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Homemade Ice Tool.... oh boy...

Original Post
Porter M · · Bellingham, Wa · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 15

I know I'm opening myself up for a little criticism but here goes... So I made my own ice tool, curious to hear some thoughts (and no, I won't lead on it right away). I'll be in hyalite in a few days and will give it a real test finally. The handle is 5 layers. The outer is maple, followed by a layer (well three layers) of 3 direction birch ply, with a core of walnut. The hope is lots of layers means anywhere that the grain is wrong in 1 or two pieces, the others are strong. I roughly followed the shape of an X-All Mountain, wanted to avoid a sharp curve like a nomic which would be weaker in wood. The weight is on par with other tools, 545g. (60g less than nomic, 40 more than the older sum tec). The head it made from 4 pieces of steel with 4 bolts. All the bolt holes are continuously tapped through all three pieces for maximum surface area contact. The blade/pick is 1/8th inch D2 tool steel heat treated to 45hrc (spring temper, same as other picks from what I've found). I've made lots of knives in the past and drew on experiance from this. I layed it all up with some very nice marine epoxy known for waterproofness and flexible strength. The handle is finished with polyurethane to be as waterproof as possible. A few issues I have so far, first, I left one side of maple thicker than the other, don't want to sand down the thick side to be as thin as the other since it's already got a little flex. The grip is the other concern, I'll (probably) use it with a leash since the handle is a little slick and a little "girthy". I've hung all my weight on it with the tip on the rafters and bounced as hard as I could, trying to break it if I could. I couldn't. But it did flex a little, slightly more than a nomic. I wanted to post this to inspire others to make their own gear because it's cheap cool and fun! I've only got about $20 and quite a few hours into this. Let me know your thoughts and I'll say it first: Yer Gunna Die!! 


Shepido · · CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 50

Interesting. I hope nobody criticizes you (what do they care what you climb on or with?)  What was the motivation for doing this?

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 420


Keatan · · AZ · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 50


Forever Outside · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 240


Perry Norris · · Truckee · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 45

Now there's something you don't see everyday!

A classic!

Tony K · · Pa · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Nice let’s know how it preforms

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 521


I'd be concerned the asymmetry will screw with the balance in the swing. But I'm confident if it's well made it will be strong enough.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

Hell ya! I wanna see some pics of that tool getting you some WI.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 661

Rad, please let us know how it works! Looks like solid craftsmanship.  

Abandoned User · · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 5,185

nice job! making stuff is rad!

Porter M · · Bellingham, Wa · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 15

Wow! Thanks for all the positive feed back everyone! As for motivation, I've climbed some easy stuff on my sum Tecs and being a college student I don't really want to drop the money on a nice pair of tools. Having already worked with steel and wood a lot I figured I'd give it a shot. This is try #1, definitely a few changes I'll make for round 2. (Maybe a leashless/nomic style grip?) I'll post how it works, whether the asymmetry is noticeable. Thanks everyone, hopefully more people will give it a try!

Trad Princess · · Not That Into Climbing · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 1,175

I give it my seal of approval, and I'm not even that into climbing!

nrj5011 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Cool idea! I'm interested in how you attached the metal head to the wood handle? From your overhead view it appears that the metal replaces the walnut layer for a few inches at the top? If so, it would seem you'd also want a few bolts through that junction for strength.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 788

That is nice! I have knives my dad made for me that are about 45 years old, now. No issues at all.

The only thing I can think of, is if the metal and various woods expand and contract differently with the big temperature extremes. That could defeat the lamination. Or not. After all, wood, bone, etc have been used with metal tool heads for centuries.

Truly lovely, though! Best, Helen

EDIT to add, my dad used rivets (pins?) through all the layers also, small, but a bit larger than yours.

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

The love is real

climberish · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 10

Think you'll run into any weird expansion/contraction issues with the bitterly cold weather?

Porter M · · Bellingham, Wa · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 15

Not sure about expansion issues with temp, definitely with moisture hence the poly finish. We will find out as it will be in the teens in hyalite! @nrj5011 great note! It is really hard to see but there are 4 1/8th inch brass pins going perpendicular through all the layers. The head tang extends ~4in into the handle with 2 brass pins through. 1/8th inch brass is small  and weak but with the way the force would be if the pin shears there are much bigger issues! How does the pick angle look? Both in relation to the handle and the point it's self? Worried I may have made it to pointy/small angle (comparing with sumtecs and nomics picks leading point). That could lead to a risk of the leading ~1/4th inch breaking while dry tooling.  Thanks for all the thoughts!

Porter McMichael · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 30

Axe performed alright in hyalite. Top roped quite a bit of easy ice with it, right off the bat it got way more 1 hit sticks than the nomics with weights, stuck deeper and cleaned easier. Though I'd found the magic ticket completely by chance. I hadn't. After a few rock hits the pick had dulled and it started shattering the ice really bad. Eventually so much so that it would never stick. Handle flex was definitely noticeable and bad.  Anyone reading this planning on making their own, layers of something besides wood needs to be added. For me it will be carbon. I like the head weight so I think i will stick with the 4 piece head unit. and use a lighter wood with carbon layers to solve the flex issue. Handle was nice and wasn't hard to hang on too, honestly didn't think about it much. Not as good as the nomic, probably similar to a quark. No shrink/swell issues even using it at 7 degrees.   

Anyone who makes their own, post it!! Its useful for others to have ideas to look at! 




Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 1,114
Porter McMichael wrote:

Handle flex was definitely noticeable and bad.  Anyone reading this planning on making their own, layers of something besides wood needs to be added. For me it will be carbon. 

The birch ply may be the layer introducing the excessive flex.  More layers of thinner wood may be the ticket.  Seems to work for Furnace Industries' tools.

Strong work on your first effort Porter.  Keep at it!

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

I have homemade titanium tools that flex a fair amount. I never considered it a problem. They climb confidently and predictably. Don't try to eliminate all flex on future iterations.

As for the pick dulling, that happens when you hit rocks. Don't hit rocks. It's not a big deal. Again with my tools, my picks are not as hard as from a brand. I don't dry tool with them, it's fine.

I bet your handles are way warmer than a metal one. I love the look too.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Ice Climbing
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