Students learn the art of ski manufacturing in LBHS design class

Imagine carving beautiful turns on skis you designed and made yourself as you slide down the slopes.
For four Liberty Bell High School design and construction second-year students, that vision will become a reality when they finish making their custom skis — complete with original logo designs — later this year.
The project originated in class last year, when students dreamed of creating their own snowboards.Architecture/Design and Outdoor Recreation Teacher Wyatt Southworth, despite being a skier, has never made snowboards before, but he was delighted to have the opportunity to have them learn together.”It’s an in-depth study of the manufacturing and design process,” he said.
After some initial research, the class took a field trip in October to Lithic Skis in Peshastin, a company that designs and builds custom handcrafted skis.Southworth said the owners were generous in sharing their time and expertise with students.
The staff at Lithic walk them through the various stages of the design/build process—not just the skis, but the tools that make them.”We saw cool tools that they designed themselves,” says senior Eli Neitlich.
At Lithic, they went through the process of making a snowboard from start to finish, drawing tips and insights to inform their own making process.Back in class, the students designed their own ski presses and sleds.They also built a press for gluing the layers of skis together.
They made their own ski stencils from high-density particleboard, cut them with a bandsaw, and sanded them with a circular sander to remove imperfections.
Making their own skis involves not only different types of skis, but also a lot of research into supply sources.Despite the supply chain issues, Southworth said they were lucky to get what they needed.
For basic sizes, lessons start with commercial snowboards, but are sized for their needs.Senior Kieren Quigley said they designed the skis to be extra wide to float better in the powder.
Students also examine the complexities of ski function and performance, including the advantages and disadvantages of sandwich versus sidewall cap construction.They chose the sandwich for its durability and torsional stiffness, which prevents the skis from twisting and flexing as you turn.
They are currently creating 10 identical cores, made from poplar and ash wood, which they clip onto a formwork and cut with a router.
Contoured skis have them scraping the wood slowly with a plane, creating a gradual curve from the tip and tail, which are only 2mm thick, to the middle of the ski (11mm).
They also cut the ski base from the polyethylene base and created a small groove to accommodate the metal edge.They will grind the base at the end of the process to fine-tune the ski.
The finished ski will be a sandwich of a nylon top, fiberglass mesh, wood core, more fiberglass, and a polyethylene base, all bonded with epoxy.
They will be able to add a personalized design on top.The class is brainstorming a logo for Steezium Ski Works — a combination of the word “steez,” describing a relaxed, cool style of skiing, and a mispronunciation of the element cesium — that they could inscribe on the board.
As students work on all five pairs of skis together, they have the option to create their own designs for the top-level design.
Snowboarding is the most ambitious undertaking in student design and construction education.Projects from past years include tables and shelves, cajón drums, garden sheds and cellars.”It’s the most complicated, and the gap is huge,” Quigley said.
This preliminary work prepares for future production.Southworth says they can adapt the press to different types of skis and skiers and can use the stencil for years.
They hope to complete a test ski this winter, and ideally all students will have a set of skis by the end of the year.
“It’s a great way to learn more skills,” Quigley said.”The most important part is having skis that you build and design yourself.”
The program is a good introduction to lightweight manufacturing, Southworth said, and students have the potential to start a custom ski company after graduation.“You can create a value-added product — not in a remote mystical place, but something that happens locally,” he said.

Post time: Feb-10-2022
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