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.

Go climb!

Tools List:

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I got the cheapest air dry clay I could find, broke off a chunk and started sculpting.

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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.

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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.

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I used a large dowel to poke a hole through the center to the table surface.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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I got a shallow but almost complete coverage of texture on the hold.

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I used some hot glue and corrugated plastic to make a form around the hold.

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I made sure to add a glue bead along the inside bottom edge to stop silicone from leaking out.

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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.

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I recently got a vacuum chamber for degassing things like silicone and resin.

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It pulls all (well, most) of the air out of the material pretty quickly.

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I didn’t fully degas it because of the short pot life but got it pretty good before pouring it into the mold.

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It cured very quickly. Then I removed the form and de-molded the clay hold.

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The mold didn’t need much of anything, I just trimmed away a little overhang from the top.

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I sprayed in some mold release to the mold before adding the resin. This helps it to de-mold MUCH easier.

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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.

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I degassed it as well, to a point. It wasn’t fully devoid of gas but well enough.

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I poured the resin not letting it overflow the mold.

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I used a heat gun to raise and remove the remaining bubbles.

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After the resin had cured, it popped right out of the mold.

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I flattened the bottom on the belt sander, then used a dremel to knock off any sharp spots on the hold.

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I bolted the hold to the wall and it was ready to use!

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There are tons of different ways to texture and color your holds and you want as much variation as possible on a wall!

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