Binding inserts allow you to swap bindings between skis, so that you don’t need to buy additional bindings. Anyone can install inserts at home, but it requires a few specialty tools. This is a good option for people that want to save money, enjoy home projects, and anticipate using multiple pairs of skis over the years.
When I first started skiing I wanted to save money by not paying for binding installation. My friend Todd Kelsey showed me his process, which I’ve slightly modified over the years. I did the math and decided that I could afford to mess up one pair out of five, and still save money compared to having them professionally installed. 25+ pairs later and I have yet to ruin a ski.
The system that works best for me is slightly different from the other tutorials online. The biggest difference is that I get better results without a template. I use an iterative process of installing and removing the toe/heel piece to get the best alignment possible. This takes time, but produces great results.
You can use this same installation technique without inserts, but I strongly prefer them. I did the math here too… with inserts you get three times the screw surface area, which, to me, implies a stronger bond. I’ve never torn a binding off a ski, and I think I’ve taken the appropriate wrecks to test binding strength.
I’m only familiar with inserts by Binding Freedom and Quiver Killer. Binding Freedom has a notch cut into the top of their inserts, allowing you to back it out with a screwdriver, which has come in handy for me. This feature puts me fully in the Binding Freedom camp.
You can expect to spend ~$100 on tools and ~$2 for each insert/machine screw combo. So, if you have new skis but want to keep the old skis as rock skis, this is much cheaper than buying a second set of bindings. Installing inserts in skis that have already been (traditionally) mounted is a breeze since the holes are already marked.
Measuring & Marking
Mark the center line and mid-boot line on the ski. Calipers, straight edge, and a pencil are the best tools for this.
Use a caliper to measure and mark several points along the center of the ski. Connect these points with a straight edge.
Center and mid-boot lines extend slightly beyond and behind where bindings will go.
Place boot in binding and match the mid-boot line on boot and ski. Center the toe piece using the center line. Mark one hole. (See photo above, northwest quadrant.)
Here is the single hole, with insert installed (see installation section below).
Screw the toe piece in place and align to the center line.
Mark any second hole and install an insert.
I find that there is still enough slop with two inserts to micro-adjust the remaining holes.
Attach the toe piece and boot. Place the heel piece on the boot/ski and center on center line. Mark one heel hole.
Attach toe and heel pieces, micro-adjust to center line, and mark any second heel hole.
Install bindings, boot, adjust alignment, then mark and tap the remaining holes.
After letting the glue cure for 24 hours, remove the bindings, erase the pencil markings, and re-install bindings with threadlock. Note that for any potential contact with plastic on the bindings, it is critical to use a non-corosive threadlock. Vibra-TITE VC3 is what the insert providers sell.
Mark the position of the hole through the binding. Use a nail punch, drill bit, or drill guide block as shown here.
Your objective is to create a divot that the drill bit will auto-guide into.
A drill press is really nice, but you can do this with a hand drill. Buy the specialty bit from your insert provider.
Hand tap the hole. This means… thread the hole. Practice on scrap wood until you get the hang of it.
Place a few drops of glue in the hole. Gorilla glue works well for me.
Use the insert installer to thread the insert flush to the ski surface.
~Required tools, from left to right
- Gorilla glue
- Tap installation tool/bit
- Insert installation tool/bit
- Drill bit
- Inserts/machine screws
- Binding spacer
- Hammer (for tap)
Note the black tape on the tap bit… that prevents me from tapping beyond the drill hole and starting to push the base out from the bottom of the ski. And you don’t need the hand drill, just buy a single tap and swap the bits on it.
Optional tools, left to right
- Drill guide block or nail punch
- Hole deburring tool
- Surface scraper
The scrapers are useful to remove top sheet material displaced while drilling and tapping.