Tappity Tap Tap – Tap Guides Overview

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | December 18, 2010      

When placing binding screw inserts in skis, or even tapping regular binding holes, the tap must be inserted perpendicular to the ski or else, well, let’s just not go there. I’ve always aligned the tap free-form by hand. Although the first couple half turns often make for somewhat nervous moments, I’ve never had any problems with this approach — but I wasn’t aware of any tooling that could at least speed things up and make the process more relaxing. Now, as a result of the back-and-forth in the comments section after Lou’s “Quiver Killer” inserts review, I’ve improved my shop by using tap guides. Check out what myself and Lou are using in our respective home shops.

Plastic tap guide.

This tap guide block is much more substantial than appears in the picture. I reamed out one of the holes a bit so as to achieve a perfect fit with the tap and handle combination tool (as shown in picture) that used to be widely available (although seems to have been discontinued).

Plastic Tap Guide Block shown above $9.25


According to Lou, like me he’s always tap danced without a guide, but never really liked the feel of doing so, is bummed it takes extra time, and notices he’s frequently enough off perpendicular to be a concern. He says if nothing else, using a tap guide speeds up his tapping by a factor of three or more, and makes it a pleasant smooth experience instead of a tooth clenching “I hope this works” moment. This especially while tapping for binding screw inserts, which must to be done well. So here you go. If you do much ski work, get a tap guide that works for the type of tap dancing you do. You’ll be glad you did.

Lou just got this one for his shop. It’s steel instead of plastic, but essentially the same thing as above plastic job only not as big diameter. He says it probably yields no better or worse results than the plastic one, but might last longer, although it also costs more. He reamed out one hole for his regular binding tap, and uses one of the stock holes for his insert tap.

Tap guide

Once again, much more substantial than appears in the picture. Essentially a massive tap handle that fits snuggly into an equally massive cylinder with a cone-shaped base complete with cutaways so that you can see what you're doing. (Shown with helicoil tap, plus a random Dynaheel for scale.)

Self-Aligning Hand Tapper & Reamer $23.96

Tapping helicoil hole

But of course the final half turn on the final screw of Dave C's second heel unit starting spinning. (Sorry Dave! And thanks again for babysitting Micayla while I was downstairs mounting...) Although at least that meant I got to try out this set-up for the helicoil hole tap. I'm not sure if this is any more stable that the plastic puck, but no need to match up tap diameter with the appropriate hole on a puck-type guide, plus the cutaway allows a clear view of the tap entering the hole in the ski.

Tap for backcountry skiing.

I usually count out 6 to 8 half turns when tapping, and when to stop is usually pretty obvious anyway. But this little collar ensures proper depth, plus allows the tap to be used with a mounting jig (as shown here) for proper alignment. The big drawback is that the depth must be set very carefully, and adjusted for different jigs, so lots of fiddle time in exchange for the potentially enhanced accuracy.

Alpine Tap Collar $15.95


(WildSnow guest blogger Jonathan Shefftz lives with his wife and daughter in Western Massachusetts, where he is a member of the Northfield Mountain and Thunderbolt / Mt Greylock ski patrols. Formerly an NCAA alpine race coach, he has broken free from his prior dependence on mechanized ascension to become far more enamored of self-propelled forms of skiing. He is an AIARE-qualified instructor, NSP avalanche instructor, and contributor to the American Avalanche Association’s The Avalanche Review. When he is not searching out elusive freshies in Southern New England or promoting the NE Rando Race Series, he works as a financial economics consultant.)


17 Responses to “Tappity Tap Tap – Tap Guides Overview”

  1. John W December 18th, 2010 10:09 am

    I have a small flat piece of maple that I carefully put a drill press guided hole through. Cheap, though I don’t mount too many bindings these days.

    Of more interest to me is :
    1- tapping in general. In the metal top sheet days we tapped everything. I remember a plastic Solomon mini brace & tap. It wobbled a lot. I couldn’t find anything on the BD web site recommending tapping. The skis do have have a 3.5 x 9.5 mm bit suggestion on the ski. Who’s call is this? Shop or ski manufacturer?
    2- my pet peeve (mostly w/ Dynafit toe pieces) is plastic base plates that grip the screws. In my experience it is impossible for the 5 tapped thread holes in the ski to match exactly the threads of the screws coming out of the base plate. The binding won’t tighten hard to the ski until one set of threads (in the ski or in the base plate) strip. My solution is to drill out the base plate so the screw spins freely.
    3-Glue. I have an allergy to epoxy, even small doses. I’ve been using some new clear, runny Gorilla glue. No problem so far. Any thoughts out there?

  2. Lou December 18th, 2010 10:37 am

    John, good points. In our mounting instructions for Dynafit we mention drilling out those holes. It’s always been weird to me that they’re made that way. Insiders told me it’s so shop employees don’t get the screws mixed up. Not much faith in shop employees, I guess…

    As for glue, whatever works so long as it’s waterproof and you don’t pull bindings off skis. I like epoxy because it’s strong, waterproof, and easily releasable with a soldering iron held for a few seconds on each screw.

  3. Jonathan Shefftz December 18th, 2010 10:50 am

    John W, my thoughts on your three points:
    1. I tap all my holes, but truly definitely necessary usually only for skis that have metal, which would always (I think) be indicated by a 4.1mm rec.
    2. I haven’t had the courage to do this yet, but that would explain why I’ve had some puzzling spinners in the past. Plus Lou says to do so, which means I should, right?
    3. I just use Titebond III wood glue to lubricate and seal up the hole. I know Lou says to use epoxy, and that I should do everything that Lou tells me to, but seems both unnecessary as well as causing potential complications for removing bindings. Gorilla Glue though, doesn’t that expand significantly? Seems like it could create problems?

  4. Lou December 18th, 2010 2:45 pm

    For not doing everything I say Jonathan is hereby sentenced to ski on nothing but Duke bindings for the next two weeks. 😀

  5. John W December 18th, 2010 5:48 pm

    Thanks guys, I confess I’ve not read Lou’s Dynafit mounting rap because I have access to a jig. Once you commit to the modification don’t go half way, drill out the base plates so the screws will spin. Thanks Lou for all the DIY tips, it is an amazing library of knowledge. I suggest investing in the ski / jig specific drill bits (3.5 x 9.5 mm seems to do most these days). It cuts like butter, stays sharp because you don’t use it for other drilling, works in a jig if you have one and you can not possibly drill through your wife’s new skis. Titebond 3 work fine, I wish it was a tad runnier. The clear Gorilla glue dries white and expands a bit which I like (use less). No comment on the Duke’s. They scare me.

  6. Bar Barrique December 18th, 2010 7:42 pm

    Interesting stuff. I am thinking that for my next mount on a set of Goode skis; I will shorten the mounting screws by grinding the points off the screws, and, then tap the holes. Anybody see any problems?

  7. Lou December 18th, 2010 8:49 pm

    Bar, I’ve mounted Goode several times. Yes, be super careful of screw length, tap holes, use epoxy. When you grind the screws shorter, grind a point on them rather than making them blunt, that works better for getting the threads to bite as you screw it in. Lou

  8. neonorchid December 18th, 2010 8:50 pm

    Having never mounted bindings (yet, as reading how it’s done seems easy enough), take with a grain of salt. However, i can’t imagine how filing the screw point would be good unless your drill bit were to bore a flat bottom hole. Last i checked most bits have points. And even then the screw tap is tapered at the tip too so more space to fill and griping surfaces for the glue.

  9. Lou December 18th, 2010 8:55 pm

    Neon, all we’re talking about is making the screws shorter for a thinner ski, and I was suggesting that when doing so, keep the screw pointed rather than making it blunt.

  10. neonorchid December 18th, 2010 9:50 pm

    …ok. Your reply posted while i was typing. At any rate i learned allot and plan to give it a go, will any off the shelf two part epoxy from HomeDepot/Lowes do or have you found some better then others wrt releasing via soldering iron if need be?

  11. Jonathan Shefftz December 19th, 2010 12:08 pm

    If the ski profile is very thin, might help to buy shorter bits specific to junior skis. (I had to do this for some Icelantic Scout skis that were surprisingly thin in the heel mount area.)
    Okay, now time to rest my weary bones from all that skinning in my plug boots and Diamir setup (figured that was close enough to meet Lou’s sentencing guidelines).

  12. Mark W December 20th, 2010 1:00 am

    Jonathan, Titebond III is great, but I found out something interesting a couple seasons ago. I unscrewed a ski binding screw from a hole filled with Titebond II or III. The glue had cured at the top, but not below; there it was still liquid after several days. What is curing dependent upon? Temperature? Contact with air? Contact with certain materials like wood, fiberglass, rubber, metal? I mention this as I haven’t seen similar uncured epoxy deep in screw holes on skis.

  13. Mark W December 20th, 2010 1:13 am

    SVST sells an ingenious screw cutting tool. I ordered one. Grinding or filing screws likely isn’t as precise. I’ll let you know how it works when I get it.

  14. Lou December 20th, 2010 7:18 am

    Mark, one reason I gave up on water based glues for ski binding screws is that they indeed introduced moisture into the screw hole. As proof, I was finding plenty of screws that were corroded after a year or two, as well as simply not locked in the hole the way I’d want them to be. Never looked after a day or two, but now that I think about it, am wondering if that corrosion was caused by moisture that lingered in the screw hole for some time.

    It’s funny how ski shop culture persists myths like using wood glue for steel screws in everything from foam to plastic (sorry Jonathan), I mean, skis were once 100% wood so it made sense, but can we just move along here?

    Now, to not get too extreme or opinionated, when I mount demos that I’ll be pulling the bindings from in a few days, I sometimes do so with no adhesive. I also experiment with Gorilla glue, but have found that unless I use just a tiny amount of Gorilla to seal the hole, it tends to lock the screw in almost as good as epoxy, but doesn’t release as easily with a soldering iron touch like epoxy does, so I’m pretty leery of the stuff, but I might use a dab for skis that I’m planning on leaving the bindings on for a few weeks, just to keep moisture out. Also, the expansion of Gorilla glue is weird, and concerns me, as well as I wonder how well it cures in an airtight situation.

    What I want when I mount bindings for the long haul is a 100% maintenance free screw attachment. No water corrosion or entry, no loosening, extra strength in comparison to a “dry” mount, and in the end, easy release when it’s time to pull bindings. Epoxy gives me all of the above. 5-minute version from big-box discount store preferred for most applications, but one hour ok as well.

  15. neonorchid December 20th, 2010 12:53 pm

    Thanks for the info. I’ve been buying XC gear here and there for use at neighborhood parks, i’m not in the snow belt so no hurry. Now i feel confident to mount the bindings. Besides less to lose than AT gear if it doesn’t go as planed although i’m sure it’ll be a breeze and i’ll get the DIY satisfaction.

  16. Summit December 23rd, 2010 9:02 am

    I “tap” my Dynafit front holes by making 4-6 turns in each hole with the Dynafit rear screws.

  17. Lou December 23rd, 2010 9:45 am

    Summit, I don’t understand. Why would you use the rear screws instead of just any screw?

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