Saturday, February 4, 2017

6GRIPS: The Simplest, Most Versatile Training Grips You've Never Seen

When I started up SICgrips one of my main observations was that most hangboards and training grips devoted an inordinate amount of space for edges/pockets/crimps. Whether a pocket, a 1-2 joint edge, or crimp, they are all basically the same grip/hand position. This is fine if you mainly do face climbs with edges, but it leaves out many other grip positions that most climbers encounter.  If one were to just use one edge that could serve multiple uses, then the grips could include other hand positions and would provide a more balanced and functional training tool. In addition if you are able to adjust them around all three axis (vertical, horizontal and rotational), you would have a super versatile set of training grips that are easy on the joints. This is one of the main design principles behind our Gstring PROs and Pocket Rock training grips.

6GRIPS offer the following grip positions:

  1. half-hand sloper (4.5" diameter)
  2. wide pinch 
  3. medium pinch
  4. large rounded jug
  5. flat or sloping edge (half-hand, 2nd joint, or first joint)/variable depth crimp
  6. variable difficulty round/sloper crimp
Grips can also be lowered and used for suspended push-ups or dips/press-ups.

While they are not as sexy as our Gstring PROs or Pocket Rocks, these grips are simple, versatile, cheap to make, compact, and lightweight (18 oz.), If all the materials are gathered ahead of time, they could be made in an afternoon and, depending upon materials that you may already have, they can be made for as little as $10. However, if you have to go out and buy everything, they'll cost considerably more, though you'll end up with materials to make at least two  or more sets because of the minimum quantity most hardware stores sell.

We have strayed somewhat from one of our guiding principles in our last two DYI projects: Continuum Board and gBar. However this current project is a return to our roots and offers the DIYer a very simple and versatile set of grips with minimal cost, time and number of tools.


  • 1/2" x 6" x 4.5" piece of poplar plank for hardwood plywood
  • 6" piece of 4" dia. PVC (2' is usually the minimum quantity you can buy)
  • 3/4" half-round x 6" x 2 pieces hardwood (oak or poplar - hardware stores frequently sell this as trim and is sold in 8 foot lengths)
  • 5mm x 10' accessory cord
  • 2 sheets of 320 grit sheet sandpaper or a roll of 4.5" wide PDA (pressure sensitive adhesive) sandpaper
  • contact cement if not using PSA sandpaper
  • 24 - #4 1" wood screws
  • epoxy


  • drill
  • hand saw (I used a Japanese pull saw but a table saw is even better if you have access to one)
  • screw driver

Assembly Notes:

The grips shown are 6" wide - you can modify the width to suite the size of your hands.

4.5" wide PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive 320 sandpaper is what I used. You could also use sheet sandpaper and contact cement. With sheet sandpaper, it could go the whole width of the grip, however the cord will rub on it and wear faster. Update: I've actually ended up removing the sandpaper. I like it better without. I've roughed up the wood and PVC with 80 grit sandpaper, then used a rosin bag along with chalk to increase friction. Very easy on skin!

4 wood screws were used to hold the PVC to the 1/2" wood. I used epoxy with rubber bands to hold in place and once it was set a bit (5 minutes) I drilled the holes and put the screws in. Make sure to counter sink the hole so that the screw heads will fit flush.

If cutting the 1/2" wood on a table saw, use a 5 deg. blade tilt to help match it to the inside diameter of the PVC pipe. Otherwise if you use a hand saw, slightly sand the edges to match the curve on the inside diameter of the PVC.

Three wood screws were used to hold the 1/2 round to the grip and they were put in at an angle. This was done so they didn't come through the 1/2" wood and to make sure the screw head were away from the primary surface where the fingers would be contacting it.

Round, the edge of the PVC on the side away from the crimp to a radius that feels comfortable to your fingers. For me this was somewhere around a 1/4"r to 5/16"r.

If using standard 5mm accessory cord to string it, drill 3/16" holes on the side of the grip for the knots. On the other side of the grip where the cord will slide through for adjustment, drill 1/4" or 5/16" holds so that the cord will fit through easier and will make moving grip positions easier.


Additional Notes:

  • Precise control over the width of the flat edge crimp is obtained by cutting two extra pieces of the 3/4" half-round, each 1/2" wider than the width of your grip to create an adjustable finger stop.  They can be adjusted setting to pencil lines at 1/8"intervals. Use a rubber band around the ends to hold in place and slide to the desired crimp depth. When not in use they can either be removed or stored out of the way on the inside of the grip.
  • optional girth or prusik loop for doorway use while traveling. See our Pocket Rocks page for more info.
  • For a way to easily reset the grips back to a previous position/angle, use marks or dental floss as shown here.
  • If you desire to have a bar instead of individual grips, you can create one 18" long grip. This means you'd only have to adjust the cords once instead of for each individual grip and it's also a bit simpler to make. However the disadvantage is that it will weight about 40% more and you will not be able to rotate the grips around the vertical axis for comfort. If you have elbow issues using individual grips will allow you to find a more comfortable angle and put less stress on your elbows.
  • To train a specific grip type, drill a hole and mount a T-nut in the center of each grip. This gives the option of mounting a small-medium size wall hold. It's easiest to add the T-nut before the PVC and wood are screwed together, though it can still be added after they are finished.
  • It's possible to make Simple Grips with the RipCord easy adjustment system of the Gstring PROs. However this will increase their cost; they will hang 3 inches lower; weigh 8 oz. more; and it will increase the complexity of making them. If interested, see this blog post for the basics of how to do this. 


  • mount or hang the same has for our Pocket Rocks or Gstrings
  • Different sets of grip positions are accessed by either sliding cord to change the relative size of each loop, or by flipping cords to the other side of the grips (see the first photo at top of blog).
  • Reverse your hand hand positions (palms facing you) to train for underclings
These grips offer most everything a normal hangboard, hangbar, or commercial training grips offer.   About the only thing they don't cover are cracks which no commercial hangboard yet covers. We still hope to produce our prototype Crack Rack as a commercial product and our next two DYI projects (the SqueezeBox and GrooveTube) will offer crack training. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 30, 2017

gBar: A Do-It-Yourself Hang-Bar - Part 3

I'm finally getting around to finishing up the series on making the gBar. Hopefully if you've actually constructed one you've figured out a sling system to hang and be able to adjust it. However I'll finish out the series showing two methods for how I've done it. I'm sure there are other ways also. The sling loops needs to be adjustable and they need to be able to be flipped to the other side in order access all the grip positions that the bar is capable of. Note: both these methods are slightly different than the original photos posted.

The first slinging method is fairly simple but not quite as aesthetic and functionally not quite as good. In this method, you'll drill four holes through the bar as shown below. On one side the holes are 5/16" and on the other 3/16". The reason for this is to make the adjustment a bit easier on the side with the larger holes, while helping to secure the cord on the side with the knots so the cord doesn't slide around. The knots should be tied on the side with the smaller holes.

The second method, though a bit more complex, ends up being a bit nicer in appearance because there are no external knots and it's a bit easier to adjust because of the cord path. The 5/16" holes on one end are drilled as shown and consist of two holes drilled so that the cord path makes approximately a  45 deg. bend. The 3/16" holes are drilled on the other end. Then perpendicular to the cord path two countersunk 1/16" holes for 1" #6 wood screws. Instead of the knots securing the end, the ends are inserted into their respective holed and then secured with the wood screws giving a nice clean finish.

It's possible to use 6mm cord instead of 5mm but all holes will need to be increased slightly in size.

When using the gBar the different grip types are accessed by changing the relative size of the hang loops by sliding the cord though the bar on the side where it it free to slide. Also for some of the grip positions you'll need to flip the cords to the other side of the bar.

Here's a summary of the grips available on the gBar the position/angle the bar needs to be adjust to:

Any of the grip positions can be made harder or easier by adjusting the sling slightly to change the hang angle.


The gBar can also be made with the RipCord quick release adjustment system used by the Gstring PROs. This would allow you to quickly adjust the angle of the bar/type of grip without having to remove the bar from its mount.

You will need 2 x 3 feet pieces of 5mm accessory cord. More if you want it to hang lower. Use the screw method for securing the ends of the cord as described above. For the rest of the instructions, follow steps #8-19 from our previous post on the Quick Release system. Thread both rings onto both cords together instead of crossing them as described.

The result should end up looking like this:

To access all the grips positions, for some you will need to flips the bottom cords around the ends while it is hanging.

Update #2

I am now experimenting with making them as follows. It includes all the grip positions of the original but makes the three-finger pockets into two-finger pockets (duos) and adds monos. The monos are drilled 1.5" deep and since it's positioned to take advantage of the 5/8" rounded crimper, it gives it a "comfort" edge and increase the depth slightly. The bar is now a full 18" wide compared to the shorter 15" bar above. Notice the slight change in position of the top cord holes to make it slightly more functional.

This same layout could be further modified by adding a one-arm mono and one-arm duo in the center of the board if you're strong enough to train train them. That's above my "pay grade" so I'll leave it to you beasts out there to add those.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

The next do-it-yourself project will be a set of grips that are super simple and cheap to make out of plywood and PVC pipe.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

gBar: A Do-It-Yourself Hang-Bar - Part 2

Materials: I used poplar wood throughout obtained at a local hardware store. 3/4" birch plywood could be used instead of the solid 3/4" poplar plank.

Note: the width of the finger slots/holes/pockets are all 3/4". If you have large fingers, you may want to increase their size to 7/8" or 1" to fit your fingers. If you use a larger size , make sure you increase the overall width of the board accordingly.

Dowels were bought from local hardware store and cut in half. To do this you need a table or band saw. It's also possible cut the 2" dia. dowel in half with a hand saw but that would be tricky. Here is a link to a simple jig that can be used to safely cut the dowels in half length-wise on a table saw. A Google search will yield other jigs for use with a bandsaw.

If you don't have access to a table or band saw it's possible to buy half-rounds from various wood suppliers. The 3/4" half-rounds can often be obtain in the molding/trim section of a large hardware store.

All dimensions for constructing the gBar are listed (or can be inferred from) on the dimensioned drawing in the previous post.

Here is the step-by-step process:
  1. Cut the 3/4" x 3.5" x 18" base board of the bar
  2. Cut the three dowels to 18" in length then slice/cut in half
  3. Round one edge of the base board to 1/2" radius. I used a router for this but could be done easily by hand with a file/rasp/plane/ or sandpaper.

  4. Layout with pencil on the board where the finger slots and dowels will go making sure that the rounded edge (of step #3 above) is on the opposite side of where the 3/4" half-round dowel will go.
  5. Cut the finger slots: I used a drill press to cut these holes by using a fence and repeatedly drilling a series of holes until the desired length of each finger slot is obtained. This is slow and tedious but if done carefully can yield good finger slot. You could also use a plunge router which be easier and give a nicely finished slot. If you don't have a router or drill press, you could use a hand drill to drill a 3/4" hole at each end of each finger slot. Then use a reciprocating saw or hand coping saw to cut out the material between the holes.
  6. Radius the bottom edge of the finger slots that will be on the back side of the board. I used a 1/4" radius router bit but this can easily be done by hand. The goal is to get a radius that will be comfortable on your fingers when hanging. The top part of the finger pocket will be be radiused by the 5/8" dowel

  7. Attach the 2" half-round dowel to the base board. Use 3 #6 1-1/2" wood screws and wood glue. I used wood clamps to hold in position while I pre-drilled slightly smaller holes for the wood screws. If you measured and cut correctly, the edge of the 2" half-round should line up with the edge of the finger slot and the edge of the board.

  8. Do the same with the 3/4" half round dowel except use 3 - #6 x 1" wood screws. This should line up with the other edge of the finger slot and the other edge of the board.
  9. Attach the 5/8" half-round on the back side of the board. I did this with the 6 - 3d 1-1/4" finish nails and glue.
  10. This photo show optional holes drilled in the finger pockets to increase the depth for monos by 1/2"-3/4" more. It also shows optional 1/4" hole drilled in the middle of the finger pocket to help facilitate pushing the shims out from the other side if they are used.

  11. Shims can easily be made by trimming 3/4" craft sticks/tongue depressors with scissors and then smoothing with sandpaper. In use, this allows you to increase the difficultly by 1mm at a time. They can also be created with non-corrogated cardboard. Layers can be glued together to make the thickness desired or they can be used with double-sided cellophane tape to adjust on the fly...or if they are trimmed carefully they can have a press fit and then pushed from the other side via the optional access holes shown above.

    All packed and ready to go in my carry-on...

Next blog I'll cover two different ways to sling and adjust the bar.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

gBar: A Do-It-Yourself Hang-Bar - Part 1

This will be four-part series that gives an overview of how to make the gBar portable training bar. It is an incredibly versatile hang bar that utilizes both sides of the board, has adjustable 360 degree angle around the horizontal axis, and hangs from a single point. It can be made for as little as $15, depending upon materials you have on hand, tools available, and your skill level. It combines some of the features we've used on our Gstrings, Pocket Rocks and Contiuum Boards and offers the following grip positions: 
  • jug
  • half hand flat edge or flat sloper
  • 2" finger sloper
  • 3/4" edge (adjustable depth via shims)
  • 1/2" edge (adjustable depth via shims)
  • 1" - comfort edged 1/2/3 finger pocket
  • 1.7" - comfort edged 1/2/3 finger pocket 
  • 5/8" rounded crimp sloper
  • 3/4" rounded crimp sloper
  • 1/2" and 3/4" flat edges can be modified for depth using shims to make the edges as small as desired.
The rounded crimps & slopers can be made easier or harder by changing the angle of the bar. This changes the surface contact area of the fingers on the grip. In the same way, edges, pockets and the flat sloper can also be made easier or harder.

The bar is 3.5" x 18" and weighs ~1.5 lb. depending upon what type of wood you use and the density of it. The bar can easily be modified to suit your needs and desires. This is what works for me and a starting point for your creativity!

There are a number of portable training bars/boards on the market already. If you don't have the skills to make one, then check these out...or our Gstring or Pocket Rock climbing grips:

An important caveat: If you have shoulder or elbow problems or have had tendonitis, consider using individual grips that can rotate around the vertical axis. This allows more flexibility in elbow/shoulder position than a bar/board type of device where both hands are always in the same plane. If you are training with repeaters, use additional weight, or do long intensive training sessions, it can lead to repetitive stress type of injuries. If you think this is, or could be an issue for you, check out our grips at - they are infinitely adjustable in all planes and allow the most comfort in training.
This first blog post will give an overview; dimensions, and materials. The second blog post will give basic construction advice; the third post will describe different ways of slinging it; and the final post will give pointers on how to use it.

the basic ingredients ready to be assembled

  • 18" x 3.5" x 3/4" plank (poplar, birch plywood or other hardwood)
  • 2" half round dowel (2" x 1" x 18") - poplar, birch other other hardwood
  • 3/4" half round dowel (3/4" x 3/8" x 18") - poplar, birch other other hardwood
  • 5/8" half round dowel  (5/8" x 5/16") - poplar, birch other other hardwood
  • 3 - #6 - 1.5" wood screws
  • 3 - #6 - 1" wood screws
  • 6 - 3d 1.25" finish nails
  • 7'-8' - 5mm or 6mm accessory cord
  • wood glue


Minimally you will need a hand saw, drill and hammer. If you can not obtain or have someone halve the dowels for you lengthwise, you will need a table or band saw to slice the dowels in half length-wise.

PS - in case it was not obvious, the name for the bar came from the "g" cross section of the bar. Several people who've tried it did not immediately make the connection.

    Thursday, May 5, 2016

    Portable Training Tripod

    The Training Tripod is a portable stand for making a workout station for hangboards, hanging portable climbing holds, or other training devices. The idea was adapted from Tom Linder's original idea over on Training Beta's Blog. We have used it at climbing festivals to showcase our training products and allow people to try them, as well as running dead-hang comps as a fund raiser for the American Alpine Club.

    The main differences between mine and Tom's are that it collapses to 5' for travel and has the wooden triangle hanger which provides three sides from which to hang training devices. It also helps set the correct leg spacing each time the tripod is set up. I suggest that your read his description first on how to create the Training Tripod and then decide if you'd like to make the collapsible version with 3 training stations.

    The tripod is made out of 10' section of 1.5" diameter conduit pipe. Each leg is cut in half and a 3/16" wall 1.5" i.d. x 6" long aluminum pipes epoxied to one end of each of the legs. This provides a slip-fit joint which is held in place by gravity when assemble and makes setting up and taking down a snap. I tried originally using 1.5" conduit joints but they were too short and the fit too sloppy to provide a decent joint. I obtained the aluminum pipe from a friend's machine shop.

    The top joint is held together by 3/8" carriage bolt, several washers, a lock washer, and a wing nut. The holes drilled are 1/2" to allow a bit of play which makes it easier to set up and adjust. The measurements for drilling the holes are: Middle tube - both holes are 2/14" from the end.
    Side tubes - one hole is 2 1/4" from the end; the other is 2 3/4" from the end.

    The stops for the wooden tripod to rest on are 3/8" x 3 1/2" carriage bolts with washers and a lock nut. The holes for them are drilled 26" from the end of the top half of each tripod leg. However, this is totally dependent upon how high you want the wooden triangle to be mounted. I suggest making and setting up the basic tripod without the wooden triangle so you can determine how high up off the ground you want it, then drill the holes accordingly for each leg.

    The wooden tripod is made out of 2x4 lumber measured and cut to fit once the tripod is set up and the desired angle achieved. Make sure before making the measurement for the wooden triangle that each leg of the tripod are equal distance from each other. Each leg of the wooden triangle is approximately 23" except for one leg that was left longer so that a weight reduction pulley system could eventually be mounted which is 30" long. This was cut longer so the suspended weight would not interfere with the climber. Each angled end is cut at 60 degrees.

    This was the trickiest part to make because the length of each leg will determine what angle the assembled tripod sits at. Measure twice (or three times) and cut once! The desired angle between each of the wooden braces is 60 degrees to form an equilateral triangle.

    The wooden triangle mount is held together with 2 #10 3-1/2"wood screws in each end and then 3-1/8-in x 7-in nail plates and mending plates.

    The Training Tripod could easily be created without this part as Lindner did if you intend to only mount one item at a time such as a hangboard. This would make construction significantly easier. See his description for how they mounted a hangboard that was easy to swap out for other training boards. We decided to use the wooden triangle mount so that we could use the tripod for climbing festivals to display and use three products at once and have multiple people using them.

    We added J-bolts drilled through the width of each leg of the wooden triangle so that they were free to pivot into place and "hook" the bolts on the tripod leg that it rests on. This "locks" it into place so that when in use the triangle won't move or be flipped up by weighting the opposite side. Each side of the wooden mounting triangle had had one J-bolt corresponding to the tripod bolt that it was resting on.

    1/2" holes for ground stakes - optional if you're going to use the tripod on a lawn or in the dirt.  This will keep keep the tripod from shifting around. Use a solid spike or tent peg.

    Assembled tripod with weight reduction pulleys temporarily hung with accessory cord.  Eye bolts will be added later to make a permanent mount for the pulleys.

    The tripod with Crack Rack, Pocket Rocks, and Gstrings hung and ready to use. The Crack Rack is mounted to a 2x10 backing board that has two 3/8" open-eye lag screws so that it can be quickly hung or removed from 3/8" bolts in the wooden triangle. The bottom of the 2x10 was shaved off at an angle so the board would sit vertically when hung. The same mounting system could be used for a hang board or board with climbing holds mounted to it.

    Additional thoughts and ideas:

    If you are going to use the tripod on cement or asphalt, it might be worthwhile considering putting 1/4" bolts through the bottom of each leg and then connecting it with vinyl coated braided wire. This would also help in setting it up by setting the correct distance that the legs are able to spread and thus the correct angles for the tripod. I would also consider cutting the ends of the legs so that they would sit flush on the ground.

    I've toyed with the idea of eliminating one of the legs and substituting a pair of 2x10s spaced by 3/8' bolts to make an adjustable crack. I'd have to eliminate the wood triangle and figure out another way to mount the products. This would add versatility but would definitely increase the hassle in moving and transporting. For portable crack training it's much easier to use our prototype Crack Rack so we'll probably will not go this route.

    Stay tuned - we'll also be publishing some plans for how to make your own simplified version of the Crack Rack called the Squeeze Box. It is relatively simple to make based on using a pair of wood clamps, is easily adjustable and can be hung most anywhere.

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    Pocket Rocks Update

    We just finished a short video clip about the features and grip positions offered by Pocket Rocks. Have a look. We hope to have them available (finally) the end of February or beginning of March.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    How to Make the Continuum Hangboard

    1. coherent whole that is characterized by a sequence or progression of elements varying by minute degrees so that no part is perceptibly different from the adjacent parts, although the extremes are quite distinct.

    SICGRIPS' goal as a company is to produce innovative commercial rock climbing training products. However sometimes through our R & D process we come up with a product that may be helpful for training but not commercially viable for one reason or another. In this case it is because the board is too labor intensive to make. However, instead of throwing out the design, we offer the construction details here for the ambitious do-it-yourselfer.

    The Continuum Board is a simple and elegant do-it-yourself hangboard utilizing wooden dowels cut on a slight diagonal which offer a progression of difficulty along each rail and between rails. It is limited in what it can do and is notdo-it-all hangboard. It is not near as versatile as our Gstring Climbing Grips. But what it does, it does well. It was inspired by Sonnie Trotter's Vice Board and Eva Lopez's Progression and Transgression boards. It is a relatively cheap way to create a great looking and functional hangboard for those who have the time, tools, skills and like to be creative. If you're lacking these, please support your fellow climbers and buy a board from Sonnie, Eva, or these guys at Royal Edge (or better yet get a set of Gstrings or Pocket Rocks from us! :-)

    This board offers tendon and skin friendly training that ranges from jugs and finger slopers through to crimps.  It is very simple to increase the difficulty as you get stronger simply by moving the position of your hands. The board can be easily customized to fit your needs. It is a functional and great looking board that can fit into the decor of a living room, den or bedroom without the wild colors and weird patterns that resin boards often have.


    It will take between a few hours to a full day of work depending upon if you have all the material and tools assembled and and your skill level with the tools.

    Tools needed

    Table saw, clamps, hammer, screwdriver (or screw driver bits) and a drill/drill press. A highly skilled woodworker could probably also get by without the table saw but it would take a high level of precision working with a hand saw to slice the dowels diagonally. However from my perspective it would be tons of works and a PIA to do accurately. My suggestions is, if you don't have a table saw or access to a table saw, forgetaboutit!

    Material Needed

    • various sized dowels (see Design section below). Dowels smaller than 1" are oak, while the larger dowels are poplar. If you special order the dowels, you could have a set of matching hardwood dowels but it would significantly increase the price.
    • 3/4" hardwood plywood (oak or birch) - 27"-32" wide and 6"-12" tall depending upon how many dowels you use and the desired width or the width of the available space where it will be hung.
    • various sizes of nails 
    • wood glue
    • scraps of wood to create a cutting jig
    • various lengths of wood or drywall screws

    Design Strategies

    The key to the Continuum design is taper cut dowels so that they range from slightly positive on one end to sloper on the other. The boards I have made so far all use a diagonal slice through the dowel at the 75/25 position on one end to the 50/50 position at the other end. Other percentages could be used to yield rails with a different characteristics. However this combination seems to offer a good useable range.

    The board can be easily be customized by the size and number of dowels used. I would recommend a board width of approximately 27"-32" which will fit nicely above a doorway. Each rail will consist of two 13"-16" dowels cut on the diagonal. Here's a couple of suggestions for places to start. The first one below is a "wide ratio" board with a decreasing difference between rail diameters (4/8", 3/8",  2/8", 2/8"). The second example is a "close ratio" board with smaller and consistent size differences between the rails (1/8"). 
    A board could also be made with 2 or 3 rails with either a small (close ratio) or large differences  (wide ratio) between rail size. Suggestions for a close ratio 3-rail board are: 7/8", 3/4", 5/8" or 1", 3/4", 1/2". A wide ratio 3-rail board could also be made with dowels of 2", 1", 1/2". The design will depend upon how many rails you desire, how close a progression you desire, and how strong you are or hope to become. The dowel sizes will also be affected by whether you're going to leave it natural (more difficult) or put a high friction finish on it (see below). My suggestion is to make the board according to your best guess and use it without a finish. If it's significantly too difficult, then add a high friction finish to it.

    cut dowels laid out on board to show taper (configuration A below)

    Two dowels of each size are used to make up one rail. These can both be easily cut from the standard 3'-4' long dowels available at hardware stores and lumber yards. There are three strategies for how arrange the taper of the two rail halves.

    Arrangement A (board shown above) allows hands to always to be equidistant apart while hanging the same grip position for each hand. However, the difficulty for each hand will be slightly different. That is, the index finger of one hand will always be slightly move positive than the index finger on the other hand. Same for the pinkies. Some people contend that it is important for consistent training and avoiding injuries to always have the hands about shoulder width apart - which would favor this arrangementIn both B and C arrangements, hand difficulty will be exactly the same for both hands given any particular position, but the distance between hands will vary.  Arrangement B places the more difficult positions in the center with hands closer together and the easier positions at the ends. Arrangement C is the opposite of B and probably offers the most aesthetic looking board.

    Arrows show direction to move hands to increase difficulty

    The height of the backing board will depend upon how many dowels you use and their size. I would recommend 3/4"-1" spacing between each rail. If you plan on training a closed crimp position on any of the rails, you should allow at least a 1" clearance between those rails, depending upon your hand/finger size. Once you decide on a layout, simply add up the numbers to figure out how tall to cut the backing board.

    a smaller width board using configuration C above


    (Note: this is a safer way to make a simple jig to use with a table saw then the method outlined below.)

    The key to this design are dowels cut on a diagonal (see illustration above). This was done using a make-shift jig with a moveable "fence" nailed to a scrap of 3/4" plywood. Using a scrap at least 8-10" wide will keep your hands away form the saw blade. The fence is positioned so that the dowels are cut at 50% of the diameter on one end and 25% on the other. The percentage stays the same for each dowel size, however the actual amount cut off changes for each dowel size. Therefore the fence has to be moved after each size is cut. The jig allows you to set the fence on the table saw once with further adjustments only made to the fence on the jig to accommodate different sized dowels. The dowels were drilled for a nail at either end to hold in place on the jig while cutting. Make sure the nails will clear the saw blade. The smaller the dowel, the more of a challenge it will become and the measurement and tolerances become more critical. The smallest dowel I've cut using this method is 1/2" dia.


    Wood or sheet rock screws along with wood glue are used to assemble the board. The screws can be done either from the front or from the back. If they are screwed from the back it will give a cleaner looking board but it is a more difficult to assemble. If it is screwed from the front, it is easier but may not be as aesthetic depending upon your tastes. If done from the front, I would recommend using black drywall screws (see mock-up below) which give a nice contrast to the wood and can be used as position markers for placing your hands. I would recommend 3-4 screws evenly spaced per half-rail. A 3/4"-1" wide temporary wood spacer strip is used between the rails to keep rails straight and evenly positioned while screwing and gluing. I also used small finish nails to temporary hold rails in place while screwing and gluing. When gluing, make sure excessive glue is wiped immediately with a damp rag. It might be possible to get by without screws but it would be difficult to clamp the dowels to get a good glue joint. I've not tried this so do at your own risk!


    If a raw natural finish is desired, then just sand the board with 50-80 grit sandpaper and it's good to go (it's actually easier if you do the sanding on the rails before screwing and gluing). One of the nice things about training tools made out of wood is that they are very skin friendly. Intense training on textured urethane resin board can trash your hands fast. However, the down side of wood is that it can be difficult to train the size you desire because of lack of friction. If you desire to increase the friction on your board, a finish can be applied with a matt/satin clear acrylic or polyurethane varnish with Shark Grip (or some other commercial non-skid additive) added for friction. This is a clear slip-resistant additive that won't change the look. Aluminum oxide (220-400 grit used in sand blasting) can also be added but it will be visible in the finish. You could also use one of these additives in a house paint if you want a board so that it blends in more with the room!


    If mounting above a door, make sure the backing board is wide enough to screw into 2-3 studs. Make sure to use a stud finder before drilling. Use four to six #14 in. wood screws to mount to the wall. Make sure the screws go into the studs! If you are unable to screw into studs, make sure that you use strong expanding toggle bolts that can handle the weight.

    a smaller version mounted on the Crack Rack

    You could also integrate it with or mount it on a removable mount like this that is based on a doorway pull-up bar.


    The larger diameter rails are used as jugs and/or finger slopers. The smaller diameter rails can be used for open, half, or closed crimps. Because of their round nature, they will always be skin and tendon friendly. "Pockets" can be trained by just eliminating fingers. A pencil or chalk tick mark above each rail can serve as a reminder of what position/difficulty you last trained on. A couple of systematic approaches for training can be found on Eva Lopez's blog or the Anderson brothers' Rock Climber's Training Manual.

    I hope this post provides some ideas for the do-it-yourselfers out there who want to build a functional and aesthetic hangboard similar to this. If you have questions, suggestions, or modifications, let me know.

    Saturday, October 10, 2015

    Minimalist Running and Hiking Sandals

    Every once in a while I'll come across a product that I like so much (other than Gstrings and Pocket Rocks! :-) that I just have to plug. Earth Runner Sandals are one such item.

    Several years ago I got into minimalist running shoes. However, I wasn't sure what to do about sandals. Before I got into minimalist running shoes I had worn Tevas, and Chacos. Chacos are heavy duty and well suited for hiking but they're the polar opposite of the minimalist approach. They're heavy, sculpted, huge arch, thick, and a big heel-toe drop - in short clunky! And also for me, the straps just never worked well - they always tightened around my big toes and strangled them. I finally gave up on them. For hiking I wore my minimalist trail runners and for around town I went back to good 'ol flip flops, which (except for the arch) is about as minimal as you can get. However, they're called "flip flops" for a reason. The loose fit and the constant slapping against my foot is annoying. Quick on and off - but horrible for anything other than casual walking.

    After I had gotten into minimalist running shoes, I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and became intrigued by the Tarahumara who run ultra-marathons either barefoot or with minimalist Huarache type sandals made out of car tires and inner tubes. It's an incredible book and the feats (pun intended) accomplished by the Tarahumara and others who have learned from them, are mind-boggling. Interest in the Tarahumara and their sandals has gradually spawned a small cottage industry that's developed different versions of the Tarahumara sandal made from modern materials. As I started searching for the "perfect" minimalist sandal, I found a number of small companies making high quality versions of them.

    I studied the different nuances and implementations before making a choice. Good design is one of my most important values, whether designing rock climbing training products or desiring the most functional sandal. I chose what I thought was the best design. Oops! The real proof is in the actual use of the sandals. While they were good, the heel strap and helping sleeve just did not work well in keeping the strap on my heel. It was a bit clunky looking and performing. I readjusted them ad infinitum as per their instructions and videos, but the heel straps always felt as though they were about to slip off - and sometimes did.

    I went back to researching how other minimalist sandals implemented the heel/ankle strap. Somehow in my original search I either didn't see or glossed over Earth Runner sandals. They looked to have a subtle and unique implementation of the heel/ankle strap. I tried readjusting my current minimalist sandals to approximate, as closely as possible, the Earth Runners. However because of the short length of the straps and the Velcro (yuck!), it wasn't possible to exactly duplicate them. But it definitely helped with the heel problem. This showed me the superiority of the Earth Runner design and I decided to go ahead and get a second pair of sandals: The Alpha X model from Earth Runners. I wasn’t disappointed.

    Here's what I like about Earth Runners. The other top three brands have some of these characteristics, but not all of them which is what makes Earth Runners special:
    • Shaped-molded footbed/sole: Most minimalist sandals of the Tarahumara ilk, are thin enough they will gradually mold to your feet. Earth Runners come pre-molded with a slight curve up around the edge of your feet, which gives them a head start molding to your feet. This especially helps on the slightly thicker soled models and also helps from catching your toe, which is easy to do on a totally flat-soled sandal at the end of the day when you're tired.
    • Choice of soles: Two different Vibram soles offer a range of sole material, tread types, and thicknesses (see photos above). One a bit thinner (8mm) and more of a barefoot feel and one that is slightly thicker (11mm) with a bit more cushion but still minimalist.
    • Leather foot bed or bareback: Leather is comfy and stylish but bareback is much better for trails if it will be wet or muddy.
    • Leather or nylon webbing for straps: For running and hiking.nylon rules - little stretch and it wears like iron. For around town - leather is comfy and fashionable (if you're not vegan).
    • Custom foot outlines: Optional personal custom foot outlines. Good if you have unusually shaped feet (Mortenson toe, etc). I've also suggested to Michael that he offer an option to have different right and left foot tracings, which would be helpful to those with different sized feet. I know in climbing shoes, those with different sized feet often have to buy two pairs of shoes in order to get a good fit for both feet.
    • Light weight: You hardly know they're on you're feet.
    • Cam-buckle quick release for the ankle strap and ease of getting them on and off or adjusting. Others have Velcro, elastic, non-quick-release buckles, or are simply tied. It also allows you to easily tighten for a run/hike or loosen for casual walking.
    • Overall design and attention to detail: This is the big one and why I think they're the cream of the crop. Simple, aesthetic, high quality construction and materials. The cross-ankle strap secures your foot without extra straps, leather/elastic sleeves, or rubber liners that others use. The geometry is nuanced and unique to the Earth Runners and the adjustability, comfort and security of the ankle/heel straps is near perfect.
    • Comfort - I've already said it, but these are the most comfortable sandals I've ever worn.
    Finally, as climbers, we often carry a pair of shoes up the climb clipped to our harness or in a climbing pack for hiking back down. Shoes are bulky and add weight. Earth runners are a great solution to that. They are light, slim and clip easily to your harness or stow easily in your climbing pack. They're also great for hiking to the crag. Wouldn't it be great if they made them with an option of 5.10 Stealth dot rubber!

    Check them out - I think you'll find they're a great product:

    P.S. I haven't touched on the optional earthing aspect that is offered in Earth Runners. Earthing is a controversial topic but I personally think there is something to it. However, since I spend most of my time in the office, workshop or house compared to hiking/running/climbing, the earthing aspect wouldn't offer me much. An earthing foot mat, or earthing sheets for the bed would be more efficient than relying on the amount of time my sandals would be in contact with the earth. YMMV. For more info on earthing see: and

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    Good Design Principles

    One of the things that drives me as the owner of SICgrips is good design. I don’t want to create something just to be trendy and different or to follow past designs just because they have come to be accepted as the standard. It’s good to think outside the box and let the function of the product along with good design principles determine its form. Below are the ten principles of good design according to award-winning industrial designer Dieter Rams. These are principles that we've adhered to as best as possible when designing Gstring Climbing Grips. The many wonderful comments we've received over the last 3 years <> affirm that. In the near future you'll see these same design principles embodied into Pocket Rocks and all future SICgrip products.

    Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design


    Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development and of obsolescence being a crime in design in the 1970s. Accordingly he asked himself the question: is my design good design? The answer formed is now his celebrated ten principles.

    1. Is innovative - The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
    2. Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
    3. Is aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
    4. Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
    5. Is unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.
    6. Is honest - It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
    7. Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.
    8. Is thorough down to the last detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
    9. Is environmentally friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
    10. Is as little design as possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

    Saturday, March 7, 2015

    Why Not Polyurethane?

    The last few months we've been down a long wandering path in Pocket Rocks development. It's difficult keeping to a release schedule when the design-->prototype-->testing-->repeat cycle is dependent on one main person (me) who is a perfectionist. Since I'm also the main person who runs the company, this gets further complicated when partnering with other companies to implement the design. Development time and uncertainty increase by 10x.  :-(

    While I won't bore you with all the details, one of the major side-paths taken in the development of Pocket Rocks was trying to mold them in urethane. Since this is the industry standard for climbing holds in gyms, it makes sense to use urethane, right?! They look really slick, so what's not to like?! Well... what makes good climbing wall holds isn't necessarily the best material for training devices. Here's why I believe urethane is not the optimal material for Pocket Rocks:

    • Texture. While many urethane climbing holds offer wonderful texture for climbing walls, that same texture becomes a liability with intensively training on a small range of grip positions. Texture is nice for simulating different rock types in the climbing gym and for actually climbing a route. However for training devices, skin and joint-friendly surfaces are more important. They may not offer as much friction, but the purpose of training isn’t to make it easy, right?!
    • Weight: For portable training devices, wood can be significantly lighter depending upon what type of wood is used. A set of equivalent urethane grips can be almost twice as heavy. For portability wood makes more sense.
    • Efficiency: Urethane relies on silicone molds that have a very limited lifespan and degrade with use. New molds have to constantly be made from a physical master, which is both labor and material intensive. The design for wood grips is stored electronically as a CAD drawing file and each grip is precision machined with no degradation or deviation over time. Each one is always the same. It’s also much easier to make design modifications.
    • Longevity: The wonderful texture of urethane holds wears under intensive use, and once it's smooth and polished, there’s no easy way to restore it to its original condition.
    • Sustainability: Urethane training devices use non-renewable resources that aren't easily recyclable - at least that I'm aware of. Wood is a renewable resource and is also biodegradable. When used in small quantities and sourced from managed plantations or eco-woods, it doesn't contribute to deforestation. 
    • Air bubbles: In two-part molds we ran into issues with air bubbles in the prototypes. I'm not sure if that was due to the unique design of Pocket Rocks or the incompetence of the hold company. :-/
    • Labor: Pocket Rocks require a two-part mold for urethane because of their shape. This drives up the cost of labor compared to climbing wall holds, most of which are simple single-sided, easy-pour molds. While cost isn't the final determinant, in combination with the other reasons it is a significant factor. One of our design goals for Pocket Rocks is to offer a lower cost portable training device.
    In short, for training devices, look beyond urethane...

    CAD rendering of hardwood Pocket Rocks

    Stay tuned for news about the release of Pocket Rocks.