Ironing [April 2006]   ©Mark Zen

Ironing, five hundred words? I am a guy, what do I know about ironing? Ok, let’s see how I do…

As young man, I worked at Bike –n- Hike, here in Longmont. We sold bicycles and cross-country skis. Most non-skiers do not know that snow skis are waxed for performance. Down hill skis have a hard wax on the entire base of the ski. Cross-country skis use a softer wax in the middle, the waist, and a hard wax on the tips and tails. This allows the ski to slide over the snow when gliding, and grip the snow to create forward thrust. Four hundred more words? The wax is heated up and applied to the plastic base of the skis, the warm wax soaks into the pores in the base of the ski.

After the hot wax is applied, the skis are scraped to remove the excess wax and then polished. Downhill ski rental/repair shops usually have a machine that does all of this. It will lightly sand the base, to help sharpen the metal edges. Then it applies the wax, scrapes and polishes the ski, and is finished in minutes. At our shop, I did this all by hand. I used an iron to melt the wax onto the base of the ski, in a thin trail. Then I ironed the bottom of the ski, so the thin line of wax spread out and covered the entire base. After applying the wax, I used a rectangular piece of steel to scrape the excess wax off, and then applied a cork to smooth and polish the base.

Only a small percentage of cross-country skis have a metal edge, and on the ones we waxed, we would ‘tune’ the edges. I would take a flat file and square the edges, and then I would run the file 45 degrees across the edge of the tips and tail, so they were not square. This prevents ‘catching an edge’ and flipping the ski over, usually with painful results, as the skier goes down into a pile on the ground. Another 150 words? Ok. In the four years before I joined the Navy, I probably ironed 500 pairs skis for Bike –n- Hike.

You probably wondered when I would get to this part. Due to local recession, I joined the Navy when I was twenty-five. The Navy, like other branches of the services, operate their boot camps using sleep deprivation to help indoctrinate new recruits. In the first 72 hours, I probably got three hours sleep, at the very most. After our haircuts, we had our clothes issued to us, then returned to the barracks to learn how to properly fold and stow our clothes. We would also learn how to iron our uniforms.

I still remember the Company Commander asking, “Who has used an iron before?” I raised my hand, and he asked, “What did you iron?”

“A few hundred pairs of skis, sir.”

“That will be one hundred pushups smart ass.”


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