Thoughts, ideas, comments, diatribes, and rambles. A subjective take.

Mounting Dynafits at Home

I’ve skied for around 20 years now. My first pair of skis, Salomon X-Screams, are the sort of ski that’s now being turned into fences and benches in ski towns around the US. Since that pair, I’ve cycled through many pairs, and several different bindings to boot, but I had never performed my own mount.  I knew that I’d have to do it some day– It’s a right of passage for life-long skiers– but I’ve always been too afraid that I was going to screw it up.  Well, when I was given a new pair of skis by my two favorite parents this season, it seemed like it might be time.  You see, I’m no rich man, and I can’t afford another pair of Dynafits right now.  But what I can afford are Quiver Killers, the binding inserts that allow the user to move one pair of bindings between many skis using just a Phillips head screw driver.  They’re cheap, elegant, and increase the strength of the mount without adding significant weight (MFD plates anyone?).  They’re also a labor of love to install on an undrilled ski, and the local shop wanted $110 to do the job.  That sealed the deal– I’d do the mount at home.

(Workspace courtesy of post-futurist retrograde thought-pilot inventor Alex Ragus)

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

The workspace: Oxyacetylene welder, shopping cart, wheel-truing stand, and fixie handlebars optional.

In the instructions provided by Dynafit, they encourage the user to employ a certified shop to perform their mount.  They also say explicitly that you shouldn’t use a paper template.  But we’re independent thinkers around here, and I already knew that WildSnow.com had both instructions and a template available.  With just a bit of confidence in my judgment and access to some very simple tools, I decided to conquer my unfounded fears and earn my ski-mounting wings.

A quick note on the Quiver Killer concept: they’re brilliant.  In a standard mount, you drill a hole into the ski and then drive a threaded screw into the hole with a bit of epoxy, and when it hardens, you hope that it’ll stay there.  With Quiver Killers, you drill a slightly larger hole and use a tap to thread the inside of the hole.  You then screw a metal insert into the hole which is threaded on both inside and out.  What you then have, instead of just a simple hole in your ski, is a threaded metal hole which allows you to install and remove the screws repeatedly without damage to the skis.  As an added bonus, the pull-out strength of the QKs is greater than just the screws, so the mount is stronger as well.

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

“Never use a paper template to mount Dynafit bindings”. Think for yourself.  Do you know something good when you see it?

I accomplished this mount with just simple tools.  Provided in the Quiver Killer kit are a drill bit with a collar to prevent over drilling, a tap to thread the holes, and a very simple bolt used to drive the inserts into the ski base. Additionally, you need a drill, a pencil, and a metric ruler.  Oh, and some small strips of paper, which with some clever folding are used to make a hyper-accurate center line down the center of the ski (see Lou’s instructions for more.)

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

One down, 17 to go: A quiver killer insert installed, ready for a toe piece and a double-check before drilling the 4 other toe holes.

Should you also want to tackle a mount at home, if you trust yourself to recognize when you’re doing something correctly, you’ll succeed.  But you’ll likely, like me, get some butterflies in your stomach before you drill the first hole and pass the point of no return.  Lou makes the astute observation that while big mistakes in a mount can be remedied by moving the location of the mount, small ones are much harder to fix without hole interference.  This raises the stakes, but if you can keep your errors under 1 mm in size, then this job has all the wiggle room you need.

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

Seconds after the moment of truth. Drilling takes one minute.  Laying a straight center line takes twenty.

Without access to a drill press, each of the holes must be tapped by hand, which involves driving the tap into the hole with a small wrench while ensuring that it remains roughly perpendicular to the skis.  To do this, it is necessary to repeatedly check the angle of the tap from two different perspectives– along the length of the ski and across the ski. The first one takes at least five minutes if you’re nervous, but even once you’re skilled and driving in the 18th, it is still a test of patience.  By number ten, I had replaced the Kendrick Lamar album (NSFW) with Zen Shakuhachi flute music (SFW) to keep up the attitude necessary to do a good job.  Impatience is your enemy.  Find full expression of yourself as you mount your skis.

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

Tapping 18 holes by hand, fully expressing non-self.

The process of mounting Dynafit bindings without a professional mounting template involves a lot of clever back-and-forth measurement and checking using the ski boot to true and center the binding.  This critical mechanical thinking is a dying skill, and one which I’m always glad to cultivate. By tackling a complex task, deconstructing it into manageable steps, and completing the task successfully, we’re able to demystify the technology that we use.  By better understanding our equipment and the technology around us, we make sure that we can make good decisions about what we use, and we can avoid being hoodwinked by bad design.

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

Truing the dynafit toe, using the boot and centerline as reference. Use the tools that you have.

Overall, the process of mounting these skis took about six hours of work, none of which was physically tiring, but the exactness of which was a little bit cognitively exhausting. The process would have been much simpler without the added complication of Quiver Killers, but I always bite off more than I should really chew.  Nevertheless, I’m satisfied.  At $110 for a shop mount, I paid myself $18.33 an hour (double my current hourly rate) to do the job, and I learned quite a bit in the process. I am aware of the potential points of failure in a job like this.  I know how well the job was done.  I know which details are important and which are trivial.  Most of all, I now have a special sort of feeling towards these skis, and I’d like to think that they feel the same way.

mounting skis at home with dynafit using simple tools

The satisfaction of a job well done.

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  • brody on Feb 13, 2013 Reply

    props for doing that. i’m tirelessly nervous to do so for the first time.

    • Patrick on Feb 13, 2013 Reply

      I think I’ll still be a bit nervous next time. The stakes feel high with a new pair of planks!

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