I’ve been a climber for a really long time. Well, to be honest, I started climbing a really long time ago but haven’t climbed regularly in several years. I always intend to do it more, but these days it’s mostly for the kids. Climbing is a fantastic sport for kids, by the way. It’s extremely athletic usually happens in quick bursts and offers a very different type of problem solving than a lot of activities.
Most of the holds on my wall were purchased from manufacturers, but a few years back some friends and I decided to try our hand at making our own. It turned out to be very simple to make a simple hold. There are, of course, much more complex holds that require different materials, special molds and mounting systems. For a recreational climber like myself, making my own holds gives me a way to customize my wall over and over again, which is something every climber wants to do on a regular basis. Climbing the same routes can get old very quickly once you accomplished them.
So, check out how I made some holds. They’re pretty simple and could definitely be done without the vacuum chamber. It just helps you get a better final product, but it’s not completely necessary. I just point that out, because it’s the only tool used in this project.
I got the cheapest air dry clay I could find, broke off a chunk and started sculpting.
I sculpted a general shape that could be held in different ways. You can get a lot of variation of hold type based on how your turn the hold.
I smoothed out the surface (kind of) then pressed the bottom edge down so it say flush with the table all of the way around the hold.
I used a large dowel to poke a hole through the center to the table surface.
I pressed in a large washer to give the opening for the hole a flat surface. Then I reinserted the dowel to reshape the shaft.
This isn’t entirely necessary, but helps the hold no spin as much, if the bolt has a flat surface to grab (depending on your bolt type).
I gently pressed in pieces of rock and broken cement all over the clay to add real rock texture. How much and where to add texture is entirely up to you.
I got a shallow but almost complete coverage of texture on the hold.
I used some hot glue and corrugated plastic to make a form around the hold.
I made sure to add a glue bead along the inside bottom edge to stop silicone from leaking out.
I mixed up some Moldstar 20T silicone. It’s a simple 1:1 mixture but it starts setting up in just a couple of minutes.
I recently got a vacuum chamber for degassing things like silicone and resin.
It pulls all (well, most) of the air out of the material pretty quickly.
I didn’t fully degas it because of the short pot life but got it pretty good before pouring it into the mold.
It cured very quickly. Then I removed the form and de-molded the clay hold.
The mold didn’t need much of anything, I just trimmed away a little overhang from the top.
I sprayed in some mold release to the mold before adding the resin. This helps it to de-mold MUCH easier.
I mixed up some epoxy resin, kind of guessing at the volume needed. I got pretty close but had a little left over. If you under estimated (the way to go), you could easily mix and add more without problems. This resin takes quite a while to cure.
I degassed it as well, to a point. It wasn’t fully devoid of gas but well enough.
I poured the resin not letting it overflow the mold.
I used a heat gun to raise and remove the remaining bubbles.
After the resin had cured, it popped right out of the mold.
I flattened the bottom on the belt sander, then used a dremel to knock off any sharp spots on the hold.
I bolted the hold to the wall and it was ready to use!
There are tons of different ways to texture and color your holds and you want as much variation as possible on a wall!