Monday, April 7, 2008

Making Skis Part IV

The final installment from Nils Larsen, as he finishes building his own pair of traditional Altai skis:

After the skis had dried for about 10 days I did a little clean up with the plane and a knife and then prepped them for the bindings. The skis are mounted on balance point and the bindings go through four vertical holes in the skis (this four-hole pattern corresponds with some of the oldest bog skis found in Scandinavia and Russia). The bindings are rawhide, from some fresh cowhide I picked up a month ago. Now dried and dehaired, I sliced it in strips and softened it by working it over a bar and rubbing it with oil.

Cutting rawhide for the bindings.

Burning holes for the bindings. After I dug out the holes with an awl, I cleaned them up with a heated steel rod.

Building the bindings. I followed the binding design that was most common on the Altai skis, basically a rawhide 'X' that the toe of the shoe went through and a strap around the heel to hold the shoe in.

Putting the skins on. The last big step was putting the horsehide skins on the bottom. I soaked them overnight so I could stretch them over the skis. They will dry tight as the skin shrinks when it dries. I used tacks to hold the skins on, as they do now in the Altai. Traditionally they would lace the skins on the skis with rawhide but I have not seen this in my visits.

As a final touch, I cut up some old rubber boots to put in the foot area. This is common now in the Altai and reduces icing under the foot. I will take these into Powder Creek with me this week and try them in there!

For more on Nils' project, read Making Skis Part I, Part II and Part III, and watch a clip from Journey to the Source.

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