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So what makes a good glide wax iron?
Temperature control is very important when considering a wax iron. Some cheap wax irons don't get hot enough, while others get too hot. A good wax iron should heat up fast, and stay at a constant temperature. More expensive irons will have better temperature regulation. All wax irons have circuitry that switches the heating element on and off at a certain rate to control the temperature. The better ones cycle more regularly and also have a smaller temperature fluctuation tolerance to quickly correct the iron temperature preventing it from overheating or cooling too much. There's a huge range of irons with different levels of temperature control out there, from a simple 2 position knob, warm or hot, to digital irons capable of regulating temperature to a few degrees. Price scales with control.
The metal ironing plate is the second most important part, after the temperature control functionality. The thicker and heavier the metal (ironing) plate the better temperature regulation in general. So a heavy iron is usually better. Small wax irons sometimes have problems heating in green or other hard glide waxes since the iron cools off too easily. A big piece of metal will hold heat longer and melt more wax, making life easier.
In my books, a wax iron with good beveled edges (rounded or undercut like / ) is key! Wax irons with a large bevel, on at least one edge, allow the iron to smoothly travel over wax dropplets that have been dripped onto the base and hardened. An iron with a perfectly flat base and square edges is a pain to use, since you always need to hold it on edge to keep from scrapping the wax off the ski before it melts. And if you have it on edge, you increase the odds of overheating the base if the edge is touching the ski.
A few other points..
- A flat and mirror like bases are better for heat transfer and clean waxing.
- All wax irons should NOT HAVE HOLES! Anything with holes will waste and possibly burn wax. That's not good for your wax job or your skis.
- I can be dangerous to use an old thrift shop iron for ski waxing. Often they have broken thermos stats, and some even have settings that heat the iron to much hotter than you need to melt wax and burn your bases.
If you wax for a team, then a big heavy iron is a must. Professional ski service man and waxer, Zach Caldwell, has a review of a top of the line iron. I'm not suggesting you need it, just maybe glance at it for some hints as to why he thinks it's the best.
But if your friend plans to wax 1-2 pairs of skis from time to time, he probably won't mind that it takes a few extra minutes for the iron to heat up, then a small cheap iron is
fine. In fact there are some nice ones out there by Kuusport, Toko
and Swix which are fairly cheap. All the local ski shops - Fresh Air Experience, Pecco's and Greg Christie's will have a selection of irons to choose from.
Hope that helps!