Snowboard Maintenance 101: Waxing, Tuning, and Attaching Bindings

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Winter is almost here, and it's time to prepare those snowboards for a full season of riding! Sporting goods stores and ski shops in your area are probably advertising the different packages that they offer, trying to lure you in to paying excessive amounts of money for a wax and a tune-up. If you want to keep your gear in genuinely good shape, you will need to wax multiple times during a season, and going to a ski shop every time is going to add up. Today I will show you how you can do everything that a ski shop does, for a fraction of the price, in the comfort of your own home. A professional ski shop wax can cost up to $40, and while waxing yourself will take a little bit of an investment initially to acquire all of the equipment, it will be worth it. As an avid snowboarder that was born and raised in Colorado, I can testify that it has saved me a ton of money over the years.

Here's what you will need, along with an estimate of the price for each item:

  1. A bar of wax (we will address what temperature of wax to purchase later) - $12
  2. Base cleaner (you can also use windex) - $11
  3. Gummy stone - $12
  4. Synthetic or natural cork - $6
  5. Waxing iron - $25 to $35
  6. A wax scraper - $5 to $25 depending on the quality
  7. A screwdriver (preferably a torque screwdriver made for snowboards) - $11

Step 1: Clean the Base of Your Board

The base of your snowboard will inevitably become quite dirty. Whether it's a slushy spring day with some mud in the snow, an early season day with rocks poking out here and there, or even the middle of winter, the base of the board acquire a little bit of grime.

Before you wax, it is always a good idea to clean the base of the board, to try to remove some of the dirt and contaminants that have found their way in. You can either use an actual base cleaning solution, or you can just use Windex. I personally use Windex as you can see in the photo, and don't have a problem with it.

Simply spray the solution on the base of the board, use paper towels to wipe it off, and let the board sit and dry for a few minutes. You're ready to start waxing.

Step 2: Melt the Wax Onto the Base of the Board

The time has come to begin to apply your wax.

First of all, you need to decide what type of wax that you want to use. There are numerous different types of waxes for different temperatures. If it's going to be very cold, you don't want to use a wax that performs better in warmer temperatures. I like to always have about three bars of wax for a wide variety of temperatures. Before waxing, check the weather forecast and choose your wax accordingly. There are also all-temperature waxes, which are another good option. I have never had an issue with an all-temp wax, and you don't have to worry about picking the right type of wax.

Next, you will want to heat your waxing iron to the proper temperature. If you are using a wax for a specific temperature, the container will tell you what temperature you should set your iron to. If you are using all-temp wax, you can set your iron to anywhere between 120˚C and 140˚C (248˚F to 284˚F).

Once your iron has heated up (which will by indicated by a light) press your bar of wax onto the iron, letting the wax melt and drip down onto the board. Move down the board from one tip to the other, dripping the wax in a zig-zag pattern. Make the zig-zags quite frequent, covering a good amount of the base with wax (about an inch in between each line). Once you reach the other end of the board, you're ready to move on.

Step 3: Spread the Wax With the Iron

Now that the wax has been dripped onto the base of the board, you can press the iron onto the base, and melt the wax to spread it. Move your iron in a constant, circular motion, being sure to spread the wax all the way to the edges of the board. If you have any large scratches in the base, be sure to spread a little more wax to this area to fill them in. Once you have throughly covered the base, let the wax cool down for a few minutes, and you are ready to scrape.

Step 4: Scrape the Wax

Now that the wax has hardened and is covering the base, it is time to scrape. I personally use a paint scraper first, as it is a little more effective, but there is nothing wrong with using a standard wax scraper either. Start from the middle of the board and work out towards one tip. You will need to use a good amount of pressure in order to scrape the wax off, but you will be able to tell what has been scraped and what hasn't been. It is ok to have some excess wax on the tips of the board, since those don't make contact with the snow as often. You don't need to scrape the wax that is in the scratches, as the purpose is to fill them up.

Once you have scraped a majority of the wax off, go over the board one more time with your scraper, in long motions from middle to tip, to ensure that you have scraped everything off. Dispose of your wax shavings on the ground to be cleaned up later, or brush them into a trash can to make clean up a little easier.

Step 5: Cork the Base

Once you have finished scraping the wax, you can use a cork tool (either synthetic or natural cork) to give the wax a grain, which essentially just makes the board run even smoother. Run your cork from the middle to the tip in one, long motion, and make your way across the board. This is a very short, easy step, and is just meant to create less resistance between your board and the snow.

Step 6: Remove Burrs From Your Edges

Once you have finished waxing, it is a good idea to use a gummy stone to remove the burrs from your edges. A burr is basically a little inconsistency in the edge, and can be very sharp. This step is especially important if you are planning to ride in the park, as burrs can catch on rails and cause you to take some brutal falls. All you have to do here is run the gummy stone (which varies in hardness depending on how much you're trying to file down the edges) all the way around the edge of your board, and you're good to go.

Step 7: Set Up Your Bindings

The final step to getting ready to hit the mountain is setting up your bindings.

First, you will want to figure out what angle you want your bindings to be set at. As you can see in the first photo, the baseplate has numerous tick marks to indicate the angles. Each tick mark is generally 3 degrees. Once you determine your stance (I ride +6 degrees in the front, and -6 degrees in the back, which is pretty mellow and won't give you too much trouble), you must line the holes in the baseplate up with the holes in your board, as illustrated in the first photo.

Next, I like to screw one screw all the way in first, without a washer, to ensure that the binding is flush with the board, as you can see in the second photo. Screw in the remaining three screws, and then remove that initial screw so that you can place the washer under it. Once all four screws are in, most bindings have a little protector that covers the screws, as shown in the fifth photo, so just screw that in one top. Do the same thing with your back binding, and you will be all set up!

Be sure to clean up after yourself, especially because wax can get a little slippery, and you don't want any unsuspecting passerby to take a spill.

Step 8: Go Snowboarding!

Congratulations! You have just set up your own snowboard. You saved a lot of money, and hopefully had a good time doing it. While it may have been difficult the first time, it only gets easier, and you will come to look forward to waxing and setting up your board. Have a great season, be safe, and be sure to help your friends set up their gear so that no one has to blow an excessive amount of money on a professional board wax.

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    Interesting. Good thing to know for when I buy my own board.