Expand Your Woody




About: Just another geeky hacker who loves beer and climbing and math and science and girls.
This is an extension of an earlier instructable where we built a 2 1/2 sheet dead-vertical indoor climbing wall (left in the picture). Six months later we set out to expand the woody with a roof section and an invert. wall. The technique, tools and materials are the same, but this expansion requires more complex framing (which some commenters claimed was a limitation of the last instructable).

As before, here's what you'll need:

  • Some 3/4" plywood (subflooring grade) - $20-ish a 4x8 sheet
  • Some 2x4s (or 2x6 or 2x8) for framing and such - $2-ish per 8'
  • 2" (or so) wood/drywall screws
  • 3/8" t-nuts (about 70 per sheet of plywood) - $0.15-ish a piece for galvinized
  • 3/8" hex cap bolts
  • Drill, hammer, saw
  • Something soft to work as a crash-pad
  • Beer...lots of beer

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Step 1: Framing

How you frame will depend on what types of features and wall-angles you want as well as the area in which you chose to build. We made use of the 16-on-center 2x12 rafters in the ceiling for the majority of support as well as a set of over-built shelves that were on the wall from a past life.

Some things you might want for the framing:

  • Nails and a hammer (we had a pneumatic nail gun - yay)
  • Nail-plates - good for joining 2x4s
  • Skillsaw or a handsaw and a lot of patience
  • Level
  • Tape measure, square

Because a climbing wall faces dynamic loads in strange directions, it's not bad to overbuild it. Since we used the rafters for the primary support, it was natural to frame out at 16-inch intervals, clearly overkill, but that's okay.

In the photos you can see how we framed out the invert. wall, extended the crack machine into the ceiling, and added an angled box to the roof. The angled box serves two purposes - it adds a great feature and it avoids the careful task of moving a gas line.

Step 2: Sheathing

In this step, you'll prepare the plywood with t-nuts and then install it on the frame. As before, we're using 70 t-nuts per sheet of plywood placed in a uniform but random pattern. We are careful not to put t-nuts where the studs are, and put fewer near the bottom where foot jibs are usually screw-on.

Attaching the plywood is where the 2" screws come in. One screw every foot-or-two is about right. For the horizontal portion of the ceiling we were able to screw directly to the rafters.

Lifting heavy sheets into position can be a bit tricky and you will be rewarded by your resourcefulness. We used a truck jack and a ladder to position one roof sheet, the rest got positioned with a little bit of elbow grease and sometimes a couple shims.

Step 3: Finishing Touches

Six months ago we were too poor to buy holds so we made them from just about anything we could find. This time, we broke down and purchased some commercial holds. Here are hold retailers and some comments:

  • Entreprise Holds - A nice small company in Bend, Oregon with cheap holds. The red holds you can see in the picture are theirs - the Chain Reaction set.
  • Metolius - Another company based in Bend Oregon, which is quite a bit bigger. They have a line of wood holds (made in Korea...) which are pretty cheap and are okay. The laquered finish is slippery but gets a little better with use (and chalk). They have some nice plastic holds too, but they are expensive. We have some of each.
  • You - Make your own damn holds! See here and here.

A pull-up bar is a nice addition too. We used a piece of fence-post and bolted two eye-bolts through it. Another two 3/8 eye bolts easily screw into two t-nut holes and you can use webbing or whatever else (a couple small 'biners were what we used) to get the right extension.

Used mattresses make pretty good crash-pads.

You might want to install some lighting. We had to remove one fixture and install another one.

A full bar and a stereo are also nice additions.

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    17 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    i am an advanced climber and i am making a 10 foot climbing tower in my back yard I want it to have slopers and lots of small med holds. I will need about 200 holds where do you think I should buy them?

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    i have a 30 ft wall in my barn and only used like 150 holds then removed some for more challenge. it has maybe 100 now and i made a grid so i can easily change out holds


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Dude, you're only going to need 200 holds if you have a small gym. The point is to mix up the routes. The best wall is the one with the most interesting problems, not the one with the most holds.

    I am an advanced climber also, and I have a wall 12 feet high and 8 feet wide and I only needed 50 for 2 1/2 routes( thats just my needs) and some left over. I got the holds at 3 ball climbing.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You might be able to get some sort of bulk discount on that many holds, I'm not sure. To start, I'd give these guys a call and see what a 200-hold set would cost: http://www.epusa.com/. You might also call metolius, etch, so-ill and other hold makers too. It's gonna be spendy. You might also consider just getting a 30 or 50 piece set from one of those guys and then buying more later, once you have a good idea of what you like and need to place. Good luck!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I may be undertaking a somewhat similar project some time soon. for the overhead panel I would have thought that it would be much easier to use acro bars. ( I can get my hands on them quickly). they are slightly over kill being that they are meant for use in demolition/construction, I:e smashing out a supporting wall whilst not allowing what's above you to cave in around your head, for replacing a Concrete lintel). They would work marvelously though. of corse the other option is rope and pulleys.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    For installing sheet goods high on walls, or overhead, I highly recommend renting a wallboard jack. Yes, you can do it with manpower, ladders, and T-braces... but being able to just crank the plywood or wallboard or foamboard into place and have it stay there while you drive the fasteners speeds the task tremendously. Rental cost is usually not bad, the jack folds to fit in a trunk, and using one of these it's actually possible to install a ceiling without assistants.


    11 years ago on Step 2

    A long flat tyre lever is great for position stuff like this, you can lean into it to do the fine stuff while stretching your other arm back to lift, it helps to have a friend for fixing them to the wal as you sometimes lose the balance when you pick up your tools