Re-gluing Ski Skins
When it comes to backcountry skiing and splitboarding, the condition of your skins and how well they stick to your skis can make or break your day. There is nothing worse than working your way up a skin track and all of a sudden you loose traction and notice that your skin is just flopping around behind you. Once a skin comes off your ski and the glue gets wet, getting them to stick again in the field can be very difficult. To combat this, seasonal preventative maintenance will ensure good stick and many happy days of skinning!
The first thing that you want to do is decide if you are going to do zone fixing, or the entire skin. If most of the glue is clean, smooth and sticky, but the tails are marginal, then just re-glue the tails. There is no sense in making more work for yourself than is necessary. If you find that the glue along the whole length of the skin is dirty, gloppy, and lacks its stick then grab yourself a beer and let's get to work!
- Heat Gun
- Clean Waxing Iron
- Metal Scrapper
- Glue Renew Strips
- Box Knife or Razor Blade
- Favorite bottled micro-brew
Removing the Nasty Glue
Most companies describe using paper bags and an iron to remove glue from skins. From having to re-glue dozens of pairs of skins every winter over 10 years of working in a ski shop, I find this method terrible for getting the majority of the glue off of the back of skins. I prefer using a metal scrapper and a heat gun to take care of the majority of the glue.
First secure the tip of the skin to a workbench. I use a long piece of particle board with a screw in one end that I hook the tip loop over to hold it. Plus I have found that the glue does not stick to the particle board very well making it easier to clean up. Make sure to use a well ventilated space when removing and re-gluing. Once your skin is secure, start at the tail and use the heat gun on low or medium to warm up about an 8 inch length of the glue. Once the glue is warmed up adequately it will have a glassy appearance. Make sure to move the heat gun around and keep it 8 to 10 inches above the skin to avoid scorching the glue.
After you have warmed up the glue set the heat gun where the tip won't light something on fire, or burn you! Take your metal scrapper and squeegee the warm glue off of the skin scraping from front to back. Now you will be left with a remarkably clean section of skin cotton! If you are only re-gluing the tails and the rest of the skin is OK then you can move on to the final paper bag clean up before adding new glue. To remove the glob of dirty glue from the scraper, just let it cool for a minute or two and it should peel off relatively easily.
Continue heating and scraping sections of glue until you have cleaned off all the glue you want to replace.
Applying the New Glue
Once you have the old glue off of the skins, you are ready to apply new glue. My preferred method is using Glue Renew strips. Basically they are strips of release paper with fresh glue applied to one side which you apply to the cleaned backside of your skins, and when finished you peel off the paper to expose your fresh glue.
First secure the front of your skin, plush side down and unroll about 10 inches of your glue renew roll. Starting from the secured end and working toward the other end carefully press the new glue onto the backside of the skin in 10 to 12 inch increments. The hardest part of this process is keeping the glue strip lined up with the edge of the skin if they are both close to the same width. If the glue strip is much wider than your skins, you have it easy, just press the two together with the excess glue sticking off the sides.
Plug in your iron and heat it to 340-380F (Wool / Cotton Setting). It is important to get the iron hot enough to melt the glue and transfer it in to the skin backing. Most waxing irons do not get hot enough to do this job. I got lucky and mine does get up to the temperature needed. If you are not sure, an IF thermometer would be the easiest way to find out the iron temp.
Starting at your secured end and with the skin still plush side down, lightly iron the glue into the skin. You will hear a little bit of sizzling and popping, this is OK. Press lightly and move the iron slowly forward and backward about ten inches at a time. Make sure to get the edges well. After you finish with a small section, use your now empty beer bottle (or rolling pin, water bottle etc.) to roll and press the hot glue into the skin backing. You will hear more popping as you do this. When the popping noises stop you can stop rolling and move onto ironing the next section. Repeat the heating and rolling steps until you finish the skin. Then do the next skin.
Let the skins cool to room temperature before proceeding. After the skins have cooled, flip them over so that the plush side is up. When you look along the edges you will see extra glue that has squished out while being ironed. Use your box knife or razor blade to cut through the extra glue and the glue renew paper. Do this around the entire perimeter of the skin. When you pull the extra paper away from the edge of the skin, it should help take the extra glue with it, cleaning up the edges of the skin.
After you have removed the extra glue and paper from around the edges of the skin, lift a corner of the release paper and slowly peel it back exposing the new glue. Look carefully at the glue as you do this. If it is clear and shiny, this means the glue bonded well with the skin backing. If it is foggy looking this means that there was not enough heat to transfer the glue properly. To fix this just lay the paper back down on the glue and re-iron the area. If you need to do this make sure you let it cool completely before removing the paper again.
If there are areas that the glue strip did not cover (usually if your skins are slightly wider than the glue strip) then you can use some Gold Label Adhesive to touch up those areas. Just lay down a thin layer in the area lacking glue and spread it evenly with a plastic card. You will want to wait at least 24 hours for the adhesive to cure before applying Cheat Sheets, or folding the skins together.
That is pretty much how you re-glue skins! The process can be a little messy, and takes some practice, but if you take your time and work carefully you will be able to get another couple seasons out of skins that you might have otherwise wanted to throw away. If you take care of your skins they might only need a complete re-glue every couple seasons. I generally do the tails every year and the whole skin every two years. If this process seems like a little more than you want to take on, you can always have us do it for you! Just contact us for prices and details.