How to wax a snowboard with a heat gunThis page describes the technique I use for waxing my snowboard and skis.
The technique makes use of a heat gun, and does away with iron and scraping.
It started with a set of skis I bought at a yard sale. I found the speed I got with them to be entirely unsatisfying, so I decided to look into waxing them. They were an old pair of skis, so I didn't want to pay for professional waxing.
I didn't have a suitable iron, not even one of those little travel irons. So instead, I started experimenting with a heat gun to melt the wax on. A heat gun is essentially a high temperature blow dryer. You can get one from a hardware store. They are typically used for stripping paint.
Over time, I evolved my technique, and also got into snowboarding. This page describes my present technique, which I find very quick, so I do it every time I go. It only takes a few minutes.
I start by inspecting my snowboard, to see if there are any new scratches in it. I can't remove the scratches, but sometimes the scratches and gashes have burrs to them that stick up slightly. These probably add more friction than the scratches themselves. So I use a very sharp chisel or scraper to take off the burrs.
The next step is to check how much wax is left on the board - always interesting to check. This is easy to do by heating the board with a heat gun. Areas where wax is left will appear wet when heated. But it's necessary to know when the board is hot enough, even if there was no wax left to melt. So I always draw a few strokes on the board with the wax before applying heat. Once these melt, I know I have enough heat. If nothing else appears shiny around there, I know the wax is all gone.
Applying the wax
The next step is to rub on wax. I do this with the board at room temperature. This way, I can put on a very thin coat of wax. I don't want to put so much wax on that I need to scrape it off afterwards. This is the key to this technique.
On a snowboard, disproportionate amounts of wear are done to the edges. So I always heat the wax on the edges first, and make sure I have an even coat. I usually find that not the entire edge looks wet, so I rub some more on those parts, with the edges still warm.
The next step is to melt the wax in along the entire width of the board. I do this by doing cross strokes with the hat gun. All along watching the reflected light to make sure I am melting the wax. I adjust the speed I go along to make sure everything is melted in. It takes me about 30 seconds to cover the whole board.
After having melted the wax in, I buff it with a piece of paper towel to make the resulting coat smoother.
The next step is to inspect the board. Sometimes, I notice some lumps of wax, which I scrape off. But in general, I don't do any scraping on the board. With a very thin amount of wax applied to begin with, there's no need to scrape off the excess.
If you use this technique on a board that has absolutely no wax left on it, this will take more time. rubbing the wax on dry doesn't put very much in the low spots of the board's texture. This is good when redoing the board because the low spots will still have wax in them. But if there's no wax left at all, you may have to warm up the board and aggressively rub the wax on to get it everywhere. Subsequent re-waxing will be easier.
I don't claim that this technique will produce the best wax job possible. The importance is that it's quick. Quick enough that it's worth doing every time I take the board out. And a decent new wax job is always beats a 'superb' wax job that has already been boarded on a few times. The local ski hill I usually go to has a lot of areas with very low slope, and it's a pleasure shooting past the kids that have stalled on a flat spot with my well waxed board.
A note of caution: It is possible to melt the base of the snowboard with a heat gun. But this does require the highest setting, and holding the heat gun directly over the same spot for 10 seconds. I do however always use the hottest setting of the heat gun, just to make waxing go faster.
I also experimented with using a propane torch. This works too, but it's difficult to get a consistent finish because you have to keep moving the torch because its heat is so intense. And no, I didn't set the snowboard or the wax on fire. It's tempting to use it in the parking lot at the hill to redo the wax on the edges after half a day of boarding though, but have never resorted to doing that.
I have also since obtained an old non-steam iron for waxing with, but found it to be entirely unsatisfactory compared to my heat gun technique.
Other winter related articles on my website:
Slippery road conditions (skating on the road)