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For the last couple months I have been playing with a design for a continuous climbing wall. I thought it would be neat to start sharing the design process and then the challenges of building a prototype. If we can make something that works reasonably well and is affordable I might even sell a few (since some friends are already hassling me wanting their own).

What will it look like?

I have a design that I have been refining but I have been working in a vacuum on this. I want to hear any ideas or constructive criticism you might have. My initial idea looks like this:wall3

It consists of a lower frame:lower frame.JPG

This frame is pretty simple. The wall frame mounts to a hole at the top on each side and the curved plate provides a means of fixing the wall at your desired angle. Braces at the back provide lateral stiffness.

The wall frame:WALL FRAME

This is just a couple of formed channels braced with square tubing. The channels, along with an angle, provide a guide for the planks as they move down the wall. The drive shaft is at the top and has sprockets that the drive chains run on. The middle shaft attaches to the lower frame and the wall frame pivots around it. Idler sprockets at the bottom and the top-rear guide the chain.

And a series of wooden planks attached to a standard roller chain:preview

These are 2x8s. I considered using plywood with a steel stiffener in the back but those would be significantly more expensive. The whole system of planks on a roller chain could be replaced with a heavy rubber belt, which would eliminate finger pinching gaps, but this approach introduces its own challenges and costs. You could also skip the chain by putting hinges between the planks, like a garage door, but it comes out almost as expensive and won’t be as durable.


I considered another layout, shown roughly below, where the wall pivots from the bottom and is braced by two arms on rollers. I like the fact that this would take up a little less space when set vertically, but it means you can’t easily adjust the wall angle by hand. You would also need some support out the back or it would be tippy. Any other alternative ideas?

alt layout

Since almost everyone I know is either a climber or an engineer I am sure you all might have ideas you could share. Please do so!