A former World Cup ski tuner tells you how to keep your edges sharp and the basics of tuning your skis.
By Tony Crespi
“Skis are expensive, but badly tuned skis can make the experience disastrous,” notes former World Cup Ski Tuner, Mike DeSantis.
One of an elite group of ski tuners on the East Coast who tuned skis on the World Cup, Mike DeSantis brings extraordinary skill and knowledge to tuning.
The basic principle of tuning a ski edge is simple: A dull knife doesn’t cut as well as a sharp knife, and a dull ski doesn’t grab and edge like a tuned ski! On the other hand, many skiers simply do not realize that even after a day of skiing on hard snow a ski’s performance degrades.
“A ski that looks good doesn’t mean it skis good,” emphasizes DeSantis, who presently tunes in his workshop, Ski MD, at Summit Ski & Snowboard in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Here’s an inside guide to tuning:
Binding Removal: Mike begins by removing bindings. While many shops omit this step, Mike believes this adds accuracy as the machines no longer have a ski “wobble.”
Side Edge Shaping: After carefully cutting the sidewall to better reveal the side edge, a side edge grinder and ceramic disk edge finisher prepare the side edge. Ultimately, this sets the side edge at a 3-degree bevel.
Base Reconditioning: Mike reconditions the base using a stone grinder. After multiple “passes” on a carefully cleaned stone, the bases are clean and base edges flat. Mike also adds a “structure” into the base to maximize glide. This can involve multiple “turns” on his machinery.
Edge Shaping and Polishing: Using a ceramic edge finisher, Mike “sets” a half-degree base “bevel” to maximize turn entry while setting a 3-degree side edge bevel. Mike also polishes the edges using a fine polishing cloth and diamond to remove microscopic burrs.
Waxing: Finally, the base is waxed with a wax jet machine, which uses a Scotchbrite belt to gently polish. At this point the base looks like new. Well, at least faster and sharper.
TIPS FOR HOME MAINTENANCE
Interested in maintaining this world class tune at home? With a few simple tools and a minimum amount of time, skiers can maintain their skis. Consider these steps:
1) Wipe your skis. Skaters wipe edges regularly. Wiping skis following use minimizes corrosion and helps remove chemicals and pollutants.
2) Inspect the bases. Ski bases perform best when free of gouges. Either fill or have the shop fill major gouges.
3) Use a file guide to keep side edges smooth and sharp. A basic “file guide” and diamond stone are key.
First use a thick rubber band to hold the “brakes” out of the way. Second, mark the edges with black magic marker. Work tip to tail to gradually remove the magic marker. Start with a diamond insert to remove major marks. Lightly file. Polish with a diamond.
Waxing protects the base and allows a ski to glide and turn. Unfortunately, hot waxing CAN damage a ski. Mike DeSantis likes the Wax Wizard. The skier simply rubs ski wax from a block onto the base and polishes the base with this tool, which “melts” the wax into the base using friction.
“Once that base edge is set, do not file that base edge,” suggests Jed Duke, Division Manager for Blizzard Skis. “File or stone the side edge. Use the guide to maintain that angle.”
For those interested in tuning the good news is that a variety of effective tools are readily available. From a basic plastic guide with a variable side edge setting (one example is the FK Variable Sharpener from Reliable Racing), to a highly precise guide with wheels to avoid pressing cuttings into the base, this tool is critical.
Uniquely, Edge Tune sells a dremel-powered edge guide that brings ceramic stone grinding technology to home tuning. Their web site also includes very helpful demonstrations to educate tuners.
Helpful web sites include the following:
• Edge Tune; www.edgetune.com
• Reliable Racing: www.reliableracing.com
• FK Tools: wwwfktools-us.com
• Sun Valley Ski Tools: www.svst.com
• The Race Place: www.The-raceplace.com
• Ski Sharp (Wax Wizard) www.alpineskituning.com
Tuned skis can maximize your day. In the East even a single day on hard snow can degrade edges. Fortunately, a rag, plastic side edge guide, diamond insert, file insert, and wax can largely maintain your skis.
Maximize your investment. Stay tuned from that first run to you last run.