High Gear: How to make a DIY splitboard in 11 steps (video)
On your tool bench
A word to the wise: gather everything you need for a DIY splitboard before you make the first cut. The process is much smoother with everything in one place.
DIY splitboard kit (connection system hardware, inserts, pucks, touring mounts)
Dremel rotary tool
- Starter bit (0.06 inch)
- Tip clip/center clip finish bit (0.185 inch)
- Insert pre-drill bit (3/8 inch)
- Tap bit (7/16-14 inch)
- Countersink bit (3/4 inch)
2x6 wooden plank, cut to length of board or longer
2 wood screws
Square measure with sliding head
Orbital sander or sandpaper
3-4 C-clamps, large enough for widest point on board
Blue painter’s tape
Epoxy, one-hour dry time
Black acrylic paint
Ball Pein hammer
All basic tools and hardware
VDS rubber, 12mm wide
Metal edging, cut to length of snowboard active edge
Your DIY kit
Founded in the ‘80s, Voile is rightly considered a pioneer in the splitboard industry, with a line of boards, bindings, skins, clips and conversion systems available through Voile.com. The Voile DIY Split Kit (aka “Saw your old board kit”) is also rightly considered the industry standard and comes with everything you need to turn a solid board into a splitboard: pucks, touring brackets, climbing mounts, tip clips, center clips, slider tracks, slider pins and required hardware. After the woodworking is done, simply mount your standard bindings to the slider tracks and start touring, or use specialty bindings from Spark R&D.
But Voile isn’t the only name in the game. Other DIY kit manufacturers include Prowder Splitboard Systems and Karakoram. Each brand uses slightly different components, but the process is nearly the same. Just do yourself a favor and read the instructions before cutting — you only get one shot at this.
Splitboarding is all the rage right now. Everyone in every corner of the alpine, from big-mountain Jeremy Jones to your next door neighbor, is talking about touring mounts, tip clips, pucks and that sublime, otherworldly feeling you get from exploring the backcountry using manpower and little more. Those big, fat, untouched lines out your front window are just a skin trip away.
But what splitboard converts fail to mention is just how expensive the sport can be. On average, a mid-range splitboard kit with board, bindings and required hardware can run upwards of $1,000 — that’s a grand for a board you’ll most likely only use in the backcountry — with high-end setups running $2,500. You can get an old-school kit for less than $1,000, but like all winter sports equipment, the quality and reliability drops exponentially with the price.
Don’t stress — there’s hope for your future as an alpine-touring fiend yet. This spring, set aside a weekend to make your own splitboard with a DIY splitboard kit, consumer-grade tools and about seven hours to spare.
Chances are good that you have at least one or two old decks sitting around waiting to become benches. With a DIY kit from manufacturers like Utah’s Voile or Colorado’s Prowder Splitboard Systems ($120-$160), you can convert that old board into a new splitboard for around $200. The price is right, and if you’ve got a knack for woodworking, the final product compares to anything you’ll buy from a manufacturer.
To walk you through the process, the Summit Daily sports desk met up with Kevin Clark, owner and founder of Prowder in Evergreen, who turned a 155cm Unity Dominion into a DIY splitboard, complete with new inside edges and all the fixings. Here are step-by-step instructions.
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1. Select the right board
You don’t want to split a 149cm park board (duh), but length is only one element. Be sure the board you choose has a solid, wood core — not a foam core — and is built to withstand the demands of backcountry travel, Clark said. He prefers using thicker boards from manufacturers like Never Summer and Venture Snowboards, and shies away from mass-produced boards like K2, Ride and Salomon. Think of it this way: If you’re going to put in the time, start with the best available product.
2. Measure and split the board
– Find the board’s true center with a square measure by measuring the width in five places: widest points of the tail and nose, widest points at the front and back inserts, and widest point at the center. Mark each point on the topsheet with an X-Acto knife, and then drill a small hole at each mark with the 0.06-inch starter bit.
– Link the topsheet holes with an X-Acto knife using a piece of plywood or other straight, pliable surface as a guide. Repeat on the base. This is the line you’ll cut along.
– Use the 0.06-inch starter bit to drill holes in the current inserts: one at the front, one at the back. These holes will be used to mount a guide plank.
– Attach the 2×6 wooden plank to the bottom of your board using two screws: one in the front insert hole, one in the back insert hole. Double-check your measurements and be sure the guide plank is aligned with the X-Acto marks on your base and topsheet.
– Cut the board with a table saw. Double-check all guides (wood plank and table saw) before turning it on. Begin at the nose, where the board’s active edge begins, and slowly saw along the centerline to the tail. DO NOT cut through the edging — this tends to jerk the board around and can ruin the split. Adjust the saw height and finish the tip and tail, stopping short of the edging.
– Cut through the edging on the nose and tail with a Dremel rotary to complete the split.
(Note: Most DIY kits come with step-by-step instructions for splitting the board. If you’re using a kit, read those instructions first before making any cuts.)
3. Check and sand new edges
– Eyeball the edges on your new skis for any major gouges or uneven areas. If you spot any, stop now. The splitboard has been compromised.
– Sand the freshly cut inner edges with an orbital sander or by hand. Use a gentle touch in a circular motion — removing too much material will leave gaps when the board is clipped together.
4. Route for new sidewalls and metal edging
– Decide if you want to install edges. If not, jump ahead to Step 9. This cuts about four hours off the construction time, but Clark says fully wooden edges are weaker and less reliable.
– Cut (or route) a bed for new inner edges on both new skis. Make three routes: one in the wood core, one in the fiberglass between the core and base, and one in the base. Begin at the active edge on one ski — there’s no need for tip-to-tail edges — and make three routes with a Dremel rotary or routing tool. Route to the width and depth of your new, pre-cut edging.
– Repeat the routing process on the second ski.
5. Fit new sidewalls and edging
– With route facing up, place VDS rubber strip in the route. Press it into the route and cut the excess off the nose or tail. Be sure it lies flat in the route, with no wrinkles.
– Place the pre-cut edging in the route next to the rubber. The edging should be on the bottom, closest to the base.
– Depending on your route, a small amount of rubber will show above the new edging. Shave this excess rubber using an X-Acto knife or razor blade.
– Repeat process on second ski.
6. Epoxy new sidewalls and edging
– With route still facing up, remove rubber and metal edging. Apply painter’s tape to the topsheet and base along the length of the route. This will protect the board when you scrape off epoxy.
– Mix epoxy and slowly pour it into route. DO NOT pour it over rubber, fiberglass or metal edging.
– Place fiberglass strip on top of epoxy and cut excess at nose and tail. Then, place rubber and metal edging into route on top of fiberglass strip. Press all three firmly into the route with a flat piece of wood. Cover the new edge with painter’s tape while it dries.
– Repeat process on second ski.
7. Clamp and wait
Using C-Clamps, clamp the two skis together like a snowboard so that the new metal edges press into each other. Grab a beer and let it sit for one hour, or as long as it says on the epoxy directions.
8. Clean, sand and seal new sidewalls
– With new edging facing up, scrape the painter’s tape from the edging with a putty knife, wax scraper or other tool. If needed, use a hair dryer or heat gun to warm the tape. Remove all tape from edging, topsheet and base.
– Repeat with the second ski.
– Place the two skis together like a snowboard and check for gaps or unevenness. This can be the most frustrating part of the process, Clark said, especially if you’re new to placing metal edging.
– Sand the new edges on both skis based on any gaps or unevenness. Check the progress often to avoid removing too much of the core or other material.
9. Drill and place inserts
– With the two skis together like a snowboard, stand on the board exactly where you want bindings to go. Mark the inside and outside of both feet with tape.
– Bring the board back to a worktable and place the Voile DIY Kit puck sticker where your bindings will go. Don’t rush this placement — it’s permanent.
– Using the sticker guides and X-Acto knife, mark four holes for puck inserts on the front sticker and four more holes on the back sticker.
– Drill holes for puck inserts by stepping up your drills bits (i.e. begin with 0.06-inch bit, then use 3/8-inche pre-drill, then use 7/16-inch tap bit. The Voile DIY Kit requires drilling through the base of the board to anchor inserts. For this step, see the Voile directions.
– Place your touring mount and heel mount inserts. Measure and mark the exact center of your board, and then place the Voile DIY Kit center mount card with pivot point on the centerline. Using X-Acto knife or punch, mark five holes on each ski for 10 holes total (three for touring mount, three for heel mount). Voile recommends placing the front mount at the pivot point, but your can adjust based on the size and shape of your board.
– Drill holes for touring mount and heel mount inserts with the same stepping-up process as the puck inserts.
– Mix and place epoxy into each insert hole. Place inserts in each insert hole immediately after, gently screwing into place to avoid stripping wood core. DO NOT press until inserts show through the base, although there might be small bumps. If you’re using a Voile kit, follow those directions for anchoring.
10. Seal and finish new sidewalls
– With new edge facing up, paint the edge of one ski with acrylic paint. When this starts to chip away after a few seasons, it’s time to reseal the edges.
– Coat the same edge with polyurethane or other sealant.
– Repeat for the second ski.
– Grab another beer and set aside for at least one hour, or a full day to let epoxy cure completely.
11. Drill and place tip and tail hooks
– With both skis together like a snowboard, place the Voile tip hook stickers on the nose and tail of the board. Mark with an X-Acto knife or punch.
– Drill holes for the tip and tail hooks with the stepping-up process used for inserts. Secure the hooks based on DIY kit directions.
– Place center hook stickers by measuring from nose and tail with tape measure. Clark suggests placing hooks slightly back from where camber begins. Mark holes with X-Acto knife or punch and drill each one with 0.06-inch bit.
– Flip the board over so the base is facing up. Using 3/4-inch countersink bit, drill shallow holes in base at each mark. This is to anchor your center hooks.
– Flip board back over and place center books based on DIY kit directions.
– Attach pucks, touring mounts and heel mounts with DIY kit hardware. Double-check for evenness and boom! Done.
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