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Climbing Holds

Rock climbing holds are made of epoxy and fiberglass with fine silica sand for texture and friction. Synthetic rock climbing holds are the most popular, but wood and real rock holds can also be found. It is relatively easy to pick out a set of holds to target a specific climbing training need. Every type of climbing hold is available--slopers, crimpers, mono, jugs, jibs, ect.

  • Crimper: Crimping is a way to grip a small hold with the thumb over the top of the fingertips which are pressing on the hold. A crimper is a hold just large enough for three or four fingers.
  • Edge: Usually has a defined "edge", large enough for four fingers and a little bigger than a crimper.
  • Handle (sometimes called ring): Shaped like a suitcase handle that can be gripped with the entire hand.
  • Jib: These are small holds. They usually screw directly to the climbing wall. They are great for foot placement but can also be good for small hand holds. They usually have a non slip texture to them.
  • Jug: This is a large hold easily gripped with the entire hand. It can also be a large hole that is easily and solidly gripped.
  • Knob: Protrudes like a "door knob"
  • Pincher: A thin hold designed to be "pinched". Usually two or three fingers on one side with the opposing thumb on the other.
  • Pocket: The climbing hold has a hole usually big enough for one or two fingers.
  • Roof Jug: Similar to a "jug" but designed for gripping upside down.
  • Sidepull: This is similar to an under cling except turned on its side. The force is to the side with opposing pressure from the leg or other arm.
  • Sloper: Size ranges from a few inches to a foot in length. Slopers are generally rounded and smooth in shape. The texture for slopers is usually mid-range in courseness. A hold is considered a sloper if the climber cannot wrap his/her fingers around the hold.
  • Undercling: This type of hold is held from the bottom with upward pull. This technique is achieved by opposing pressure from legs or the other arm.

Most climbers purchase climbing holds to use with their own home wall. However they can be made with a little time and effort. Climbing holds can be attached directly to the studs in a basement or garage wall for a quick fix route. Climbing holds are probably the most expensive part of an indoor rock climbing wall construction project. Many home climbing wall builders make their own holds. The book Building Your Own Climbing Wall not only gives you climbing wall examples, construction techniques and design ideas, you will also see an example of making your own holds.

It is not difficult to make climbing holds. Holds can be easily made out of rock or wood. The best quality climbing holds are made from epoxy, fiberglass and sand. Here are some general steps to make your own holds.

To make a climbing hold using a form:

1. Make a prototype shape: Use foam, clay, wood or any material that can be easily shaped. Create the shape of the hold but cutting the foam, clay or wood. Put the shape into a small cardboard box. The box should be nearly the same size as the mold. Seal any cracks in the box with glue.

2. Make a mold of the prototype. Prepare a silicone rubber mixture and pour it into the box. The rubber encapsulates the prototype. There are many silicone rubber products available for purchase. Purchase a liquid rubber such as Silicone, Polysulfide, and Polyurethane. These products are mixed as a liquid. The product hardens after time to form a rubber mold. Mix and pour the liquid rubber in the mold box. Completely cover the prototype with the liquid rubber. The liquid rubber will harden in approximately one day. Remove the rubber from the box. Remove the prototype from within the rubber. The rubber is left with a cavity. The cavity is the shape of the prototype climbing hold.

3. Make a climbing hold from the mold. Mix the epoxy/fiberglass/sand. Follow manufacturer's directions for mixing. Pour the epoxy resin into the cavity of the mold. Experiment with this process. You will be able to make very interesting climbing hold shapes for your climbing wall.

To make a climbing hold using wood:

When you make your own climbing wall you will have lots of scrap wood left over. Gather the pieces and scraps together and sort them by size. Eliminage the scraps that have the grain running the wrong direction, towards the wall. In other words, you want the grain of the hold running with the direction of the wall, parallel to it. This is because the hold will be held in using screws. Screws will not hold well if they run with the grain.

Carefully using a jig saw or circular saw cut out angled shapes a little larger than the size you need. Sand the hold to remove rough edges and create interesting shapes.

Pre-drill holes and countersink the opening for the screw. This is really an important step. If you try to screw the hold to the wall without pre-drilled hole or countersinking you will split the wood. If you don't countersink the hold the screw head will stick up and could cut your hand. The purpose of the pre-drilling and counter sinking is to reduce stress on the inner grains of the wood.

Making your own wood holds if by far less expensive than commercial holds. They are almost no cost to you, except for the sandpaper, or purchase price of a rotating attachment for your drill.

Cons. There's a downside to making wood holds. Over time they will weaken and need to be replaced. Be sensitive as you grip them, feel for movement of the hold within the screw setting. You can't over tighten them or they will break. They are not well suited for foot holds or dynos. They can be used effectively for balance work but not huge movements.


Using a rotating sander attachment on your drill, shape the climbing hold. With a sandpaper grit of about 80 you can shape it quickly.

The finished shape can really be anything you want. Just be sure the grain of the wood is running parallel to the wall, and at a right angle to the direction of the two screws holding it on.

These were completed in about three hours. You can suppliment your holds collection and use up some of your scrap wood by making your own holds.

Two screws should be used to fix the hold to the wall. The screw hols must be pre-drilled and the opening countersunk.
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