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How to Make
Children's No-Wax
Telemark Skis

Providing your child with good quality skis, boots, bindings and poles may be the single most important step you can take to ensure that they have a wonderful trip and ensure that their skill level grows with each new trip. Unfortunately time and again I see children out on inappropriate equipment while their parents have the best of everything,

The number one mistake parents make is taking their children out with skis that are the wrong size – usually too long. You can’t expect a child to have fun on skis that are a foot too long. I doubt that you would enjoy a ski trip on 215 cm skis if you should be on 190s.

It is easy to find short skis for children that are suitable for touring on modest terrain during their early years. As your child’s ski ability increases you may be challenged by the task of finding metal-edged skis for them if they require less than 160 or 170 cm. Be aware that most of the shorter skis on the market are very wide and designed for adult weights.

My solution to outfitting my daughter with 120 cm metal-edged skis with plenty of side-cut was to purchase the correct size of children's downhill skis and router in a no-wax pattern. Doing this is a lot of work, but putting out the time and energy will allow your child to reach a new plateau in their skiing ability.

I developed the following technique to create a pair of no-wax telemark skis for a small child. The skis chosen were a pair of soft downhill skis. Mounting the bindings required finding extra short screws because downhill skis are thinner than cross-country skis.

But the major task is creating the no-wax pattern. On-the-snow testing in conditions ranging from icy to spring-like has shown the no-wax pattern to give good grip and good glide. Both the grip and the glide are a funcion of the depth of the pattern and the length of the pattern along the ski length; it's a trade-off between the two.

Finally, read the instructions carefully before deciding whether or not to make a pair of no-wax skis for your child. It's a major undertaking!

Building the Jigs

Begin to build the ski jig by cutting a rectangle out of a piece of 1/2 inch thick plywood. The length of the opening needs to be longer than the length of the pattern you desire to create and about 1 inch wider than your ski (Figure 1). Don’t use thicker plywood because your router may not have enough extension to accommodate the thickness. Save the piece of plywood you cut out. You will need it later.

Figure 1 of jig

Figure 1

Attach two 2x2s along the edge of the rectangluar cutout. You can use larger pieces, but don’t go smaller because they stiffen the plywood and are key to flattening the ski prior to routering the pattern. This design works fine for very soft skis.

The ski is placed bottom down on the plywood and midway between the two 2x2s (Figure 2). The easiest way to create a symmetric pattern is to build everything symmetric. Use four nails, one on each side of the tip and one on each side of the tail of the ski to keep the ski from moving side to side. At this point make a note as to the distance from the tail of the ski to the edge of the plywood. You will need this to mount the other ski and possibly to remount the same ski to extend the pattern at a future date.

Figure 2 of jig

Figure 2

For a soft, short pair of skis, such as childrens’ skis, two“bridges” are sufficient to flatten the ski and back it up against the pressure of the router. Each bridge consists of a bar and block. The two screws through the ends of the bars go into the 2x2s and are adjusted to flatten the ski. Figure 3 shows how a piece of the plywood from the cut-out can be used to determine if the ski is flat.

Figure 3 of jig

Figure 3

Not shown in the preceeding figures are clamps used to keep the ski from moving length-wise. They also help keep the ski flush with the plywood. A bar across the width of the ski with clamps on both ends of the bar work well.

You will only have to adjust the depth of your router once if the ski is flat over the entire length where the pattern is to be routered. This is possible for a soft, single camber ski, but because the pattern depth is very small and critical, you should always be looking for a change in the depth as you router successive steps. You will continually have to make adjustments in the depth of the router if the ski is not flat. That will make the slow process of routering the pattern even slower and more tedious.

On the side of the plywood opposite the ski, mark the locations of the two ends of the pattern you want to create. Then add pairs of marks, one mark on each side of the cutout, at 5/16 inch intervals. The pairs of marks should be orthogonal relative to the centerline of the ski. The marks extend slightly more than the length of the desired pattern and are offset toward the ski tip end of the jig by a distance equal to the distance from the edge of the router jig to the router bit.

The router jig is simply a 1/4 inch piece of wood with a wooden bar attached along one edge that is attached to the base of the router (Figure 4).

Figure 4 of jig

Figure 4

The critical dimensions of the jig are shown in Figure 5. These dimensions determine the angle of the step the router makes. Use a 1/2 inch cylindircal router bit.

Figure 5 of jig

Figure 5

The router jig is aligned relative to the ski with the aide of the alignment bar (Figure 6). Two clamps hold the alignment bar in place and aligned to a pair of marks.

Figure 6 of jig

Figure 6

Routering the Pattern

Make sure that you have the orientation of the router jig relative to the ski tip correct in order to create the step in the appropriate direction.

To router a step into the ski, place the thin edge of the router jig against the alignment bar with the router tilted so that the bit does not touch the ski. Then lower the bit into the ski and move it to the right and left. You should be able to see the router bit as you do this. Do not allow the router bit to hit the metal edges of the ski. Figure 7 shows the pattern that is generated.

Figure 7 of routered pattern

Figure 7

The base of skis is made from material that is “mushy.” As a result, the router will generate some chips but will also leave some of the material cut and still attached to the sharp edge of the step. Most of this can be removed with a sharpe putty knife. Remaining pieces should wear-off quickly with use.

The most critical step in the process, which has been neglected so far, is setting the depth of the router bit. You need to do this very carefully so that you don’t cut too deep. The step that the router cuts should be very small. Take a look at a pair of Fischer no-wax skis to get a feel for the depth. A ballpark number is about 1/32 inch. Test your setting on a piece of wood that is inserted in the jig before attempting to router a real ski. The machined “land” of the step is about 3/8 inch so the steps actually overlap.

Be aware that once you have moved the alignment bar it will not be possible to increase the depth of the step because precise positioning of the bar would be necessary and is not possible.

It is highly recommended that you hot wax the skis, including the newly formed no-wax pattern, prior to using them.

Disclaimer

I make no claim as to the performance of the ski after said modification. Furthermore, be aware that you may permanently damage the skis by adding a no-wax based as described here.

Marcus Libkind

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