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Here is the step by step...

Building a Backyard Woody (the cheap way)




After driving 8 miles several times a week to climb in my friend Doug Englekirk’s gym (it’s 12 sheets, 3 roof sections, and in a 5 car garage) I decided enough was enough. I needed a place to get a fast workout, an escape, or just feel the pull of the tendons on something steep. So I checked out my friend Ken Klis’ backyard woody and modified his design.

First, let me preface this by saying there are more technical, expensive, lasting, ways to build this thing. For example you could level the site with a transit, use all treated lumber, rebar the hell out of the footings, know how to do trig… But this is MY way… I am no math wizard, but have 6 years construction experience and can usually figure stuff out. I’m 41, and if it will last 15 years I’ll be 56 and that’ll work. I don’t need it to last forever. So here we go –

The site - My backyard.

Step 1: Find a suitable place and orientation.

You’ll need an area about 20 x 20’ to work with. Any smaller and it’ll be hard to move stuff around. Think a lot about the orientation. I first had mine facing the west so I’d get the evening light on it (beautiful light on the cedar stained wood and nice for pictures). But then realized the predominate winds come from the west/northwest, and this thing was going to turn into a giant plywood kite if I wasn’t careful. So I worked with the natural aerodynamic shape of this design (an A-Frame) and had it face the southeast. The winds would flow right over it in most conditions. I also placed it BEHIND my kids’ play/climbing structure so I would be hidden from the view from the kitchen window, ha ha. “Honey, are you out there???” sssshhhhhhh

If you CAN find a spot, proceed to step 2. If not, join a gym.

Bags o cement and Syd just chillin'.

La Wood.

Step 2: Materials list

For this design you’ll need:

Materials: (approx. $160) 3 sheets of 3/4” x 4’ x 8’ plywood 1 - 12’ x 2” x 4” (middle stringer) 2 – 14’ x 4” x 6” post (legs/supports) 2 – 14’ x 2”x 6” (outside edges of wall) 6 – 2”x4” x 8’ (inside supports) 4 - 1’ pieces of rebar 2 - 6” x 1/2” bolts 4 - 7” x 1/2” bolts about 12 bags of cement wood stain (I used cedar – kinda gold-ish)

Tools: (either you own them or you are gonna have to borrow and owe someone some beer- some GOOD beer, tools aren’t cheap! Or give them a free 4 month membership to your backyard gym)

hammer, nails, 2” screws, drill, 1/2” paddle bit, 5/8” augor bit, saw, Phillips head drill bit, tape measure, framers square, stringline, chalk line, 2’ or 4’ level.

This is the rectangle frame.

Step 3: Layout and drill

Do your layout (your call… I used 18” stagger… but many use a 12” stagger – whatever you want. I am poor and knew I wasn’t going to fill this sucker with tons of holds – you can always add more later – remember this is the CHEAP woody). Use a chalk line and mark it off using your tape measure. (see photo) Then bang in your Tee Nuts. Use plated since it’s outside. They are around .25 cents a nut from Nicros (see website)

Step 4: Stain the wood

I used one gallon of Duckback cedar colored stain, and one roll and roller. I had about 4 ounces left for touch-ups. It helps to drill your wood first so that the stain can soak into the holes as well. You can also paint it, but it’s harder, messy, harder to maintain. Plus, I like the color of wood.

Step 5: Frame the rectangle

See photo. 2x6s go on the outside, 2x4 in the middle. I did a 4’ spread. Best is to do a 2’ spread for 2x4s. But I’m cheap. You DO get what you pay for, but sometimes it can be overkill. You can decide for yourself. 2x4s are cheap. (I can always add support later).

Step 6: Do the math

I basically figured out that a 13-15 degree overhanging wall that is 12‘ tall will overhang the base by apporx. 3’ or so (about 3” for every 1’ of rise). But making a triangle with this narrow of a base would not work. So I basically widened the base to about 8’.

Step 7: Dig your footings

You’ll need to dig four holes. Using your framers square and string line (or math) make an 8’ x 8’ square. Then mark those 4 corner points. I use marking paint. You’ll be sinking your wood (2x6s and 4x6s) about 18-22” into the ground. This will vary as you level up your structure later. I tend to start by digging the footing wide at the top and narrow it down at the base (steps). Allow room for the rebar that will pierce the wood – it has to be wide enough. I think I overdug mine, but I don’t want this sucker to have much sway, and I’m putting it in sandy soil. I put gravel/small rocks at the bottom for drainage to keep the wood off the soil so it doesn’t soak up water after rains.

Step 8: Build and lift your A-Frame

Drill a 5/8” hole 16” down from the top of your 2x6s and pop in your bolt and finger tighten the nut (see photo). This will act as a HINGE. The legs need to be able to move so that as you lift the wall, they move with it. Stand your wall. If you have lots of friends, you can put your plywood on first and then have them help lift it. If you’re short on friends, you can stand the wall sans plywood, brace it with 2x4s, then after you get it up (har har) then slide in the 7” bolt at the top and stick the 4x6s into the holes. You can add the plywood later. However you do it, your goal is to take the A-Frame, spread the legs and put it in the hole (another har har). Then level it up. Use gravel to add height to whatever post that needs a lift. When you’re done, all four legs will be in the footings and the A-Frame will be level.

Step 9: Cement

Mix it with water (read the bag if you’re clueless) and pour it in the hole. You don’t want soup. You want semi-dry oatmeal texture. Take a stick, rebar, or shovel and tamp it and get rid of dry pockets. Let it dry for at least 24 hours. (add initials and date?)

Step 10: Finishing touches

Add on the mid-supports (2x4s) about mid-way down the 2x6 edge of the wall (see drawing). Add more cement if needed to flush off the footings. Add holes. Put the plywood on with screws (maybe tack it on with a hammer and about 6 nails first, then screw on). Add your holds. I got all mine from ATOMIK CLIMBING HOLDS ( They have everything you need, great service, amazing texture, and enough holds to keep you stoked forever. You can also make cheap holds out of wood, rocks, etc. Be creative.

Anyway, there you go! Take it or leave it you bums. And let me be the first to say it… Slater has a woody!

The stepped down footing.

Eye candy for the ladies.

The BIG plan.

Footing with REBAR dowel. I got the rebar for free at the lumber yard!

The Hinge - the apex bolt at the top of the A Frame.

The TEE NUT layout.


Visit for a wonderful and wild selection of climbing holds. You can't beat the service and selection, and the price is right! My wall is 98% ATOMIK!!

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