There aren't many processes in life that a little lubrication can't help along. Sliding a chunk of plastic over snow with nothing more than gravity for propulsion is no exception. The lube created by a good hot wax can make the difference between floundering around the hill like a fish on a dock or gliding effortlessly down the slope. With a little practice and the right basic tools, even you can learn to coat and scrape your own board to reap the benefits of a faster, cleaner ride.
If you haven't seen your deck since you hucked it in the garage last spring, take a minute to look it over. Check the base for any gouges or missing chunks of P-tex. Examine the edge and sidewall for any signs of delamination or other damage. If it's really trashed, take it to a trusted shop for inspection, repair, and a base grind.
For those of you still playing along at home, here's a step-by-step guide to the basic hot wax:
• Start with a clean base. Rubbing alcohol works well for removing dust or light dirt. A sticky layer of black goo left over from impure spring snow may require a more aggressive approach, but stay away from toxic degreasers like acetone or gasoline. Citrus solvents, available at hardware stores, work well for the rougher jobs.
• Before firing up the iron, make sure the board is at room temperature. If it's been outside in sub-zero cold, sudden heat can cause internal delamination.
• While setting the iron's temperature, start low and work warmer in small increments. The temperature's right when the wax melts easily without smoking.
• Drip wax liberally along the entire base of the board. It's not an exact science, but drips three-quarters-of-an-inch apart is a good general rule–enough to achieve a wet layer for the iron to glide over without hitting any dry spots. Go a little heavier along the edges, where the friction is the greatest while riding. (If you have it on hand, drip a harder wax along the inch of base running along the edges–this fights rapid wax erosion in these high-pressure areas.)
• Then start pushing the iron evenly around the base, trying for consistent coverage. As the molten wax is absorbed into the base (sintered types only), be cautious of overheating the board. Hold your non-ironing hand lightly against the underside of the board (the topsheet). It should become only slightly warm, but not hot.
• Never allow the iron to sit motionless on the base. The plastic will start bubbling within ten seconds or so and you'll be really bummed.
• Wax the whole board! I've seen too many wax jobs that end just past the running surface. Wax all the way from nose to they get in on the action as well.
• Wax ruins carpets–plan ahead if you don't want your ass chewed. Better yet, use that super-tech tuning bench you learned how to build in last month's episode!
• Once you're done waxing and the board has cooled back down to room temperature (core and all), scrape off the excess wax with a plastic scraper. The wax that's been absorbed by the porous P-tex base is what translates into a faster, more responsive board, so get rid of as much superfluous wax as you can. As the saying goes, “Thin wins, thick sticks.”
• Angled in the direction it's traveling, move the scraper down the entire base, applying smooth and even pressure all the way from nose to tail.
• Don't neglect to scrape the side edges and sidewalls. It all adds up to reduced drag.
• Don't wait to scrape 'til you find the picnic table next to the lift–cold wax is much harder to remove.
• A post-scrape pad and brush job is as crucial as choosing the right wax. Smooth out any lumpy spots with the Fiber-tex (Scotchbrite pad), then go to work with the wax (or “structure”) brush. Brushing blends the wax, making it as uniform as possible.
• If your board is stone-ground or otherwise base-structured, brushing clears that structure of wax, maximizing the texture's effectiveness.