Make your own plastic climbing holds

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I’m sure you’ve all read articles telling you how easy and cheap it is to make wooden climbing holds. You just take a piece of wood, carve or hack and sand it into a hold. If your carpentry skills are anything like mine, you’ll end up with an unsightly blob that either jabs you full of splinters, snaps as soon as you put any weight on it or both. So if you don’t know one end of a chisel from the other you’re probably better off trying your hand at making plastic holds.

Making your own plastic holds is easy, relatively cheap and a great way to customize your climbing wall. The first thing you need to do is make a model of the hold. You can sculpt this out of clay, plasticine, play dough or do as I did and make up some dough out of ordinary flour and water. This can then be pushed, prodded and carved into any shape you want. Remember to leave room for a bolt hole and a washer. The bolt hole can be punched into the model now or drilled into the hold after the plastic sets. If you’re not sure what shape you would like your holds to be check out the manufactures adds in your climbing mags to get some inspiration. Remember that the moulds will be reusable so larger moulds that contain multiple features are the best.

eg. I have one that is oval in shape, to one side of the bolt hole is a two finger pocket to the other a deep four finger pocket, one edge is a bit juggy, the other edge is a small edge, turn it again for a sloper. There’s also a little ridge running across the face that I can crimp.

Once you’ve got the shape you want you can make a couple more (when casting the holds it’s best to have 5 or 6 moulds ready to pour). Next you’ll need to make the moulds. This is done using Silastic (silicon gel) which you can get from hardware stores from as little as $5 a cartridge (I used 3 cartridges to make about 8 moulds, two of which were X Large, three Large and three Medium)
Sprinkle a bit of sand over the dough to add texture and then splash over some vegetable oil to stop the Silastic sticking. Squeeze the Silastic out over the dough model and using wet hands (you may want to wear gloves) gently pat and push it over the model until its completely covered, making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies. Leave this to dry over night (some silicones take up to 24hrs depending on how thick you put them on). For a more durable mould add a second and third coat. When it’s completely dry, scoop the dough out and you have yourself a mould.

There are various products out now that would be suitable for casting your climbing holds the one I used was Selleys high strength Plasti-Bond, the plastic for 1001 bonding, filling and joining jobs. It cost me approx $35AUD for a 1.5 litre can.

Have several moulds lined up ready to go. The Plasti-Bond can be used straight or bulked up with a bit of sand. You can use 1 part of sand to 2 parts of plastic. Mix up the amount of plastic you think you need with the hardener then scoop it into the moulds. 20 to 30 minutes later you’ll have you’re self some climbing holds.

Peel the mould off the hold taking care as the plastic can get quite hot whilst it is curing. Give the edges a bit of a sand or file to remove any sharp bits then sand the bottom flat. All you need to do now is drill yourself a bolt hole and whack the thing on your climbing wall.

Helpful Tips

  • Both the plastic and the Silastic can give off horrid fumes so use in a well-ventilated space and wear goggles, mask and gloves.
  • A little bit of thinning and smoothing compound mixed into the plastic before adding the hardener makes it easier to spread through the moulds.
  • While paint tint and cement oxide can be used to add colour a good dash of food colouring seems to work well.

This article originally appeared on by Craig Flynn.

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