Making Skis with Seneca Boards

May 2nd, 2009

Seneca Boards

A couple of months ago I was able to spend an evening with Bozeman based Seneca Boards to watch them press a pair of skis. I’m a big fan of DIY stuff and have long played with the idea of making my own boards, so I was excited to get a first hand look at the process. I first read about ski pressing online at SkiBuilders.com, and it turns out Seneca is using basically the same kind of home-built fire hose ski press system I had read about there. Commercial ski presses are extremely expensive so it’s cool to see the alternative solutions people have engineered which still allow them to produce a first class product - but for a fraction of the initial investment!

The ski press

There was a time when a ski was just a plank of lumber with a tip, but modern skis are a complex sandwich of layers. The ingredients vary depending on what kind of ski you want and who is making it, but some common ones are wood and fiberglass. These core ingredients are then surrounded by various base and topsheet layers to protect them. And these days “edges” are kind of “in” so don’t forget those. Some skis have titanium and other exotic layers in the mix, but at Seneca they are keeping to the basics for the time being: wood and fiberglass. They control the rigidity, weight and other ski performance factors by using different amounts of fiberglass and by creating different wood core profiles out of various kinds and layers of lumber. The whole package is held together by a healthy dose of epoxy, which is set in the ski press under high pressure to give the ski the desired camber.

Wood cores and sidewallsEdgesComposite fiberglass

The process from conception to final product is a lot of work. Even after all the materials have been gathered and the press assembled, the wood cores of each pair of skis must be carefully constructed, the topsheet and base created and trimmed, and a million other little details attended to. These are one-of-a-kind custom skis after all - there is no economy of scale here. I showed up for the fun part: putting it all together. Each layer is laid down the correct order with epoxy and the whole package is placed in the press for a night under high PSI. The result at Seneca is some snazzy-ass custom boards.

Laying up the skisOn goes the epoxyCloesup on some of the layers

I haven’t gotten to ride a pair of their custom skis yet, but they said I should be able to work with them at some point to design and make my own pair! How cool would it be to ride a pair of skis you built and designed yourself?? If I get to do it I’ll be sure to post about it here. As of this post they are still refining the process and are not taking orders, but stay tuned to their blog if you are interested in some Bozeman boards. I’m just always excited by local Bozeman entrepreneurial ventures like this and wish them good luck!

Inflating the fire hose on the pressSome uncut Seneca prototype boardsUllr presides here

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One Response to “Making Skis with Seneca Boards”

  1. Sounds like a really interesting process. And yah, having your own custom made skis would pretty much be the coolest. I’m curious how much moola you might save with that kind of project. Peace.

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