You don’t need to be a World Cup service technician to hand tune your skis, but you do need to know what each tool does to put a sharp edge on your skis and a proper coat of wax to get those skis performing to the best of their ability. After reading this guide, you will have a clear definition of what each Ski Tuning Tool does so you can figure out exactly what you need.
The majority of these tuning tools are used for setting a bevel, sharpening and honing your edges to give your skis the best edge grip possible.
Files are where you want to start your tuning kit. Files are used for the original cut or sharpening of the edges. There are different files that are used in the different stages of edge sharpening. The earlier you are in the process, the more material will be removed from the edge. You can determine how much material will be removed from the edge by looking at the TPCM. This abbreviation refers to how many teeth per centimeter are on the file. The more TPCM, the finer the file is and the less material will be removed from the edge. As you start to sharpen, you want to start with a file that has less TPCM and work your way to a finer file with more TPCM.
Tradition/Bastard Files are used to make your first cut or initial first few passes over the ski edges. These style of files have between 10 to 12 TPCM. The larger teeth remove more edge, while leaving burrs and inconsistent edge angles. These are the style of file you should use if you are planning on changing your edge angles drastically. If you only plan on owning a few files, this type of file is not recommended.
Second Cut Files
Second Cut Files have around 16 TPCM. The smaller, finer teeth will still remove some of the edge material. This style of file is a great starting point when you want to maintain your current edge angles and want a sharp edge. You would use this style of file if you were only considering one file, but you will still want to use a finishing or diamond stone.
Fine Cut Files
Fine Cut Files have around 20 TPCM, meaning that they have smaller and smoother teeth. Fine cut files will start to remove any burrs or imperfections left by the previous two style of files. Often times you can forgo having a fine cut file if you plan on using diamond stones.
File Guides are essential for setting accurate edge angles. This tool allows you to position whichever style of file you are using to the correct angle to make your cut. Some file guides are adjustable, but require a steady hand and consistency for a proper edge. The more accurate and professional file guides have a set angle to sharpen edges. If you plan on doing your edges correctly, you will need both a base edge and side edge file guide.
Diamond Stones are used in the same manner as files are, but are designed to put a cleaner, more accurate edge angle on your skis. Diamond stones are also available in different coarseness ranging from 100 to 1000, with 100 grit being considered extra-coarse. It is not recommended to start off sharpening your edges with a diamond stone; they do a great job after setting your edge bevels after a second cut file. As you move up to the higher grit diamond stones, the sharper and more polished your edges become. Although professional tuners will have every grit of diamond stone in their kit, if you wanted to simplify it for yourself we recommend a 900, 400, 200 combination.
Gummy Stones are often overlooked in many tuning kits. This type of stone is available in two different styles, soft and hard. Soft stones are able to remove minor surface rust, while hard gummy stones are used to remove burrs and are more abrasive. A gummy stone should be used with one pass down the edge of each ski as a final polish or burr removal once the edge sharpening has been completed with a file first, then a diamond stone.
Ceramic Stones are also available in two styles, coarse and fine. These can be used, but are not mandatory to be used to hone your edges to keep the sharpness for a longer period of time.
A Sidewall Planer is used at more of a high level of tuning to cut the sidewall material away to make it easier for you to put more aggressive edge angles on your skis. Sidewall Planers can also be used on skis that have had their edges sharpened so many times that they have started to regress towards the sidewalls.
Scrapers are an important piece of tuning equipment that are used to scrape the wax off of skis. We recommend plastic scrapers for their easy usability and the fact that they can be sharpened to extend their lifespan. Metal scrapers are more difficult to use, and may gouge bases if you are a novice tuner.
Scraper Sharpeners are used to sharpen a plastic scraper to keep it at the 90 degree angle that allows it to easily remove excess wax from your skis.
While this guide explains what tools are used in what capacity to tune your skis, there is also other equipment you will most likely need. For more information on Ski Wax, you can consult our Ski Wax Buying Guide. Several Brushes are needed for a proper waxing job, as well. If you are interested in what type of brush you should use for different waxes, please read further in our Buying Guide for Ski Waxing Brushes. If you are going to be on the road to having a complete tuning center in your garage you should also consider your own Waxing Iron, Tuning Table, and Vice. For guidance on selecting which of those pieces of equipment is best for you, please take a look at our Buying Guide for Ski Waxing Irons, Tables and Vices. Happy Tuning!