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tipspacer:  none
inserts: none
width of wood core strips:  19 mm
epoxy:  West Systems with 105 resin with 205 hardener
vacuum pressure
:  -11 psi
duration of pressing:  10 hours with the addition of a heated blanket purchased from Target

Graphics - color was achieved using fabric; text and logo were printed on card stock, then cut and placed beneath topsheet during the layup process

Builder -   Big Kam

Date Manufactured - December 16, 2006

Comments and Test Report (by Big Kam)

Skip started shouting "grande cocoa!" at the top of Hidden Lake Peak on April 4, 2004 (click to see movie).  (A group of friends and I were out for a ski tour in the North Cascades.)  What got him started was earlier that morning Cass (pictured above) had ordered his favorite hot beverage at the local espresso stand by asking, "I'd like a grande cocoa please."  (Cass does not drink coffee.)

"Grande what?"

Since that day, when we greet Cass, or when we want to get his attention, we holler "grande cocoa!" (or other things, but I won't mention them here.)

Obviously, the name Grande Kokoa was inspired by Cass.  Cass is a very close friend, and I've shared countless days with him in the mountains, climbing, skiing, and biking.  For example, in July 2004 I easily persuaded him to carry skis, gear, and food for a three-day adventure into the heart of the North Cascades to climb and ski the remote Mt. Spickard.  The approach was BRUTAL: 6 miles of bushwhacking, then climbing up a gigantic waterfall named the "Unforgettable Waterfall", followed by a few miles of scrambling over boulders and loose choss.  And that was just to get to camp!  Oh, did I mention stepping on fresh bear scat?  Here, watch the video of the bushwhack (5MB, *.asf), and below are a few photos of Cass from the trip:

Cass likes short -- I mean short! -- skis.  Also, he's partial to them being somewhat stiff.  The Kokoas are just right for him: short and stiff. 

For the core, I settled on a mix of poplar and Douglas fir (Elastic Modulus of 8 to 12GPa; cf. Maple 7 to 12 GPa):

This was my first time using fir, and it's a relatively light and stiff wood.  In the above photo, the way I laminated the core produced fir sidewalls.  With an 11.5mm thick core underfoot, they were definitely stiff...

I designed the Kokoas with a somewhat relaxed shape -- 126 mm at the shovel, 111 mm at the waist, and finally a modest 115 mm wide tail.

Absent are fancy materials -- just wood, epoxy, and fiberglass (and of course edges, base material, fabric, and topsheet).  Besides, Cass prefers plain salads, no special sauces or spreads on his chicken sandwiches, and cheese pizzas.

I have been using Little Kam's press and the one Kelvin and I built to make skis.  I don't have a pneumatic press in my garage, but recently I got a hold of a vacuum press to test.  This is the first time I've used a vacuum press, and it's not a bad way to build skis.  For me, the thought of "sucking" materials together is less threatening than blowing up a fire hose.  I have to admit, pneumatic presses are intimidating contraptions, not to mention they can hurt.  But I am building a pneumatic press, so stay tuned!

The vacuum press that I used was built from a kit, purchased from JoeWoodworker.com.  The system uses an air compressor, something I own.  I used a 0.040" thick vinyl sheet and lot of duct tape to form the "vacuum chamber".  I was too lazy to look for vacuum-pressing tape, so gave duct tape a try. Duct tape seems to work, but it's still a challenge to get a good seal.  In the photo below, it looks like I went overboard with the tape, but there were still small leaks.  My compressor came on every 5-10 minutes to keep up with the loss in vacuum pressure.  I managed to pull down to -11 psi, and it was enough to squeeze all the materials together.  I vacuumed for 10 hours and I covered the skis with a heated blanket purchased from Target.

The graphics of the skis were simple: thin colored cloth below the topsheet, and the logo and text were cut from card stock.  Here's what the skis looked like immediately after pulling them out of the vacuum press.

A close up of the wood sidewalls and edges after beveling with a router:

After I finished the Kokoas, I flew to So. Cal. to visit family for the holidays and to spend some time with my cousin Little Kam.  Interestingly, Little Kam also created a new ski: the Boondoggle Pro.  Unfortunately, due to lack of snow (and motivation) I did not test the Kokoas with Little Kam in So. Cal.

Instead, I went to Seattle. (I had to ski before the end of the month to keep my Turns-All-Year streak alive!)  My flight landed at 1:30am Sunday (Dec. 31st) morning because of a delay. I originally planned to drive 5-6 hours from Seattle to the Methow Valley to join Cass for a tour on Sunday morning. But for some reason the thought of whiteknuckle-driving over the pass and potentially snow-covered roads early in the morning seemed like a bad idea. Instead, I reconfigured my plans then arrived at Kelvin's house at 5:50am to find him warming up his garage with a propane heater and powering up the wet belt sander. In ten minutes we cleaned up two pairs of skis I brought -- the Grande Kokoas and the Bangers and Mash. I was excited to test the Kokoas.

We decided on Jim Hill Mountain after Kelvin pointed out the temperature was colder around the passes. We ascended via a snow-covered access road with a nice uptrack.

Kelvin ascending a snow-covered access road.  Stevens Pass in the background.

But it didn't last long after I decided to travel up my "favorite" route: the kind of route that you use to sneak up on a mountain. The snow felt nice and consolidated, about 6-12 inches above a firm base. We took turns breaking trail through the woods and navigating.

"Remind me again why we're traveling this route..."  Skier: Kelvin Wu.

I thought it was a great route and have traveled to Jim this way about five times. Besides, I needed the (schwacking) exercise. Anway, we slowly made our way up the woods, chit-chatting like a couple school kids. The conversation was mostly about making skis and the meaning of life.

Around 1:30pm we decided to ski down. The snow in the woods was nice, and light in some places. As for the Kokoas, I enjoyed the turning radius, width, and length. But it was a bit stiff for my taste.  I can picture shaving 1-2mm from the core thickness to give them a "softer" flex for my weight.

Kelvin skiing the Bitchin' Camaros through the woods below Jim Hill Mountain.

After personally testing the Kokoas, I handed them over to Cass.  The following Wednesday, we night skied at Snoqualmie Pass.  Cass jumped on the skis and immediately fell in love.  In fact, there was a free telemark demo that night and he skied the Kokoas against several mass-produceds and found that the Kokoas skied better than most.  I took a couple runs on the hardpack and found they carved nicely, too.  Being stiff, they gripped the snow with little effort.  I compared the mass-produceds with my Bangers.  I enjoyed one or two mass-produceds, but overall homemade skis carve as well and even better in some cases -- I won't mention any brands or models...

[Check out the video of Cass on the Kokoas (13MB *.wmv)]

Several days later 10-15 inches of new fell in the mountains.  We skied Crystal Mountain resort and found tons of powder.  I skied the Bangers with new BD 01 bindings.  (Great binding by the way.)  Cass cruised on the Kokoas and loved them in the powder.  Grande Kokoa!


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