Contrary to popular belief, waxing your stick is not some capitalistic schemehatched by multi-conglomerate, evil empire, ski industry underlings. It actuallyworks. And if you take the time to do it well, you will notice a tremendousdifference in the life and performance of your board.

Waxing improves glide and protects the base from minor damage. We’re nottalking speed-of-sound improvements (though you probably will go a littlefaster), rather, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.Instead of stopping as soon as you hit the flats, you might just glide allthe way to the lodge.

Now, before you rub that old block of One Ball Jay on your board and callit good, you might want to invest in a few items. Most of which you can locateat the local thrift-store, snowboard or ski shop (yes, you might have toconsort with “the enemy” to get the goods you need).

These are the items you will need every time you wax yourboard:Iron Wax

Plastic Scraper

Texturer/Buffer

Citrus Cleaner

One last item you may want to invest in is a vice. Though I’ve waxed manya board suspended between two stacks of phone books on the kitchen floor,I highly recommend a proper place for working on your stick. There is a varietyof snowboard vices on the market. Some are good and some are cheap; however,none seem to be inexpensive. Portability is a noble feature but go for avice that securely holds your board. While you may not need to secure theboard for applying wax, you will once you start scraping. Whether it’s betweentwo saw-horses or on a high-quality vice, a proper place to work is a mustif you plan on servicing your own board. (Look for a vice review coming soonto SOL.)

Believe it or not, this is all you need to put a good finish on your stick.Now, how to do it.

Before you go to work on your board, look it over to make sure you didn’tgack the base on a rock or do any other such damage to your board last timeyou were out. If so, you will want to repair that before you wax. As a rule,waxing is always the last step in a series of repairs. If the damage is reallybad you will want to take it to your local shop.

After you’ve given your board the once-over, put it in the vice or whatevercontraption you may have McGuyvered in the garage to secure the board. Youalways want to wax a clean board. Use that citrus cleaner to wipe all thecrud and old wax off the base, then give it about 10-15 minutes to completelydry. If you don’t have any citrus cleaner, at least scrape off any left-overwax and scrap with the scraper.

Now that your board is clean and dry, apply wax. There are two schools onhot-wax application: the school of drip and the school of crayon. The dripmethod is easier and negligibly faster, but the crayon method will betterconserve your wax. The drip method is obvious: hold the wax against the ironand drip off one corner. The crayon method requires slightly more skill.Touch the bar of wax to the iron momentarily and then rub it on the board.Repeat until the board is covered. Done properly, you will get a thin layerof wax on the board. Remember, you’re going to scrape most of that wax offso don’t put too much on–just enough to cover the base when the wax is melted.

Once the wax is applied, start ironing it in. Just smear the wax around withthe iron until the whole base is covered. The iron should be hot enough toeasily melt all the wax but not so hot that it smokes. Be careful not toheat the board so much that the top-sheet is hot to the touch; this couldcause glues or resins in the board to soften, relinquishing their hold oninternal materials.

When the base is well-covered and the wax ironed in, let it cool sufficiently.(If the base is really dry it will want to soak up a lot of wax–anotherapplication may be necessary to sufficiently cover the base.) Let the boardsit for 20 minutes to half an hour–at least until all the wax has dried.

Once the wax has cooled and a sufficient amount covers the base, it’s tiimeto scrape. The scraper works best if it has a good edge; a new one will workwell right out of the package but one that’s been around a while needs alittle help. I keep a 10 inch multi-purpose flat file on the end of my benchexpressly for the purpose of sharpening scrapers. With the file flat on thebench, hold the scraper perpendicular to the file and drag the edge overthe file. After a couple of passes you should have a nice square edge onthe scraper. This is another reason why a ski-scraper is easier to handlethan a large snowboard scraper.

Scrape the wax off the board in one smooth pull from the tip to the tail.Holding the scraper at an angle either toward or away from you will giveit sufficient bite. Remember, always pull toward you when working with afile or scraper. Never push the tool away–you’re less likely to hurt yourselfif it slips. Scrape the board two or three times, taking off most of thewax but leaving a thin layer on the board.

The only thing left to do now is buff out the wax job. The purpose of buffingis to get any remaining wax off the board and out of the tiny crevasses andgroves in the base. When your board glides over snow, it actually melts athin layer and rides on water. If your board is totally smooth it will wantto stick to the snow, much like two panes of glass with water between them.We want a structure in the base to reduce this suction. A stone-grinder appliesa precise structure or it can be done by hand. In either case, best resultsare achieved when all the wax is brushed out of the grooves of the structure.For that purpose we want to use a brush or a Scotch Brite pad.

Simply brush the entire length of the ski in one direction, using short,brisk strokes. If you are using a Scotch Brite pad you can wipe from tipto tail in one stroke. Again, you may have to brush two or three times. Buffingin this way works best for a variety of snow conditions. Only if it is verycold out and the snow is very dry will you want to cork the base smooth.

By now you should have a nice finish on the base of your board. The layerof wax should be even, fairly thin , and have a nice luster to it. Don’tworry if it’s a little sloppy at first, there’s really no way you can damageyour board by waxing it–and with a little practice you’ll soon be a pro.Waxing your board isn’t hard. It should only take about half an hour to doand will more than pay for itself in the extra glide and protection you get.

Stay tuned to this site for more information on how to keep your board intip-top shape.