New Toko Waxes for 2013

Toko has unveiled a completely overhauled line of waxes this season and the changes are generating quite a bit of interest. Perhaps most exciting is the replacement of the venerable Dibloc race waxes with the new Tribloc waxes. These waxes have been tested for two-years, and were used on the World Cup last season. Where the Dibloc molecule had two parts, one hydrocarbon and one fluorine the Tribloc molecule has three parts – fluorine, hydrocarbon, fluorine. This means more fluorine content in the same amount of wax. In addition to increased fluorine content Toko is also using a harder paraffin in the Tribloc waxes. Over the last few years the very popular race service white and orange premixes have tested very well and are now incorporated into the Tribloc line. The white premix (a mix of blue/red) has become the hardness of the new red and the orange premix (a mix of red/yellow) has become the hardness of the new yellow. Expect improved performance across the board with Tribloc.

Longtime Toko users will likely have a quantity of Dibloc on hand, this is not an issue as Dibloc and Tribloc can be used together.

Toko Tribloc HF Waxes – Available in 40g or 120g

Toko Tribloc LF Waxes – Available in 40g or 120g

Part of Toko’s popularity is the simplicity of the system, just three glide waxes (yellow, red, blue) covering conditions from spring slush to teeth-chattering ice. In addition to these main waxes a black base prep wax is offered, this wax contains DLC (diamond like carbon) that increases durability and wax hold, it has antistatic qualities and is excellent at repelling dirt. This wax is an improvement over the Moly Base Prep of previous years. The black waxes are used as an initial wax layer, providing a foundation for subsequent glide wax layers.

Toko NF Waxes – Available in 40g or 120g

Toko has also introduced a revamped line of non-fluoro waxes, the NF line. These waxes replace the System 3 waxes and are the perfect choice for those looking for a high quality glide wax to use on a daily basis, or as training waxes. They are affordable and easy to use. They are bluesign® approved for a very high degree of environmental responsibility and safety, from manufacturing to end user.

Toko Hot Box & Cleaning Wax – Available in 120g
Toko HF Rub-On Wax – 25g

Rounding out the new wax line are two unique waxes. The first is a non-fluoro hot box and cleaning wax. This is a very soft wax with a low melting point designed to penetrate deeply into a base. Use it for initial base preparation on new skis, hot boxing or to clean bases using the hot scrape method (basically applying a layer of wax and scraping while still warm to remove old wax and contaminants from the base). The second is a repackaged version of the high fluoro rub-on wax. The new packaging is designed like a lip balm, simply twist the base and the wax extends. Very compact and pocket friendly, a great wax for second runs, junior racers or getting a bit more zip out of your skis after lunch!

That concludes the new goodies from Toko, we love trying new waxes and look forward to giving these a go this season!

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Deciphering Brushes

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!

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Choosing a Wax Iron

The following is an excerpt of an article I wrote for Ski Racing Magazine a season or two ago.

While waxing corks, hot boxes and thermo wraps have all earned their places in the world of waxing the electric wax iron is still the most widely used method of getting wax into a base. Readily available, easy to use and affordable with practice they can provide a safe, penetrating and durable wax. There are two types of electronic wax irons on the market today – analog and digital.

Tognar Chugger, Toko T8 and Swix T7311 Analog Waxing Irons

Analog wax irons utilize a thermostat to regulate temperature. During use the thermostat switches on and off as needed to stay within range of the set temperature. The difference between the high and low temperature is referred to as the thermostat window. The desired temperature is set by turning an incrementally marked dial.

Analog wax irons range in price from an affordable $40 up to $200. The more expensive waxing irons are fitted with better thermostats (less temperature fluctuation), thicker base plates (better heat retention) and more advanced heating elements with better coverage (more consistent heat across the base plate). An inexpensive analog wax iron is fine for occasional waxing, but those waxing often especially with fluorocarbons should look toward the upper end for best results.
It is important to note that waxing irons differ from common household irons. They will not have holes in the base plates, the base plates will be thicker, and they will also have more advanced heating elements that, in conjunction with the thicker base plate, produce a more even heat across the base plate.

An analog iron can be calibrated using a coil-type thermometer such as the one made by Coverite™, the Sun Valley Ski Tools Wax Iron Platform or in a pinch a dial stem thermometer. Set the dial of the iron to a desired temperature and allow it to heat up. When the thermostat in the iron turns off the temperature will begin to drop, at a certain point the thermostat will click on and the temperature will begin to climb, this is called the thermostat window. In this way an analog iron stays near the desired set point temperature, the thing to watch out for is wide fluctuations (more than 8˚C). Keep in mind; some irons are designed to heat slightly past the temperature marked on the dial to counteract the heat loss incurred when the iron comes in contact with the ski base. The data from this test helps determine where the dial should be set for the safest optimal temperature for a particular wax. It’s not a bad idea to check older irons as the thermostat can become less accurate with age. It is not necessary to calibrate a digital iron due to their use of a microprocessor.

As mentioned above, digital wax irons rely on a microprocessor rather than a thermostat to regulate temperature. The microprocessor simultaneously measures the iron temperature and adjusts the heating power to maintain a set temperature with minimal fluctuation. The consistency of temperature reduces the risk of base damage due to excessive heat, especially when applying powder or block overlays. Digital wax irons range in price from $120 up to $400. Price is dictated by microprocessor technology, base plate thickness and type of element used.

Toko T14 and Swix T71A Digital Waxing Irons

Any tool has the potential of doing more harm than good if used improperly and a wax iron is no exception. Good technique is essential for effective waxing and avoiding damage to the ski or board base.

Heat is a necessary component of waxing, it not only melts the wax but encourages the pores of the base to open up and accept the wax. But too much heat can seal the pores of the base and prevent good wax absorption. To prevent damage assure that the iron is operating at the correct temperature for the wax chosen. Manufactures often mark recommended melt temperatures on the packaging. It is best to use the least amount of heat to melt the wax, the slower you are able to move the iron along the ski base the better the wax penetration will be and low heat is the best way to achieve this.

It is essential to maintain a pool of wax beneath the iron. This provides a protective layer between the hot iron plate and the base. A hot iron base plate in direct contact with a ski or board base is the most important thing to avoid.

Be mindful of where the iron is set when not in use. Set it upright on the bench or in a holder such as the one made by Swix. Contaminants on an iron’s base plate can mix with the wax and scratch the ski or board base. Occasionally wipe the iron’s base plate with a piece of Fiberlene or lint-free rag and remove any excess wax build-up around the base plate as it tends to burn and producer smoke overtime. A clean iron is a happy iron!

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How to Hot Wax

Hot waxing is usually the first ski maintenance project people undertake. It is easy to learn, doesn’t take much time, and the results are evident the first time out.

I talk to alot of folks about the importance of hot waxing skis. The response many new comers have when talking ski wax is, “I don’t need wax, I don’t go that fast.” Ski wax does help the ski slide across the snow with less drag, which naturally increases speed a bit (or alot, depending on your bank account), but with that increase in speed comes an increase in control. Skis that are waxed tend to turn easier and travel at more predictable speeds (less of that start-stop sensation). Waxing also protects the base, adding durability and preventing it from oxidizing and drying out.

If you’re thinking of waxing your own skis or snowboard I highly recommend you not skimp on the proper tools, the right tools will make the task much easier with a minimum of frustration.

  1. Ski or Snowboard Vise- Retaining the skis or snowboard while waxing is crucial, it can be the difference between a pleasant waxing (or tuning) experience and one that ends in wailing and frustration as you chase a loose ski or board across the garage. Sawhorses work in a pinch, but lack the support and retention of a proper ski vise.
  2. Ski Waxing Iron- You don’t have to buy top of the line, though if you plan to wax alot you will appreciate spending a bit more. There are two types of waxing irons, analog which utilize a thermostat to regulate temperature and digital which use a micro-processor, digital irons are easily identified by the incorporation of an LED screen that displays the temperature. An analog iron is fine for most folks, those applying race waxes can benefit from the increased accuracy (and often increased wattage) of a digital iron. Avoid household clothes irons at all costs, the temperature fluctuations are much higher and the steam holes gather wax and debris which get too hot and smoke terribly.
  3. Plexiglass Scraper- Sold in ski and snowboard widths. Can be sharpened for many seasons. Don’t use a metal scraper to remove wax, it will remove base material too!
  4. Brush(es)- If you’re just starting out, one or two brushes will suffice. Here’s a list of three common brushes and their uses.Brass- Use to clean out base structure prior to waxing, also helps refresh existing structure in the base. Nylon- If you were to choose one brush, this would be it. Use it right after you scrape to remove excess wax from the surface of the base (wax remains in the pores of the ski base where it belongs).Horsehair- Used as a polishing brush after the Nylon brush, also removes friction in the base.
  5. Wax- Lots of choices out there, do not be discouraged. If you’re just starting out pick a universal wax (pick a brand, any brand) and roll with it. Lot’s of folks never use anything other than universal and that’s just fine. Keep it simple while you develop your waxing technique. I’ll post an article on other wax choices soon.

These are the basic items, here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Wax in a well ventilated area or wear a respirator.
  2. Make sure iron is adjusted to the recommended melt temperature for your wax (see wax packaging). Remember this is a starting temp. not set in stone.
  3. If the iron is smoking it is too hot, back it off until there is no smoke.
  4. Keep wax between the iron and base, don’t touch a hot iron to a dry base. When your starting out apply more wax than you think you need and adjust the amount as you gain experience.
  5. Keep the iron moving.
  6. Keep your scraper sharp.
  7. Have fun!

Here is a clip on basic hot waxing (techniques apply to both snowboards and skis)

Posted in Waxing | 11 Comments

Tuning with Willi Wiltz

Earlier this week I braved a stormy five-hour trip north to Gresham, Oregon (just east of Portland proper) to attend a tuning clinic with master tuner Willi Wiltz, it was worth every mile.

Wiltz has been making skis scary fast for 3-decades, he has tuned for Tommy Moe, Daron Rahlves, and Bode Miller and snowboarders Nate Holland and Shaun Palmer, to name a few. Now off the World Cup circuit his knowledge and skill have found new venues; at his tuning and repair shop, Finish Line, located at the base of Sugar Bowl in Tahoe and at Toko sponsored tuning clinics dotted across the United States.

At first meeting you get the impression he is genuinely glad you showed up, quick to laugh he shakes hands with the solid grip of a craftsman. When he is in his element, file in hand, there is an economy of motion, fluidity refined through years of repetition.

Thirty-odd-years of knowledge is a lot of territory to cover in a two-hour clinic, but Wiltz refined it well and delivered key points regarding base structuring, edge prep and waxing, some of which are listed below.

  • A ski base gets increasingly fast after it is structured, to a point, then it will start to slow, use a steel brush to revive the structure and open the base, this will bring back the speed.
  • “Bevel consistency is everything,” -Bevel from the very tip of the ski to the end of the tail. Beginning and ending the bevel at the contact points (where the ski touches the snow) creates an abrupt change, it is better to create a uninterrupted angle along the length of the ski.
  • “Base bevel only increases, it never decreases,” -The abrasiveness of snow, especially hard snow, will increase base edge angle over time. Edge material wears away more quickly than the base.
  • Dull files can increase the base bevel -A dull file requires more pressure to cut, that pressure can create too much base bevel. Wiltz recommends 16 or 20 tooth/cm files for base beveling (the more teeth/cm on a file, the finer the cut).
  • After you have cut a side or base bevel wrap 320grit aluminum oxide or silicone carbide sandpaper around a file and lightly sand the edges with long strokes (be sure to use a bevel tool), this technique prepares the metal to better accept diamond or aluminum oxide stones.
  • A side bevel guide in conjunction with a true bar is a easy and accurate way to check side bevel angles. (photo to follow soon).
  • De-tune edges using a gummi stone only! This allows the edge to be brought back to sharp if needed.
  • “What matters is the final product, not the tool.”
  • Hot scrape skis to clean them instead of using a chemical base cleaner. -Soft hydrocarbon waxes like Swix CH10 or Toko S3 Yellow penetrate deeply into the base, scraped while hot the wax pulls out old wax and impurities and at the same time moisturizes the base. Repeat until wax shavings appear clean. Finish with a brass or copper brush.
  • Use snow-forecast.com for up to date info on major areas. This is a major help with wax selection if you aren’t on the hill!
  • If unsure which wax to use always err on the cold side.
  • Be wary of “over juicing” junior skis, developing muscles may not be able to hold on, too fast a wax job may actually cause them to blow the course.

Of course there was much more information than this, and Wiltz tuned as he talked so it was possible to see the techniques first hand. Luckily there are a few more stops on his tour, if he is coming through your neck of the woods make the effort to see him, your skis will thank you.

Willi's tools,

Scott

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Why wax?

Back in the early days when all skis had wood bases, skiers had little choice but to wax ‘em regularly if they wanted to slide on snow. But along with the introduction of polyethylene bases (p-tex) came the assumption that skis no longer needed waxing. Wrong…p-tex is a thirsty plastic that needs frequent wax feedings. In no time at all, the number of skiers who waxed their skis flip-flopped from 97% who did, to 97% who didn’t. And that’s pretty much where it remains today… amazingly, a very low percentage of skiers and snowboarders wax their equipment. The performance these folks lose because of this misunderstanding is significant…a waxed base is about 30% easier to turn, more durable and faster than an unwaxed base.

P-tex bases can lose their ability to absorb wax efficiently. The most common cause is simply neglecting to wax regularly. The high friction of snow acts like sandpaper to abrade the base, wear off wax and leave the p-tex dried out. Black bases make it easy to tell if your bases need wax, though close examination of clear bases in good light will reveal the same condition. Bases that need wax will appear whitish in areas, especially along the edges where pressure and friction tend to be greatest. Waxed bases appear consistently shiny.

Another cause is too much heat created by a improper stonegrinding, the use of excessive speed or pressure when rotobrushing, or, most commonly, from an improperly used or uncalibrated wax iron. About half the surface area of most sintered racing bases will absorb wax when new…these are call “amorphous” regions. Excess heat converts these to “crystalline” regions, which do not absorb wax. Furthermore, heating the base can increase its oxidation by atmospheric oxygen. Overheating a base also dries it out and results in the creation of more unwanted, drag-inducing p-tex hairs. Wax absorption can be recovered by restructuring the skis, with a stone grind or hand structuring tool, which “opens” the base allowing wax to seep into the pores.

You can help thwart most of these occurrences in obvious ways. When hot-waxing, for example, use a decent wax iron that holds a fairly constant temperature (+ or – 8*F). Most household irons don’t…they fluctuate wildly in temperature (in excess of 40*F). Secondly, calibrate your iron using a thermometer (a simple coil type will suffice). Third, apply enough wax to the base so you have a nice molten layer between the iron and p-tex. Don’t let an iron come in direct contact with a dry base. Remember, wax…even the pricey fluoro stuff…is cheap compared to a new pair of skis or snowboard!

Next up, wax application methods and deciphering wax choices.

Thanks!

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Choosing a bevel tool

If you’re new to tuning the broad selection of tools and waxes can be baffling and bevel tools are no exception.

As you likely know, a ski or snowboard has two sides to an edge, the side…er…side and the base side. Both need to be maintained. To ensure angle accuracy along the entire length of the edge it is best to use a bevel guide. I once worked with an Australian who tuned skis freehand, no guide, he claimed he could “feel” the angle…he also swore his dog drove him home from the bar one night. Until your dog starts driving, probably best to stick with a guide.

There are two tool approaches to beveling ski or snowboard edges.

A bevel device is a tool with a plastic or metal body that can accept small file or stone inserts. Most will also have an adjustment knob to set your desired bevel angle. They are convenient, easy to use and provide precise results even for less-than-attentive or skilled tuners. Some models address both the side and base edges eliminating the need for two separate guides. The file and stone selection for these devices is fairly wide. Disadvantages include more frequent file and stone cleaning or replacement (since file inserts are small and wear faster) and less “feel” for the cutting action of the files since your fingers usually can’t touch the file. They are a great choice for families with multiple pairs of skis to tune, travelers, folks just getting started or those who don’t want to spend all night in the garage tuning.

Example of an adjustable bevel device.

side bevel guide looks somewhat like a piece of angle-iron, it slides along the base and holds the file or stone at a specific angle to the side edge. A base bevel guide slides along the base perpendicular to the edge and holds the file or stone at a specific angle to the base edge. Most any size file, diamond stone or aluminum oxide stone can be securely clamped or set in these guides. Their advantage is flexibility (use ‘em with whatever favorite file or stone you prefer), longer file life (since files are larger and you can utilize their full cutting surface), and greater cutting sensitivity (since your fingers are usually in direct contact with the file itself instead of a plastic or metal tool body). Downside? They require greater attentiveness and skill, plus many bevel guides (but not all) are sold in degree-specific models…meaning you need different guides for different bevel angles. You’ll also need two, one for the base edges and another for the side edges. These are a good choice for more experienced tuners looking for flexibility, ultimate precision and don’t mind spending an extra bit of time at the bench.

Example of a side bevel guide.

Example of a base bevel guide.

That’s it in a nutshell, hope it helps!

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