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)

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11 Responses to How to Hot Wax

  1. Rodney says:

    How can i tell if i burnt the base of my ski when i was hot waxing? I set the temperature of the hot wax iron at 200 degrees but didn’t realize that it was in Celsius scale. i don’t see anything irregular. I kept the iron moving and didn’t keep it in one place for a long time. I did notice that the opposite side of the ski was warm to the touch. I read a lot on the subject and it says that I can burn and melt the base at excessive temperatures and the ski will no longer hold wax. Did i damage my skis because of this?

    • tognar says:

      Hi Rodney, That is getting a bit on the warm side! But it is unlikely any damage was done if you kept the iron moving with a layer of wax protecting the base. When ironing in some hi-fluoro powders the recommended iron temperature can be as high as 329F! Of course the iron is passed over the base very rapidly.
      One way you will be able to tell if the base was damaged is its inability to absorb wax, if it is holding wax it is likely OK. If the base is looking dry after a short time skiing you may have an issue.
      If you have damaged the base it is unlikely the damage goes very deep, (the damage is usually sealed pores, which inhibit wax from penetrating the base),removing the thin layer of damaged base material with a stonegrind or using a hand tool like the SkiVisions Base Flattener will bring it back to new.
      Feeling some heat through the tip and tail of the ski is OK and lets you know you’re getting good heat through the base.
      Most manufacturers will indicate the recommended iron temperature on the wax label. If not, start low and raise the temp. until the wax is just melting, if the iron is smoking it is too hot.

      Hope this helps,
      Scott

  2. When you are pre wax brushing, if the ski was properly brushed during the last wax, there should be no wax coming out of the base. If a steel is used, you might get some wax, but there shouldn’t too much. AAHHHHH!!!!!! So much wax!!!!!!! Not enough brushing!!!!

    • tognar says:

      True, most all the wax should be skied out. Brushing a base with a brass or steel brush prior to waxing will remove debris that may be lodged in the structure (especially in Spring conditions), pre- brushing will also help refresh the base structure and remove oxidation. Also handy for getting climbing skin residue off. Sorry for the belated reply, too much skiing!

  3. Mike Olsen says:

    Scott,

    I’ve waxed skis and board for a number of years, but it was reaffirming to see the video demonstration. Thanks!

    • tognar says:

      Thank’s for the comment Mike, glad the video helped. Sorry about the slow reply, too much skiing not enough writing…I’ll try to balance it out a bit!

  4. Wayne says:

    What’s the difference between hot waxing, and using something like Swix F4, which doesn’t need an iron? What’s the difference, and is one better than the other? Can you go back and forth between the two.

    • tognar says:

      IN a word the answer is longevity. Hot wax penetrates more deeply into your base and will last longer than a layer of paste. You can rub the pastes in to make them more durable but ultimately hot waxing will last longer.
      You can add a layer of paste over your hot wax and people often do if conditions change and you need a bit more zip.

  5. chris says:

    do u use a cleaner product prior to the brass brush on a snowboard and if so what would you recommend?

    • tognar says:

      Use liquid cleaners sparingly, only when the base is dirty, not to remove wax every time.
      We recommend using the least harsh cleaners, pure citric cleaner dries more slowly but is less drying to your bases which will help them last longer,

  6. Pingback: how to hot wax « Destination Blog

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