Ever notice how the off season has a way of destroying the backshop? Somehow the few months of relative inactivity during the summer provide the perfect opportunity for all your tools and supplies to mysteriously disappear. All too often, boxes and other debris get sucked into this black hole until there’s not a prayer of finding the workbench.
Now it’s August, and among the million other things that you have to do, you’re confronted with digging out and reequipping the shop for the new season. This may sound like a drag, but look on the bright side¿this annual rebirth of the shop is an opportunity to analyze how things went last season and what improvements in either tools, equipment, supplies, or general layout could prevent past headaches.
The first question you should ask your techs is: How did boards flow though their various stages of service? Were there any apparent bottlenecks where people tended to crash into each other? Was there enough workbench space, and how did the benches fit the techs?
It’s pretty common to see five-foot seven techs on their toes trying to work at a bench that was built by some six-footer. If any changes have to be made to the general configuration of the shop fixtures, now is the time to do it. It will be worthwhile on those days when you’re buried up to your eyes in boards, and not having to work all stooped over, or standing on a milk crate trying to coax reluctant mounting screws into letting go of their thread.
Other important considerations include good workstation lighting and adequate ventilation. Did anyone find themselves wishing for more light last season? How about the air? Plenty of dust, smoke, and fumes are generated when grinding, waxing, P-texing, and using epoxy. Removing these pollutants from your environment will drastically reduce the feeling of having huffed glue fumes all day and can significantly retard the accumulation of those dreaded “backshop boogers” that flourish so well in a dirt- and wax-filled environment.
Once you’re satisfied with the configuration of the backshop, inventory your tools. Try to remember if there were any repeated situations in the past where a certain tool would have come in handy, and you cursed yourself because you didn’t have it. Maybe now is the time to pony up and make the acquisition. Unlike just a few years ago, there are now many companies supplying tools specifically designed for snowboard tuning and repair. Make a few phone calls, have them send out their latest catalog, and go shopping.
If you already own a board-grinding machine, now is the time to make sure it is properly set up and in good operating condition. Don’t forget you need plenty of belts and other supplies to carry you through the early season.
Keep in mind many of the boards encountered in the beginning of the new season are the same pounded, grimy, semi-wasted decks that finished last spring grinding rocks and mud. Generally these victims are tossed aside as soon as the snow is gone, left to rust and rot for a few months, then exhumed and brought to your shop to be resurrected enough to get through the marginal cover of the early season.
You’ll be hating it if you wait until there are a pile of trashed boards to get through, and the same belt that worked last year is now hopelessly spent. Get your machines and their associated supplies set up early and avoid anguish later.
If you are still waiting to put some type of base grinder in your shop, stop torturing yourself and step into the modern world. It’s really hard to accomplish quality base repairs and refinishing totally by hand, and it’s almost impossible to make any real money due to the limited number of jobs that can be completed in a day. Take a look at the various machine suppliers’ products and see how they may help make this acquisition a palatable reality.
Last spring we published a long list of tools and supplies as sort of a backshop checklist for shop techs. Rather than goo through that again (if you’re interested it can be found in SNOWboarding Business, Volume 6, Number 5), here’s a list of the top-ten most useful tools and supplies to get you started for the new season: 1) Base-repair gun (or upgrade to a hot-air welder) 2) Sureform shaver3) Scraper/Try-bar combo (Mountain-Tec sells a good one) 4) Lots of base cleaner and plenty of paper towels 5) C/A (insta-set) glue and epoxy 6) Files (Mill Bastard and Pansar body types) and whetstones 7) Screwdrivers and wrenches to deal with bindings 8) Spare binding parts, both 6×1, 1/4¿20, straps, buckles, etc. 9) Hot-air gun and propane torch 10) Waxes, plastic scraper and Scotch-Brite buffing pads.
Don’t forget to make sure there are plenty of safety glasses available and a complete first-aid kit nearby.
Of the many tools available for snowboard service, one of my favorites is the spinning, horse-hair structuring brush that fits into a standard electric drill motor. This tool cleans and polishes base structures and wax jobs quickly and leaves the most professional-looking base finishes possible. Any imperfections smooth right out, and sublimated base graphics show perfectly after a couple of passes with this tool. At around a hundred dollars, they’re not cheap but the way they hone your finished product is well worth the cost. Call Sun Valley Tools and they’ll be happy to set you up.
A well-supplied, professionally run backshop can go a long way toward enhancing your store’s reputation as the best in your market. Having the capabilities of servicing your customers’ needs keeps them coming back into the store on a regular basis, which absolutely shows up in increased overall revenue. With this fact in mind, dive headlong into the summer’s accumulated mess, get the backshop set up early, then promote it loudly and often.