batter's gloves on my hands when filing edges to prevent cuts and abrasions. They are made of fine leather for good grip and allow the best sensitivity for handling tools and gear.
-Bjorn R., Natick, MA
A common mistake made when filing steel edges with a mill file is to apply more pressure to one end of the file than the other. Most right-handed mechanics, for example, will unconsciously bear down harder with their right hand. Naturally, this causes the file to cut more edge and base material from one side than the other. Be sure to check your work regularly with a true bar or roll pin to prevent this. Or file tail-to-tip first, then tip-to-tail after that to balance out any discrepancies.
THE LONGSTANDING "FLAT-FILING" MYTH
After years of hearing the woeful laments of poor misinformed souls who believe "flat-filing" is a technique used to flatten convex or concave ski bases, we decided it was time to share a little secret that could possibly help relieve some of this unnecessary pain and suffering.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...but even he can't seem to find a regular mill file that cuts p-tex worth a damn. So you shouldn't waste time trying, either. Mill files cut metal (like your steel edges) real well, but usually aren't sharp or aggressive enough to effectively slice p-tex. To expect otherwise is as futile as using a pizza cutter to carve a Thanksgiving turkey fresh outta the oven...it just ain't gonna cut it.|
The misconception of flat-filing probably stems from prehistoric days before stonegrinding machines were discovered. Skis fresh off the production line at the factory were quickly run over a belt sander before being shipped to ski shops. Unfortunately, the process of heating up and bonding together such diverse materials as metal edges, epoxy, wood, foam, metal sheets and fiberglass is not as simple as mixing coffee and cream. A curing time is required before everything tries (a very key word here) to settle comfortably together...and this process sometimes takes awhile.
Anyway, the new skis were still going through curing changes while in transit. By the time they arrived at ski shops, they often had...among other things...high or railed edges. Ski shop mechanics really hated life back then since they didn't have stonegrinders either, but fortunately were tough, stoic blokes, who, sporting abundant scar tissue on their thumbs, spent most of their working hours hand-filing these edges down "flat" to the p-tex base. This was before the days that base edges were intentionally beveled (although they often ended up this way due to heavy-handed filing), and this process was usually referred to as "flat-filing".
Besides being a crummy tool for cutting p-tex, there's another reason not to use a mill file to flatten a base. Few files are absolutely flat...they often show a slight curve along their length...and since you usually grip a file at each end, it tends to bow even more under pressure and therefore wouldn't yield a flat base anyway.
Nope...if you want to correct for a concave or convex p-tex base, use the right tools such as a base flattener tool, sanding with silicon carbide paper, scraping with a sharp steel scraper or getting a good stonegrind at your ski shop of choice. You'll be a happier camper.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU FILE?
Since there's only so much edge material on a ski or snowboard to begin with, it kinda makes sense to only file away as much as absolutely necessary...unless, of course, your parents own a ski factory or something. When beveling base edges on new gear, for example, it might only take 3 passes to do the job . It's easy to overdo...especially if you're not using a file bevel guide or your file is getting dull or dirty. Assuming your ski or board base is flat to begin with, simply blacken the base edge surface with a marking pen. Once you've filed away this ink, you know you've accomplished your goal. Don't keep filing until you start cutting into p-tex along the base edge...this is too much.
Also, don't file base edges daily or at every tune-up. Instead, use a diamond stone (or similar) to deburr and polish base edge surfaces, then do the same to the side edge. If this doesn't sharpen edges sufficiently, then lightly file the side edges only. Not only is it easier to remove material here, but wiser, too...because whenever you file away base edge material, you'll also have to remove a similar thickness of p-tex from your entire base to maintain the bevel angles you originally started with. Think of all the unnecessary work...not to mention shortened ski or board life...this creates!
NIGHT CREW SECRETS
After working night repair crew for a number of seasons at Mammoth Mountain, our crew started using old fingerless bicycle gloves when filing edges. The padded palms offer good palm protection, while the fingerless style still allows for base and edge 'feel'.
Whenever you are filing and encounter hardened or rock-damaged edges...but don't have a diamond stone handy to remove the glazing...try reversing your filing direction (tail-to-tip, instead of tip-to-tail). Sometimes the file will cut away the back (and often softer) side of the steel edge.
-Michael Smith, Sparks, NV
HANDY FILE CLEANER
A handy file cleaner can be quickly fabricated from a spent brass cartridge case from a 30-06 rifle or similar size. These can be obtained new or used from most gunsmith shops, a friend who shoots, or as discards at a public shooting range.
To make one, simply flatten the mouth of the cartridge case in the jaws of a bench vise. The rest of the case becomes the handle. To use the tool, hold the file to be cleaned securely down on your workbench, or clamped lengthwise and face up in a bench vise. Set the flattened tool tip on one side of the file, bear down, and push it across the width of the file following the slight angle of the teeth. The soft brass case will be quickly scored by the steel teeth to conform to their peaks and troughs so you can push any wax, p-tex, and other gunk out from between the teeth. A surprising amount of force can be applied to stubborn debris and the tool works on files of all sized.
-Special thanks to James Flood of Waverly, NY, who obtained permission for us to reprint this tip by Steve Acker that originally appeared in The Home Shop Machinist magazine
WORLD CUP TECH TIPS
To get the longest life from a file when using it with a bevel guide, start by using only the very end of the file...just enough to contact the steel edge and ensure it won’t slip off. As the teeth at this part of the file get dull, however, extend the file out a little further so fresh teeth are again exposed. When the first several inches at the very end of the file are dull (on both sides of the file, of course), snap off that section of the file in a steel bench vise, etc. You’ll now have a shorter file, but one with fresh sharp teeth exposed. Continue using it until the file gets too short to work well with your bevel guide. This trick lets you maximize the use you’ll get out of any mill file, plus save you money.
Before using any edge bevel guides or tools, be sure that whatever part of the tool sits against the ski or snowboard base is clean. These surfaces often pick up wax, filings or other grunge...and this accumulation can either scratch your base structure or affect the precision of your bevel results. To remedy this, rub the dirty surface of the tool with a piece of fine scotchbrite or fibertex to quickly and efficiently remove any buildup.
-Pam Warman, U.S. Ski Team Technician
HOMEMADE SIDEWALL PLANER
Use the end of an old file to create your own sidewall plane. First, cut the file (see drawing) using a dremel tool with a cutting disc. Then true and deburr all edges and you've got an effective sidewall plane.
-Mike L., Bloomington, MN
GOOD SHOP TUNES
If you take your gear to a shop for tuning, check out the quality of their work by asking to see other examples of their work...like on a recently-tuned demo ski or snowboard. Check the edges with your fingernails to see how well it's been filed, deburred and polished; ask how much the base and side edges were beveled (and why); check the base with a true bar to see if it' s been stoneground flat, and if the structure is clean and crisp (with no p-tex hairs visible). The shop tech should also ask you questions... such as where and how well you ski or ride to determine the best tune, and also inspect your ski or board to diagnose and suggest appropriate repairs. If you don't like what you see or hear, go to another shop...or, better yet, do your own work at home and get the tune you deserve.
AVOID ROUNDED EDGES
Filing ski or snowboard side edges by hand...using a side-tuning device or mill file with guide...is always better than having these same edges belt-sanded on a shop machine. Belt sanders often leave the edge surface slightly rounded due to compression of the belt, whereas a steel file produces a very flat surface for better edge grip.
Since they are already easier to turn due to shorter length and greater sidecut, detuning shaped skis is not usually necessary. Maximize the edging capability of these shorter skis to allow them to ski "longer"...you will definitely notice the difference on hardpack or ice. For the same reason, it is not necessary to bevel the base edge...but by beveling the side edge from tip to tail you will get great grip in hard snow conditions.
Shaped skis are used in shorter lengths than traditional skis, and are designed so the full length of the edge engages to carve nice crisp turns. But if you feel your shaped ski tips and tails are just a little too sharp and make it hard to initiate a turn, then simply increase the base edge bevel at tips and tails by 1/2 degree more than what you use underfoot. This will still give you good carving grip when the ski is turned up on edge, but allow the ski to initially slip into a turn easier.
Steve S., Marblehead, MA
REAL RUSTY EDGES
I tune skis and snowboards for friends, but live near the ocean where the salty air makes for some edges that accumulates a lot of rust!
To remove heavy rust before filing edges, I carefully use a small Dremel tool with a small rotary sander on it (used mostly by modelers and wood sculptors). I attached a rolling guide to it and lightly spray the edges with base cleaner to reduce friction and keep down the rust dust. I keep the tool moving and work down the full length of the edge in one direction. Although the sander leaves a certain sharpness to the edge, it should always be followed by filing, beveling, deburring and polishing in the normal fashion.
Charles F., Wrightsville Beach, NC
Do your edges ever slash through your ski or snowboard bag and dull or damage the edges? Slit a piece of garden hose to slip over the edges and lash it on with rubber bands or shoelaces to hold it in place.
Steven T., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
FILE TOP EDGES, TOO
After tuning your steel edges, don't forget to check your ski or snowboard top edges, too. Use a fine razor knife or mill file to remove nicks and plastic burrs there. This will protect your hands, clothing, car interiors, etc. from unneccessary accidental cuts. Once smooth, apply some paste or liquid wax along these edges and sidewalls to keep snow from sticking and to get better glide.
David A., Perth, Scotland
SWITCH EDGES REGULARLY
Unless you must use a designated left and right ski due to underbinding cants, different boot lengths, or other special reason, switch your skis every other day or so of skiing to help ensure more even wear on both ski edges. On race days, switch skis at the race start for fresher and sharper edges.
Beveling the backside base edge of a snowboard more than the frontside base edge is important because initiating a backside turn is harder...neither the knees or ankles flex in that direction. Asymmetric boards are designed to accommodate that..the backside edge has a shorter tip and longer tail because boarders find backside turns easier to finish than frontside turns. Likewise, top snowboard tuners are sharpening the tip of the frontside edge more than the backside tip, and sharpening the tail of the backside edge more than the tail of the frontside.
Getting good edge grip on ice or hardpack is a tough task for most skiers, but technology inspired by the concave design of ice skate blades enabled Ed Dittmar of ICE (Ice Control Edge Company) to create the microgroove...a tiny groove machined into the steel edge of a ski under the feet. In effect, it reduces the surface area that contacts the ice, and thus increases edge penetration. Although the main beneficiaries of ICE edges will probably be weekend skiers who tune less frequently and exert less torque, racers such as Marc Giradelli have also been using it since 1989.
Tester claim skis are 2.2% faster on an icy course with the microgroove...that's 1.32 seconds on a 60 second course. It costs about $40 per pair to have the microgroove machined into your edges at a ski shop, but it can (and should) be deburred and polished periodically by hand with the ICE Polishing Tool.
When testing we found the ICE microgroove worked well on icy slopes, although it took a while to find the optimal angle of skis on edge when turning...it held like a dam until the skis were cranked too far on edge, at which point the extra gripping advantage was lost.
Plastic margarine containers and bowls of various sizes work great for organizing families of tools (files, scrapers, stones, true bars, etc.). Just think, how many times have you spent what seems like forever looking for your 6" Pansar file that was hiding under a piece of scotchbrite?
-George A., Kalkaska, AK
Base flatness is critical, yet flat filing is a primary source of convex bases...even for experienced technicians and racers. The cause is flexibility of the files. Two files together, however, are virtually unbendable...so I rubber band two files with a wood paint paddle in between together. The wood prevents the files from dulling each other and you still have two file surfaces to work with.
-Scott I., Cape Elizabeth, ME
A LIGHTER TOUCH
When I first began tuning skis, side filing was the way to get sharp edges, but I soon ran out of edge because I did it too often and too aggressively. It's better to side file lightly and less often, and rely on gummi or diamond stones for regular side edge maintenance to keep burrs off.
-Ben H., Sugarloaf Ski School, ME
If you have weekend ski-tuner hands like mine and don't like wearing gloves because you lose some feel for tools or your friends give you shit for it, use small strips of 1" medical tape (ski patrollers carry it) over your thumbs and index fingers for protection from sharp edges and filings.
-Chris M., Longmont, CO
Some folks believe the true measure of a mechanic is how deep the edge filing pile up around their feet. Such antics are great for circus performers, but remember, you're a tuning technician! Other folks return diamond files to us, denuded of all abrasive coating, claiming the tools defective. This is due to heavy-handed use which dislodges the diamonds glued to the metal plate. If folks kept their tools clean, they wouldn't have to press so hard, and both the tools and gear would last much longer...plus save 'em dough and frustration. Don't be heavy-handed...a light touch with the right tool goes a longer way.
I use a can of compressed air to clean off the small files in my bevel tool, as well as blow shavings out of freshly-drilled binding holes.
- Noah S.
CERAMIC BASE TUNING
Some Atomic alpine race skis feature narrow strips of ceramic base material inlaid along the steel edges. This is done to help avoid base burn, since ceramic is harder and more durable than p-tex.
You can tune, patch and wax these areas just as you do the rest of your base without a problem.