Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

This is the World Famous TelemarkTalk / TelemarkTips Forum, by far the most dynamic telemark and backcountry skiing discussion board on the world wide web. We have fun here, come on in and be a part of it.
User avatar
Smitty
XCD Enthusiast
XCD Enthusiast
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:37 am
Location: Alberta, Canada
Ski style: Low-Vert Nordic Touring
Favorite Skis: USGI Surplus
Favorite boots: Alfa Perform

Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by Smitty » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:47 pm

Hey guys,

I know it is not particularly XCD per se, but is anyone interested in compiling a wooden ski prep, care, and offseason blocking / storage tutorial thread? I know woodenskis.com has some good information, but thought it might be interesting to have some back-and-forth technique or opinion sharing on here. I know there are a lot of you that have done substantial work with woodies, and I would love to hear from you. I find them fascinating!

I got thinking about this when I picked up a pair of Asnes Tur-Langrenn at a consignment store recently that look to be in good shape. Me, the father-in-law, and my Wife's Granda' plan to pull a couple of their old pairs of woodies out of the shed and get them all tuned up this year. But it's been 30 years since either of them have worked with woodies, so it's should prove to to be an interesting process! I will snap some pics and document their techniques to bring back to the thread as well!

If we get some good info compiled, I can edit 'er up and see if Johnny wants to add a wooden ski entry to the Wiki!

Cheers,
Smitty

User avatar
Chisana
XCD Enthusiast
XCD Enthusiast
Posts: 36
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:13 am

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by Chisana » Wed Jan 09, 2019 1:11 am

Hope this goes forward. A few years ago I re-fell in love with the old woodies. Sadly, my old trysl knuts bought at barneys sport chalet in anchorage in 1976 were just about ready to become wallhangers. Bought a set of ems. (Asnes I think), from greg at wooden skis. They were almost too pretty to ski, but they are my go to ski in powder. Love the smell of pinetar, (also hoppes #9), and seems to me the woodies seem to have better wax retention. I am not much of a downhiller,but these old woodies suit me fine for the backcountry trail skiing I like to do.

User avatar
Woodserson
XCD KNIGHT
XCD KNIGHT
Posts: 1297
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:25 am
Location: New Hampshire
Ski style: Bumps, trees, and steeps and long woodsy XC tours
Favorite Skis: DH: Voile Objective and V6, Altai KOMs, XC: Gamme 54, Classy Woodies
Favorite boots: T4, Alaska
Occupation: Retro Rager-grouch

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by Woodserson » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:05 pm

I just waxed up three pairs of skis just now- they are resting outside under the snow, a 4th pair needs a binding replacement, and I'll write more when I come back from my weekend with Mrs Woods cruising the woods on our woodies!

User avatar
paulzo
XCD Enthusiast
XCD Enthusiast
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:59 am
Ski style: multi-day touring

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by paulzo » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:53 pm

Then all you need is this baby to get you there:
IMG_2378.JPG

User avatar
Woodserson
XCD KNIGHT
XCD KNIGHT
Posts: 1297
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:25 am
Location: New Hampshire
Ski style: Bumps, trees, and steeps and long woodsy XC tours
Favorite Skis: DH: Voile Objective and V6, Altai KOMs, XC: Gamme 54, Classy Woodies
Favorite boots: T4, Alaska
Occupation: Retro Rager-grouch

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by Woodserson » Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:48 am

Before I start I want to say everything I first learned came from the Grand PoohBah Greg at http://www.woodenskis.com and I added to my knowledge through trial, trail, and error over the past several years of skiing wood skis.

Greg at Woodenskis does a great job collecting, evaluating, and shipping the skis he has in his inventory. They are graded by condition and flex, and he removes a lot of unknowns from the equation of buying wood skis online. Also, his prices are very competitive, fair, and proceeds go to various ski museums.

Chapter 1: Choosing your ski

TYPE OF SKI:

For those that aspire to ski wooden skis, you must first CHOOSE your ski. This is easier said than done, as the supply is limited and those that are available are in varying degrees of health. Wooden XC skis can really be broken down to into three categories: Track/sprint skis, general touring skis that fit in a track but will get you down a snowmobile trail also, and backcountry touring skis that barely fit in a track, if at all, but provide stability and float through the woods.

GENERALLY/ON AVERAGE the dimensions of these skis run:

Track/Sprint: 55-50-53
General Touring (Tur-Langrenn): 60-50-55
Touring (Tur-Modell): 67-57-62

Asnes also made a ski called the Veteran and it was a beefy, heavy woodie at 76-75-70 (I think- from an old magazine article). A super-tur modell if you will. Beautiful ski.

Here are 4 examples of the above laid out. There is an Asnes Tur (wide touring ski), Holmenkollen/Asnes Tur-Langrenn (general touring) then a Bonna 2400 (wide touring ski- this one is the wood base version with lignostone edges), and an Eggen track ski. The two on the right are my wife's skis at 190cm.
20190204_091825.jpg
SIZE OF SKI:

When you have decided which ski you want, you should think about size. Now, I keep things very simple and choose one size across the disciplines. Wood ski are funny little things that have some life to them and they can be slightly adapted to you. However, I generally add 20cm to a person's height to get the ski length and this rule-of-thumb works out pretty well. You can adapt it to yourself if you're above average weight or less than average weight. My wife is 170cm tall and she skis 190cm skis. I am 188cm tall and ski 210cm woodies. Add or subtract as you see fit for either weight or usage. My wife and I ski on relatively gentle rolling terrain, if we were in demanding hills we might size down, especially my wife who's skills are slightly less than mine, doesn't enjoy the magic of waxing as much, and also she is light for her height.

However, there is a complication to all this due to the relative age of the woodie stock and the amount they have been used and that's....

CONDITION OF SKI:

In the decades that have gone by since your ski was built many things could have happened to it that affects its performance. That's one reason why it is difficult to buy wood skis on the internet sight unseen as you can be really rolling the dice on what kind of life the ski has left.

Camber:
You want good camber. Back in December I went to the local swap and found three pairs of wood skis. Two of the three were very, very soft, as in dead skis with limited camber. Easy to squeeze together. Floppy noodles. Sad. They were skied to death or stored badly in the intervening years. Only one pair (the wood/orange Eggens in the above picture) had life and camber in them. Oodles of camber as it turns out, the ski is like new, it was lovingly cared for, so much camber that my wife has to extend her wax far forward, but she is rewarded in a very fast, sexy ski.

Many people selling wood skis on eBay are selling them as decoration, something that is going to be killed by a stake through their heart as they are nailed unceremoniously to a wall like a trophy animal. Also, the sellers are not skiers and they don't know how to store, care for, or evaluate skis, especially camber. If you are looking at a soft ski, size up. If it has good camber, stick to my formula I have listed above.

Edges:
Many, but not all, wood skis come with lignostone edges. This is a hardened plasticized wood that protects the edges of your skis from being worn round over their life of use. They will not help you edge across east coast boilerplate, but they will help you snowplow and bounce off rocks. This edge can sometimes come delaminated especially up at the tip and tail. You can also splice and replace it if you have an extra sacrificial ski. It can also be a pain in the ass. A little delam is now almost inevitable across the the remaining skis in this world, but a little glue can keep the water out and keep things together. Avoid skis with large sections of lignostone falling away from the ski.

Tails:
This is the most important thing to inspect, as this is a very common problem and often the lead up to spectacular failures. People have a propensity to stick their skis in the snow tails down. This led to many wood skis having their tails damaged which led to water intrusion. Additionally, years of storage in a cement-floor basement or garage is also a conduit for moisture. Inspect the tails! Long vertical splits up the ski are to be avoided! Delamination of the layer horizontally must be determined by the buyer if it's fixable or not. A ski can be put under enormous stress especially in deep powder snow, you don't want a ski to explode on you miles from the trailhead (ask me how I know).

This is what heartbreak looks like... my beautiful, fast, stable, Madshus Touring blown to pieces:
20190204_095339.jpg
If you are purchasing on the internet from some random guy and there are no tail pictures, ask for them! Top, sides, bottom.

All my skis have a little tail damage but nothing that I can't fix or control. I studiously avoid any ski that have large problem areas in the tail. When skiing I do not jam the tails into a snowbank. My skis are stored in my basement with a non-permeable layer under the tails. In wintertime they are in the garage and I keep them on a plastic boot thing to keep them off the concrete.

Next:
Preparing the ski for use- pine tar and waxing and you
Storage- blocking and shaping the ski for next year

User avatar
wooley12
XCD Enthusiast
XCD Enthusiast
Posts: 24
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:19 pm
Occupation: retired

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by wooley12 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:23 pm

I also have a pair of Birkebeiner's blocked and sealed with tar and a full wax kit. Someday one of my grand kids will discover them and take them out. Needed bench for the shop.
DSCN1789.jpg

User avatar
Chisana
XCD Enthusiast
XCD Enthusiast
Posts: 36
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:13 am

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by Chisana » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:26 am

Woodserson - beautiful sets of woodies you have there. Please don't take this wrong, but the systems bindings just don't seem right on those truly classic skis. Oh, I know that thinsoled duckbill boots are tough to come by, but still....

User avatar
jalp
XCD Enthusiast
XCD Enthusiast
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:09 am

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by jalp » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:51 pm

Thank you Smitty for starting this thread and also to Woodserson for the detailed post. I had 2 firsts yesterday evening. 1st time on woodies and 1st time kick waxing anything. Results: mind blown. I must have really lucked out with my waxing. No slip whatsoever and the glide was amazing! I'm usually lagging behind my ski buddy in the flats and climbing but last night I was waiting for him to catch up to me. My Bonna 1800's are about 10cm shorter than I should be on. I can only imagine what a pair of 205's would be like.

User avatar
Woodserson
XCD KNIGHT
XCD KNIGHT
Posts: 1297
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:25 am
Location: New Hampshire
Ski style: Bumps, trees, and steeps and long woodsy XC tours
Favorite Skis: DH: Voile Objective and V6, Altai KOMs, XC: Gamme 54, Classy Woodies
Favorite boots: T4, Alaska
Occupation: Retro Rager-grouch

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by Woodserson » Sat Feb 09, 2019 1:42 pm

Chapter 2: Pine tar and waxing and you

This is where the fun begins with your wood skis! It is all about the mystical and the feeeeel and getting really intimate with your equipment. It also can really stink up the house and there is the obvious fire hazard. I think it's downright groovy to come rolling into my house a day after sealing my skis and smelling that pine tar. My wife hates it.

So youze pays your monies and youze takes your chances.

What we are doing with the pine tar is sealing the wood for use. We want the pine tar to be adequately absorbed into the grain of the wood to keep out water. Glide wax in the form of polar will be added on top of the pine tar.

This guide is succinct and to the point, and pretty much exactly what I do when prepping my skis. I see little point in re-writing something that is already well documented.

This year I used turpentine instead of mineral spirits to thin my Bickmore Pine Tar (easily available thick equine tar that must be thinned for ski use) with maybe slightly better results but a stinkier smell. I'm not sure what the advantages of either are.
DSC_4864 (2).JPG
Some tips/personal preferences:

*Make sure the ski is warm/room temperature so the grain is more open and you won't shock the ski.
*I do like my pine tar mixture to be thin. It makes it easier to clean off the ski after The Deed. It only takes a little bit in a yogurt cup well mixed with the thinner, and spread with a 1" chip brush.
*I paint the whole ski and then flame it
*Pass the flame down the ski in one direction and then start over at the beginning-- don't go tip to tail and reverse tail to tip, the ski gets too hot, hot is bad for glue. Give it some time to chill.
*KEEP THE FLAME MOVING, no hanging out in one spot
*You will see where the thinner flames off and the pine tar bubbles in the grain of the wood, this is a good indication, it may take a second pass to see this depending on technique.
*Clean up is essential to good glide. It takes work, and elbow grease. Get all that pine tar off the surface of the ski so a white rag doesn't show up brown. Your dry skin should glide down the ski easily and not feel anything sticky. If it's sticky, it's going to mix in the with the Polar and be slow. I know this to be true. Don't forget the edges, it can drip over the sides.

Here's some good advice about clean-up:
phoenix wrote: After the initial burn-in, let the skis cool down and absorb the treatment. To clean 'em, use the torch again...lightly..and wipe a few inches of tar off at a time with a rag(s) as you heat your way down the ski. Get 'em down to almost buffed clean this way, finish with rags, no heat, for that nice, evenly burnished finish.
This is the good look you're looking for, nice glossy/matte finish, dry, positively glowing with health and happiness. If the ski is particularly old or dry consider pine tarring twice.
IMG_20181218_184334 (1).jpg
Glide wax is Swix Polar rubbed on, corked, and buffed, the entire length of the ski. Add grip wax as necessary. I find my wax pockets are smaller than my non-wood skis, so go easy at first.

See Lilcliffy's excellent waxing page.

User avatar
phoenix
XCD Pinhead
XCD Pinhead
Posts: 237
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:44 pm

Re: Wooden Ski Care and Preparation

Post by phoenix » Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:35 pm

Nice job on the pine tar Woods. And here's another tip for you: There's a nozzle for the torch that's more of a spreader, rather than a focused flame... a little smoother to torch with this.
I've always liked the smell of pine tar myself... though if I was doing it in a shop, the owners didn't like it much. They said all the clothes got the scent. Not so sure of that myself though.

Ive always tried to find the tar made for the ski application; forget who makes (or made) it, pretty sure it's Swix. What you want is "grundvalla"... (spelling might be off a letter or two). It's the right thickness, no thinning required, and not the thin liquidy stuff either.

Post Reply