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If you’ve been skiing in wet snow and slush, you may discover a few weeks later that the layers of your ski are coming apart. This is delamination; but why do skis delaminate? And what can you do in the first place to prevent delamination?
Ski delamination is caused by water entering the composite layers of the ski. Usually, access is caused by damage to the ski, for example, at the ski tip when this accidentally strikes a rock. Once moisture has penetrated the ski it can quickly cause severe damage, especially if the moisture reaches the core. Ski delamination can be prevented by more careful skiing, better ski maintenance, and checking for signs of damage.
The Process of Delamination
When you’re skiing it’s easy to catch the edge of the ski on a rock hidden under snow. When you look at the damage it might look trivial, but it may be just enough for moisture to access the inside composite layers of the ski and at worst get inside the wooden core.
Water can get into the smallest opening and even a small amount of moisture is enough to penetrate the ski composite layers causing them to separate. Water is unusual in that it tends to the physical process of capillary action.
This is the ability to use the forces of cohesion and surface tension to enter surfaces. A good example of capillary action is when you push the end of a piece of cloth into a bowl of water and you will see the water slowly creep up the dry cloth.
The same process happens inside the ski with the water slowly penetrating the different layers of the ski by capillary action. This results in the separation of the composite ski layers.
This is called delamination and if it’s not dealt with quickly and effectively it can quickly progress and eventually destroy the ski.
Delamination often occurs in parts of the ski that are prone to knock and scrapes, for example, the tips or tails of the skis hitting obstacles, or the front edges of the skis get damaged when cornering or repeated crossing of the skis.
Composite layers of the Ski
Skis are constructed of various materials in different shapes and sizes to achieve a combination of strength, torsional ability or flexing ability, lightness, and durability.
Generally, a ski is manufactured with a wooden core around which composite layers are built. Many different materials are used but the most popular for skis include fibreglass, carbon fibre, Kevlar, and even titanium.
The layers of the composite are glued together using epoxy resin, which is a strong glue that when activated with a catalyst forms an extremely strong bond. While epoxy resins create a bond that stands up well against the threats of temperature and chemical agents, it is more vulnerable to attack from the water.
How to Mend Delamination:
The top sheet layer is the uppermost layer of the ski. It is usually made of clear plastic with the graphics and branding of the ski attached to it. As the outermost layer, it is prone to water penetration, which can quickly penetrate further into the lower layers. So, prompt action is needed to limit the damage.
Topsheet Delamination Repair
- Clean dirt from the separated layers with a clean dry cloth
- Repeat the cleaning procedure after dipping the dry cloth in alcohol.
This ensures the surfaces are clean before sticking them together
- Keeping to the instructions of your epoxy resin mix enough to coat the peeled up topsheet.
- Apply the resin sparingly to the topsheet with a small wooden stick and press the two surfaces together
- Apply masking tape over the entire glued section to stop the resin leaking out
- Place thin wooden blocks on top and underneath the ski and use G-clamps to apply moderate pressure to the glued section
- Allow to harden overnight
As with top sheet delamination, edge delamination occurs where minor damage to the steel edge enables water to enter through the side of the ski between the composite layers. Edge delamination is more of a threat to the ski because water penetration from the side of the ski is very close to the core, where water ingress will quickly prove terminal for the ski.
Edge Delamination Repair
- Secure the damaged ski in a vice with the damaged edge facing upwards
- apply a strip of masking tape to the topsheet over the damage, so that half the tape is stuck and the other half sticking up in the air. Apply a similar piece of masking tape to the base of the ski in the same way
- With your fingers, crimp the ends of the masking tape pieces together to create a long well
- Gently and carefully slide the head of a flathead screwdriver between the steel edge and the ski sidewall to open the delamination section further. The aim is to allow the epoxy resin to enter into the ski as far as possible
- Mix the epoxy resin according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a thin wooden stick drip the epoxy resin into the opened delamination area and allow it to settle briefly
- Pull out the screwdriver and using thin wooden blocks on the top and bottom of the ski clamp the delaminated area together
- Allow to harden for 24 hours still held in the same vertical position to allow air bubbles to float to the surface
- Remove G-clamps and masking tape. Use a razor blade to shave off the excess epoxy resin and finally sand the area to create a smooth finish.
What can you do in the first place to prevent delamination?
- Try to avoid damage to your skis. Avoid hitting rocks or any hard obstacles
- Ski with more care. Avoid slush and water if possible
- Keep a good ski technique. Don’t cross your skis or ski so that they are too close together
- Give your skis a quick check over for damage at the end of every day. It is much easier to repair damage early on
- If you do find damage, repair it immediately to minimise damage to the ski
- Either service your skis yourself or go to the ski shop to ensure the edges are well located and secure
- Wax your skis regularly. It creates a good barrier to water getting in