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How to build a commercial grade climbing wall. Part Four

If you have ever wondered how commercial climbing gym facilities build and design Climbing and Bouldering walls, look no further! This is part two of our blog series about how we built the wall here at Skyhook, click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three if you missed it.

The next part of the build is the wood. Which means T-Nuts. Lots and Lots of T-Nuts. So we recruited some volunteers. To put the T-nuts in, you start by measuring out an alternating grid on the 3/4 in plywood. You want to use Baltic birch plywood, and it needs to be at least 3/4 in thick.

Once you have your grid, clamp a bunch of sheets together and use the drill bit attachment to drill through all of the sheets. This helps prevent the bit from blowing out the back of the boards, but whatever piece of plywood is on the bottom will still likely get blown out, so make sure the side that is down is the back of the board.

Then once you have done that, put in the T-Nuts. I used 3 screw T-Nuts from Escape climbing, Ryan, the owner is awesome. Just after I finished the project, they came out with an even more industrial version but oh well, next time. I also put a dab of wood glue on the screw in T-Nuts to help make sure it doesn't spin during use. For this project, I have to be honest, it was a little overkill. Its nice at times, but it also makes it harder to replace damaged t-nuts then it should be. Pros and cons to everything.

Wood getting attatched.

You can see in this picture we have added in the cross pieces to screw the plywood to. We should have gone with super wide angle iron, like 3in by 1in. You can see how much work this mistake adds in the later pictures.

Some of the how to build a climbing wall books I got detailed how to make the fine cuts for little angled pieces, if people are curious I can answer questions about how to do this.

We would put the wood up to check fitment and get the appropriate positions for the angle iron support, and then take it down. Then we would weld them in and put the wood back up. This took a lot of time.

Wood work is coming along! You can also see some of our other toys in the foreground. All work and no play makes us grumpy!

Here You can see from near the front of the gym where the climbing wall is. We also built a warped wall, I am happy to do a post on it if people want!

Checking fitment

You can see the little slivers of wood we used to line up the plywood from the lower board.

Lets pretend that they are tethered in.

SO here is the story on the Hilti. As I mentioned earlier, I started off with a drill and wingtip self tapping screws. Unfortunately I was moving at a rate of about 6 screws an hour, with a ton of cussing and sweating for each one. I tried getting a better drill that could spin at higher RPM, which helped some, but I was still only getting about 10 screws per hour. I then bought bigger and more aggressive self tapping screws and again, it helped a little, but not much.

I posted asking for help in a Facebook group called Routesetters anonymous, filled with people who work in the climbing industry, and the most doable suggestion was getting one of these tools. I did not have the 2k to buy one, so I rented one. Either because it was a rental, or because of how much I was using it, it struggled to keep up with the work I was doing. It broke and needed to be repaired three or four times. You can see one of the more dramatic breaks here, where it actually shot out its firing rod into the wall.

Look at that! It snapped the rod clean in half! I do have to say, Hilti and the rental company were both phenomenal to work with. Hilti repaired it every time for free. The rental company let me keep it for about two months and only charged me for a week or two since it kept breaking. I would use a Hilti tool again, absolutely.

Here is what one of the back sections of climbing wall looks like.

Here you can see some of the solution to the mistake we made of using to thin of angle iron. We got really wide angle Iron and welded it on and then attached the wood to it. It was annoying to fit it around the T-nuts but it worked.

You can see blown out parts of the wood where I missed the angle iron with the Hilti. The nail would actually shoot through the wood if there wasn't steel on the other side, and we found a couple of them embedded on the wall behind the climbing wall!

More welding.

You can see our sad little Christmas tree, Since we were working through Christmas.

The wall is fully Bondod and sanded, but it still needs some work. Here you can see our seamstress playing on the aerial silks we installed, over a crash pad she made! She ended up making all of the crash pads that we use in the gym.

And If you want to see how we painted the Bouldering wall, click here!


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