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Author: Darren Morgan - Tuning Technician
Snowboards require regular maintenance to achieve optimum performance; by this we mean achieving maximum glide, edge control, and ease of turning. Maximum glide is achieved through a clean, flat, smooth, and properly waxed base. Edge control is obtained by sharp, smooth, and rust free edges. Ease of turning results from all of the above with a detune (explained later).
When deciding what work needs to be performed and who is going to service your board you have a couple of choices: either do it yourself or take it to a technician at your local shop. I recommend both. Nothing beats a board tune carried out by a trained technician with years of experience, who has the right machinery, tools, and knowledge. Your technician will be able to get your board back to or as close to its original condition as possible. This accompanied by a little tuning by yourself such as edging with a hand edger, p-texing small gouges, and waxing, will help keep your board riding well until your next full service is required. In terms of what service is required depends on how much damage your board has sustained and generally how well your board is (or is not) performing. There are many services your technician can provide. They include full service, edge and wax, waxing, edge repairs, delamination, top sheet repairs, and base grinding amongst other things. As it is impossible to go through the ins and outs of the many different services available I thought it would be best to focus on the two main services; that would be an edge and wax, and a full service tune.
Edge and Wax
An edge and wax includes sharpening of the edges followed by waxing the base. Edge sharpness is essential for making fast, strong, powerful and stable turns on hard or pressed snow. The edges are sharpened on both the base and side.
- We deburr the edges by running a diamond stone or gummy stone down the length of the edge from tip to tail. Deburring is essential to remove small nicks, ragged areas, and hardened spots that have formed due to the heat generated from an impact. The aim is to generate a smooth consistent edge.
- The side edge is then ground square using a belt grinder.
- A base grind is then performed to ensure the base edge is square before a pre-determined bevel (angle) can be set for an individual's preference.
- The bevel is then set using files or edge tuners (see below for more info on edge angles)
- A final debur is performed with a gummy stone to remove any loose edge shavings, to leave a smooth, sharp edge.
The final step is waxing (see below).
Edges are commonly set for 90, 89, and 88 degrees, but it is not uncommon to see edges set as sharp as 86 degrees. This is a personal preference and may require some experimentation before you decide what's right for you. The snow conditions you ride on will influence your decision. For example, hard snow generally requires a more acute angle (88-89 degrees) for extra edge bite.
90 degrees - The classic edge angle. It provides good edge grip and is the longest lasting, as it's the strongest edge angle.
The standard 90 degree edge is where the base edge is 0 degrees and the side edge is 90 degrees.
We can also achieve a 90 degree angle by bevelling the base edge by 0.5 degree (or 1.0) and bevelling the side edge by .5 degree (or 1.0). This type of profile gives good grip with a slightly easier turn initiation than the above profile. It allows the board to roll onto the edge quicker.
88-89 degrees - Sharper than the 90 degree for better edge grip. This type of profile is for the more experienced rider looking for superior edge hold at high speed and firmer snow conditions. We can achieve a more acute angle in a number of ways (see images below).
Note, there is no right or wrong edge profile. However it is recommended that the base edge should be limited to .5 or 1 degree bevel for most snowboarders. This will achieve a good balance of edge hold and forgiveness, and good overall performance. Any more bevel than this and the board will feel unstable, loose, unpredictable, and have trouble tracking. However there are now boards being produced with higher base bevels (3 degrees) straight out of the factory. These boards are not great for carving turns but are ideal for those riders that love to jib and spend countless hours in the park. The one that works for you will depend on personal preference, snow conditions, and experimentation. The above settings are examples only.
A full tune is the complete package. It includes an edge and wax as described above, a base grind to ensure the base is flat, and we also use p-tex to fill in scratches, holes, and dings that exist on your base as a result of hitting rocks, tree branches, rails, boxes, skiers, etc. It is this service that will bring your board back to life and get it riding like it was when it first came out of the packaging.
Full Service Steps
- Clean the base: Cleaning the base is essential to remove any dirt, grease, and wax build up that has accumulated on the base or in the scratches, and dings. We use a citrus base cleaning agent as well as brushes (copper or nylon) if required.
- Edge the board: At this stage we want to deburr, grind the side edges, and flatten the base and base edge to level (see below for more info on base grinding).
- P-texing: P-tex is a high performance polyethylene (HPPE) that we use to fill in scratches, holes, and dings on the base. P-tex is applied using p-tex sticks for small jobs and p-tex guns when larger areas are required.
- Grinding: At this stage we are only interested in grinding the excess p-tex off to leave a smooth clean base free of any dings, holes, and scratches.
- Bevel the edges (see edge angles above).
- Detune: Detuning is where we blunt the tip and tail edges at the contact points. We do this to prevent your board from catching too early in the turn. A board which is not detuned can be very unpredictable as it can get hooked without any notice, and can be difficult to initiate a turn. We detune a board from the tip or tail to approximately 2-5cm after the contact points (the area where the edges are at their widest).
- Waxing (see waxing below)
During a full service, grinding the base is a very important step in getting your board to perform at its optimum. Snowboard bases should be flat. Poor performance is a result of base high base (convex) and edge high bases (concave). It is essential to get the base and the edge level and on the same plane. We achieve this through grinding with a belt or stone grinder or a combination of both.
A base high snowboard is unstable and difficult to control as the edges are not in contact with the snow when level.
An edge high snowboard is where the edges stand higher than the base has the opposite effect of a base high board. It is difficult to turn and feels like the board wants to track too much (i.e. stuck in grooves).
A base grind not only achieves a level base and edge configuration, but it also places a structure on the base. A structure on the base is essential to reduce drag and friction. Your board is basically riding on a thin film of water produced from friction between the board's base and the snow. In wet snow we have too much water therefore we want a structure that will repel water and push it away from the base. We achieve this by having a deeper structure. Here the extra air sitting in the pockets of the structure force the water out and away reducing suction. In cold snow we have the opposite happening and as a result only need a fine structure.
Waxing can not be underestimated. It is probably the most important step in getting your board to perform at its peak. Basically a waxed board glides better and more consistently. Your board will ride faster and turn easier. It will increase control and offer your base protection against small impacts. It needs to be done regularly (after every 2-3 days) and an iron on wax is far superior to belt or rub on waxes. Different waxes are available but unless you're competing my advice is to keep it simple. Choose a wax that is suitable for the appropriate temperature.
Cold temperature: 0 degrees celcius to -30 degrees celcius
Warm temperature: 0 degrees celcius to 10 degrees celcius
All temperature: -10 degrees celcius to 10 degrees celcius
My only other advice is to upgrade to a fluorocarbon wax. These waxes increase glide considerably compared to normal paraffin based waxes. Other than that regularity is the key. If you wax your board regularly you will definitely reap the benefits.
For a complete waxing tutorial please read the snowboard waxing guide.
One final note is to preserve your base and edges over the off season by getting a storage wax. This will keep the base from drying out and the edges rusting. You can read the complete storage waxing article here.
If you have any questions, ask one of the tuning technicians on the Boardworld Forums.