Basic Tuning of XC Metal-Edged Skis

By Jack Kangas, Nov. 2000
Why steel edges?
  • Only needed for maintaining control on hard, icy snow conditions
  • The icier the conditions, the more helpful edges will be
  • Edges need to be sharp and free of dings and burrs
Remove excess wax

Remove excess wax before working on ski bases. Use a commercial ski wax remover like SWIX, then let base dry before proceeding to step 3

Make sure base surface is flat

Make sure base surface is flat and even with metal edges.  A stone grinding service available at qualified ski shops is the best way to achieve this goal.

  • Grinding flattens base, sharpens bottom edges, removes small gouges, and adds structure to base, all in one step
  • Most new skis purchased today are stone-ground at the factory
  • CAUTION: Putting any ski with a patterned waxless base on a stone grinder may remove part of all of the pattern, and wear it out permanently. To me, a waxless ski with dull edges and a good pattern is preferred over a ski with sharp edges and a removed or permanently worn pattern. So you may not be able to sharpen the edges on a waxless ski for this reason.
Remove rough spots

Remove rough spots in the metal edges with a sharpening stone or diamond stone

  • Rough spots in edges typically are caused by hitting rocks; these hits “cold works” the metal edge; spot on the metal edge hardens and often can’t be removed with a file
  • Stone grinder will also remove the rough spots
  • Use a 8-10” mill file with one-way directional lines (not cross-hatched) to sharpen base edges and remove small irregularities in the base surface
Sharpen side edges
  • Typically want a 90° angle from base to side edge
  • Most ski shops carry tools to hold a file in the proper position. An individual holding a mill file trying to maintain a 90° angle while sharpening is a risky business...almost impossible
  • Individuals can use a block of wood (with a good 90° Angle), two C-clamps and a five foot or longer flat table surface on their own
  • Check edge sharpness by dragging fingernail across the edge—if get fingernail shavings, the edge is sharp enough
Dull back tips and tails
  • If edges are left sharp over full length of ski, the tips will tend to “grab” and turn too abruptly
  • Use file or stone to dull edges about 10-15” back from the tip & about 3-4” back from the tail
Clean, then wax base
  • Wipe base with cloth to remove metal and plastic filings, then remove any excess wax if necessary
  • Apply glide and binder waxes as needed