Introduction: Slat-style Hangboard

Hangboards are used by rock climbers to train finger strength. With our climbing gym closed, I spent an afternoon to make a hangboard for my son and myself. I largely copied the design of the lovely Lyons Edge Hideout (with some dimensional changes), which instead of having holes for fingers to go into is three feet long and has long strips of varying depth. This gives you the flexibility for whatever arm-spacing you like, and you can put as many fingers on the strip at a time as you want to exercise. Moreover, you can practice pinches on the slat, there is a jug on top for pull-ups, and there are slopers at the ends.

While the original Hideout is made of ash, which is supposed to be really nice, I just used a softwood 2x8. The original is thicker, which makes the jug on top better, and better rounded and hence more comfortable.

I have no connection with Lyons Edge, but they kindly gave me permission to post this Instructable. Thanks a lot!

How you make this depends on what tools you have. I used a fixed-based router with a 1/4" spiral bit, a miter saw and a cheap sander. (A roundover bit would have been nice for edges, but I didn't have one.) If I were doing it again, I would have used my circular saw for the jugs (I explain that later on). If you look on the Lyons Edge website, you can see how they make theirs much faster with much better tools.


  • 4 foot length of 2x8 (I bought 10-foot, which supplied me with good scrap)
  • scrap wood for jig (I used the rest of my 2x8, and two 2.5-foot 2x4s)
  • screws for jig

Step 1: Dimensions

I used 1" wide grooves and 0.875" slats (or spacing) between them. However, I can feel a slight amount of movement when pulling up on the deepest groove, and so I recommend instead using 0.875" wide grooves and 1" slats instead. The dimensions in the diagrams above use that. Otherwise, the diagrams show approximately the dimensions I used (I didn't always hit them right on).

Step 2: Grooves

I cut the workpiece board to about 4 feet. I was aiming at a 3 foot hangboard, but I wanted an extra foot for maneuvering the board past the router more safely. Since I started with a 10 foot length of 2x8, that left me with 6 feet of scrap, which I cut in half for the groove-routing jig.

I have a fixed-base router mounted to the bottom of my workbench, and I loaded it with a 0.25" spiral cut bit.

The jig consists of of two parallel pieces of wood spaced by the width of the 2x8 (which is 7.25") plus the height of a groove and minus the diameter of the router bit, i.e., 7.25" + 0.825" - 0.25" = 7.825" if you follow my recommended directions, joined together in such a way that the workpiece can slide between them. The idea is that the router will stick out of my workbench, and I will move the workpiece between the jig sides, thereby routing out a groove whose width will be the slack plus the diameter of the router bit.

You want to make the two jig side-pieces as parallel as you can. For the dimensions I actually used, which I don't recommend, the spacing between the jig sides was the size of the workpiece plus 0.75", so I was able to make the jig sides pretty parallel by using the workpiece and a piece of 0.75"-thick scrap (the rounded piece in the photo). I joined the two jig side-pieces on both ends with 2x4 scrap, with a bunch of screws for rigidity, in such a way that the workpiece could still slide between them.

For routing, unplug the router, then securely clamp the jig to your workbench in such a way that the groove will be cut in the right place. (One way to make sure the positioning of the grooves is to move the workpiece in the slack between the jig sides to see where the cut will start and end.) Mark on the jig where the router bit is, and keep your hands far away from there.

Make sure that you are so positioned that if the board gets moved significantly by the router, your hands won't get pulled to the router bit. Don't lean out over the bit. And be aware of the fact that as you cut successive grooves, the router position will change under the board, which makes.

Then cut the groove. I cut about 0.25" of depth at a time. To get nice parallel cuts--after all, with a 0.25" bit, I had to make a number of parallel cuts to get the full width--I ended up having to stick various pieces of scrap between the workpiece and the sides of the jig to guide the workpiece movement and keep the piece from jumping. Remember to cut against the rotation of the bit when possible.

Make the grooves a bit longer than 3 feet, but keep a bunch of uncut space on your 4 foot board for safe manipulation.

Repeat for all three grooves.

Then cut the board to 3 feet.

Step 3: Pull-up Jug

I cut a jug at the top for pull-ups. See the diagram for the profile. The 0.3" flat area is for comfort. There is a trade-off here: if you make that area wider, that area becomes more comfortable, but the grippy back-sloped area is reduced. The ideal would be to use a 2" thick board, which is what Lyons Edge does for their Hideout board.

If you have a table saw, the jug is really easy to cut: just do a 12 degree cut (angled so that the flat back of the board ends up shorter than the grooved top) against a fence. I don't have a table saw. I should have used my circular saw as shown in the photo. (I forgot I had a circular saw for stuff like this and I ended up setting up a weird and probably dangerous jig to do an angle cut with my router, which I then had to clean up a lot by sanding.)

Step 4: Slopers

This is the trickiest bit if you don't have the right tools, and you may wish to skip it. But I added two slopers on the top edges of the board. These were 6" long. The front profile is at about 10.5 degrees, and the side profile is at 13 degrees. See the diagrams.

A time-consuming method is to mark the three corners of the sloper on the board, and just sand a flat plane until you reach them.

I used a compound miter saw set to the correct angles for one of the slopers. This worked very nicely. Unfortunately, the other sloper would require the miter saw to tilt to the right, which it can't do. I ended up doing an upright cut (no front-back slope) and then sanding and filing to get the front-back slope.

A circular saw should be able to do one sloper well. (See my first mock-up picture.) Unfortunately, unless your circular saw tilts in both directions, the other sloper will present a problem. (You might be able to do it, but it requires approaching the board with the saw at a small angle--the second mock-up picture--which may not be sufficient to push open the saw's guard. If you know what you are doing, you might be able to keep the guard open for the cut, but that's a dangerous practice so I don't recommend it.)

Step 5: Sand and Use

Sand for comfort. Don't oversand, as then you lose grip. I went for 120 grit.

All the ridges you will hang-off will benefit from rounding. Lyons Edge on their website says they do a 1/4" roundover. I don't have a roundover bit for my router, so I rounded by sanding. Moreover, I think the softwood I used is less grippy than Lyons Edge use, and so I was afraid that with too much rounding it will be too hard to pull up on the slats. There is a tradeoff between comfort and pull-ability here.

Make sure that you attach to studs or other solid wood features, rather than to drywall!

The top groove is 1" deep, which leaves only 0.5" wood. So make sure you have some screws above the top groove, in the top area.

Then use! But be careful not to injure fingers, especially if you are several months out of practice as we are. Look up proper hangboard use instructions online. Be particularly careful with children who aren't already experienced climbers, and even with ones who are, as growing bones and cartilage can easily be damaged by overuse. Start easy. I am an out-of-practice 5.11- climber, but I can barely do anything with the 0.75" groove, and the 0.5" groove is far out of my range.

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