How to Re-glue Climbing Skins

Climbing-Skins

Perhaps your climbing skins no longer stick or the glue has become goopy and leaves mementos on your skis. This can occur with skins that are heavily used, poorly treated or left in storage for too many decades like my vintage pair I recently scavenged from eBay. This degradation of the glue occurs because of contamination (i.e. pine needles) and water absorption (dry them before storage).

Re-gluing skins involves two steps: removing the old glue and applying the new. Neither step is particularly hard, but can be messy, tedious and smelly. It’s a good DIY job for the unskilled but eager. For your first attempt you’ll want an entire evening.

The first step is removing the old glue. Start by securing the skin in place, which can be done by placing it upside down on your skis (an unwanted board is better) and using some clamps/vice grips etc with rags as needed to avoid ski damage. There are two ways to remove the glue, both involving heat. Option one is to iron on a porous material – the internet suggests brown paper – to absorb the glue melting from the iron’s heat. The iron method obviously requires an iron, which Wal-Mart will sell you for $10 and serves double duty as a ski waxing iron. This task isn’t nearly as iron-soiling as waxing, so you can get by with your clothes iron if your spouse isn’t looking but keep some toluene solvent handy in case. The trick with the iron method is to use a fair bit of heat and keep ironing until you see the glue soaking through the paper, then peel off the paper while it’s still really hot. If you let the glue cool, the paper will stick to the skis and rip when you try to peel. Slide the iron across as you peel and work in small sections (1-2′) so you can keep the whole area hot. You’ll need to repeat this process 4-6 times for each spot, so plan on 2 hours to iron off the old glue. If your skins are merely contaminated with forest debris or dog hair, a single pass with ironed on paper is often enough to remove the debris and restore functionality without a complete re-glue. While all the available info recommends brown paper, I don’t see why other reasonably strong and porous materials wouldn’t work.

Hot Scraper
Hot Scraper

Option two for glue removal is using a hot scraper. A legit “hot scraper” is really a wood burning tool with scraper attachment instead of the wood bit. You can find wood burning tools for about $20 at craft shops, although the scraper attachments are tougher to find and may need to be ordered online. This is the ideal tool. I have a wood burning tool but no large scraper attachment, so I used a small razor blade attachment (shown) which was slow (~1 hr/pair) but effective. Some people also heat a regular metal scraper with a blow torch which is crude but appears to work well enough. Any hot scraper method is going to stink quite a bit as the glue burns onto the scraper, so it’s advised to do this outside. My wife wasn’t impressed and insisted on opening all the windows. The iron method is slower, but ultimately achieves a slightly nicer result and creates fewer noxious fumes.

With the glue removed, it’s time to apply fresh adhesive. Again there are two options: a liquid adhesive or pre-made sheets of glue. Liquid adhesives are messy and slow, but they are cheap and yield an acceptable result. Pre-made glue sheets are quicker and professional, but also more expensive ($45 vs $15). With either, you’ll need to find a method for securing your skins that doesn’t involve your skis, as either approach has the potential for getting glue on them. The glue can be cleaned with a solvent but that adds even more fumes and hassle. Clamping them to a scrap wooden board is ideal.

Black Diamond Gold Label Skin Glue
Black Diamond Gold Label Skin Glue

The only respected liquid adhesive for re-gluing is Black Diamonds Gold Label adhesive. As I already had a tube on hand, this is what I used. To apply it, you can use a brush which is slow, leaves brush marks and the occasional hair in your skin glue, but it’s not that messy. Alternatively, you can squirt a few lines of glue onto your skin and then scrape that into a nice thin even coat with a credit card. The credit card method achieves a nicer result if you scrape it thin, but you’ll also get glue spilling over the sides of the skins unless you’re way better than I am. This spilled glue can work its way into the other side as you continue to apply coats, so try to minimize the mess and either protect your skis (put paper between) or clamp your skins to a board. If you do get glue on the wrong side you can remove it with fingers nails and solvent (goo-gone, toluene) but it’s slow, smelly work and only 90% effective.

With either method, you want a really thin coats applied 30-60 minutes apart. Do two coats with the brush or two-three coats with the credit card, as it achieves thinner coats. Once you’ve got the liquid adhesive applied, give it 24 hours to cure and then put it in away. I don’t recommend peeling the glued sides apart in your warm room when the glue is brand new because it can stick so well it pulls some glue off one side. Once you’ve used them once or twice it’s not as strong.

The other option is glue transfer sheets, which are also sold by Black Diamond as Glue Renew strips. I’ve never used these so I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I have watched a few YouTube videos. With glue sheets, the main challenges are ironing them on well, so they’re fully bonded, and not making a mess when you trim them. This video does a good job showing how to iron them on, and if you let them cool before trimming then the mess isn’t too bad. It’s definitely a lot tidier than liquid adhesive and you could iron new glue on in 15 minutes rather than spend a few hours putting on coats of liquid adhesive.

UPDATE: In fall 2015 I finally re-glued some skins using BD’s glue transfer sheets. As expected, the process was far easier and cleaner. The downsides are that the cost is 3-4x.

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