Skiing on skis that are well tuned for the
conditions at hand is a total pleasure, by the same token, a
bad tune can make even a great ski handle like a dog. I often
wonder about this when demoing skis: Does this ski really blow?
or is this flat tune the wrong tune for this ski on this snow?
I know that on a certain ski that I own that a two degree base
bevel on soft snow makes a huge difference, I go to one degree
if I think I am going to be on firmer snow but never ski it without
some bevel. Even a half degree makes it a more enjoyable ride.
Not all skis are the same of course, and not
all skiers ski the same. This being said, there are some guidelines
we can follow. Experimentation is the key though to finding what
works best for you, your skis and the type of snow you generally
A ten or twelve inch mill bastard file is
the main tool for sharpening the edges. For a one degree bevel
you can wrap duct tape around the file as shown below, two wraps
will do it. A more fool proof and accurate way to sharpen and
bevel your edges is with a tool like the one made by Toko shown
below right. This kind of tool ( there are many brands ) allows
you to set the amount of bevel by simply turning a dial marked
in half degree steps. It has two slots for the file, one for
the base edge and one for the side edge. The file has an arrow
to indicate the direction of travel. I highly recommend the purchase
of this kind of tool, it will last for years and give you precise,
repeatable tunes each time, it is also the only way to bevel
the side edges. I flat file my edges with the regular file and
bevel them with the Toko tool.
Begin your edge tuning by giving the edges
a 0 degree flat file on the base edge. If you have flat filed
recently and you are going to apply a bevel, you may want to
skip this step, your edges will be sharpened during the beveling
process. Make sure your ski is secured tightly in the vice, you
must be able to apply plenty of pressure to the file without
movement of the ski.
Hold the file at an approximate 45 degree
angle, if you are filing away from you, from the tail toward
the tip, the tang (pointed) end of the file should be pointing
toward you, if you are drawing the file back the tang should
be pointing away.
For a flat file, do not use the tape described
above, that is for beveling. File one edge at a time using smooth
strokes and keeping the file flat. Do not apply so much pressure
that you bend the file. Keep it flat and make sure you are not
giving an unintentional bevel to the edge. Clean the file teeth
with a file card or wire brush after a few strokes.
The amount of pressure applied to the file
is the key to a smooth even tune. Your file strokes should be
only as long as you can comfortably make them, overlapping each
other along the length of the edge. I find that this is easiest
for me when I am drawing the file back towards me, working from
the tip to the tail. Don't forget, when drawing the file back
like this, the tang end should point away from you and the file
should be held at about a 45 degree angle across the edge.
If you are going to use an edge sharpening
tool like the one above, set it on 0 degrees and make sure you
are running it in the direction of the arrow on the file.
Side edge filing is accomplished by putting
the ski in the vice, side edge up, and running the file up the
edge, making sure to hold the file flat. This has become much
more difficult with the advent of cap skis, you don't have much
of a sidewall to help guide the file. This is one more reason
to invest in an edge tuning tool.
Beveling The Edges
Beveling the edges of telemark skis is the
way to go. Turn initiation is easier, the risk of catching an
outside edge is reduced. Also, the ski tends to roll more smoothly
onto the edge, a pleasing sensation. At this point you may be
asking yourself, "what about reduced edge hold on hard snow?",
well, that's easy, by beveling the side edge as well we can maintain
a 90 degree angle. We can even bevel the side edge more and really
make it grab if we are skiing a lot of ice.
Giving your base edge a 1 degree bevel with
the mill bastard file is simple using the duct tape method described
above. Smooth the tape out and hold the file so that the tape
is riding on the opposite edge to the one you are filing. Replace
the tape when it starts to get worked.
I like to give some of my skis a 2 degree
base bevel. If you bevel the base more than 1 degree you really
should throw a 1 degree or more side edge bevel on to maintain
something close to 90 degrees for best edge hold. Unfortunately,
there is no accurate way to file a side edge bevel without using
a tuning tool.
How do you decide what kind of bevel to apply
to your skis? You have to experiment to find what works best
for you, but soft snow skiers such as you folks in the Pacific
Northwest of the U.S. might start with a 2 degree base bevel
and maybe even a 0 degree side bevel (you might not need that
near 90 degree edge). You telemark skiers in the North Eastern
U.S., with all that "good hard snow" (as New England
born-and-raised Laurie calls it) may want to start with a 1 or
even 0 degree base bevel and a 2 degree side edge bevel. In between
these two extremes perhaps a good place to start is with a simple
1 degree base bevel and 0 degree side edge bevel.
De-Burring and De-Tuning The Edges
This is a simple process, just use a de-burring
tool or a whetstone and run it up and down the edges to remove
any burrs from the filing process. You can also use a bit of
emery cloth or 400 grit sand paper to polish the edges.
To de-tune the edges for reduced tip and tail
grab, run your de-burring tool or whetstone lightly along the
edge to soften it back about 10 to 15 cm's from the tip and half
that from the tail. I am hearing that this is not as important
with the sidecut skis, if that is what you are riding you may
wish to experiment with reduced or even no de-tuning.
There are a few tips for using the mill bastard
file that I have left out, one is to use a marking pen on the
edge and then file it off, when all the ink is removed you know
that you have achieved some form of even filing. When all is
said and done though, I really want to encourage you to invest
in a tuning tool. Buy one that allows you to file both the base
and the side edges (some only sharpen the side) and one that
you can adjust the bevel. It will pay for itself very quickly
in money saved that would be otherwise going to a shop. Speaking
of shops, if you can afford it, taking your skis to a pro for
a big time tune with all the special equipment at their disposal
has much to be said for it. Still, don't be afraid to tackle
edge tuning yourself, you will learn the nuances quickly and
you can make changes and experiment at will.
One more thing, use the files sparingly. Touch
up your edges with a stone as much as possible. If you break
out the file too often you may wind up with an otherwise perfectly
good ski with very little edge material left!
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