How to Sharpen Edges on Skis
By. Thom Phillips
Edge maintenance makes the difference between a ski that will hold an edge versus one that will not. The best ski in the world will not be able to properly hold an edge if it is dull. While edge maintenance does not have to be done as frequently as waxing but is equally as important. Before performing any edge maintenance it is important to decide what edge bevels are best for you. Side edge angles determine the amount of articulation a ski will be allowed to have. The more angle the more a ski can be put onto edge and still hold properly. Base edge angles determine how quickly a ski will hookup, or start to grab while articulated. The less angle on the base edge the earlier the ski will start to grab, but also reduces how forgiving a ski will be. Race skis or frontside carving skis can benefit from more aggressive side edge angles and reduced base edge angles while most modern ski will have two degree side and one degree base angles, this gives a great balance of articulation and grip, while still allowing for forgiveness. When it comes time to perform edge maintenance proper guides, files and patience are the best tools you can have. The most simple test to determine whether or not a ski edge is dull is the fingernail test. As skis tend to dull under the binding the most quickly test in the region between the toe and heel of the binding. With any of your fingernails place them against the ski edge and draw it against the ski edge. If the edge creates a small shaving of fingernail the edge is still sharp, if not it is time to either re-hone or re sharpen the edge. Single angle guides, metal files and diamond stones are the best choices, but there are many multiple angle, single file holders that help keep costs down. Outside of gathering the proper tools edge work simply takes time.
Step 1: After attaching your vise to a long flat surface, restrain the ski brake. The easiest way is to use a strong rubber band and loop it around one arm of the brake, over the heel housing, and over the other arm.
Step 2: Place the ski base up onto the vice
Step 3: Using whatever base file guide you have lock it onto the ski with a metal file and draw down the edge in a smooth stroke. Repeat this as least four times and then do the same for the other base edge. If an area has significant burring you can work on that one area even more, but remember to address the burr first and the entire edge afterwards.
Step 4: Still addressing the base edge of the ski, switch from a metal file to a diamond stone and repeat. Using the guide draw the guide down the edge another four to five times. This should remove the striation marks left from the file and firmly hone the angle set by the file.
Step 5: Ideally you will also have a ceramic stone, and at this point you repeat step 4 with the ceramic stone. The ceramic stone will provide a perfect finishing polish and leave the edge bevel set perfectly.
Step 6: Using the vertical hold on your vise place the ski on one side. Using whatever side edge guide you have, with a metal file, lock in onto the ski and draw the guide down the ski from tip to tail. Repeat this as least four times and then do the same for the other base edge. If an area has significant burring you can work on that one area even more, but remember to address the burr first and the entire edge afterwards.
Step 7: Repeat steps 4-5 with the side edge guide and then flip the ski to address the other side edge. When doing edge work remember that 4 to five passes per file or stone are purely recommendations. The more you work on edges the easier it will be to recognize when an edge is properly set. Also, while metal files are incredibly useful they are not necessary every time you work on your edges. If you continue to re-hone the edges diamond and ceramic stones are the most valuable tools you can have, as they will keep an edge sharp without having to continually remove edge material. Not only does this make edge maintenance easier each time but makes the edge last longer. Above anything else remember patience is your best friend when it comes to edge work, take your time and learn to read what the edges tell you.