How To Tune Your Snowboard
Get it ready to sell, or just freshen up your ride
Whether you’re looking to get the highest resale value out of your snowboard or just trying to give it a nice spa day before your next shred session, a little bit of at-home maintenance goes a long way. Bases dry out and edges slowly become dull over time, and if you’ve been neglecting your board for the past little while, you might be surprised how much better it feels (and looks) after a quick wax and tune.
While you’ll need to pick up a few supplies for your at-home tuning workshop, they’ll pay for themselves many times over considering what it costs to have your board tuned at a shop. And while there are still some repairs best left to a trained ski tech, doing minor maintenance yourself can save you a ton of cash, and also make your on-mountain days a lot more fun. After all, nobody likes getting stuck in the flats because your base is stickier than a movie-theater floor.
If you’re new to tuning or just looking for a refresher on some of the basics, this guide will walk you through some of the most common DIY maintenance tasks that will get your snowboard running great again. Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never worked on your own board before—with the right tools, anyone can do this stuff at home.
Your at-home tuning kit doesn't have to be anything too fancy.
Step 1: Check your base for damage
If you’ve carved any major trenches into your base from hitting rocks, park features, or the occasional street rail—hey, it happens. But you might want to fill them in, as they can make your board ride slower and sometimes even hang up on obstacles. Unless you’re a racer, you probably don’t need to worry too much about minor scuffs and scratches, only significant gouges that you can catch with a thumbnail or scraper. You can fix a lot of gouges yourself—but if you can see all the way to the wood core or a layer of fiberglass, you’ll likely need a base weld from a shop with specialized equipment.
Step 2: Prepare base repair spots
You’ll have better luck with your at-home base repairs if you prepare the repair spots properly. Start by giving the inside of the gouge a little light scuffing with some sandpaper, and (carefully) use a knife, box cutter, or razorblade to trip away any loose “hairs” of base material. Then use a rag with a little base cleaner or rubbing alcohol to rid the repair spot of any wax, dirt, or other contaminants that can compromise the durability of your base repair.
Step 3: Fill in scratches & gouges
Once you’re ready to fill the gouge, you’ll need some p-tex, a way to ignite it, and a well-ventilated area. Butane lighters are the standard in ski shops, but a normal lighter will work just fine. After your p-tex candle is aflame, you’ll want to let it burn for a few seconds while holding it close to a non-flammable surface that will catch the drips. Most tuning techs use a retired scraper.
You’ll notice that the higher you hold the p-tex candle away from any surface, the bigger and yellower the flame gets—you want to keep that thing low and blue. A blue flame indicates a clean burn with very little soot, which will stick to your base better and give your repair the best chance to stick.
Move the dripping p-tex candle over the repair site, keeping it very close to the base of your board. You want to see individual drops, rather than a continuous stream. The tip of the candle may start to sag a little as it burns, so just give it a quarter-turn at a time to keep it from drooping too far.
Let the p-tex cool completely before using a metal scraper to take off the excess. You should be left with a nice, flat surface and a filled-in gouge. P-tex can be a little finicky to work with, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Don’t stress if you need to take a second pass at a deeper gouge because it didn’t quite fill in the first time.
Be sure to sharpen both the base and side edges, using light pressure from tip to tail. Less is more!
Step 4: Check your edges
Edges are a highly personal thing. Some riders like them razor-sharp for reliable grip in firm conditions, while others like them detuned for a catch-free feeling in the park and around the mountain. Whatever your preference, your board will ride better if you take care of the major edge burrs that come from hitting rocks, rails, and other obstacles.
Check along your edges for any rough or rusty spots, and give them a handful of strokes with a gummy stone, keeping the stone flat against the surface of the edge you’re smoothing. Remember, the first rule of tuning edges is that you can always take more off, but you can never put more back on.
If you like your edges sharp, many companies sell file-guide kits that make it easy to sharpen them yourself, by simply lining the device up with your edges and putting in a few strokes from tip to tail. File guides will often give you options for different edge angles—this is all personal preference, but just know that the closer you are to 90 degrees, the grippier (but less forgiving) your edges will feel. 88 degrees is a common choice for freestyle riders who want a little more wiggle room to save landings before catching an edge.
After sharpening with a file, give your edges a quick pass with a diamond stone (it’s much less expensive than it sounds) to get rid of any tiny metal shavings and polish things up. Just remember not to overdo it—you shouldn’t need to sharpen your edges more often than once a season or so.
Step 5: Prep your base for waxing
If it’s been a while since you last waxed your board, you’ll want to get all the dirt, tree sap, stale beer, squirrel pee, and who-knows-what-else out of there. There are a couple of ways to do this—some people use base cleaner and a rag, though using too much base cleaner can dry out your board, and depending on the brand, some of it isn’t the most environmentally friendly stuff in the world.
Because of this, many people prefer to hot-scrape, which means applying a thin layer of wax with your iron, and then scraping almost immediately before it finishes cooling down. As you scrape the still-warm wax, it’ll lift a lot of the gunk out of your base, kind of like a pore strip for your snowboard. If your board is really dirty, you can repeat this until the wax comes out clean, though once should be plenty in most cases.
Step 6: Apply wax with your tuning iron
We probably should have told you this earlier, but it’s more than OK to skip straight to this step if you’re short on time. Waxing your board is the maintenance item you should be doing the most frequently, after all.
Some people go nuts with choosing the perfect wax for each day’s snow, but for most people, all-temp wax is just fine for all but the coldest or warmest riding conditions. Let your iron heat up, and then drip wax across the surface of your board. Shoot for a drip of wax every square inch or so. Once you’ve done that, iron the wax into an even layer across your board. Keep the iron moving, and lower the temperature if the wax starts smoking or you feel your board getting hot from the underside.
Pro tip: loosen or remove your bindings before waxing, as tight mounting bolts can create concave spots on your base that collect wax and make it harder to scrape.
After waxing, a subtle structure with a base brush makes your base a) look sexy, and b) fast as hell.
Step 7: Scrape, brush, & buff
Let the wax cool completely, then remove as much as you can with a plastic scraper, moving from tip to tail. The wax that’s soaked into your base is the stuff that really matters—anything left on the surface is only going to slow you down. (Definitely do this part in a garage, or somewhere you don’t mind getting some wax shavings.)
While just scraping is enough for many people, a brass and nylon brush can help you get any wax you’ve missed, as well as putting a subtle pattern into the base that reduces suction in wet conditions. And if you want your board to be really fast, try buffing your base with your favorite brand of non-scratch scouring pad. It’ll remove the last of any surface wax, and polish the base to a nice, smooth finish.
Maintaining your own board not only makes it more fun to ride, it can be an amazingly meditative pre-ride ritual. Spend a little time loving on your shred-stick, and it’ll pay you back with more good times on the mountain—or with a much higher sale price, if you’re looking to send your UnNew snowboard to a new home!
TJ Parsons is a semi-reformed snowboard bum who now has a semi-adult career as a professional writer and creative. He's a self-proclaimed perpetual intermediate who thinks the outdoors are for everyone, and who wants to help dismantle gatekeeping and elitism in outdoor sports. When he's not squeezing brain juice into a keyboard, you'll find him riding boards or bikes throughout the Intermountain West.
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