The Tuning Stick is a simple plastic rod, but don't be fooled, it is a sophisticated analytical tool, it allows you to precisely "read" the sharpness of your edges and the presence of micro burrs.
As you are tuning your edges, it is easy to get "lost", that is, not really know where you are. The Tuning Stick solves that problem, you always know the sharpness and burred condition, and, you can always get consistency from ski to ski. It takes the guessing game out of edge tuning.
Before you begin tuning, check your edges with the Tuning Stick. You will see how they are more dull under foot than out towards tip and tail. You will also find out that, unless you are in soft snow, one day is all it takes to loose the sharpness under foot, and keep in mind, under foot is where you want your ski to be sharp, it is where all the skis' grip and bite and "sting" comes from.
Once you start using the Tuning Stick, you will quickly realize the benefits of frequent tunings, daily is the norm unless the snow is soft. You spend a great deal of effort and money to get on the hill, not taking every advantage once there does not make sense, tuning really pays when it comes to on the hill fun. And once you get the hang of it, it only takes a few minutes.
"Zoning" the sharpness of the edge, as discussed below, can only be repeated ski to ski if you have the capability of analyzing the edge, zoning cannot be executed effectively without the Tuning Stick.
Use the Tuning Stick at 45 degrees to the edge and push down on the stick (don't pull it up) with moderate pressure, something more than just light pressure, and shave plastic. The Tuning Stick will give you three sensory observations (see below) which allows you to be very precise with your edge tuning.
When the Tuning Stick is scraped on the edge, it gives you a great deal of feed-back such as:
1. If the edge is sharp and polished, the edge will shave plastic off the stick in a smooth and consistent manner, its sound will be smooth and consistent, and it will vibrate little.
2. The amount of shaved plastic will demonstrate the level of sharpness and is easy to observe.
3. If the edge is dull, it will not shave plastic, the dullness will be very apparent.
4. If the edge is burred it will shave plastic very aggressively, the Tuning Stick will also vibrate and make a squealing sound.
5. The tuning stick gives you three sensory observations, visual (observe shavings), feel (vibration), and sound (range of smooth scraping to squealing). There is no comparable method for analyzing your edges.
One of the problems with the Tuning Stick is that tuners can become so intrigued by it, and the way it shaves plastic, that they have a tendency to over-sharpen their skis, to over-tune their skis, playing with the stick. If you notice yourself doing this, back off.
We discuss perfect edge tuning as a balancing of grip, slip, and glide. The Tuning Stick is the only way to get there.