Not being a carpenter and never having built anything in my life, I took it as a daunting, but doable challenge to build my own hotbox. After consulting with stonegrind/wax guru Nat Brown I had a fairly good idea of how to do it in a simple but effective way. I also consulted with my friend and skier Jim Didomenico who has a very elaborate design which uses a hot water heater. I quickly dismissed his design as being too difficult and went with Nat’s simpler approach.
Constructing the box was much easier than I anticipated. After a trip to my local hardware superstore, I had the necessary pieces to begin construction. The key to this project for me was having the professionals cut the wood for me and making sure the pieces were uniform before leaving the store. My plan was to construct a box big enough to accommodate about 4 pairs of skis and after about an hour of driving wood screws and adding the lid I was done. It was now time to add the heat source and a couple of fans as well as some insulation.
Keeping with my “simple” design idea I purchased an oil filled baseboard heater, two $10.00 fans to circulate the air, and a good thermometer. I added some of that foil lined insulation (which I do not even think is necessary) around the corners and was ready for the maiden voyage. Hearing many horror stories about other hotboxers ruining skis during the first few attempts I used a pair I had won in a raffle which were inexpensive and expendable.
The absolute key to hotboxing is keeping the temperature steady. Nat had told me that between 50 and 55 degrees Celsius is best and you can leave the skis in there for hours. I ironed in a light coat of wax and put them in the box as the temperature was on the rise. After about 20 minutes of warming up the box was at a perfect 54 degrees. For the next few hours it only deviated by approximately 3 degrees in either direction.
After 3 hours of constant staring at my thermometer I opened the lid to find the skis with a perfectly even coat of slightly molten wax. A quick scrape and brush and I added a layer of hard wax to see how that would work. The same time period produced similar results although the wax did not appear to be as molten. A quick email to Nat Brown confirmed that the wax does not actually need to liquefy in the hotbox to be absorbed which is why you can hotbox at such low temperatures.
Some of my friends who are non-hotbox owners have repeatedly asked me why would a 5th wave Birkebeiner skier need a hotbox? The answer is simple; some experts say that a few hours in the hotbox is the equivalent of about 30 waxings by hand. Think of how long it would take you to wax 30 times. I have always prided myself on being a student of the latest wax technology and hot boxing appears to be at the cutting edge (at least for now).
Every year at the American Birkebeiner I make it my goal to have the fastest skis in my wave, whichever wave that happens to be. To attain that goal I have spent countless hours in my ski “lab” prepping, waxing, studying etc. Although I am not a fast skier it is something I thoroughly enjoy. The addition of the hotbox allows me to achieve the same results in much less time. Maybe this year I will spend the time saved actually on my skis and move up a few waves.
The hotbox that I built cost less than $200.00 and was completed in 2 hours. Springtime is a great time to hotbox your skis before putting them away for the year. If you have the space for a giant “coffin” in your lab and want to save yourself many hours of waxing to have even faster skis, the hot box is the way to go.