The steel edges on a board are there for two reasons: to help it turn, and to protect it from impacts. You only use the part of your edges that contact the snow, this is called the “effective edge. If your board has a “full wrap edge that goes around the tip and tail, it’s only there for protection, since those areas are turned up from the snow.
First thing is to take your file and dull, or de-tune, your tip and tail. You can really get after it here with the file since you don’t use this part of the edge to turn, just be careful not to go into your effective edge. If it helps, you can lay your board on the ground or up against a wall to see where your edge starts to hit the snow.
Whenever your edges hit rocks and things, the friction causes the steel edge to harden and create a rough burr. You can feel these along your edges after a few days of riding. Just be careful because really bad burrs can cut through your skin, and if they’re that gnarly you can imagine how it effects your turns. A file can’t cut through these hard spots, and will make a zzziipp noise if you try to file over them.
Get rid of burrs by using a pocket stone. Wet the stone with water, snow, or spit to lubricate it, and rub it along your base and side edge several times. The stone is made to smooth out the case hardening of the steel and will then allow your file to cut.
The next step is to understand the geometry of your edges. Your edge is one piece of steel made up of two sides: the base edge and the side edge. When your board was built at the factory the edge was put in so the base edge was flat to the ground and the side edge was straight up creating a 90-degree angle. The problem is that if you’re riding your board flat on the snow or sliding a rail, the flat base edge is very likely to grab the snow or catch the rail and throw you somewhere you don’t want to be. The solution is to angle, or bevel, the base edge away from the snow a bit with a file.
Bevels are measured in degrees, and to achieve an accurate and constant bevel along your edge, a file guide is used. A good file guide is a solid sleeve that your file slides into that guides the bevel along the edge. A good all-around base bevel is two degrees, which will prevent you from catching your edge, while still allowing you to turn on firm snow. Less bevel is more aggressive (tight steering), while more bevel is less aggressive (loose steering).
Now it’s time to even the side bevel to the base bevel. This will return your angle back to 90 degrees. If you leave the bevel where it is, you will have an obtuse angle, which is not sharp enough to turn.
Again, the way to achieve the bevel is to use a side edge guide. You slip your file into the guide and pull the guide down the length of the edge. This will give you a 90-degree edge that is beveled at two degrees (side and base) which is sharp enough to turn, but beveled enough to prevent catching your edge.
Clean It Up
The last step is to use your pocket stone again to smooth out your edge from any burrs left behind from the rough cut of the file. You don’t need the guides to use the stone, just rest the stone on the base and side edge and run the length of the edge. Use water (or spit) on your stone for the ultimate smooth edge.
If your board is brand new, make sure you de-tune (dull) the tip and tail, and make sure your bevels are set to where you want them. Just feel your edges after each day riding and use your stone to get rid of any burrs. This will take all of 30 seconds and will keep your ride smooth like butter. After several days of hard riding you may need to pull a file over your side edge just to get a good edge back. You won’t need to file your base edge again until you get your board base ground flat. Your local shop can help you with your edges and can even bevel them with a machine, but if you get the tools yourself, you’ll save time and money in the long haul.