Ski Tuning Upgrade – Going High Tech

Post by blogger | March 21, 2006      

Back in January Bill Thistle of Sportfeet opened my eyes to how precise a ski should be tuned. I’d been tuning skis for years (even been a shop rat), but I’d gotten a lazy about my edge work, and my home tuning setup used an old vise that didn’t grip skis with angled top edges. Time for an upgrade.

I contacted Terry Ackerman of SlideWright, and made it clear I needed “everything from a vise to the proper bevel tools.” Terry figured out exactly what would work, but more, he suggested I build a new tuning bench and think about any trick mods I could come up with. Yep, he was speaking my language! Read on.

Tuning skis for backcountry skiing
Our new Cinch Vise in action, custom mounted on a new bench.

Tuning skis for backcountry skiing
While the Cinch vise comes with bench clamps, Terry Ackerman suggested that a cleaner and more solid way to mount this sort of thing on a home-made workbench is to use Rockler Woodworking “T-track” aluminum channel mounted on the bench, to which the vise fittings are attached with T-nuts and knobs, so the vise fittings can be quickly moved to different positions. I was a precision carpenter in another life and still have some of my tools stashed away, so I dug out my router and mortised the T-track into a new bench made from a solid-core door we got from a construction recycling joint near here (during the day, not at midnight, sorry).

Workbench for tuning backcountry skis.
Bench installed in our shop, T-track going in. If I’d had more time I would have surfaced the bench with Formica, so it would be easy to scrape ski wax drippings off of. Instead I painted our door/bench with latex floor and porch enamel. (If you don’t want the trouble of mortising the T-track into the bench, you can surface mount it on the bench and run a strip of wood on either side to widen the surface the vise end-fittings sit on, or you can also buy a vise that simply clamps to your bench and doesn’t need a track. )

Workbench for tuning backcountry skis.
T-track details.

Workbench for tuning backcountry skis.
Tools4Boards Cinch vise with ski in flat position. This ingenious vise holds the ski by pulling it down to the bench with a simple cord and locking cleat device. The ski rests on high friction rubber on the two vise end-units, and the cord is threaded around or through the binding then pulled tight. Without bindings, the friction rubber still holds skis fairly well for flat filing, but the cinch cord locks them like a rock. More, this rig will hold snowboards, telemark skis, skate skis, ski poles, lumber and many other long and odd shaped items. Take my word for it, this vise works great!

Workbench for tuning backcountry skis.
Cinch vise converts in seconds to side file mode. It holds skis on their sides two different ways. You can quickly set your skis on small supports and cinch them down, or use dedicated side clamps as shown in the photo above. This is when you really need the length adjustment, as the side clamps work best on the thinnest part of tip and tail.

Okay, the vise is working, now what? My big agenda with this project was to start beveling skis precisely, instead of the hit-and-miss methods I’d been using. To that end, I ordered two bevel cutters from SlideWright. The Razor is a solid plastic jig that holds a file, and has shims for setting precise bevel. I got two so I could leave them set to different bevels and not be fiddling when I’m in a hurry, but one would work fine.

In all, the cast of thousands here at world headquarters is excited about treating our skis with the respect they deserve. And I’m sure they’ll return inkind. Thanks goes to Terry of SlideWright for helping us with this project. Now, it’s time to go find some snow!


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8 Responses to “Ski Tuning Upgrade – Going High Tech”

  1. dave downing March 21st, 2006 10:31 am

    so lou, how much is a basic tune. and can i get it back overnight. finally ‘bonedale has a ski tune shop! when are you getting the GrindRite?

  2. Andrew Klotz March 21st, 2006 3:25 pm

    Mr Dawson. Would you mind sharing the (ballpark) total cost of that tuning set-up? Looks great. Thanks.

  3. Lou March 21st, 2006 5:41 pm

    Hi Andrew, the door was about $30, paint was $12, T-track was $30 (had to buy two 4-foot sticks), vise about $107.00, you can price the otherstuff on the Slidewright website.

    The tricky part of the system is that you need 3/8 T-bolts to run in the T-track, instead of the usual 5/16 bolts. I made the 3/8 bolts by grinding the head of a regular 3/8 hex bolt. You also need 3/8 threaded knobs that fit in the slots in the vise end units. I believe those are available from Slidewright as well.

    Of course it would work just fine to simply clamp the vise end units to the bench with the supplied clamps. But that’s too easy (grin).

  4. Terry Ackerman March 21st, 2006 6:17 pm

    You can also order the T-track kit w/5/16″ T-bolts and knobs. The knobs, the vise or both can be modified to work with the 5/16″ system.

  5. AKBC March 22nd, 2006 11:45 am

    Lou, what kind of edge bevel are you running on those Verdicts? Just curious…

  6. Justin Wilcox October 29th, 2006 8:53 am

    Lou, so what’s your take on the Razor 3 in 1? Is it somewhat precise, or does it have a lot of play in it like most of the other multi-function edging tools?

  7. Terry May 8th, 2008 3:34 pm

    We now have 5/16″ low profile knobs and T-bolts to fit the Cinch & T-track.

  8. Terry Ackerman May 25th, 2012 10:31 am

    Hi Lou. I finally finished my bike stand addition to the t-track system and posted it in our weblog. Just one more way you can maximise your bench or stand t-track system year round:

    Now get on your bike and ride for turns. 🙂

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