Flax. Can it replace fiberglass in my quest for a more eco friendly ski?
Since I started the quest of ski building I’ve been on the look out for materials to achieve a more eco friendly ski. So far I’ve been able to replace the ABS or UHMW-PE (Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) sidewall by using Ipe an extremely hard and water resistant wood. Ash and maple also make for a durable sidewall. The tip/tail fill which is also normally plastic (UHMW-PE) in most commercial skis has also been replaced with the same material as the wood core. The wood of choice is ash or poplar depending on the wood core. Epoxy is another material which can be quite hazardous. There are many many types and blends of epoxy. However there is one company that’s lowering the impact on the environment called Entropy Resins who produces a green epoxy. While I have not tried the epoxy just yet, many ski builders are using it with great results and with out compromise. So now that I have a source that’s tried and true, I will be experimenting with this epoxy.
The last major component to find is a material that is strong like fiber glass and provides a certain level of dampening like fiberglass (FG). I turned to the skibuilders.com forum where many ski and snowboard builders are constantly pushing the envelop of design and materials at all levels. This is where I found a few others also looking for alternatives FG. If any of you have worked with FG you know you should take precautions to cover your skin and wear a mask. It can make you very itchy, just like the FG insulation. And when you start cutting the flashing off the ski those little FG particles fly every where.
This lead me to look at Flax. Finding flax material suitable for ski building wasn’t easy. First it needs to be of a strong bi-axial or triaxial weave and a decent weight per meter/yard. Internet searches provided lots of places to buy linen made from flax but I could not find a single company in North America that sold the correct type of flax. I’m still looking by the way. I did find a Swiss company called Bcomp that has the material. And a fellow ski builder Tom Greenall of Idris Skis uses flax in his skis and he was a 2013 ISPO Award Winner in Munich. I have some flax ordered and hope to have it for testing in the a couple weeks.
So flax can replace FG, just how well I’ll let you know. I’ll be making samples of flax and flax/carbon fiber layups to see what makes the best combination of dampness and liveliness. Looks like Idris Skis had good luck with it 🙂
Stay tuned to this blog for updates!