Trees to Skis Blog
Here’s the first installment in our Trees to Skis series, where we’ll follow the story of these raw logs as they become awesome skis! These logs came from a paper birch tree, which was very kindly offered to us by the Olerud family here in Haines. Next, I’ll paint the ends of the logs to minimize splits and checking, which results from hasty drying. In the next installment, we’ll mill these up into usable lumber on a buddie’s band saw mill!
Welcome to part three of our trees to skis series! For the past 6 years we have experimented with many different species of wood for our cores, looking for one that provides the optimal ski characteristics. This past season we settled on a blend of sitka spruce and birch, which provide a high strength to weight ratio, excellent flex characteristics and a damp feel. Both species have been used to make wooden skis for thousands of years. Furthermore, they are common right here in Haines, Alaska, growing on the forested slopes below some of the best ski terrain in the world! The opportunity to hand select each tree from our own backyard allows us to make a core which is far superior to anything mass-produced. In these photos, we use a chainsaw mill to harvest tight vertical-grain, clear sitka spruce, which will provide weight reduction and strength for next season’s boards.
Fall is in the air here in Haines. That means the folks at Fairweather ski works are back in the office and working hard to bring you another exciting edition of trees to skis!
Today we are producing cores for this seasons first batch of skis. Our rough cut timber is resawn and any bows or twists resulting from the drying process are straightened out on the jointer. We then laminate full length strips of wood into a “core block”, which contains enough wood for about 4 pairs of skis. We use local birch underfoot for screw retention and dampening and local spruce along the outside for weight reduction and excellent flexural properties. We resaw the core block into a mini core block and shape the sidecut of the ski into the core with a router.
After the core is shaped, the sidewalls are glued to the outside of the mini core block which is resawn again and the bookmatched cores are ready to be profiled.
The flex pattern of a ski is largely dependent on the profile or thickness of the core along its length. To shape the core, we attach it to one of our templates and run it through a thickness planer. The planer removes material from the tips and tails while maintaining more thickness in the middle of the ski. Once the core has been profiled and cut to length, it is essentially ready for layup. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we turn our backyard trees into a pair of handcrafted skis!
Welcome to part five of trees to skis! In this part, we will be milling up some of the local wood for a topsheet veneer, preparing the bases and edges and getting everything together for layup.
For the topsheets on this pair, we will be milling a slab from a local birch tree into thin veneers. The local birch are prone to rot in the wet rainforest environment of Southeast Alaska. If you catch the beginning of the rot at the perfect momment, you end up with a pattern called spalting. Spalting is caused by a fungus in the tree which creates dramatic colors and textures in the wood. Scrounging the forest for downed birch trees is a great way to find amazing spalted wood! We joint the face of the slab to get a true surface then carefully cut off a thin slice on the bandsaw. We then run the veneer through a thickness sander to achieve a smooth, thin veneer which will be the topsheet of the ski.
The p-tex base material is clamped to a template and cut with a router into the shape of a ski. The edges are bent around the tips and have little teeth that sit on the inside of the ski that are tacked with super glue to hold them in place.
The ski is now ready to be glued up in the next installment of trees to skis. Also, we’re looking forward to releasing some exciting news in the next week or two so don’t take your eyes off the computer screen!
Welcome back to the continuation of our Trees to Skis series! In this post, we are taking all of our prepped materials, including the cores we milled from salvaged timber and the hand-milled local birch veneers and pressing them into a pair of skis!
To print the graphics onto the ski, we take the clear plastic topsheet to our friends at Tlingit Ink Designs, LLC in Haines. Evangaline uses her sublimation printer to print off the image onto special heat transfer paper. She then transfers the print onto the topsheet in a heat press.
From the bottom up, the ski consists of plastic base and metal edges, fiberglass and/or carbon fiber, local spruce/birch wood core, binding re-enforcements, more fiberglass and/or carbon fiber, wood veneer, and a clear plastic topsheet/graphics. We glue up all of these layers with a special ski building epoxy and slide it into our homemade press.
Our press is perhaps the only commercial wood frame press in operation. It has adjustable molds that allow us to build skis with different camber, lengths, and tip shapes. It uses two fire hoses converted into air bladders which inflate with an air compressor to create the pressure. When up to full pressure, the press creates over 60,000 lbs of force, the equivalent weight of 7 and a half elephants. The ski materials are sandwiched in the press between two heat blankets that heat the skis to 180 degrees in order to cure the epoxy in 15 minutes. Check out the video on our facebook page to see the press in action!
We can then pull the skis out of the press and will run them through the finishing steps in the next and final episode of Trees to Skis!