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That's an Excellent Question: Waxing in the (cold) Garage
By:  Craig Storey   (2007/01/11)


Hello there,

I've been waxing for years in the heated basement of my house. Now I'm planning to move my whole wax bench and equipment in my non-heated garage. I'd like to know whether you think it's a bad idea and, if so, what kind of problems I'm going to encounter, given the fact that the garage is usually cold enough in the winter that you need to wear a warm fleece or even your winter coat to stay there a little while. Will application of grip or glide wax (or both) give bad results or even turn into a nightmare? Do many people prepare their skis in non-heated rooms?

Any feedback will be appreciated. Thanks!

J. D.

Ah, waxing in the heated basement - what a luxury! Yes, many of us are forced to do our waxing in less than ideal locations like the cold, dark garage. I'm actually just coming in from a 2 hour waxing stint in my garage at -8C. So I feel somewhat qualified to give a few pointers! It really wasn't that bad, but you have to dress warmly and be prepared for it.

1) Dress warmly! Waxing is about as physically active as curling or baseball, unless you brush really vigorously in which case you might get up to the status of golf. So you aren't generating much heat, while at the same time you need to use your hands to do some fiddly work. A thick tuque is a must. I suggest a thermos of hot liquid be close at hand and a pair of thinner gloves so you can still feel the somewhat lithe with the tools. I would recommend good work gloves available with sticky fingers and palms that provide warmth and the ability to be dexterous. Next is your feet. Since you aren't moving your toes will get cold - warm socks are a must and thick-soled boots that insulate your feet from the cold ground/cement are best. You might also want to get a piece of foam to stand on, it really does help. Finally, your nose will likely run so have a few tissues on hand - no sense getting that on your skis.

2) Break your waxing up into small chunks and warm up in between. If you plan to wax for the Keskinada, do it a week ahead of time! It's almost guaranteed to be -30C the night before and you really don't want to be out there waxing at those temperatures... or racing for that matter!

3) Wear older clothes. When you are warm and cozy in your basement, you are probably a much neater with wax shavings than when you are wearing tuque, gloves and a big jacket (or 2)! In your fully dressed state you are much more likely to splatter wax around or get wax scrapping into your clothes. A wax apron is a good thing, since it adds another layer of insulation and protects your clothes. Hmm...maybe there's a market for wool/fleece wax aprons?

4) Wear eye protection and a gas mask!! While a garage might have better ventilation than a basement, you will still want to protect your lungs from the fumes. If you use a roto-brush or you are scraping really hard waxes protect your eyes too. On the plus side the noise of a rotobrush isn't as big a problem in the garage or shed.

5) Lighting in the garage is often very dim. You might consider adding a spot light or an old lamp or two. It really helps to be able to see what you are doing, and as a bonus incandescent bulbs throw off a bit of heat!

6) For the luxury garage wax setup I recommend a trip to Lee Valley for a radiant quartz heater (with lamp!)

7) Music! Garages or shed are often gloomy places to spend a lot of time. An old stereo will help keep you warm and entertained. May I suggest some Weezer (In the garage, where I belong...).

Now as for the waxing itself...

Grip wax...

Grip will go on beautifully! Cold wax + cold skis = thin layers. And thin layers are easier to cork smooth, giving better glide and grip. You may want to add a few extra layers to account for the thinner layers. The grip wax adhesion probably won't be any different than if you put the wax on warm, since corking should heat it up anyway. Klisters will need to be heated before you can get them out of the tubes, but they won't run into the bottom of your wax box either!

Glide waxes...

Here's where it's interesting. There are pros and cons to waxing in the cold. On the plus side, you never have to wait long for the wax to cool. By the time the iron gets to the tail of the ski your green is hard and it's usually cool enough to scrape. On the flip side, wait another minute and that wax might be as hard as stone! But for purple it's nice not to have to wait very long. I also don't believe it's absorbed any less as a result of quick cooling, although the people who swear by hot boxes would probably disagree.

One thing to keep in mind is that the wax and the ski base right under the iron are hot even if the wax cools quickly. Don't make 10 passes with the iron to compensate for the fact the air temperature is cold! And don't slow the iron down too much either! That's not good for the skis. Three (3) passes with the iron from tip to tail taking 5-10s is usually good. You should be able to see a very short (0.5-1cm) 'tail' of melted wax behind the iron as you move it down the base. Adjust the speed of your iron according to the wax and temperature setting. (i.e. green: higher heat + slightly slower speed = shorter tail, yellow: lower heat + faster speed = longer tail.)

I haven't found issues with wax wearing off faster as a result of waxing in the cold. In fact at many race sites the only facilities are in tents, so for racing waxing outside is common.

Hope that helps a bit. Let me know if you have more questions and I should be able to reply more quickly. Eventually this will make it's way to the web, with a bit more polishing so thanks for asking!

Finally, if you have a wax room in the basement or garage why not send us a picture and inspire others?

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