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Bolt brand and style selection- Tables ahead


Original Post
K-Tanz · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 205

I have been thinking about putting up some routes and have found there to be a ton of information which, at times, is contradictory regarding bolt selection. As a generalization the environments I am most curious about are dry desert limestone and granite. I know bolting can be a touchy subject and opinions seem to be very strong. I am really looking for technical information and opinions regarding the best hardware for the job here. Rest assured that I will be speaking with the local route developers to ensure that any routes would be consistent with local standards and ethics and that I will be making every effort to not step on toes.I additionally want to get their opinions on the best hardware for the local rock.

The ASCA website here cites Petzl, HIlti, Redhead, and RAWL, in that order, as acceptable wedge style bolts. Powers is not mentioned. It seems that this article may be outdated, though. Many sources lament the "garbage hardware store bolt" but it seems like the hardware store stuff puts up some very respectable numbers.

In terms of wedge bolts, for a 3/8 inch Redhead wedge bolt in 4,000 PSI concrete with 3 inch embedment depth the tables on the Redhead website here and here list the following:
  - Shear= 4140 Lbs= 18.4kn
  - Tension= 5940 Lbs= 26.4kn
  - Pullout strength with 2-5/8 embedment depth= 3469 Lbs
  - Steel strength in tension= 5815 Lbs from the first table above or 6720 Lbs from the second table making comparisons to other brands. Not sure why the numbers are different.

These numbers seem respectable and Redhead does make a 3 inch long 316 stainless bolt available for around $4 per bolt. The 304 stainless version goes for about $1 each. It is also notable that the Redhead website, per their numbers, claim that their hardware beat out Hilti in almost every category. I don't know how much credence to afford this claim but did find it intriguing.

Powers seems to be the other big hardware store name. Their numbers, Per Powers here, for their 3/8 inch SD2 wedge bolt embedded 2-3/8 inches in 4000psi concrete look like this:
  - Tension= 2280 Lbs
  - Shear= 2025 Lbs
  - Steel strength in tension= 6625 Lbs= 29.4kn
   Prices for the 3 inch SD2 vary, but I found a box of 50 for $37 or $0.74 each. 

For the Powers 3/8 inch 5 piece Powebolt+ embedded 2-3/4 inches in 4000 psi concrete, the numbers, found here, look as follows:
  - Tension= 4425 Lbs= 19.7kn
  - Shear= 3990 Lbs= 17.7kn
   Annoyingly, Powers does not seem to provide pullout or ultimate steel strength in the 3/8 inch size. These bolts in 3 inch length can be had for around $2.50 each

I can't find any numbers on the Fixe Hardware. Does anyone know what those numbers look like? I know they are made specifically for climbing and have rolled threads, but I would love to see the numbers for comparison.

As far as wedge vs. 5 piece I understand a few pros and cons. The 5 piece is removable. Eventually even stainless will need replacing and the 5 piece fits that bill. Not to mention if a placement is less than optimal it an be removed and the hole patched. I understand the hole must be immaculate and anything less may lead to spinners where the wedge style is more forgiving in this respect. With hard desert limestone and desert granite in mind, other than ease of replacement, is there any real advantage of the 5 piece over the wedge? I would have thought strength, but the numbers put up by Redhead vs the Powers 5 piece would seem to contradict this notion.

Thanks for any input you may have! Please don't hesitate to correct me if my numbers look whack or my logic is flawed. I have no ego about this and want to have the most accurate info available. 

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 442

Sleeve bolts (5-piece) are better than wedge bolts in soft rock because you have much more surface area. The general consensus is that Petzl, Hilti, and Powers(which is the same as rawl) bolts are good. I've heard a lot of bad about redhead bolts and not much good, so I'll leave that up to you to determine for yourself.

Both wedge bolts and sleeve bolts are removable with today's equipment and techniques, thanks to the knowledge and expertise of several really awesome individuals dedicated to replacing bad bolts.

Keep in mind, limestone is going to be more conducive to corrosion than granite, all else equal. This is because as water percolates through the limestone, some of it is dissolved and some of the dissolved minerals accelerate the corrosion process when they are deposited in the bolt hole.

Mike Carrington · · Centenntial · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 2,765

The redesigned Powers 3/8 bolts are total garbage, the shaft is now close to 1/4 with a thicker sleeve compared to the old design. If you use Powers bolts the only choice is 1/2". In fact you should use 1/2" stainless steel or if you want the absolute best bolt, use glue in bolts.

Taylor Spiegelberg · · Lander & Sheridan, Wyoming · Joined May 2012 · Points: 1,005

The Access Fund has the best current information on bolts in my opinion. This information will not only give you an idea of what bolt to place now in your type of rock, but it will also give you information on how to remove bolts in the future. Read every single article on this page if you're going to develop rock climbs:

https://www.accessfund.org/learn/for-advocates/managing-fixed-anchors

Mobes Mobesely · · Granite island · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 865

Mtn Proj, the best place to get advice from an 18 year old. 

K-Tanz · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 205
Taylor Spiegelberg wrote: The Access Fund has the best current information on bolts in my opinion. This information will not only give you an idea of what bolt to place now in your type of rock, but it will also give you information on how to remove bolts in the future. Read every single article on this page if you're going to develop rock climbs:

https://www.accessfund.org/learn/for-advocates/managing-fixed-anchors

The Access fund information was very helpful, thank you. It is well organized as I would expect.

I am wondering if anyone can opine upon the strengths of the 5 piece vs the wedge style. The AF website states multiple times that the 5 piece is preferable due to its superior strength. Based upon the numbers above, though, it would appear that the Redhead actually outperform the 5 piece in every category. Is the recommendation due to manufacturing quality? Should the numbers from Redhead not be trusted? I will absolutely defer to the advice of the Access Fund and those with more experience than me and place what is recommended. But the numbers, from what I have seen, do not necessarily agree with the statement that the 5 piece is stronger than the wedge so I am curious where this is coming from. If the Access Fund and the ASCA say that 5 piece is stronger then I trust them, but I am just wondering why the numbers I have found above contradict that statement. 

AL . · · UT · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 120

K-tanz, redheads are nick named dead heads for a reason. Really it's quality control, they do a shit job on testing the redheads and they break sometimes.  If you get a good one it'll work, but it's not what you should be using when someone is trusting it for a whipper. 5 piece bolts or glue-ins preferably, don't mix metals between your hangar and bolt,  find someone local to show you the way.

Oh and YER GONNA DIE 

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

power wedges loosened up on me. they changed the cone design and it has too sharp and angle. . the collar can pop off. probably works well on concrete but crap for stone...  red head has a wedge bolts that has a shallower angle on the  cone and they are rated for stone and concrete. 

Andrew AJ Jackson · · Greensboro · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 1

K-tanz, the numbers above are for 3/8", the AF recommends 1/2" Power Bolts which are far stronger than any 3/8" wedge type anchor. 

chris magness · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 600

Redhead has poor machining, don't use them.

The Access Fund is a good resource.  Really, though, you need to be having this conversation with the folks that are establishing routes in your area- not on here.  There is surely a local standard, ethic, and style involving type and length of bolt, when to place, anchor configuration, etc.

If routes are going up with shit hardware, then revisit this conversation if
you think you can raise the standard.

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,104
K-Tanz wrote:

The Access fund information was very helpful, thank you. It is well organized as I would expect.

I am wondering if anyone can opine upon the strengths of the 5 piece vs the wedge style. The AF website states multiple times that the 5 piece is preferable due to its superior strength. Based upon the numbers above, though, it would appear that the Redhead actually outperform the 5 piece in every category. Is the recommendation due to manufacturing quality? Should the numbers from Redhead not be trusted? I will absolutely defer to the advice of the Access Fund and those with more experience than me and place what is recommended. But the numbers, from what I have seen, do not necessarily agree with the statement that the 5 piece is stronger than the wedge so I am curious where this is coming from. If the Access Fund and the ASCA say that 5 piece is stronger then I trust them, but I am just wondering why the numbers I have found above contradict that statement. 

The problem is that you are comparing the new style 5-piece bolts, not the old style 5-piece bolts which is what all of the climbing literature is talking about.  A year or two ago, powers changed the design of the 5-piece bolt (Rawl's old name) from a powerbolt to the powerbolt+ and discontinued the old powerbolt.  The old powerbolt had a 5/16" grade 5 bolt through the sleeve, the new powerbolt+ has a 1/4" grade 8 bolt through a thicker walled sleeve.  The old 3/8" powerbolt had a shear and pullout strength of something like 5800 lbs, so much higher than either the new powerbolt+ or any 3/8" wedge in existance.

The problem with Redheads is that they have terrible quality control.  Yes, the numbers listed are plenty high for climbing use, but the problem is that you may get a bolt that meets those numbers or you may not.

Another note is that Rawl used to make much better wedge bolts than Powers does now.  The old Rawl wedge bolts had rolled threads and a much better cones.  Now the Powers brand wedge bolts have machined threads, a steeper cone, and bod tooling marks around the cone which makes it harder for the sleeve to expand, so I would stay away from Powers wedges at this point.

If you really want to use a wedge bolt go with either a Hilti KB3 or KB-TZ, those are by far the best wedge bolts on the market for both strength and quality.  If you want to go with the best bolts available, go for glue ins (either wave or titt bolts are my preference).  If you want to spend a whole bunch of money, go with 1/2" stainless powerbolts.  I would also recommend that even in the desert, it is much better to go with stainless.       

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577

OP: Just wanted to suggest that you consider using glue-in bolts.  They have one big disadvantage compared to expansion bolts (you can't go ground up) but after they're placed, they have many advantages.  Better strength, corrosion resistance, they don't loosen up, don't cut your biners, easier to clip, can lower without leaving a biner, etc.

Just saying.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

It always suprises me that the GREATEST, yes GREATEST industrial nation on earth (bomb the Chinese back to the stone-age if they overtake) can´t actually install some bolts in a piece of rock and measure the real strength they achieve  

K-Tanz · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 205

Thanks for all the replies, definitely some good info and opinions. Seems other than the stainless sleeves that glue-ins are a good option. I thought they would be much more cost prohibitive, but with the stainless Wave Bolt only being 6 bucks, glue-ins seem like the favorable choice for limestone and softer stone especially. 

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,786

First off, what rock type are you bolting in? How's the quality?

What old bolts are in the rock (or on nearby similar cliffs), and how are they doing?

The Western U.S. has a lot of different rock types, but it differs from much of the rest of the (climbing) world in two major ways: 1) super dry climate, 2) lots of (slabby) granite. Both of those factors have let climbers get away with really marginal bolts for a long, long time. In most places, 1/4" bolts would simply have rusted away and snapped off in less than a decade, while here they often still hold falls after 40 years. And those are bolts which were designed for 4 of them to be used to hold a 1-pound metal sign on a concrete wall.

So you see a lot of marginal bolts, and a lot of climbers are really cheap with their hardware, so there are a ton of poor bolts that actually aren't breaking (that often). So you get a lot of people continuing to use, and recommend, sub-standard bolts.

If you're bolting in good rock, the short short version:
- stainless ONLY
- 1/2"Power-Bolts (5-pieces) are the "gold standard" of mechanical bolts. The 5-piece carbon steel bolts, which have been the standard bomber bolt for decades, are no longer made.
- good quality 3/8" stainless stud bolts are much less expensive and a good "budget" option. These are NOT safe in softer rock since the expansion cone can be insufficient.

If you're bolting in soft sandstone, it really depends on where you are and what you're bolting - long glue-ins are the only long-term option for many places where mechanical bolts all eventually loosen up (wallow out the hole), and drilled angles rust away. But in soft desert sandstone the water evaporates out through the rock, so non-stainless bolts can be good for decades.

Anyway, give us some details on your rock type & quality, and what sort of routes you're doing (the bolt recommendations may be quite different if you're talking horizontal roofs where the bolts will see lots of dogging vs. runout slab routes where no one is likely to even weight the bolts...).

Jeremy R · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 25

No offense to any other posters here, but you need to pay attention to Greg Barnes and Jim T

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

I used 3 boxes of hilti stud bolts. loved em. had good luck with red  head WW-3830 for lead bolting.  made in USA.  Don't know where all the hate is coming from??  Have not purchased them in perhaps 4 years so maybe something changed? Like the fixe 10mm glue ins. have not used the wave bolts. I get that they are super strong but I do not like how little actual meat they have for long term wear and tear.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430
Jim Titt wrote: It always suprises me that the GREATEST, yes GREATEST industrial nation on earth (bomb the Chinese back to the stone-age if they overtake) can´t actually install some bolts in a piece of rock and measure the real strength they achieve  


The bolt makers give no shits for people bolting in rock all of their tables are for sheit concrete. Given liability concerns the best we get is "don't ever use this to keep human's safe".

What incentive does a domestic climbing gear company like Metolius or BD have to test bolts at a local crag (where the stone would be the same)?

They sell cams, not bolts.  
Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Who said anything about climbing gear companies?

C. Williams · · the Climber Cave · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 1,152
Jim Titt wrote: It always suprises me that the GREATEST, yes GREATEST industrial nation on earth (bomb the Chinese back to the stone-age if they overtake) can´t actually install some bolts in a piece of rock and measure the real strength they achieve  

Send me a calibrated load cell and I'd do some proper tests. I've got stainless bolts from almost every major manufacturer (Hilti, Redhead, Dewalt/Powers, Fixe, Climbtech, Bolt-Products). I axially pull 3 bolts from every box of mechanical bolts I purchase in the rock they will be installed into. I don't have access to a proper load cell so instead I use which ever wire gate is on sale at REI as a control. If the biner breaks before the bolt I use the box. If the bolt fails, more tests are done in different rock if tested in one of the weaker types common to my location. If a bolt fails in granite then the box goes in the scrap bucket. It would be great to record real numbers, but I'm working a budget (damn student loans!)

Oh, and I've only had to toss boxes of ss304 Power-studs, and people swear by those. That being said the Power-stud SD4 and SD6 have been reliable so far. Stainless bolts made by ITW Redhead (WW-3836) are bomber in medium to hard stone, never had a test bolt break. They pull stronger than the old style Metolius hangers I use in the tests, though they are a poor choice in soft rock (like all wedge type anchors).  I still prefer Hilti KB-TZ's for wedge anchors, when I can afford them that is.
King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430
Jim Titt wrote: Who said anything about climbing gear companies?

The bolt companies have zero interest in testing in solid stone and probably don't want climbers even using their product.

We have a gigantic industry of commercial construction that uses these things in concrete, nobody but climbers uses them in stone (for all practical purposes) and climbers make up probably less than 1% of sales.

It would have to be done by a motivated individual that knew how to test them.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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