Introduction: Skiing Old School: Wooden Skis

About: Hello there! I'm Lily and welcome to my page! The Instructables I make are inspired by my interests, especially in 3D printing and woodwork. I hope you give my DIYs a shot and please leave a comment on how it …

Inspired by my love of skiing, this next project encompasses the art of woodworking to create an old-fashioned pair of skis with today's modern tools. In Phase 1 we will be discussing the science behind the ski, determining its dimensions for desired performance, and going through each step of construction. In Phase 2, once the skis are created, it is time to decorate, stain, and eventually hit the ski hill!

* The skis I will be demonstrating with are designed to fit my height and weight, but I will be providing a guide to determining what dimensions you will need to create skis that fit you.

* This project is split into phases, and within each phase is a series of steps.

* I want to give a big thank you to my father and Mark Henrick who helped me get through this project step by step! Without them, I couldn't have completed this project.

Please ask me any questions that you have and leave a comment! I would love to hear some feedback and if anybody has made their own skis!


If you have not used any of the proceeding tools, it is recommended that you review manuals and/or ask for assistance before use!

Step 1: Phase 1-Step 1: Preparation

In Step 1, we need to gather all the tools and items that we need to start construction! It is a good idea to get everything put together before starting. I am providing a list of all necessary equipment needed to complete Phase 1-The Construction Phase. All Items needed are:

  • Notebook & pencil/pen
  • Laptop or computer
  • Tape measure
  • Tinfoil
  • Large garbage bags
  • Towels
  • JigSaw-The type of jigsaw I used was a: Milwaukee M18 Cordless Jigsaw
  • Jointer-will help with reducing the thickness of the ski tips.
  • Dust mask-Uline Standard Dust Mask
  • Safety glasses: Uline Ice Wraparounds
  • Clamps-brands I used: IRWIN clamps of different sizes.
  • Orbital Sander- 3 Amp 5 in. Corded Random Orbital Sander.
  • Orbital sander attachments. I used grits of 80, 120, and 220. The brand I used was: MasterForce 5" Hook & Loop Discs.
  • Stable cutting surface. This will be used to cut the skis out of planks of wood. I used: Toughbuilt Sawhorse/Jobsite Tables.

The type of wood that is recommended for a strong, reliable ski is either Ash or Birch. I used dried birch planks. I also suggest you get at least a 1-inch thick plank to prevent possible snapping of the wood.

Step 2: Phase 1-Step 2: Understanding and Planning

When tackling any project, it is important to understand "how" it must be completed, but even more so "why" it is being done in that way. Comprehending "why" makes the construction process more clear and more appreciated! For this project, I will explain each dimension's effect on the performance of a ski.

Resources needed:

Once you have gone over the PowerPoint, please confirm your weight and height to determine the correct ski based on these factors before construction. Make sure to write down your dimensions on length, tail/waist/tip width measurements, sidecut radius (follow tail/waist/tip measurements), and edge angle in your notebook.

Now you are ready for the fun part! The getting down and dirty part! Get ready for the sweet smell of wood!

Step 3: Phase 1-Step 3: Tracing and Cuting It Out

Resources needed:

  • Notebook and Pencil/pen
  • Tape measure
  • Dust mask
  • Jigsaw
  • Clamps
  • Sturdy cutting surface (such as the Sawhorse tables I used)
  • Selected wood planks

1.) This is the first step in crafting your pair of skis. Are you ready for an arm workout? To begin, I used two 10' by 6" approx. birch planks-they were the closest to my ski height and width. If you already have a pair of skis you want to recreate in wood form, take one of the skis and trace it onto both planks. Check it out above.

If not, draw with your pencil the points where the tail/waist/tip measurements change. From there, trace from point to point to create the curvature of the ski. Here is an example: Repeat the same process on the other plank of wood.

If the lines are not curved enough, you can make corrections by eye. Draw to the best of your ability! Besides, wooden skis are not perfect so, don't sweat it if it's not!

2.) Now that you have a drawing of your skis, you can begin the cutting process. First, set up your wood cutting station on level ground. Clamp one of the planks on the table to prevent shaking which can ruin the cut. You may need more than one clamp! From there, put on a dust mask and turn on your jigsaw. I recommend starting at the tail for it is close to a straight line and follow your trace marks. Go slow! We don't want to break the jigsaw blade or cause injury.

The tip can be tricky-which I experienced first hand-so cut a small gap in the excess wood above the traced line to give you room to turn the blade. Reenter the line at the new angle. You may need to repeat the process to readjust. See Phase 1-Step 3: Jigsaw video above!

When you have cut off the excess wood revealing your ski, put that plank aside and repeat the process with the second plank. Once both are done, you are ready for the next step!!! Please save the excess wood too.

Step 4: Phase 1-Step 4: Sanding

Sanding is very important for not only textural feel but also for slight improvement in performance. Looking at modern skis, the bottom is very smooth with its composite base and applied wax. These characteristics make the ski go faster over the snow as it creates friction during motion, causing the ski to hydroplane in a sense. The smoother it is, the better it the flow.

Resources needed:

  • Orbital sander
  • Use 80 and 120 grit attachments.
  • Dust mask (new or reused from the prior step)
  • Stable surface (table)
  • Clamps (optional)
  • Rough ski planks

1.) Take one of the skis you have cut out and put it on a workbench or table. I would clamp it down so you can use both your hands on the orbital sander, but you can use one hand to secure the plank and the other to sand. Put on your dust mask and attach an 80 grit onto the sander. If your sander has holes, align the holes so the sander can suck up the dust. Turn on the sander and sand the top, bottom, and the sides of the ski from top to bottom evenly. Go in sections as you move down and use your hand to judge if it is sanded evenly.

Repeat this step for both skis and then begin the procedure again with the 120 grit. We will sand again in the future, but we have a couple more steps beforehand! Let's move on!

Step 5: Phase 1-Step 5: Thinning Out, Soaking, and Adding the Camber

Resources needed:

  • Jointer, sander, or other tools
  • Two or more towels (large)
  • Large garbage bags
  • Clamps
  • Small wood slabs (leftovers from excess wood)

1.) This next step is important as it will help establish the bend at the tip of the ski. To achieve this bend, however, we need to thin the tip out. A friend of my father, Mark Henricks, used a jointer to thin out the tip, but you could also use a sander. Sadly, a sander will make this step longer to complete.

*If you have your own method of thinning out the tip, you can apply it here and please tell me about it! I would love to learn an easier way to do this.

The jointer is designed to reduce the thickness of a piece of wood in straight passes or at an angled pass while applying pressure. He thinned out the tips after numerous passes to the point where it could be bent after being soaked and steamed (in the next step).

2.) When this is completed, we will be soaking our skis in water and keeping them wet for several days. First, place down the towels and soak them with water until dripping wet. Have your skis ready to be rolled up-its easier when they are put together first. Once completely rapped, stuff them in a large garbage bag or two to conceal them from evaporation. Leave them in their position for at least two days so the cells of the wood soften, making the planks more bendable for reshaping.

3.) Now that two days have passed, remove the skis from the bag(s) and towels, and move them to a level surface or table. Find the center of the ski again (refer to Step 2 PowerPoint) and put one or two slabs of the excess wood between the two skis at that point. Making sure they stay in place, use two clamps, one at each end, and apply enough pressure to the point where the skis are bending at the center. This will create the camber.

Gently wrap the skis with the wet towels without disturbing the small wood slabs and leave them for two days. This will give the skis a new "muscle memory".

We will continue a similar process in the next step!

Step 6: Phase 1-Step 6: Steaming and More Soaking

Having had the skis soak for two days, it time to check out our progress.

Resources needed:

  • Workbench/table
  • Towels
  • Tinfoil
  • A lighter
  • A heat source: firepit, steamer, or a propane torch
  • A mold (custom made or use an object to reinforce a bend for the tips)
  • Clamps

*WARNING: Be careful around any strong heat source and if you are using gas for the first time, I strongly recommend seeking a supervisor to guide you through it.

1.) After having placed your towel wrapped skis on the bench, cut a long piece of tinfoil that can wrap around both skis snuggly. The next step is steaming the skis which allow the wood to take on its shape while drying out. I used a propane torch to have more control of where the heat was going, but you can use a fire pit or other source of heat just as well if it is hot enough!

Using the propane torch, after having lit it with a lighter, I heated the middle part of the ski for about 15 minutes (the time can vary). Once hot enough, turn off the torch or move skis away from heat source carefully to cool. When they are cool to the touch, remove tinfoil, towels, clamps, and wood pieces. There should be an arc in both of the skis. You just created your camber!

2.) We have one more soaking and steaming session to complete before entering Phase 2. Let's get started.

Our next focus is the tips of the skis because we need to bend them to create a "shovel" shape. This shape makes it easier for the ski to break through the snow, much like a plow. To create this classic bend, we need a mold. Mark came up with a custom mold to bend my tips (see image above-bottom right). If you don't have a mold like this, you can use a round log, scrap wood, or some other object that can be clamped to create this unique bend.

Before using the mold, wrap both of your ski tips in a wet towel and let rest on a level surface for at least two days. When the days have passed, take one ski still wrapped with a towel and put tinfoil around the tip. Use your desired heat source and let it steam for about 15 minutes. When it cool enough to touch, immediately unwrap the ski and put its tip in the mold. Clamp it down tightly and let it rest on a stable surface for another two days. Repeat this process for the other ski.

When both skis have gone through the treatment, they should have a wonderful, curved tip as seen above!

Step 7: Phase 2-Step 1: the Last Sanding, Pyrography, and Staining

Resources needed:

  • Orbital Sander
  • Pyrography utensil and attachments
  • Stain and gloss
  • Foam tipped paint brushes
  • Rags

Phase 2 is when you get to be a bit artistic if you like! I will be showing you my pyrography art and how to apply waterproof stain and gloss to prevent mold.

1.) In Step 1, we need to first sand the wood again to remove any mold growth and make the skis even smoother. Follow the same procedure as described in Phase 1-Step 4, but use a 220 grit.

2.) When that is completed, you can start decorating. You don't have to do pyrography! You can paint or apply stickers if you would like. Let your creative juices here run wild! To see what I did, observe the photos above.

3.) We are almost at the end of our woodworking journey, but we need to stain it first! The type of stain and gloss I used was called General Finishers. I picked stains that I wanted to have on my skis, but you can choose what color wood stain(s) you would like to apply on your skis. To apply the wood stain, take one of the sanded skis and put it on the workbench. Using a foam brush, dip the tip of it in the stain and brush the stain evenly. Do not leave globs of stain because the grain of the wood could be hidden by it. Leave to dry for a couple of hours and reapply a second coat.

Repeat this process for the other ski.

4.) When both skis are completely dry, you can apply the gloss next in the same fashion.

Step 8: Phase 2-Step 2: Putting on the Bindings

Congratulations for having crafted your custom pair of wooden skis! Now that the construction and final touches have been completed, you are ready to attach your bindings.

Resources needed:

  • Drill
  • Pencil/pen
  • 1/8" drill bit
  • Pair of bindings
  • Clamps
  • Stable surface

1.) You can go old school and make bindings out of knotted rope or simply create binding holes to attach a pair of bindings that fit your boot size. If you go with the later, I recommend using a 1/8" drill bit and only going a half inch deep in the wood. Before drilling, chose one of the skis, clamp it down firmly, and find the center of the ski. Mark, it lightly with a pencil (review Phase 1-Step 2 PowerPoint, and you can erase the mark later). Use one of the bindings and align it at that center point, tracing the drill holes once in place. When the holes are drawn, remove the binding and drill. Repeat this process for the other ski.

2.) Once the holes have been made, you need to screw in the bindings with a coarse wood screw that is 5/16". To learn more about how to mount your own bindings and the different binding positions, use this link:

When the bindings are on, you are ready to hit your nearest ski slope and experience what it feels like to ski old school! I hope you enjoyed this experience with me and will have fun with your new skis!

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