We get a lot of calls regarding brushes choice, and with good reason…there are a lot of choices! Hopefully we can clear it up a bit and make the choices a bit less daunting.
There are two major styles of brushes: hand brushes and roto brushes. Hand brushes (as the name implies) fit in your hand and rely on good old elbow grease to get the job done. Roto brushes fit into an electric drill which spins the cylindrical brush and sends wax flying quick smart. Most people are fine with hand brushes, but if you often find yourself waxing a family or team worth of skis or own a quiver of snowboards, you’ll likely appreciate roto brushes.
We’ll start with hand brushes. Here we have a couple shape choices, rectangular and oval. It’s really a matter of size, generally an oval brush is larger than a rectangular brush, which equals more surface area and hence more bristles which get the job done that much quicker. Rectangular brushes measure around 3-4″ wide and 5-6″ long whereas oval brushes measure 3.5-4″ wide and up to 8″ long, oval brushes also have a hand strap which provides a solid feel and more powerful strokes. Rectangular brushes are around half the cost of oval and work well for most people, if you’re an avid waxer or own fat skis or a snowboard the oval brushes would be a good choice.
Examples of hand brush shapes
Roto brushes are cylindrical shaped and come in various lengths 100mm is the most common though 140mm brushes can be found, they are also made in 300mm lengths for snowboards. A shaft and handle are required to connect the brush to the drill, the shaft spins in the handle and a shield is included (though not on the snowboard length) to keep the wax particles from getting in your eyes, though safety glasses are still a must.
Ski & snowboard roto brushes with handles
Once you’ve committed to a bush type the next hurdle is determining what material you need. This is where much of the confusion lies when picking brushes. We’ll try sort out a handful of the most common brushes.
Stiff Steel-Used for refreshing base structure. An aggressive brush intended to be used sparingly through the season. Available as hand brushes only.
Steel/Fine Steel-Used to prep bases prior to waxing or as a second brush after scraping. Usually fine, soft steel bristles. Versatile and long lasting. Hand or roto.
Brass, Copper or Bronze-Used to prep bases prior to waxing. Removes oxidation, old wax and debris and revives base structure. They can also be used as first brush after scraping when applying cold waxes (e.g. blue or green). An essential brush. Hand or roto.
Nylon-Used as first brush after scraping, especially softer waxes. The bristles on these brushes are most often white, black or grey. Essential all around wax brush. Hand or roto.
Combo-A rectangular brush with brass (or copper, bronze) bristles on one end and nylon bristles on the other…two brushes in one! Lead with the end you intend to use and slight lift the following end. Best used on Nordic (cross country) skis, they require a lot of work when used on wide skis or snowboards! Hand only.
Horsehair-Used as second brush to further polish the base and break static. Also used for polishing hi-fluoro overlays. Bristle length varies (longer = softer). Hand or roto.
Soft Nylon-Used to polish hi-fluoro overlays. Also great for a final buffing of paste waxes (like Swix F4). Silky-soft nylon bristles, usually blue or black. Hand or roto.
Wildboarhair-Not joking…used as first brush after scraping, nice and stiff.
Cork-Technically not a brush but in the same category. Used to apply hi-fluoro overlays (powders and solids) by creating heat through friction and melting the wax. Hand or roto.
The intended uses listed above can and do vary, but it is a decent overview. Keep in mind that the longer the bristles of a particular material, the softer the brush (bristle diameter plays into this too but is more difficult to determine). The two essential brushes are a brass and a nylon; add a horsehair if you want some extra polish or are using overlays.
When using roto brushes be aware of the recommended drill RPM’s and use light pressure…don’t bear down. Also, safety glasses are a must and you might consider a respirator especially with hi-fluoro overlays.
Thanks for reading, have a great season!