Introduction: Overhead Rock Wall

Over the years I've enjoyed rock climbing, indoor and outdoor, and even fantasized about having a bouldering wall in the backyard. A friend in college had even made one in his living room. With recent experience building a mini climbing wall for my 5 year old (to replace his bunk bed ladder) I already had some of the basic hardware necessary to mount climbing holds. (hope to make an intractable for that soon as well.)

Step 1: Pull Up Bar

My teenage son requested a pull up bar so I was all about helping him have a way to develop his upper body strength! (As well as my own!!) I had some 3” dia black pipe laying around that I got as scrap from a restaurant going out of business... this piece was just as you see here, 24” section, with 90° elbows, connected to floor flanges, was used at the bar as a foot rest. We cleaned it up and inserted 6” sections (bought at local plumbing supply) between the elbow and the floor flanges. This would give us some space between the bar and the ceiling of garage (don’t want to bang our heads as we ascend!!)
As the floor flanges have a diameter of almost 6”, I wouldn’t be able to directly mount/screw them directly into the ceiling studs. Also, the potential pendulum-type forces applied by someone hanging from the bar would not be adequately braced by sheetrock so we measured and cut a 2x12 pine board at 72” for something rigid to mount the pull-up bar to. This length would span a minimum of 4 studs (16” on center). We then used an assortment (scrap wood laying around) of 2x6's and 2x4's cut at 11" in length to act as spacers between the ceiling and the 2x12... for additional clearance to make sure you could actually get your chin over the bar without banging your head into the ceiling. These were screwed into the studs with 3.5" wood screws. After staining the wood, the pull up bar was mounted to the 2x12 using 1/2"x2" bolts, with washers and nuts on the back side. Next, the pull up bar assembly (bar + 2x12) was screwed into the spacers using 4" x 1/4 lag screws. Now we had a pull up bar!! the younger kids used it for other things as well... >)

Step 2: Inspiration

Spending a lot of time in the garage these days, I kept looking at our new pull-up bar and imagining how lonely it was up there, all by itself. I decided to add on to this, creating a sort of monkey bars/boulder wall combo using climbing jugs and large pinches!! I sketched out this design plan on some graph paper, and since I needed to tap into some creative tendencies, used the wall art inspiration seen here to add a climbers silhouette to the side of the creation.

Step 3: Adding Boards

In keeping with the board mounted theme, and, because pull-up bars and climbing holds do not mount well to sheetrock, we installed boards mounted to the ceiling in the same fashion, parallel to the first. We measured and accounted for a 2.5" gap between each board. To save a little bit of money, we used 2x10s for this part instead of 2x12s. Scrap 2x4s and 2x6s cut to 8" lengths were screwed into the ceiling studs to act as spacers and provide more robust/wide anchor points for our lag screws. The 2x10s were cut to 36" in length. Also, they were prepared for mounting climbing holds. To do this, each board was measured and marked to have two parallel rows of anchor holes. Each row was inset 3" from the outer edge of the board. The first hole was also begun 3" from the End of the board. This set up allowed for the creation of approximately 10 holes per board (two parallel rows of 5). Holes were not drilled in the portion of the board that would eventually be covered up by the silhouette. On the back side of each hole (side facing ceiling), a 3/8" t-nut was hammered in. The boards were stained to match.

Step 4: Climbing Silhouette

Using a 2'x2' squares of 1/4" plywood, I hand drew a rock silhouette with a climber at the top. I then used a 1/8" router bit to cut out the shape. There were 4 separate pieces, which you can see here mocked up on the table, and then on the boards. I added some 3D cuts to the climber to give him some depth, which will be more apparent in later photos.

Step 5: Mock Up

The stained boards were mocked up with various climbing holds. I purchased all of these online from ATOMIK. ( Pictured on the board are a couple of pinches (teal) and a large two hander (black).

I went with the Sandstone theme, a few sets in black and a few in teal.

Step 6: Attaching the Boards

We added the spacers to each stud. Then, using a laser level to line up the edges, mounted the boards to the spacers. We used the same lag screw technique as described previously. I couldn't help but continue to add holds "just to see how it was looking" Ha!

Holds are affixed using 3/8" - 16x3 socket screws. In most cases, the hold takes one socket screw. Simply insert it through the hold, and tighten into the t-nut behind each hole using a ratchet.

Step 7: Painting the Silhouette

I painted the 1/4" plywood pieces a teal blue color, being careful not to paint any of the edges. I wanted to have the natural wood color relief easily see. The climber was painted black, again leaving the edge and relief unpainted. Once this was dry, I coated the entire thing with a crackle glaze. This was my first time using a crackle technique, so I had to experiment. After several tries I was able to pinpoint the exact amount of drying time for the crackle before adding the top coat of black. The thicker you apply the crackle glaze, the wider the crack will be. I varied the thickness of the glaze to have different levels of cracking. The look I was going for was a craggy rock face. If you use a technique like this, look up proper instructions... I read somewhere that the top coat cracks best if it has a FLAT finish... so, no gloss paint.

Step 8: Adhering the Silhouette

We didn't want any exposed hardware in the rock face silhouette so we used ordinary wood glue. We used scrap plywood and a few small clamps to hold each piece in place for drying overnight.

Step 9: Completion!

We added a few stainless steel climbing hangers to a few of the holes, also attached using the socket screws. This allows us to also add the rings in every now and then. The multiple holes in each board allow for movement/reconfiguration of the climbing holds. I found the the medium and even large roof pinches were way too difficult me and the kids to hold on to, so I ended up buying some XL ring-type ceiling jugs for the time being. The color coordination gives a nice touch, and the holds are available in multiple colors.

Enjoy, and build up your grip!!

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