How to Make Climbing Holds

How to Make Climbing Holds
The crags outside are wet or frozen, and you're stuck at the gym ... again. Gym climbing is fine a couple of times a week, but when it gets to be the only place to climb, you can feel like a hamster on a wheel. Routes get really old really fast; so can the holds. If you're looking to set up a few jugs to mimic your outdoor problems or you want to set up your own home rock gym, you may want to consider making your own climbing holds.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Floral foam
  • Serrated knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Cardboard box (roughly the size of the mold you want)
  • Duct tape
  • Liquid silicone rubber for mold making
  • 5-gallon pail filled with sand
  • Large coffee can or other disposable container
  • Epoxy (with a long curing time, ~2 hours)
  • 1-inch diameter dowel, about 1.5 feet long (a stout stirring stick)
  • Power sander (optional)
  • Drill with a 1/4-inch masonry bit
Step 1
Carve the general shape of the hold out of the floral foam block. Any shape except a sphere will work. With sandpaper, gently sand away the corners and edges that were left by the knife until you are satisfied with the size and shape of the foam climbing hold.
Step 2
Seal the inside seams of the cardboard box with duct tape. Place the shaped foam, "wall side" down, on the floor of the box. Make sure the foam hold is stable (use a dowel to hold down an edge if necessary). Pour the liquid silicone rubber over the foam shape until it is covered. Most silicone products require 24 hours to cure, some as long as 48, others as few as five.
Step 3
Allow the silicone to cure for its proper time. Wiggle it out of the box and retrieve your foam. You now have a mold for your climbing hold.
Step 4
Pour about an inch of sand in the bottom of the cardboard box, shaking the box until the sand is level. Place the mold in the box, with the hole facing up.
Step 5
Place the dowel in the coffee can. Pour about an inch of sand, followed by an inch of epoxy, until you have the approximate volume of sand/epoxy as the mold. Stir until fully mixed. Carefully pour this mixture into the mold, filling the mold as close to the rim as possible. Pour any additional molds and dispose of excess sand/epoxy mixture in a plastic bag in the garbage. Make sure to leave the molds in an area that will not dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as most epoxies will not cure below this mark.
Step 6
Wait approximately 24 hours for the mixture to set. Peel the climbing hold out of its silicone mold. Sand the "wall side" flat (a power sander is helpful here). Drill a hole from the wall side through the rough center of the hold. This hole is for bolting the hold to the climbing wall. If making permanent holds, omit this step and simply epoxy the hold to a wall.

Tips & Warnings

 
This method can be fairly expensive if you are making only one hold, but if you are making an entire wall or gym, it is very cost effective, though labor intensive.
 
Floral foam is inexpensive and easily shaped, but you can use other objects as well, such as another climbing hold or even a mug.
 
Nearly all epoxies are carcinogenic, so be careful not to ingest any. Cast the mold in a well-ventilated area.
 
Be careful with power tools. Always use protective wear.

Article Written By Alex Steiner

Alex Steiner graduated from Northland College with a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies, emphasis in human engagement. His educational training includes, sociology, psychology, interpersonal communication, adventure education, and environmental law. Steiner continues his work as an environmental education professional in Southern California.

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