Monday, March 1, 2010

PVC pinches FTW

I bought two 10ft sections of PVC (3.5 and 2.5 inches), each for about eight bucks at Lowes. I also bought a corner piece of 3.5 for five bucks. I cut them to various lengths with a circular saw, and pre-drilled holes for bolting them up. I used a combination of standard bolts into T-nuts, lag screws and drywall screws to attach them. The holds will flex a bit under load, but so far they seem plenty durable. Notice the extra large washers, and how we stacked the washers to get contact in a wide area. I can’t imagine tearing through the pvc on such large of an area. If someone can exert that much force on a 3.5 inch tube, pulling down on a ceiling they should try out for the role of Mr. Incredible.

Texture is provided by 6 inch, 180 grit, self adhesive sandpaper discs. So far, the discs have stuck admirably well, with the exception of on the curved piece, where the shape prevents us from having sufficiently wide sections. On that section the paper slowly slides down under full load. Another potential shortcoming is that it is likely that the adhesive is temperature sensitive, and might not work very well in the summer. For wintertime bouldering in our garage we seldom have the heat on high enough to worry about the adhesive softening up.
The pipes are a great asset in terms of hold type and in their “feature-ness”. It is great to have a 5ft pinch rail crossing a section of the roof. It allows a more Hueco-type feel for many of the problems, where beta depends on where you choose to use the hold, rather than which hold to use.
I am sure that heavy climbers or extreme dynos could lead to hold failure in gym conditions—but I doubt we will have problems in a home wall, especially because our low ceiling precludes dynos of any size. Obviously—we don’t grab the sharp ends of the pipes. Another reason these holds are good for home walls but not so much for gyms, where you can’t trust folks not to do foolish things.

How are they to use? Effort is very dependent on body position, the closer to the center of your body the harder it is to use the thumb effectively. In cramped quarters they can be a bit tweaky. Gripped wider than shoulder width they feel great—challenging and non injurious. Using the holds builds pinch capacity pretty quickly. During the first week the section on the 60 degree wall seemed desperate, and now it is pretty casual.


  1. Thanks for the idea. I was thinking on using wood on my new wall. Didn't think of using the pvc pipe i have plenty of smaller pieces. again thanks

  2. You are welcome! They work pretty well, but our sanding disks have come off under heavy load in higher temperatures. In general they still work well.