Years ago I took my board in for a tune up and the shop marked my stance on the topsheet with permanent marker (true story). Ever since then I’ve been doing my own tuning. I’m here to share with you what insight I have left after years of huffing wax smoke (lesson 1: don’t burn the wax). Here’s what I’ve learned about how to wax your snowboard.
When to wax: The obvious answer is when you’re last to the lift every run. You can also look at your base: if it’s white-looking, it’s dry. Also in the spring when your base starts to look like a used piece of toilet paper, that’s a good sign you need to clean and wax (and/or stop shredding at the local sewage plant).
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Iron: Either your grandma’s iron (not a regular one with the holes…it’ll just be a mess) or a dedicated waxing iron
2. Wax (all temp, or warm, support your local wax company!)
3. Spray-on Base Cleaner
4. Scraper (old school, full-size if you can find one)
5. Tex pad
6. Edge Sharpener
7. Towel/ragLocation: Ideally, you’ll want a well-ventilated, fully-equipped tech workshop to wax in (your garage, your back deck etc.).
Clean your base: You want to start with a clean canvas. Spray on base cleaner, let it sit for a 30 seconds, then get wiping. I recommend a light-coloured rag so you can see the dirt coming off. And put a little elbow grease into it…you want a clean base. Base repair. I gave up on base repair years ago. Basically, if you can’t see your core, then it’s not a big deal. If you can see your core, take it to a professional. I’m pretty sure your average joe-shred couldn’t tell you they can feel a difference if they have a slight scrape in their base or not. [Disclaimer: From my years of failed attempts, I cannot endorse DIY-base repair. However, I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction so you can learn from my mistakes.]If you really feel you must perform your own base repair, the basic way is a P-tex candle. Light it on fire, get a good drip going. Make sure you keep the drip super close to the base, otherwise the p-tex will burn and you’ll get burnt bits in your base (been there, done that). A blue flame means it’s burning clean, yellow flames and black bits means it not burning clean.The other option is getting a professional tool with p-tex sticks that you melt and press into gouge. I never had any luck with this either, which is probably why I gave up on base repair.
Edge sharpening: What you do for edge sharpening depends on where you ride. If you’re blessed with endless powder, edges are meaningless to you. If you ride pipe or the East (Ice) Coast, you’ll need sharp edges to survive. If you hit rails, you’ll want just enough edge to get you to the rails. Me? These days I do the minimum amount of sharpening, mostly to remove any rust spots from me forgetting to wipe my board after riding (remember kids: wipe your board and edges after riding with a towel or rag).Any edge sharpener worth its weight will have an arrow telling you what direction to push in. Put the sharpener on the edge, go in the direction of the arrow. Use more force if you want ginsu edges, less if you’re just cleaning house. You might get small steel burs coming off your edges, which is fine. Remember to wipe them with your rag so you don’t keep grinding them into your base.
Waxing: Heat up the iron. The exact setting may take practice, but start by erring on the side of not hot enough. My old school iron used to run nicely between rayon and silk. Press the wax into the base of the iron, getting a good drip running onto the base of the board. If there’s smoke, turn down the iron right away.
I’ve always used a back and forth “S”-type pattern, with an extra run down the edges (that’s where the most wear happens). You don’t want dead (unwaxed) spots. Don’t bother waxing your nose and tail since they don’t touch the snow.
If you like to get tech, you can try using a warm weather wax for the “S” pattern and a colder weather wax for the edges. Why? Colder waxes are harder and will last longer in the heavier wear zones of the edges. (I don’t usually bother with this, but it makes sense.)
Once complete, lay into the base with your iron, spreading the wax evenly across your base using a circular motion. Key points: don’t stop moving the iron or you’ll burn your base, and make sure you get the whole base covered. Best way to tell if you’ve done a good job is to feel your topsheet; if it’s slightly warm, your base is warm enough to take in the wax.
Once you’re satisfied with your wax job, sit back, kick up your heels, have a cold one, watch a video or check out what’s new on SnowboardingForum.com (I recommend the last one). Give the board at least 30 minutes to cool down (overnight, or even leaving it over summer to keep the base from drying out is fine).
Scraping: I hate this part, but it’s crucial that it’s done well. You want to remove as much excess wax as possible. Make sure you get the sidewalls of your edges, and basically anywhere else you managed to drip wax.
Base finish: Using your Scotchbrite pad, run it nose to tail and back again across your base, evening out any imperfections in your scraping job, making sure you use a continuous tip-to-tail motion.
Clean up: I’d suggest sweeping or vacuuming up any wax leaving, as they’ll make for a slippery floor if left alone. If you get any wax on your topsheet, some wax remover, a rag and some scrubbing will clean that up.
Unless you want to become a one-man (or woman) pro shop, don’t brag too much about how good your wax job is or else you’ll end up with all your friends leaving their boards at your house.
Alternate Method—Hot Scraping: Introduced to me by someone who works in a tuning shop, it’s a quicker method, claimed to give him the fastest board on the mountain. Skip the base cleaning and go straight to waxing. Instead of waiting 30 minutes, wait 1 minute or so and scrape while the wax is still warm (but not wet). The theory behind it is that scraping the hot wax will pull out dirt. It works (from first hand experience), but you’ll want to wax more often if you’re using this method.