In 2020, I was most proud of... building a climbing wall

June 25, 2021

2020 sucked but at least one cool thing that came out of it was seeing people pick up new hobbies and quarantine projects. One of mine (and my favorite, hence the title) is my home climbing wall!


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I had entertained the idea of building one before but never seriously since I didn't want my first hardware project to be one that would flatten me if I failed. Adding to my hesitation was being unable to find an idiot-proof IKEA-like set of instructions to follow. In the end, I did most of my research through youtube and hobbled together a design based mostly off of the following videos.


I'm pretty happy with the result but I definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way. Here's some stuff I wish I knew or did differently.

  • Apply SEVERAL layers of sealant to the edges of your plywood so it doesn't split and look like this.
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  • Sealant takes a few days to dry even though the jar says 8? hours. Try to start building on a week with no rain. Even better if it's also dry.
  • I wish I set my wall less steep. I can increase difficulty by climbing for longer or using harder holds but a steep wall can only be as easy as your biggest jugs.
  • Skip the 4-prong T-nuts. The screw in ones spin less and won't lodge in at an awkward angle like the 4-prong ones might they're hammered incorrectly. I bought my T-nuts from https://escapeclimbing.com/products/hditnut.
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  • If you do use pronged T-nuts…
    • Be careful about hammering them straight in and not at an angle. If they're hammered in at an angle, the barrel may not be aligned with the drill hole and you'll have a hard time screwing in bolts.
    • If it's getting hard to screw in a bolt, it might not be aligned straight on with the T-nut barrel. Applying more force to the hex key will just dislodge the T-nut which will be a pain to remove since your hold will stuck on the other end. Instead, remove the bolt and try to enter at different angles until you find one that doesn't offer much resistance. Sometimes it helps to widen the entry hole by scraping the sides.
    • I used a drop of gorilla glue with the 4 prong T-nuts but it must have taken a few days to set because I had a ton of T-nuts spin or dislodge during that time.
  • A bouldering crash pad is good enough for padding. I went through the hassle of wrapping an old mattress to use as a second crash pad but I didn't end up using it because it's hard to move , too springy for a good landing, and kinda gross.
  • If I make another home climbing wall, I'd probably make it indoors to avoid reduce wear and tear from the elements. Also, I'd be able to use it at any time (hard to climb in the rain or freezing cold).

I didn't actually end up using the wall that often because my motivation to get stronger wasn't quite there without people to climb with or "real" problems to work on. That said, I had a lot of fun making it and I'm looking forward to trying my hand at other construction projects in the future.