It has been awhile since we have had a chance to take some photos around our new factory, and now that we’re in full 12/13 ski production mode, we figured it would be a good time to whip out a camera. Join us for a few photos from the factory.
When ON3P was founded in August of 2009, our 2500 sq ft factory was supposed to be adequate for the first 3 years of production, but by the end of our second year, we realized we were already close to outgrowing our capacity as we struggled to fit all of our production equipment in the factory while maintaining the room to actually move without tripping over something or someone. For an upstart company like ours, the prospect of moving into a new space after we had already heavily invested in our current factory was worrisome, but it was a risk we felt we had to take to keep up with our production volumes. After months of searching, we finally found a factory that fit our needs; an 8400 sq ft shop just across town (and more importantly, 15 minutes closer to the mountain). We had moved out of our original factory by December, 2011, and it took much of the winter and spring to design and build the factory from the ground up. While it will take several production cycles to dial it in to perfection, it is a huge step up from where we have been the last couple of years.
Today, our fulltime crew consists of me (Rowen), Scott, Kip, Trevor and Ryan. We spent our winter and spring planning, designing, and then building our factory from nothing. Once we had finished designing and planning our production line, we worked 60+ hour weeks framing and sheet rocking 20 foot walls; tweaking and building new work stations; installing a shop wide compressed air system and two different dust collection systems; developing custom-built equipment to improve the speed and consistency of our annealing process and installing everything necessary to bring sandblasting completely in-house; adding a new belt sander and stone grinder to our Reichmann fleet along with the nicest custom-built wet deflash sander we’ve ever seen (thanks John!); and building a deck to ensure we can enjoy the occasionally BBQ and jealous stares of our neighbors.
These photos were taken during a few days here at the factory. We all spend 12 hour work days together at the shop because we love what we do. I’m the lucky guy who gets to peel the topsheet cover off the ski, unveiling a brand new ski for the first time. With the additional machines and stations we’ve added this year we have been able to bring more of our process in-house, a necessary step needed to ensure our skis maintain the highest standard of quality. Every step in the process must go perfectly to create a ski that goes out the door. Our recipe for a good ski is simple – design a ski we want for ourselves, build it with the best materials available, and never settle when it comes to quality.
Kip Kirol checking base alignment on one of the vacuum tables in the base room. Bases start out life as rectangles of Durasurf 4001 sintered base material, which get slapped onto a vac table with a flat template of a given ski shape we want to produce. We use a router to cut off the excess base material, creating an exact copy of the flat ski shape.
A correctly bent edge is an essential element of any well built pair of skis. Of course, the edges often have a different idea when it comes to fitting perfectly. Ensuring each edge is correctly bent before it is attached to the base is a time consuming and skillful process, but necessary to ensure the final product meets the required quality on every pair of ON3Ps.
Once bent, the edges will be trimmed and tightly fit to the base. As for the mask, sending super fine metal and abrasive dust into the air all day does amazing things for your nose and lungs.
Ryan removing the excess edge during our basing process. Basing is all about correctly bent edges, an exact fit between the edge and base, and strong thumbs. Basing is difficult to say in the least – training can take upwards of 25-30+ bases before the skill level needed to consistently produce production quality bases. Each base currently takes 15-20 minutes to assemble, though that cycle time will decrease as we alter and add different equipment to the process in the next few years.
Once correctly bent and trimmed, the edges are attached with hand clamps and a bit of adhesive to hold everything together until it can be pressed. You can get some burly forearm muscles from clamping and unclamping hundreds of clamps every day.
Profiled cores awaiting sidewalls and tipspacers. After cores are cut into blanks and planed down to their unique core profile, each core is weighed and paired up with its closest match by weight. Each pair of skis starts here. The cores are then pressed together, finished together, and shipped together to ensure consistency between the left and right skis.
Core layup consists of attaching two UHMW sidewalls and two UHMW tipspacers to each core, protecting the bamboo from water and providing the ski with complete coverage with an incredibly durable, highly abrasive-resistant material to make the most durable skis possible.
Every material that goes into a pair of ON3Ps is tracked throughout our production process. Here Ryan is recording the core’s serial number, weight, and where it is destined to be a left or right ski.
Topsheets, like everything else that goes into a ski, must be clean and correctly prepped to ensure proper bonding.
For those of you on Facebook, this is indeed the on/off switch for our drill press, used to mix cups of epoxy for layup. Everything around this machine gets covered with epoxy, so we must attend to it with a pneumatic air chisel from time to time.
Various fiberglass layers during layup. When you layup a ski, you have about 30 minutes working time before the epoxy starts to cure, so working slow is not an option.
With sandwich construction, the ski is built just like you would assemble a sandwich. Here we have our 100% bamboo core, UHMW sidewalls, VDS bonding layer, full length carbon fiber stringer, and our binding mat that ensured you bindings stay securely mounted to the skis. Trevor is applying the final layer of triaxial glass, which provides both torsion and longitudinal stiffness.
Trevor Leaf manning one of our two press bays. To ensure efficient production, we run multiple cassettes so there is always a ski in the press. The cure time of our epoxy is slightly quicker than the time it takes to layup a pair of skis, so as soon as layup is finished the pair in the press comes out and the newest pair goes in to begin the curing process. Our presses have been operating every waking hour these past few months.
Topsheets are the final material in layup. They have a protective plastic layer over the nylon graphic to protect the nice shiny artwork in the press and during finishing.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best…
Our badass new deflasher. Made from scavenged pieces of lesser machines, this was built by the awesome property manager of our new factory, who also happens to be a skier and a damn good fabricator (he’s also built us the most epic, industrial ski glove & boot dryer we’ve ever seen, too). This thing HAULS material off when we want it to, but here we are just prepping a freshly cut pair of Jeffreys before they receive their sidewall bevel.
Sharp blades and a steady set of hands of key to ensuring the sidewalls are beveled safely and correctly.
Once skis make it to finishing, the base flattening process starts out with an 80 grit belt and then progresses through a series of finer and finer belts to prep the bases and create as smooth a surface as possible before the skis go to the stone for our two-pattern structure. Skis spend a large amount of time in our finishing area, as the base flattening and ski finishing process involves a variety of different steps and takes skill and time to ensure every pair of ON3P skis leaves the factory completely flat, well structured and tuned, and with the highest quality finish you can get.
My life is spent around spinning wheels and sparks.
This is the long linear structure we apply to the base. We’ll go over this with a secondary structure to create a cross pattern, check this out the next time you see one of our skis. A good base structure helps reduce drag by decreasing suction caused by water created by the friction of the ski base as it moves along the snow, resulting in a faster and better performing ski. I spend countless hours every year stone grinding skis, but it is worth every second of work as a good factory tune ensures every pair of ON3Ps performs perfectly the first day it hits the snow.
Flattening in a bamboo cored forest. Our factory can just churn out skis. I’ve had a batch of skis in the finishing area every day since June.
Absolute perfection is an unachievable goal – there are always improvements that can be made – but it is what we strive for with every pair of ON3Ps. Each season we learn a bit more and refine our production process to bring better skis to you. Each task, each station where a ski is worked on, there is a skill involved, and when you flatten, structure, and finish as many skis as I have, the movements and motions start to feel a bit like an art. We don’t view our skis as something that just moves down the production line; instead, we see each pair as what it is – a crafted product that is entirely our own, built in our factory, with our production process, and available from no one else.
For those wondering, our 12/13 ski line will soon be updated on the website (and is already available through our store), and while you’re drooling over the dimensions (at least that’s what I do), take a second to appreciate some of the artwork that was developed for our 12/13 skis. We are lucky to have three artists with fantastic vision and creative drive who produce what we believe to be some of the best topsheets to ever grace a pair of skis.
More skis are being added to our 12/13 inventory every day, and this year we’ll be in more retail locations than ever before. I’m really looking forwards to this season, not only to see the growth of the company that we have poured our lives into, but also to get a chance to skin up some areas I’ve been eyeing for the last few seasons on my new Billy Goat Tours. We plan on posting more updates for everyone soon, but for now, I need to stop typing and start my work day here at the factory. Here’s to colder temperatures and cloudy skies,
P.S – Shout out to our intern task force this summer and fall, you know who you are and we appreciate all the hard work you do for us. Thank you.