How To Tune Your Snowboard At Home

If the base of your snowboard is getting dry or the edges are getting dull, it's time to tune your board! Snowboarding expert Alex Dolan is here to tell you how.

A snowboarder sits in the snow in front of a SLOW sign

Photo by Jakob Owens

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Is the base of your snowboard starting to look dry? Do you feel like your snowboard is slower or that it isn’t gliding over the snow like it used to? Are the edges of your snowboard getting dull? Are you sliding out instead of holding an edge while you carve? Did a rock or stick take a chunk out of the bottom of your board?

If you said yes to any of these questions, your board needs to be tuned. When you wax your board, you are allowing wax to be absorbed into the pores of the base material. A waxed board will have less friction with the snow, enabling you to go faster. Without waxing, this material will become dry, or dull in color. You may even notice streaks of white in your base material. A snowboard that hasn’t been waxed will feel like it is sticking to the snow or at least have much more resistance.

Now, you could easily take it to a shop and leave the tuner a 6 pack to make sure he does a great job. But if you have the time and you don’t have the money to spend on a quality shop tune, you could save that 6 pack for yourself and give your snowboard a hand-finished tune job in the comfort of your garage. And in my opinion, tuning your snowboard can be almost as fun as riding it.

Here's how you do it:

Set Up Your Work Space

The first thing you’ll need is a work space. Board tuning, especially waxing, gets messy, so it’s best to stay away from your living room carpet and your dining room table when you do it. Wax shavings have a tendency to get everywhere, and once you stomp them into the carpet, they are nearly impossible to get out. Swix sells a pretty useful tuning bench that you can attach snowboard vices to. These vices will give you two raised platforms to place your board on with the base of the board facing the ceiling. Without these two points of contact, the rocker in the tip and tail of the board will create a very wobbly surface to tune your board on. Snowboard vices will also provide a stable place to hold the board perpendicular to the bench with designated slots in the vice, which makes tuning the side edges much easier.

A snowboard sits atop a tuning station

Photo by J Gowell

Get Your Supplies

To wax your snowboard you will need ski/snowboard wax (some waxes are temperature-specific, while others are all purpose), an iron, base cleaner, a plastic wax scraper or wax remover, a brillow pad, and/or a brush or series of brushes, depending on how thorough you would like to be. It’s worth investing in these tools because waxing your snowboard is the most regular maintenance you'll need to keep your board riding smooth. Keep in mind, though that you shouldn’t wax your snowboard until you have done any and all other maintenance that you want to do before your next ride.

Start Waxing

To wax your snowboard, you must first remove your snowboard bindings using a Phillips head screwdriver. If you don’t do this, drastic changes in temperature during the waxing process will create dimples in the base of your snowboard where the hardware sits. This won’t completely ruin your snowboard, but it isn’t a very nice thing to inflict on your shred stick. Taking off your bindings will also keep them from getting covered in wax shavings.

Next, use base cleaner and a rag to remove any residue from the base of the board. Let any moisture evaporate before moving to the next step.

Now you are ready to use the iron. It should only take a couple of minutes to heat up. Use the iron on a medium setting to avoid melting your board. Use the hot surface of your iron to melt the wax onto your board. Drizzle it evenly over the board so that there is enough to cover the entire base when spread out.

Next, iron the wax into the base using the hot iron. Do not keep the iron in one place for too long, since you could melt the base material and seriously damage your board. Continue ironing the wax until you have evenly coated the base of the board. Let the wax cool to room temperature before you move on to the next step.

Now it is time to scrape the wax away using a plastic wax scraper. This will take many passes. Don’t use so much pressure that you scrape gashes into your snowboard base. I like to leave the thinnest layer of wax possible on the base to prolong the effectiveness of the wax. Remember that gliding over the snow is eventually what pulls all of the wax from your base. If you leave too much wax, however, you will only be adding friction that will slow your board down.

You can use a brillo pad to wipe away wax shavings and begin to polish the base. Polishing your wax will leave the base with a smooth, glossy finish. If you simply want to keep your base material healthy and gliding over the snow, feel free to stop after you have polished with the brillow pad. If you are looking for extra performance you can choose a brush or series of brushes suited for your riding style and the type of snow you plan to ride on and continue polishing with them.

A snowboarder executes a turn

Photo by Emma Paillex

Sharpen Your Edges

Let’s talk about sharpening the edges of your snowboard. First I would recommend using gloves whenever working with metal edges. Tiny metal burs can be very hard to see with the naked eye, but they can pierce your skin very easily. Once a bur is embedded in your finger, it can be really hard to get out. I prefer a more durable nitrile glove over latex.

You can get an adjustable edge tuning tool for around twenty bucks that will certainly get the job done. For a more professional feel, you can use a file or diamond stone, a file guide, and a clamp. A file guide, however, will not be adjustable so choose the bevel wisely. I find a 1 degree (89 degree) edge bevel to be the most versatile and best for intermediate to advanced all-mountain snowboarders. A sharper or more dramatic bevel will give you superior edge hold, but it will be more fragile and will become dull more quickly. A 0 degree (90 degree) will be the most durable but it won’t bite into the snow as hard, and you won’t get as much edge hold from it.

If you have any rust on your edges, you can polish it off with a gummy stone. A gummy stone sort of looks like a big pencil eraser. Its primary use is to finish the edging process and remove and loose burs that may be hanging around. Be wary of this tool. Always polish edges with the gummy stone parallel to the base. The gummy stone is soft but it can easily round your edges quickly. If you don’t have gummy stone, don’t worry about it - rust usually gets polished off as you ride the board.

When you are ready to begin sharpening the edges, start with the base edge. Run your edging tool or file guide along the edge, keeping it flush with the perpendicular edge profile. Only sharpen the edge in between the tip and tail of the board. Start and stop at the widest parts of the board. The tip and tail do not need to be sharpened. In fact, they are usually detuned to prevent them from grabbing.

Maintain even pressure and smooth strokes. Repeat this several times or until you feel your edging tool is running smoothly over the edge without getting caught up on any burs or nicks. Once you are satisfied, you can use your thumbnail to test how sharp the edge is. The edge should be sharp enough to scrape a small amount of residue from your nail with little pressure. Be careful and don’t cut yourself.

A man smiles at the camera while pointing at a snowboard

Having a great time tuning a board. Photo by Alex Dolan

Other Considerations

Do you have some gashes on the base of your board from riding over a rock or a stick? Let’s assess the damage. How deep is the gash? Can you see underneath your base material to the core of the board? If so, you’ve got yourself a core shot, and you need a base weld. Is the gash shallower than this? If you can’t see any base material through the gash you just need some ptex to fill it.

Unless you have a base grinding machine at your house, completing any base repair with a finished product that looks smooth and uniform is nearly impossible. For most of us, base repairs should be taken to a repair shop where they can be taken care of by professionals with proper equipment.

Four people ride a chairlift

Photo by Pamela Saunders

When you tune enough snowboards, you develop a rhythm, and over time it may only take you 10 to 15 minutes to complete a full tune. As you learn, however, remember to take things slow. Think through the entire process and don’t hesitate to take a break to reconsider what step you are on in the process.

Do you feel ready to tune your own snowboard? Are you ready to take the next step and attempt some base repairs? Let me know what you think by clicking the link to my expert profile below or reach out to another Snowboard expert here on Curated. From there, you can chat in real-time with an expert in further detail about snowboard tuning.

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Written By
My humble roots as a rental technician at a small ski and snowbaord shop in the hollers of North Carolina in combination with my eventual migration west toward bigger mountains and more snow have shaped me into a master at gearing up any customer, no matter their ability level. I LOVE SNOW! Fortunat...

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