Skin Care – Cleaning Climbing Skins
It inevitably happens to backcountry skiing skins—the glue, especially on the tails, turns into a mess of dirt, pine needles, and wax, causing the skins to peel off in use (a good reason to purchase skins that clip to the tail of your skis). For awhile (for several years, that is) you can do the lazy thing—apply a little fresh skin glue over the mess and carry on. But once in awhile—like once a decade—you should strip away all that contamination, get down to the fabric substrate of the skin, and reapply fresh glue.
It’s an easy job and when it’s done you’ll realize the reason you didn’t do it sooner was…because you didn’t have any spare time!! Details, details.
Tools and Materials:
- Wide masking tape.
- An old clothes iron or wax iron (not the one your spouse uses on silk shirts).
- Brown paper bags cut into strips that are an inches wider than your skins (since the advent of “paper or plastic” you may not have paper bags around, so use strips of recycled photocopy paper.
- A scraper, putty knife, or ski scraper.
- A strip of cardboard that’s longer than your skins and that you can use outside as a working surface (it will be getting dirty).
- New glue. I prefer Gold Label made by Ascension/Black Diamond but Colltex glue is fine. Note: Don’t worry about using a new brand of glue as a replacement—a clean skin isn’t going to reject a different brand of glue.
- A cotton rag.
- Acetone or white gas.
- A wastepaper basket.
Where to Work:
Outside. Melting off the old glue and applying new glue creates all manners of toxic fumes you’ll want to share with everyone rather than horde to yourself.
Photo: A paper-bag strip being ironed to absorb old skin glue.
Removing Old Glue:
- Cover the nylon plush of each skin (that would be the non-sticky side) with masking tape to keep your skin clean throughout the messy procedures ahead.
- Lie a skin down on your cardboard working surface, glue-side up, cover a segment of the skin with a strip of brown paper, and iron the paper (medium heat) for about 10 seconds.
- Lift the strip of paper and much of the glue will transfer off the skin with the paper. You’ll need to experiment with the amount of time needed to iron each strip of paper (the paper should lift off easily carrying a good load of glue). You’ll need to repeat this process several times to remove a decade’s worth of grime from the tips and tails, which are likely to have the highest concentrations of dirty, gummy glue.
- Right after removing a heated strip of paper, you can also scrape that portion of the skin with a putty knife and the heated glue will pile up nicely on the scraper.
- Keep repeating the paper-iron-scraping treatment until you have stripped away the mess. If parts of your skins (e.g., the centers) are still clean, you might ignore them—or do a one-strip cleaning of that section.
Photo: Using a scraper to remove old glue right after heated paper has been peeled off the skin.
Applying New Glue:
Once the skin is clean, it’s time to apply three light coats of new glue.
- Hastily paint the edges of your skins with new glue (the Gold Label glue comes with a brush). Then, working quickly while the glue is liquid, use the scraper or putty knife to spread the glue into a thin, uniform film. Note: If you’re working with wide skins for modern telemark and randonnee skis, concentrate on getting a nice film along the edges and on keeping the center of the skin fairly glue free (you might even want to put a strip of thin masking tape down the center) so that you can actually pull the suckers apart in the field. If you’re re-gluing skinny skins for cross-country skis, spread the glue evenly over the whole surface.
- Set the skins aside for 30 minutes, then repeat the last step.
- Apply three coats of glue, then hang the skins unfolded for 12 hours so they can vent fumes as the glue cures. Note: Save family brain cells by leaving the skins outside for the first few hours of the curing process, then move them inside.
When you’re done, old and new skin glue will coat many things—your iron, fingers, scraper… Wipe the base of the hot iron with a clean rag and it will clean up nicely. A rag soaked with a little acetone or white gas, is preferable to the base of a hot iron for cleaning your fingers and tools.
This article was originally posted on 5/3/11.