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Make a wooden climbing hold: expert level

Salvaged wood pocket hold, handmade for home climbing walls

Handmade pockets using salvaged log wood. A step by step guide.

So, the last hold was too easy, huh? James upped his game and chipped away to make a two finger pocket wooden hold.

1. Get wood, drill hole.

Salvaged wood climbing holds

It all started with a perilous journey to find the perfect tree, chop, and leave for a year to dry and season.

In our case, we saved our shed from destruction by a scary, heavy looking branch, and kept it as it ‘might come in handy’. It wasn’t seasoned, either.

Prepare your ‘might come in handy’ bits of wood, obviously it needs to be big enough to have a hole big enough for your pocket. This was about 4″. Saw off the end so you’ve got a nice flat end to work from.

I used a 3/4″ spade hole cutter bit; a Forstner bit would’ve been better- but I don’t have one. Alternatively, drill lots of small holes with a regular drill bit, the bigger the better. Make sure you do this carefully with the log in a stable position, ideally clamped in place.

2. Chisel.

Using a chisel and a heavy object, dig out the hole to make it larger. Enough to accommodate as many fingers as you want. Please be careful doing this, chisels are sharp. Unless it’s ours, which is not.

3. Countersink.

Countersink to a depth of 5mm at the positions of the mounting screws (we used three screws, one at the top and two at the bottom). The depth of the countersink is to accommodate the screw head but is not absolutely crucial if you don’t have a countersink bit.

Drilling out a pocket hold

4. Shape and saw.

Using a rasp, bevel all the square edges and give the face of the hold some shape. Measure where you want the base of the hold to be, and saw it off. Keep it nice and straight, as this will be the back screwed against the wall. Obviously, when you cut the hold off the log, consider how deep you want your pocket to be. The length you cut off will determine the pocket depth.

Rough shape of climbing hold

5. Drill mounting holes, sand.

Drill holes for mounting. In order to shape and finish the hold, mount it to something solid (waste bit of wood, for instance) so you can go at it with sandpaper (250/400 grit), without having to hold it in your hand, until it’s nice and smooth.

Home climbing training, wooden pocket hold

6. Screw to board.

Make sure you screw this to something relatively solid. We don’t want you to pull your shed down. Climb.

Salvaged wood pocket hold, handmade for home climbing walls

Expert level, completed.


Disclaimer: we take no responsibility in loss of limbs, grazed skin, or bruised egos whilst you make your own holds. Use your common sense.

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How to make your own climbing holds

Step by step guide to creating your own wooden, plastic free climbing holds for a home training board.

Home climbing walls are becoming a pretty big deal, what with ‘ahem’ not being able to roam free at the moment. Home training is a cost effective way to stay strong, and to maximise training time; being able to do it in bursts in between dinner, putting kids to bed, washing pots blah blah blah.

As per usual, we gathered together random bits of wood to make our holds out of. We already had everything in the house so didn’t need to buy in anything. Woohoo – free holds!

1. Get wood.

This is a branch kept from a condemned Hawthorn tree. It is a nice dense hardwood, good to work with. Nice and chunky. You can use any old branch/wood scrap provided it is dead and dry with some weight. Using a rasp, I shaved off the bark into a rough shape and size on one edge.

2. Saw bits off.

Carefully saw off end at desired length. Be careful to get a square cut as this side of the hold will be against the wall.

3. Drill and countersink.

Drill two holes 4/5mm approximately two inches apart (distance will depend on the size of wood you are using). Then counter sink both holes to accommodate the screw head. Counter sinking creates a tapered hole about 5mm in depth. This can be done either using a tapered counter sinking bit or with a 10mm drill bit, drilling 5mm into each hole.

4. Flip and mount.

Now, flip the hold over – flat side up. I temporarily screwed it to something solid (wood cutting horse, for example) to keep it secure for the next step.

5. Shave more.

I then shaved the opposite edge on the opposite side to create a tapered hold. We are going for a small jug, here. But you can do anything you want, be creative.

6. Rough sand and shape.

I have a fancy machine but this can be done with a coarse sand paper block and some elbow grease or an electric hand sander. The aim is to smooth out the surfaces from the coarse rasp shaping, and to fine tune the shaping. No nasty splinters.

7. Fine sand.

250 or 400 grit paper works well. Sand away until nice and smooth.

8. Screw to board.

Voila. Get training. You can get creative and make lots of different shapes and sizes. Be sure to send us pictures of your finished pieces – we want to show them off too!

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Hand crafted from salvaged wood: The Project boulder brush.

Making boulder brushes from salvaged hardwood

After finding a spokeshave, a hand tool used to plain and smooth wood, in a salvage yard – I brought it home to tackle some planks of hardwood we had stacked in the garden. The wood had been planking from a 1950’s flat bed truck, and had been saved from being sent to the scrap yard, and until now had been waiting for its moment to shine. As you can imagine this required some intensive wood preparation.

Instead of more cheap plastic boulder brushes I wanted to create something handmade, the old fashioned way.

Planks are sawn into strips followed by heavy sanding to remove years of weathering. The strips are then cut into lengths to form brush handle blanks, ready for shaping .

A simple homemade clamp (again from waste wood!) is used to hold all pieces in place while they are worked on.

Each handle blank is shaped using the aforementioned spokeshave, primarily a chair maker’s tool designed to shape intricate bits of wood.

Once shaped, the brushes are branded. To do so, a branding die was made from aluminium using a burr and Dremel. This die, I attached to the end of a soldering iron. At the correct temperature, this branded our logo onto each brush. On the other side, a pocket was cut using a combination of a drill and chisel for the bristles to be inserted.

Now for some personality. Spray can remnants from other projects were used to create lots of awesome colour fade effects. The colouring was sealed with a top coat of clear nitrocellulose lacquer.

I then painstakingly glued rows of boar bristle, keeping it dense because no one likes brushes that wear out too fast. It took me a bloody long time to make, so I want them to last a long time.

Once the glue had been left to dry for several days, the bristles were trimmed. Done.

I am pretty chuffed with our completely handcrafted Project brush, and we hope you are too. Each one is totally unique, just like you!