Back in January Bill Thistle of Sportfeet opened my eyes to how precise a ski should be tuned. I’d been tuning skis for years (even been a shop rat), but I’d gotten a lazy about my edge work, and my home tuning setup used an old vise that didn’t grip skis with angled top edges. Time for an upgrade.
I contacted Terry Ackerman of SlideWright, and made it clear I needed “everything from a vise to the proper bevel tools.” Terry figured out exactly what would work, but more, he suggested I build a new tuning bench and think about any trick mods I could come up with. Yep, he was speaking my language! Read on.
|Our new Cinch Vise in action, custom mounted on a new bench.
|While the Cinch vise comes with bench clamps, Terry Ackerman suggested that a cleaner and more solid way to mount this sort of thing on a home-made workbench is to use Rockler Woodworking “T-track” aluminum channel mounted on the bench, to which the vise fittings are attached with T-nuts and knobs, so the vise fittings can be quickly moved to different positions. I was a precision carpenter in another life and still have some of my tools stashed away, so I dug out my router and mortised the T-track into a new bench made from a solid-core door we got from a construction recycling joint near here (during the day, not at midnight, sorry).
|Bench installed in our shop, T-track going in. If I’d had more time I would have surfaced the bench with Formica, so it would be easy to scrape ski wax drippings off of. Instead I painted our door/bench with latex floor and porch enamel. (If you don’t want the trouble of mortising the T-track into the bench, you can surface mount it on the bench and run a strip of wood on either side to widen the surface the vise end-fittings sit on, or you can also buy a vise that simply clamps to your bench and doesn’t need a track. )
|Tools4Boards Cinch vise with ski in flat position. This ingenious vise holds the ski by pulling it down to the bench with a simple cord and locking cleat device. The ski rests on high friction rubber on the two vise end-units, and the cord is threaded around or through the binding then pulled tight. Without bindings, the friction rubber still holds skis fairly well for flat filing, but the cinch cord locks them like a rock. More, this rig will hold snowboards, telemark skis, skate skis, ski poles, lumber and many other long and odd shaped items. Take my word for it, this vise works great!
|Cinch vise converts in seconds to side file mode. It holds skis on their sides two different ways. You can quickly set your skis on small supports and cinch them down, or use dedicated side clamps as shown in the photo above. This is when you really need the length adjustment, as the side clamps work best on the thinnest part of tip and tail.
Okay, the vise is working, now what? My big agenda with this project was to start beveling skis precisely, instead of the hit-and-miss methods I’d been using. To that end, I ordered two bevel cutters from SlideWright. The Razor is a solid plastic jig that holds a file, and has shims for setting precise bevel. I got two so I could leave them set to different bevels and not be fiddling when I’m in a hurry, but one would work fine.
In all, the cast of thousands here at WildSnow.com world headquarters is excited about treating our skis with the respect they deserve. And I’m sure they’ll return inkind. Thanks goes to Terry of SlideWright for helping us with this project. Now, it’s time to go find some snow!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.