behind the wrenches: tools of the trade

Most jobs require some sort of specialized equipment to complete; be it heavy machinery or a pen and notepad. Just as Jedi’s have their lightsabers and Indiana Jones has his bullwhip, so do the course setters of ROCK’n & JAM’n have their own specialized (or jerry-rigged, in most cases) equipment. Here are a few of the tools that see everyday use on the walls:

The Impact Driver
This is our weapon of choice, the one tool above all others that makes our job tolerable. Between twelve and eighteen volts, the standard issue impact driver, when paired with 5/16 and 7/32 hex-head bits, places and removes holds from the wall with tremendous speed and noise. Additionally, a screwdriver bit can be fitted to aide in placing set screws and foot jibs.

The Hand Wrench
Not as clumsy or random as an impact driver; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. The trusted backup, and sometimes necessary for holds with deeply recessed bolt holes. On occasion, a setter will set analog or ‘go hardman’ (see upcoming lexicon appendix for definition) and eschew an impact for the quiet professionalism of the hand wrench.

The Breaker Bar
For those holds that don’t want to come off the wall, be they spinners or just plain stubborn. The breaker bar adds a good deal of torque to the standard hand wrench.

The Pry Bar
Used in conjunction with the breaker bar to remove spinners. As the name implies, one simply places the end of the pry bar behind the hold and pries on the other end while turning the breaker bar. This procedure helps keep the cross-threaded t-nut from spinning while being worked on.

The Vice Grips
When fixing spinners, one setter is on the front side of the wall with the breaker bar, another setter is behind the wall with the vice grips firmly locked on the flange of the offending t-nut. We employ several different styles and sizes of vice grips for different spinner scenarios.

The Thread Tap

A bit of preventative maintenance, the thread tap is used to clean out t-nuts, thus reducing the risk of cross-threading.

The Angle Grinder

Occasionally, a bolt will be so cross threaded in a t-nut that attempts to remove it with the breaker bar do nothing but fuse the bolt’s threads to the barrel of the t-nut. Enter the angle grinder. Bathed in the shower of sparks and debris kicked up by the grinder’s rotating, circular blade, a setter cuts through the barrel of the t-nut from behind the wall and removes the spinner from the wall. Eye protection is a must!

The Sawzall

Used for the same purpose as the angle grinder, the sawzall is employed when the fused t-nut can only be accessed from the front side of the wall.

The Hold Washer

To the uneducated eye, this may look like a standard industrial dishwasher. To the educated eye, it may look like a CMA L1-X standard industrial dishwasher. But to the course setter’s eye, it is the hold washer, that great metal box that transformers ugly, dirty holds into beautiful, clean holds in a matter of minutes. Just add vinegar.


Five Questions: Amanda H.

1) Are you a Tulo person or a CarGo person?

Don’t make me choose! Little Pony (CarGo) can play left field like nobody’s business, has power and speed, and is a great leader. Troy plays shortstop better than anyone currently in the MLB (yes, Jeter included), and he has grown so much since he grabbed his first cup of coffee in 2006. If I really had to choose, I suppose I’d go with Helton.

2) If you could design your own zoo, what animal habitat would visitors first see when they enter?

The Monkey House, for two reasons: A) who doesn’t love those playful primates? B) I’m a bit of a Kurt Vonnegut fan. Also, I’d have my zoo be a wildlife preserve, because it always made me sad as a kid to see all these majestic and wonderful creatures all cooped up.

3) Why did you seek out employment at a climbing gym?

I am all about doing something meaningful with my time, and I am hard pressed to think of a job that affords so many different ways to touch people’s lives. Including (but not limited to) making a child’s birthday party memorable and fun, helping new climbers discover the confidence and innate joy derived from climbing, and breaking through the mental barriers we have of our own abilities via climbing, the rewards of this position are extremely poignant.

4) What’s worse, vacuuming gratuitous chalk spills or re-coiling abandoned lead ropes?

Chalk spills. No question. Chasing those little white pebbles around with the shop vac is like an inexperienced sheep dog trying to herd sheep – try as you might, some always get away!

5) Is it just me or baked treats seem to appear whenever you are working?

Nope, it’s not just you! I L.O.V.E. to bake and have for a long time, thanks in large part to my Mom. For about 6 months now, I’ve been baking and experimenting with recipes almost every day. It allows me to simultaneously be creative and share something with people that makes them smile.