If you’re looking to give your board a little refresh, be it a quick edge sharpening, a fresh coat of wax, or a scrape repair, then this is the article for you. Check out our guide below to everything snowboard tuning.
Whether you’re a seasonaire or just getting your first board, knowing how to take care of the most expensive piece of gear in your whole set-up will pay dividends from day one. Knowing the difference between a tuned and de-tuned edge, how to repair a rock-scrape on your base, and when is the right time to wax will help hone your riding and keep your board in fighting shape for years to come. Tuning and servicing a snowboard can seem daunting, but believe us it’s one of the most zen things you can do, and will help you become one with the mountain. Well, not really, but it’ll keep your riding fast, turning tight, and it’ll probably stop you snagging your pants on a gnarly burr, too.
A snowboard tuning or snowboard service is an essential part of gear maintenance, just like taking care of your snowboard jackets and snowboard pants. The process, whether done at home or by a snowboard shop, generally involves three steps: inspection, repair, service.
Once the bindings are removed (which they need to be, and we’ll explain why later!), you’ll need to check out the base, the edges, and the top sheet. On the base, you’re checking for scrapes, scratches, gouges, and whether theres a good layer of wax still present. On the edges, you’re checking for burs, dinks, dents, damage, cracks, or breaks to the metal edging and sidewalls. And then, on the topsheet you’re looking for any damage that will allow moisture to seep into the inner layers. This includes cracks, chips, stress fractures, or anything of that nature.
A snowboard tune-up or a snowboard service should identify any and all issues with your board, and then make it safe and slick to ride once more.
There are a few good companies out there which supply tuning or service kits. A bare essentials kit will likely include an edge sharpener, a waxing iron and wax scraper, maybe a few sticks of P-Tex, and if you’re lucky, a bar of wax and some base cleaner! A more comprehensive kit will likely include rasps or files, an adjustable edge tuner and burr remover, different waxes and cleaners, P-Tex, epoxy resin, an iron and scraper, and maybe some other goodies, too.
Do you need all this stuff? Well, it depends how beaten-up your board is! Some riders grab a new board every season (or even more often!) so aren’t so concerned with damage. But others will have one board for all occasions and will need to take care of it for a few years. If you’re in the latter camp, it’s worth investing in a decent tuning kit.
Edge tuning is an essential part of snowboard maintenance, and is something that can and should be done most often. While you’re riding, your edges take an insane amount of punishment, and will develop burrs and tiny dents. These burrs can rip up your clothes when you’re carrying your board, but also affect performance on the mountain. Notably, burred edges are likely to get hung up on rails and throw you over.
Using an edge tuning tool will remove these burrs and restore a sharp and smooth edge to your board which will give you more consistency on turns and less hangups on rails. The sharper your edges are, the more ‘hold’ you’ll have while turning on hardpack and groomed snow. However, sharp edges will also be less rail-friendly. When they come out of the factory, edges are generally at a 90 degree angle, or close to it. This angle offers the maximum amount of response, and many riders will keep their edges at this angle so they can turn better.
De-tuning is the process of intentionally removing the sharp 90-degree angle on your edges. You can incorporate the same burr and dent removal techniques into your de-tune as the process is much the same.
A de-tuned edge is usually utilised by park riders as a de-tuned edge that has a rounded or dulled edge will hook up or catch less on rails and boxes. De-tuning your edges means that they won’t be so sharp and will glide more easily over small imperfections in the feature. This means you’ll need to be less precise and it will reduce the risk of falling from edge catches.
On snow, the experience will be different, too. It will be harder to hold an edge during turns, especially on hardpack and groomed surfaces. Overall, the feel of your board will be a lot more ‘surfy’ and loose. This can make choosing and sticking to a line tough, and directional corrections less precise. Some riders like this feeling, and it comes down to preference!
When it comes to tuning or de-tuning your edge, the first step is to get it smooth, and the second is to dial in that edge angle!
If you’re using an edge tuner, you may notice that there’s an angle adjustment on there. 90 degrees is the ‘standard’ and is the sharpest an edge can be, but depending on your tuner, the angle might be able to be increased or decreased (depending on where the tuner regards 0 degrees as being). Either way, if you’re looking to TUNE your edges, leave it at 90. If you’re looking to DE-TUNE your edges, open that angle up a degree or two.
Turn your board upside down and put it on a tuning rack (or a flat surface where both ends hang off so it’s stable). Place the edge tuner on the edge, apply light pressure, and run it down the length of the edge, from contact point to contact point (widest parts of the board). Move the tuner in one direction, from front to back. So start at the nose, and move the tuner towards the tail. Once you feel the bumps and burrs disappear and the experience is smooth, that’s it, your edge is tuned! Don’t keep going. Just do the other side instead.
If you’re going old school and using a file or rasp, the process is similar, but requires a bit more effort. With the handle of your file or rasp hanging off the edge of the board, lay the flat side of the tool on the base. Using both hands, have one on the handle, and then lay your fingers on the back of the file. Apply gentle pressure to keep it stable, and then using the hand on the handle, push that down so that the nose of the file lifts a millimetre or two. The file should be just touching the metal edge now and not the base.
Keeping this angle, run the file along the edge from nose to tail in a smooth motion. Repeat this carefully until you feel the burrs have been removed. Then, go to the other side of the board (or crouch if you can’t get around it), and move the file 90 degrees over so that it’s now vertical. An edge tuner will do both sides of the angle at once, whereas a file will only do one, so you need to repeat the process for the bottom and ‘side’ of the edge. You won’t be able to dial that angle in as precisely, but this is how your grand-pappy used to service his snowboard. And if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!
Waxing your snowboard is perhaps the most essential part of regular snowboard maintenance. Now, you can ride your snowboard and never wax it. And a lot of riders do! But wax is important as it does several things — firstly, it reduces friction on the snow, which makes your board faster. But it also creates a protective layer, meaning that the friction from the snow and ice you’re riding over doesn’t damage your board and wear down the base to the wood! It also provides a waterproof layer that protects the board from moisture. It’s the same principle as varnishing a wooden fence.
If you want to learn more about how to wax your snowboard at home, follow our in depth guide here.
If you’re riding a lot or a little, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to repair a gouge or scrape on your base at some point. Most maintenance kits will have P-Tex sticks, which are clear and hard. It’s pretty straightforward, if not a little fiddly to repair a deep gouge. Hold your P-Tex stick above the damaged area and use a lighter (or blow torch) to melt the end, letting the liquid drip into the hole. The more carefully you do this, the easier time you’ll have in a minute!
Once the damage is filled, you need to use a razor blade to carefully cut off the excess and bring it down to level. There are specific tools for this kind of thing, or you can use a normal disposable razor blade. You can also sand it gently flat to get a perfectly smooth finish using fine-grit sandpaper and your finger.
Always remember to repair before waxing, not after! And clean your board first, obviously.
Snowboard edge and topsheet repair can be an involved process, and may be better left to the professionals. Though, with some epoxy and a little elbow grease, there’s no reason you can’t do a fix at home!
Epoxy is a hard-setting adhesive that can be used to repair all sorts of things, and is very commonly used to repair boards and skis in the short-term. Just mix up, apply with a paint-spatula or small knife, and allow to dry. You can then sand it flat or use a razor in the same way that you did a base repair if necessary then.
For sintered bases, you should do some maintenance every 5-10 days, and for extruded bases, 2-3 weeks as a rule of thumb. But checking your edges and base for damage every day and staying on top of edge tuning and repairs is the best way to ride!
If you don’t want to do it yourself, paying for it is a cheap and easy way to keep your board riding well. Choose a shop you trust and ask them what a service includes before going ahead. That’s our only advice!
5-10 riding days for a sintered base. 2-3 riding weeks for an extruded is usually a good number!
Tuned edges offer better edge hold and turning response, while de-tuned edges are less catchy on rails and boxes and offer a surfier feel on snow. Tuning or de-tuning will remove burs and dents, and keep your board in better condition!
P-Tex application is safe and easy to do at home providing you don’t breathe it in directly and can be trusted with an open flame! But you can always go to a shop if you’re not sure.
Some do, but make sure you don’t iron clothes with it afterwards as it’s liable to ruin them. Check temperature settings for your wax before use and proceed with caution as clothes irons are not designed for snowboard maintenance.
Some waxes are not environmentally safe and can be harmful to the environment if incorrectly disposed of. Using a biodegradable and eco-friendly wax is the best practice for board maintenance in 2021 and means you can wax anywhere without polluting.
No, probably not. Some people do, but for the sake of buying a block of real wax, just do that instead. It’s cheap and readily available and you’re not reinventing sliced bread by melting a tea light onto your base!