Not everyone mounts their own ski touring bindings. That’s the way it should be, as doing so requires a fairly robust set of tools and skills. Still, doing the deed is fun. If you’re already a master — or want to get going with DIY binding installs — here are a few tool suggestions specific to actual installation of bindings.
Wandering drill bits are like wandering lovers; failure of the relationship is inevitable. To avoid such tragedy, center punch your hole location if you’re not using a mechanical binding mount jig. I like the “automatic” type punch with an internal spring that loads up when you press the punch down, then snaps. But really, anything sharp you can impact into the ski surface will do the job: a sharpened nail, for example. If using a paper template, make pinholes in the paper exactly at each screw location. Once the paper template is taped to the ski top, use the pinholes to locate the center punch accurately, with no slipping. (Hint, when printing templates use robust paper, much easier to handle — and remember to check your printer scaling).
It’s important to print your templates out on heavy paper so they don’t squirm around. More, you need to tape the template firmly to the ski (hint, print out at least two templates to avoid needless swapping time). Just about any tape works for this, but the best in my experience is easily reversible “blue” painter’s masking tape. The stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s super useful to have around. I couldn’t operate my shop without it. Other uses besides attaching binding templates: quickie labels you can peel off a few months later; easily removable drill bit depth gauge; repaint something on your house.
Cam Shute, binding design engineer at G3, once told me not to talk about it unless I can measure it. Expanding on that, I’d say when it comes to technical stuff like ski bindings, don’t even touch it unless you can measure it. To that end, sweet little digital calipers have become incredibly affordable. Sure, the lower end versions are not for measuring space shuttle parts, but they work for all sorts of other stuff. That includes checking the thickness of your skis and comparing how much your binding screws protrude from the binding mount plate. Criteria? Get a caliper that does inch fractions, inch decimal, and millimeters. If you like fine tools, perhaps up-sell yourself. But the budget versions work. Learn how to use by viewing a few YouTube vids.
Ski Drill Bits
While you can get away with using depth stopped “hardware store” drill bits (I default to 9/64 or 5/32 if doing so), bits designed for drill skis are worth the investment as they’re exactly the sizes ski manufacturers recommend and include a built-in depth stop. You’ll want both 4.1 mm and 3.5 mm diameter. Amazon link to right shows good options. Shops such as SlideWright are a good sources as well.
To tap or not to tap, that is the question. Experienced binding mounters know when they can get away without thread tapping the binding screw holes. Most do it yourselfers will want to tap every hole. Don’t get crazy, just a few turns of the tap is good — in most skis the top skin and binding reinforcement plate are all that require tapping. Use a tap guide to keep the tap perpendicular to the ski. This blog post has all the info and links.
Universal Mounting Jig
If you mount many skis, a real mechanical jig is notably faster than using paper templates. Universals such as the Jigarex are pricy, but how much is your time worth? Available at various dealers, here is a link to Tognar.
Suggestions welcome, please do so in the comments. I’ll add a few tools to the post if it’s appropriate.
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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.