Fire it Up
Now comes the fire. P-Tex fumes aren’t the sort of thing you want to inhale, so set up in a well ventilated area or open a window. Move the flame of your lighter so that the tip of the flame contacts the tip of the P-Tex candle. After a few seconds, the flame will envelope the candle, set it alight, and the candle will start to melt and drip. The first several drops of P-Tex will include a bit of byproduct build up – black flecks that you don’t want to drip in the repair itself. To burn off this initial byproduct, start by holding the P-Tex candle over a scraper tool, a scrap piece of wood, or piece of foil you’ve set on the ski, next to the damaged area. After those first initial drips have landed on your wax scraper or piece of wood, you’re ready to move the candle over to just above the damaged area of the base and begin filling it.
It is very important to keep the tip of the P-Tex candle at the lowest possible temperature while it’s burning and dripping material into the gouge, for two reasons:
- If the flame gets too hot, the chemical properties of the burning P-Tex change, producing unwanted byproducts. These byproducts are often visible as those same black flecks in the drips and/or tip of the candle (white or clear P-Tex becomes advantageous in this way, since you can more clearly see those black flecks). These byproducts cause the melted P-Tex to become more brittle when it hardens, because they physically interfere with the P-Tex’s chemical structure.
- As the P-Tex candle heats up, it becomes less dense (and softer) and therefore more susceptible to thermal expansion. In other words, the hotter the P-Tex gets during the repair, the more likely it is to expand and contract with future temperature swings, making it more likely to crack and fall out.
(For a better understanding of the chemical changes that occur to P-Tex during combustion, and how those changes can affect the quality of a repair, a primer on P-Tex and polymer chemistry can be found at the end of this article.)
There are two ways to control the heat of the burning P-Tex candle:
- Keep the tip of the P-Tex candle as close to the ski as possible. If the flame on the P-Tex candle turns red or orange, it is getting too much oxygen and burning too hot. The flame should ideally be blue.
- Slowly spin the P-Tex candle as you drip the P-Tex into the gouge. Don’t spin it so fast that the flame goes out, but don’t spin it so slowly that it is not cooling the tip. Both of these techniques take a bit of practice.
As the P-Tex drips off the candle, allow it to fill in the gouges on your equipment.
Drip more into the gouge than you think you will need, as the P-Tex will shrink slightly as it cools, gouges are usually deceptively voluminous, and we’ll scrape away any excess material. Once the damage is sufficiently filled, blow out the P-Tex candle and allow the ski to sit for at least 10 minutes while the P-Tex cools.
NEXT: SCRAPE, THEN SHRED