Introduction: Curling Crutch (for the Sport of Curling)
A curling crutch is a device used by some curlers in the sport of curling. Although most curlers use their curling brush as a balance aid for their curling delivery, some curlers are switching to a balancing aid called a crutch. The crutch helps keeps your shoulders level and square. It increases balance and stability during delivery which may enhance consistency of your curling delivery.
Step 1: FIRST - What Is the Sport of Curling?
We live in Saskatchewan, Canada, where it’s winter 4 or 5 months of the year. Many of the sports we Canadians enjoy are therefore played on snow or on ice. Most people are probably quite familiar with the sport of hockey. It is a game played and enjoyed in many countries of the world. Another very popular sport here in Canada, United States, Europe and, increasingly, around the world, is the sport of curling.
For those of you unfamiliar with curling, Wikipedia explains that it is “a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to games called bowls, boules and shuffleboard.
Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game usually consists of eight or ten ends.”
The game originated in Scotland and dates back to the 1500’s. It was first played outdoors on frozen lakes and rivers. Today it is played indoors usually on artificially made sheets of ice.
The picture shows six curling sheets in a sports venue called a curling rink. In Saskatchewan, many towns will have two to six sheets of curling ice which are used all winter long.
Step 2: The Curling Delivery
Many curlers start curling as early as 10 years of age and often curl well into their senior years. I am sixty five years old and have been curling all my life. Curling is enjoyed by men and women alike, and, unlike many other sports, it is often played with men and women on the same team.
As mentioned earlier, there are 4 people on a team. Each person “throws” two rock or stones on each end. “Throwing” actually means pushing the rock from one end of the ice to the other end where the coloured rings are situated. The “curling delivery” is the act of sliding along the ice with the curling stone and releasing it. You can see many examples of a curling delivery on YouTube. I've included a short video of curlers delivering a stone.
As you can see in the video, the curler uses their curling brush as an aid to provide better balance when delivering the curling stone. The curling brush is also used to clean debris from in front of the sliding stone and, more importantly, to control the speed and distance that the curling stone travels.
Step 3: Commercial Curling Crutches Examples
I have used a curling broom or brush since I started curling to assist my curling delivery. But as I got older, I found the brush less effective in helping keep my balance during my delivery. Many curlers, including some profession curlers, have started using other balance supports for delivering curling stones. Here are some example pictures of commercially made crutches. The last picture is shows a commercially made curling crutch that appeared to be fairly easy to make.
Rather than purchasing one, I decided to try to make one.
Step 4: Material and Tools List
First, I determined the materials I’d need. Here is my material and tool list.
4 feet of 1” PVC pipe which will be cut to various lengths
2 - 1” 90° PVC elbows
3 - 1” PVC tees
3 - 1” PVC end caps
Any type of grip tape (Hockey tape or tennis handle tape)
1 small can of PVC glue
The only tool needed is some type of saw to cut the various lengths of pipe. I have a mitre saw, which is great to use, but any saw capable of cutting PVC pipe is all that’s required.
A rubber mallet and a carpenter square are also handy to have, but not essential.
Step 5: Cut the Pipe Lengths
Cut the 1” PVC pipe into the following lengths:
2 - 12” lengths
2 - 3.5” lengths
2 - 5” lengths
1 - 3” length
1 - 2.5" length
Step 6: Dry Fit the Pieces
I assembled the top section of the crutch with 1 - 90° elbow 1 - tee, a 12” pipe as shown. It's important to ensure that the elbow and the tee lie flat.
Next, I built the bottom section of the crutch with 1 - 90° elbow, 1 - tee, a 12” pipe and the 3” pipe as shown, again making sure that the elbow and the tee were lying flat.
Lastly, I assembled the front section using one tee, two 3.5” lengths and two end caps.
Step 7: Assemble the Three Sections to Form the Crutch.
I then joined the top section and bottom section together using the two 5” pieces as shown. Finally, I dry fitted the front section to this last section. It is important to ensure that these are joined at right angles. The carpenter square helped with this. (You could also use a large book to help form the right angle). After adjusting to a right angle, I marked a line on the two pieces with a black marker. This will make the re-assembling at right angles easier when it's time to glue.
The hole in the front of the of the top section tee could be used for adding a brush to this crutch as several commercial versions have. If I decide to add a brush, this hole will provide a spot at which to attach it. Meanwhile, I added a short 2.5" pipe and a PVC cap to close the hole.
The last picture shows what the crutch will look like.
Step 8: Glue the Pieces Together.
After ensuring that the pieces fit together properly, I disassembled the crutch in order to clean and apply glue.
The PVC joint pieces and pipe I purchased had very difficult to remove stickers. The pipe also had writing stamped in ink. I wanted to clean both the stickers and ink form the pieces to make it look more professional. I found that acetone and a rag work well to remove the ink and the glue from the stickers.
After cleaning, I was now ready to re-assemble and glue the pieces together.
I applied glue to the inside of each joint, and then re-assemble in the same order as when dry fitting, again, ensuring that the joints lie flat.
The glue dries quickly, so there wasn’t much time to do aligning. Tapping the pieces together with a rubber mallet may help with the assembly of the pieces if needed. I found that I didn't really need the hammer.
Remember, when attaching the front section, ensure that it forms a right angle with the handle section. The marks I made on the joint and pipe helped me square up the pieces quickly.
Step 9: (Optional) Apply Grip Tape to the Top Handle Section.
In order to finish the handle portion, I wrapped hockey tape around the handle section. This isn’t required, but it makes the crutch handle less slippery. It also makes the crutch appears somewhat more professional.
The curling crutch was complete.
Step 10: Try It Out!
I took the crutch to our local curling rink to try it out. The pictures shown here are of me with the crutch as I deliver stones. I found it worked very well for me. I felt much more balanced and stable as I slide out to delivery my stones.
If you are a curler and find your delivery is a little unbalanced at times, try using any type of curling crutch. I think it helps me curl better. It may help improve your game too.
Step 11: Adding a Cleaning Brush
After using the crutch several times, I decided to add a cleaning brush as found on some of the commercially made models.
I found a used curling brush head made from a synthetic material popular on most curling brooms today and decided to add this brush head to my crutch.
The brush is used to clean the bottom of the curling stone to remove any frost or debris before delivering the stone.
I first made a base in the same shape as the brush head. I used a scrap piece of 3/8” birch plywood and cut the shape on my scroll saw. Then I attached a 1” diameter wooden dowel piece about 4” long in the centre of this plywood base using glue and a screw. The 1” dowel just fits nicely into the 1” PVC pipe. I then attached the brush head to the plywood base using two 3/4” by 1/4” screws.
I attached a 2” pipe to the wooden dowel using two small screws as shown in the last picture.
This 2” PVC pipe was joined to 90° elbow as shown. I decided not to glue the PVC pieces at this time. They stay together quite well without gluing and I’m not sure if I want to attach it at the top, at the side or, maybe at a 45° angle to the handle. I also want to try it out before deciding if I want to see this addition.
I tried the crutch during my next curling game and decided that putting the brush at a 45° angle to the handle seems to work the best. I can now glue the new pieces in place.
This project was fun and fairly easy to do. If you're a curler, I encourage you to try making your own.