Tuning Bench Tie Down

| February 13, 2013

Most of my hasty ski tuning jobs end up resembling a Quentin Tarantino movie with lots of blood, slow-mo howls of pain and severed appendages. Even though I have ski vises, they have a hard time clamping onto skis with narrow profiles, tapered sidewalls, rocker or extra width, which covers about 95% of the current ski market. The slicing and dicing usually occurs when I’m filing the edges and pressing down hard on the file and the ski, or scraping wax.

My tuning bench is a modified saw-horse, which I’ve recently modified even more by cutting a tapered slot in the bottom of the cross member. By lassoing the binding toe-piece with a length of accessory cord, I can then slot the cord into the tapered slot and pull it tight, which securely attaches the ski to the bench without interfering with the bases or edges.  It does such a good job that it is almost not necessary to tighten down the vises on the sidewalls.  To release it, you just pop the cord and the ski is free.

The first step is to lasso the toe piece, and in that regard, this trick will work with just about any binding, including telebindings.

After flipping the ski over, thread and wedge the accessory cord through the tapered slot.  Volia – instant clamp down power. For extra security, press down on the ski when tightening the cord, that way the camber of the ski itself helps act as a clamping spring.


There are a million different tuning bench configurations, and YBMV (your bench may vary), but you could also rig up a high-end variation on this with a store-bought clam cleat like the one shown below.

I’m a fan of the 5 Minute Tune, and if you’ve never seen it, Doug Coombs has a classic 4:02 minute video of the concept, which he called the “Quick And Painless Ski Tune.”

Help support StraightChuter.com and lay down the waxing law with a Toko T8 Wax Iron – 800W from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…


Category: 02 Gear

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (7)

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  1. Cameron says:

    I don’t get it – it looks like your ski is levitating in picture #2.

  2. wyomingowen says:

    3 c-clamps, 2 short blocks (wood or any other material of choice),
    1 voile ski strap (any length),
    1 ball point pen body cut to boot tech insert length (key ingredient) and
    Any flat surface (at least the length of your skis)

    Basically you clamp the voile strap to your work surface at binding toe point, take pen body and close binding toe on hollow pen body, run voile strap around pen and tighten to desired tension. The blocks support tip and tail and may need to be clamped or not depending on your technique and aggression.

    For production purposes if you fab several pen bodies, you leave’em in the toes and you can rip through the whole families skis like a shop.

  3. Charlie says:

    That’s because it is. Levitation permits tuning without clamping stress — flatter base and straighter edges.

    Clever and simple sawhorse mod; I’ll have to try it out.

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi Cameron – I’ll post an overview photo of the bench, which I should have done in the first place.

  5. norm mayall says:


    Wow. That vid of Doug brought back some memories. There are some real gems in there. “The best skiing is near the rocks”. Check. “Everyone should travel with one of these” (body file, aka gnarly bastard). Best tool in the box (in the right hands). “The key to the Q&P is you wanna be smokin’ all your friends on the traverses.” Yup. And my personal fav, “It may be the most screwed up tune in the world, but I’m used to it…so it works.” True that. So much still to learn from Doug. Thank you for keeping his spirit alive.

  6. Charlie says:

    Just tried out wyomingowen’s ski strap suggestion on my ski sawhorse. It works great. Cut-down pen barrel added to wax box.

  7. Cameron says:

    I’m going to try this, sweet. Also love the Coombs video, what a cool guy. Shame to have never met him. I used to do a similar tune on ski patrol waiting for wrecks . . .time to bring it back.

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