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2515 grams per ski
tipspacer:  white ABS plastic
inserts:  9mm stainless steel with 1/4-20 threads for G3 binding pattern; one set located at chord center and the other located 3cm forward chord center
width of wood core strips:  3/4 inch
epoxy: Duratec 80LM-2A resin, 80LM-2B hardener
bladder pressure:  35psi
duration of pressing:  12 hours
other:  Titanal strips (1.0mm x 50mm x 1600mm) laminated above and below wood core


The graphics of the Tao were inspired by my childhood hero, Bruce Lee.   You're probably asking "Why the name Tao"?   Aside from Bruce Lee's many accomplishments in the film industry and his contribution to martial arts, he was also the author of "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do".  

The book was mainly written to put his newly developed fighting style into words.   But it also contains a lot of philosophical thoughts that can be applied to other interests outside of martial arts - for example skiing.   It's for this reason that I keep reading this book and why I value it so much.  I am by no means a martial artist and I have no desire to become the next Jackie Chan, nonetheless, Bruce Lee still remains a idol to me not because of his fighting skills but because of his accomplishments and his "fight the authority" attitude.   This is what inspired the ski design.

Enough of that.   The Tao's graphics are by far the most involved images I've done for a ski up to this point.  My previous graphics were created using simple cut-outs but I decided to put some more creativity and effort into this one.   All of the images were made using a crude screen printing method that I'd been experimenting with (an article discussing this method will be up soon).  By using my homemade screens along with some ordinary fabric paint, the images were screen printed onto duck cloth, which is similar to canvas.  The duck cloth with all the images was then laminated underneath the clear P-Tex topsheet layer to create the ski's graphic that you see.  It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the left ski actually has dark grey characters that run down the entire length of the ski making it look like a Chinese scroll. 

  Kam S. Leang (Little Kam)

  June 16, 2005

DRAWING FILE:  download the *.dxf file for the Tao (this file can only be viewed in a CAD program and will appear as a big mess if opened in Adobe Illustrator or anything else)

The Tao is what I would consider my first real ski.  This is because all of the materials in the ski are what you could find in a ski made by the industry.   My previous skis had epoxy sidewalls, which did not withstand the abuses of skiing.  Trying to avoid the epoxy method I used UHMWPE, or P-Tex, for the sidewalls.  This same type of sidewall construction can be seen on many skis made by K2, Rossignol, Armada, etc.  I decided to put the extra time into making the most durable sidewalls I could make because I intend to use these skis primarily for park riding.   Plus I'm pretty tough on my skis as my friends can confirm with my constant tree bonking, asphalt walking, and high speed rag-dolling. 

The Tao also features strips of Titanal running down the length of the core.  I have to say many thanks to Michael from Titanal Sports for his help.  Without the generosity of Titanal Sports the use of this alloy would have been extremely difficult and probably too expensive for my budget.  Titanal strips were laminated directly below and above the wood core during layup.   Most of the skis on the market today utilize Titanal somewhere in their construction and I think this is the extra kick that my previous skis were missing.  I'm not exactly sure how the Titanal will affect the ride of the skis but they seem to add a lot of weight.  These skis are incredibly heavy!  However, the extra weight may also have resulted from the use of duck cloth for the topsheet graphics.  Next time I'll have to go with a lighter fabric, such as flannel or cotton, for the printing. 

From the pictures you'll notice that the skis almost have a Pocket Rocket "Space Frame" look to them.  The raised ridge running down the ski is actually the indentation made from the Titanal strip.  I didn't think that it would be so noticeable.  Perhaps in the future I'll have to router some space in the core for the metal strip.  Also, the weird look of the tip and tail areas resulted from the tipspacer material (2mm thick) being thinner than the wood core at this point (3mm thick).  I wanted thicker tip and tail areas so that they wouldn't deflect as much while skiing.  My other skis' tips seemed a little flimsy and got knocked around a little bit in the crud.  I'll have to get thicker tipspacer material next time to make the tips and tails look nicer.

One problem that I noticed immediately was the presence of tiny air bubbles underneath the topsheet.  I can't seem to pinpoint the exact reason for this but I think it may a combination of the duck cloth's ability to absorb epoxy and the fact that the epoxy was over 8 months old.  When mixing up the epoxy it didn't seem to have the same consistency as it had before.  Hopefully the air pockets won't prove to be a problem and the ski stays together. 

Aside from the above notes, the other aspects of construction were identical to those found in skis I've previously made (Ahmos, The Shit, etc.).  

July 12-13, 2005: San Gorgonio Mountain, CA by Kam S. Leang   With July temps hovering around the mid 90's in Southern California, skiing was the farthest thing from my mind.  Usually, summer is the time for the gears, pedals, and single track.   However, with the huge snowfall this year there was still plenty of snow (for a core skier anyway) to be found high in the San Bernardino Mountains (just outside of Big Bear ski resort).

Cousin Kam (Big Kam) came down from Seattle and persuaded me to accompany him on what he calls "a short trip" to San Gorgonio Mt. - Southern California's tallest peak (11,499 ft.).   After a grueling day of hiking we finally reached the Dry Lake.   Here we set up camp and got a good view of what the next day of skiing would be like.

The next morning we got an early start.  Just before early noon we gained the summit only to find suncups -- suncups everywhere and HUGE!  I've never seen snow like this in my life and it was a little depressing to hike so far to think that we'd have to ski through this stuff.  We needed special skis, it seemed.

But luckily with Big Kam's expertise in snow and backcountry experience, we made plans to converge on a more favorable aspect of the neighboring Jepson Peak.   But before we made the traverse, Big Kam insisted on dropping into the northeast side of San G. for a short run.  He did just that and by the way he was skiing the snow looked like it required "dodge moves" to avoid the cups.   But it was definitely encouraging to see him link some nice turns, especially in July.  And it gave me thirty desperately needed minutes to sleep while he climbed back up to make the traverse to Jepson.

After another hour of hiking we reached a nice entrance to the north side of Jepson Peak.  There was concern about wet slides as the snow was heating up fast, but we found a nice line.  I dropped in first while cousin Kam fired away with his camera.  The upper section was relatively free of suncups and the 40-45 degree slope was perfect for getting some nice turns.  

I have to admit that the snow as wet and fast enough that a fall could have been ugly.  When Big Kam dropped in, he fired off a dozen nice turns, then suddenly washed his tails and went for a long and fast slide over some exposed rocks in the middle of the slope.  He managed to stop before the ugliness.   It was definitely scary watching him go down out of sight and hearing loud scraping of skis against rocks and some undecipherable yelling.   Luckily, he came out unscathed and all was fine except for a damaged ski -- the fall delaminated the ABS topsheet.  Too bad for the Ahma BC's. 

After calming our nerves, we ate a quick lunch at the snow's end, and then hauled ourselves down to the trailhead to finish off the trip.  Overall the trip was really fun.  It's the first backcountry tour I've taken and I'm glad to have been able to share it with my cousin.   However, there were times when I would've given an arm for a chairlift.  But the pain and suffering was worth it.  Even if hiking 20 miles or so with a 40+ lb. pack did give me permanent "gorilla steeze".  I'm sure Tanner would be proud.

About the skis.  The Taos really surprised me.  With their heaviness and stiffness I thought the skis would take a lot of muscling to move them around.  I was afraid that the skis would have a hinged feel to them, something I don't prefer.  However, my first turns on Jepson were much smoother than expected -- the skis required average effort to maneuver them.   I really don't know what to attribute this to but I'm guessing it's the new flex pattern of the wood core.  With the Tao's core I tried to shorten the center plateau section as much as possible.  This section was profiled only long enough to clear my Black Diamond O2 telemark toe risers.  I think this may have allowed for a "rounder" flex, thus a smoother feel in terms of turning.   This is all speculation, but I like it.  

Another thing I noticed right away was the amount of pop.   The skis seemed to jump from turn to turn making them really lively.   Could it be the Titanal?  With the pop, they will do well for in-bound riding, particularly in the park.   And with the lifts I won't have to worry too much about the extra weight but I still plan on building a lighter version (using carbon fiber) for backcountry excursions.  I can't wait to ride these skis next season.  Just a few more months to go...

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