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.


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  2. the "split dowels" could be done by glueing two pieces with a piece of newspaper (or kraft paper) in between (to easily separate them) and turning on a lathe with different centers at head and tailstock.

    1. Yes, that would work too however most people don't have a lathe. It would also give a bit different effect in that it changes the diameter. The method above keeps the diameter constant and changes the amount of contact surface within a given diameter - thus changing from positive to slightly sloper. I'm not sure one way or the other is better - just different and I'm sure it could work too.