The Tech Binding Toolset — Part 2 — Mounting Specific

Post by blogger | July 17, 2017      

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Not everyone mounts their own ski touring bindings. That’s the way it should be, as doing so requires a fairly robust set of tools and skills. Still, doing the deed is fun. If you’re already a master — or want to get going with DIY binding installs — here are a few tool suggestions specific to actual installation of bindings.

Center Punch
Wandering drill bits are like wandering lovers; failure of the relationship is inevitable. To avoid such tragedy, center punch your hole location if you’re not using a mechanical binding mount jig. I like the “automatic” type punch with an internal spring that loads up when you press the punch down, then snaps. But really, anything sharp you can impact into the ski surface will do the job: a sharpened nail, for example. If using a paper template, make pinholes in the paper exactly at each screw location. Once the paper template is taped to the ski top, use the pinholes to locate the center punch accurately, with no slipping. (Hint, when printing templates use robust paper, much easier to handle — and remember to check your printer scaling).

TEKTON 6580 Automatic Center Punch

Painter’s Tape
It’s important to print your templates out on heavy paper so they don’t squirm around. More, you need to tape the template firmly to the ski (hint, print out at least two templates to avoid needless swapping time). Just about any tape works for this, but the best in my experience is easily reversible “blue” painter’s masking tape. The stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s super useful to have around. I couldn’t operate my shop without it. Other uses besides attaching binding templates: quickie labels you can peel off a few months later; easily removable drill bit depth gauge; repaint something on your house.

Digital Caliper
Cam Shute, binding design engineer at G3, once told me not to talk about it unless I can measure it. Expanding on that, I’d say when it comes to technical stuff like ski bindings, don’t even touch it unless you can measure it. To that end, sweet little digital calipers have become incredibly affordable. Sure, the lower end versions are not for measuring space shuttle parts, but they work for all sorts of other stuff. That includes checking the thickness of your skis and comparing how much your binding screws protrude from the binding mount plate. Criteria? Get a caliper that does inch fractions, inch decimal, and millimeters. If you like fine tools, perhaps up-sell yourself. But the budget versions work. Learn how to use by viewing a few YouTube vids.

Ski Drill Bits
While you can get away with using depth stopped “hardware store” drill bits (I default to 9/64 or 5/32 if doing so), bits designed for drill skis are worth the investment as they’re exactly the sizes ski manufacturers recommend and include a built-in depth stop. You’ll want both 4.1 mm and 3.5 mm diameter. Amazon link to right shows good options. Shops such as SlideWright are a good sources as well.

Thread Tap
To tap or not to tap, that is the question. Experienced binding mounters know when they can get away without thread tapping the binding screw holes. Most do it yourselfers will want to tap every hole. Don’t get crazy, just a few turns of the tap is good — in most skis the top skin and binding reinforcement plate are all that require tapping. Use a tap guide to keep the tap perpendicular to the ski. This blog post has all the info and links.

Universal Mounting Jig
If you mount many skis, a real mechanical jig is notably faster than using paper templates. Universals such as the Jigarex are pricy, but how much is your time worth? Available at various dealers, here is a link to Tognar.

Suggestions welcome, please do so in the comments. I’ll add a few tools to the post if it’s appropriate.

(Much of WildSnow is supported by affiliate sales; this post has a number of such affiliate links. If you shop the links, thanks for your support!)


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15 Responses to “The Tech Binding Toolset — Part 2 — Mounting Specific”

  1. Sam July 17th, 2017 9:33 am

    I can’t recommend the Jigarex strongly enough. It is so easy to get a good mount with one of these that I find myself more likely to buy used skis and mount them up!

    For years and years I got by with printed templates taped to skis. I hardly ever screwed up but it was always a much more stressful and tedious process than using a proper jig.

  2. See July 17th, 2017 9:52 am

    A carpenters square is useful for marking centerline. Use calipers to measure ski width, divide each measurement by two and mark that distance from the edge in 3 places around the mount zone, then use a carpenters square to confirm that the marks are the same distance from both sides. Two points define a line, but 3 points help confirm your measurements when you connect the dots.

  3. XXX_er July 17th, 2017 2:13 pm

    A T-square for layout on painters tape, a 4″ drywall screw makes an awesume punch, a wine bottle cork for the drill stop

    I don’t mount enough skis to bother with anything more

  4. Mdibah July 18th, 2017 1:58 pm

    You forgot one–a tape measure! I’ve found a surprising number of skis with topsheets that have the mounting line off by up to +/- 1cm between skis. Seems to be more typical of skis with the mounting line included as part of the topsheet graphics, as opposed lines that have been engraved/printed onto the final product.

    Nothing to mess with a turn like having different mount points on your skis!

  5. Mark W July 18th, 2017 4:26 pm

    Mdibah is right; always check mid-boot mark on ski. They’re commonly off between the two skis. A good tape, preferably with metric, is the ticket.

  6. Camilo July 18th, 2017 11:14 pm

    I’m a fan of paper templates with centering marks on them. Then I don’t need a center line, just match up marks along the edges, tape, punch, drill.
    I am definitely a fan of the spring loaded punch.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 July 19th, 2017 6:50 am

    Mark, I’ll add a tape shopping option to the next tool post, I’ve got one here that’s both inches and metric, nice. Camilo, I gave up on the edge centering, too many skis with curved top edges that make it tough to be accurate. I guess I could start doing edge marks on the templates I make, but nobody ever brought it up. Lou

  8. cam shute July 19th, 2017 7:37 pm

    thanks for the shout out Lou!

  9. Thom Mackris July 20th, 2017 2:14 am

    Hi Lou,

    In addition to the extra work on your part, I don’t think you’d be doing anyone favors by printing scaling/centering marks on your templates for reasons you stated.

    The ski’s edge is the closest thing we have to being a reference, so why not continue to use that?

    BTW, the pin hole in the paper template was a revelation to me and increased my center punching accuracy by orders of magnitude. Folks – don’t underestimate this seemingly trivial step.


  10. Lou Dawson 2 July 20th, 2017 7:29 am

    Thom, thanks, just to be clear to our readers, the ski’s _bottom steel edge_ is the best reference, attempting to use curved or perhaps otherwise inconsistent top edges for reference is at best more time consuming, at worst may be impossible.

    Dittos on the pin hole technique. I’ve forgotten who first shared that here, wasn’t me, but it’s just so effective. As I’ve stated before, if you’re careful with a paper template you can probably be more accurate than a mechanical jig due to the drill bit bushing slop that most jigs have.

    All that said, ski bindings don’t have to be Mars Rover perfect in their tolerances. One thing I’ve seen DIYers do over and over again is obsess on the accuracy of their paper template when they could have been a bit more relaxed. Problem of course is unless you’ve done quite a few mounts, it’s hard to know how obsessive you need to be.

  11. Greg Louie July 22nd, 2017 11:08 am

    MIght have been me. I use a sharpened ice pick to mark the pinhole, then press harder and rotate the ice pick handle in about a 6″ diameter to create a beveled divot before getting out the centerpunch. As Lou says, there is potential for greater accuracy than with a jig.

    I’d recommend printing your templates on acetate sheets (I use 3M transparency sheets for Ink Jet Printers) rather than paper. I do a new one for each binding and BSL and keep them in a notebook for later use. You’ll need to use one sheet for the toe and one for the heel, cut them very accurately with a paper cutter, and tape them together. The 3M sheets are more dimensionally stable than paper and you can see through them to the center and edges of the ski.

  12. See July 22nd, 2017 7:31 pm

    If you want to make your own template, here’s how I do it. Get a couple pieces of thin but moderately stiff plastic from retail packaging or whatever (.5-1 millimeter thick) and slightly larger than the binding toe and heel pieces. Then find a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the binding holes and wrap very thin tape (like 1 mil) around the bit until it fits snugly in the hole without binding. Clamp binding to plastic, chuck the bit and (with the drill in reverse) lightly spin the bit in each hole just enough to leave a mark on the plastic. Use calipers to measure the distance between the front set of holes, divide by 2, and mark midpoint. Repeat for the holes at the back of the binding. Using the two midpoint marks, draw the center line all the way across the plastic piece. Align your template to the ski centerline and secure with tape. Center punch with just enough force to leave a mark on the ski. Remove template and repeat center punching if needed to prepare ski for drilling.

    I know this behavior is a bit obsessive, but it’s my peculiar idea of a good time (and I only do it maybe once or twice a year). Cheers.

  13. See July 23rd, 2017 9:06 pm

    In above comment, the “front set of holes” and “the holes at the back of the binding” aren’t actually holes. I meant to say “the marks left by the drill on the plastic template material.” Use center punch to better define the marks, then measure for template centerline.

  14. afox July 23rd, 2017 10:07 pm

    The binding freedom self centering guide block is worth every penny!

    I use a snapping punch then the drill guide block, easy peasy…

  15. Mark W August 1st, 2017 8:29 am

    Where may I purchase a tap guide? Perhaps I should hit my Amazon app? A-Z right?

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