So I recently got a hold of a pretty cool piece of gear, the Sonnie Trotter Vice Board hangboard. It is a pretty slick looking hangboard, and after selling my old Metolius hangboard, I decided to give this one a whirl.
To clarify, this is what i had previous to the Vice board:
The Metolius simulator: it was a pretty cool hangboard. I think i liked it a lot at the time, but there was definately some stuff that i now see that are less conducive to training. Definitely something i would recommend for someone starting on this journey of making their fingers hurt all day and strong like steel, but maybe not a hard-man’s hangboard in the long run.
For one, the simulator was a cheater’s paradise, where you could rely on friction and sides of pockets to cheat like crazy. Some days i could hang on the smallest edge forever, other days for milliseconds, which was a product of the texture and ambient air humidity. Secondly, the texture really wasn’t that greatly thought through and eventually got so caked up that i had to unscrew everything and wash it (twice) and even then it was pretty gross. I think it needed vinegar or some weak acid to get it back in shape. Finally, the slopers were not bad, but not that hard and to make it harder you had to really grab a low part of the board where the sloper made no sense because it was now a rounded crimp. And, you have to brush them every single go since they relied on some really bad texture to create friction. I also felt weird wrist pains when using the slopers, which i never get at the gym or outdoors.
I have also used other boards at gyms and at friend’s houses. These are the ones i’ve played on a bit and learned to enjoy/hate:
- Wood grips board
- So iLL board (the sloper one that has two huge slopers and three edges)
- Detroit rock company hangboard
- New Metolius board that has pinches and straight edges
- Delire board from Montreal
Honestly, the only texture that I have really liked so far has been wood and the Detroit hangboard texture (didn’t know how it fared in the long term with chalk, but didn’t seem that porous). The Metolius texture is very porous and becomes slick and gooey. So iLL seemed okay, but again, plastic texture that lends itself poorly to training and just really will get caked up in the long run.
So, i figured i’d have two choices for my next hangboard: the beast maker or the Vice board. It seemed like a clear choice since i’m all for buying local and the shipping was unreal for the beast maker. So I just ordered one and it was quick and simple, and I knew who was responsible for making it and that it was made of wood harvested within a 500 km range (probably). Plus you get to support a local pro who is really putting up some rad lines around the west and you feel a sense of community instead of some big climbing company that makes their boards in a factory. Obviously, I don’t begrudge any company for making it big, but you do lose that sense of, “oh, this is made by climbers for climbers” when you buy a board made to be flashy and easy.
First thought: Wow. This thing is heavy and sturdy. It looks like there are three independent planks that were buffed to perfection. It’s also really nice, hard wood. Nothing like quality ingredients to make a good hangboard. Due to some logistical things, we drilled bigger holes to mount it, and the drill was really under powered compared to the drill press that was probably used to drill the initial holes.
Secondly, it’s really beautiful work. Nothing like a great looking hangboard to keep you psyched and to make you want to work out. Plus it’s nice on the hands, you can’t feel any splinters or sharp edges really, even around the board where the holds aren’t located.
The board looks like it is just cut a few times and assembled with screws and maybe a touch of glue. Otherwise, it looks like he branded the vice portion of it onto the middle. It seems really simple yet elegant, and very well thought through in terms of simplicity and overall design.
So getting down to it, this is a really good hangboard. It has an easy top edge which is basically almost juggy (platform edge type rung), a first line of crimps that go from 5.10+/5.11- difficulty to 5.11+/5.12- and then a second row that goes from 5.12+ to 5.really hard.
As you can see, the top rung is really, really deep. Here’s something that i think would have been better: I would have cut out some jugs at the top like the wood grips board.
It’s hard to tell, but the top portion is hollow on the wood grips board, giving a jug type effect. Due to the full curve in the fingers and the depth this is how you can get a really good jug to do pull ups. It’s also really good for warming up or using one hand on a difficult hold and one hand on a not so difficult hold.
Secondly, it seems like there was room for a better sloper up top which could have been made by doing some angle cuts. I don’t know how easy this would have been to do, but a 15° cut would have been perfect for training slopers since wood has almost no friction like the Metolius slopers had and thus you would really train just grip. Too bad! Maybe i’ll try cutting some myself eventually… if i can muster up the courage to cut into this beauty!
Now for the good: The crimp holds. These are probably the best feeling crimps, hands down that i’ve ever felt on a hangboard. They really don’t hurt the skin at all and are really pleasant to hang on. Also, they test your real strength because you can’t hold on something passively with friction. These are the real deal. They aren’t as glossy as the wood grips/Metolius wood, but they are quite polished and nice. Great feels for sure! And just a brush and wipe away from being brand new!
Now, the crimps go from positive (90° angle cut) to horrible (sloper crimps). My hand, in the last picture, is on the middle one which was really a hard one to start using, but milking them really helps a ton (trying to grab them really hard a few times before stepping into the abyss). Now, I can grab most of the holds for at least a second (on a good day), but i’m still really struggling with some of the lower rung ones.
Here is the hardest of the lower rung. As you can see, it’s a complete sloper for fingers. It literally has no edge and is probably only got a millimeter or two of usable hold. This hold i currently cannot use very well and fall off after a half second. I really would like a pulley system in my house, but for now i just use a chair. There is still something to work towards, and if you get good at this, adding weight would make you strong like Rambo.
This is the second hardest. Another very small hold (using a credit card there) and you can see it has about 1mm of usable hold range. Definitely something that is quite hard to hold even at body weight. If you add weight to this board, it will make you strong, i have no doubt about that.
Pros and Cons
So here’s my list of pros and cons:
Pros first. Firstly, the texture. Really digging it and thought it was perfect for the application. Wood brushed off nicely and doesn’t get caked, and really works your fingers. Secondly, the crimps are also perfect and have a good gradient. Definitely feels like you’re getting better and that it’s working you for all you have. You also really don’t have to brush this board very much as you don’t tend to use much more chalk than those other chalk-eating boards. I don’t need low humidity since the friction is the same (always pretty poor, but good for training) on humid days or on non humid days. Really a joy to try to hang on these holds.
Cons (as there are always certain things that could be better) come next! So as I said, I think with a little work the top rung could go from pretty useless to really interesting if there was a few more things put in. Not to say I don’t like it, just that compared to the bottom rungs it is a little boring and I don’t use it much other than to warm up a bit, and even then it’s pretty bland. I also, as you saw, had to add some lines to show me where to place my hands quickly. This may be due to a lighting thing, but i feel as though this could be a good addition (maybe a shallow saw cut or something?). It helps when you are doing repeaters and don’t want to have to feel around a bunch to find the edge. Finally, I find the widest of the grips really wide and would have maybe liked it to be set up so that the widest didn’t give me shoulder strain, but i think i also may have weak shoulders.
Otherwise I think this is, in my view, one of the better boards out there. I have not yet played on the beast maker so I cannot speak for that but I would really like to someday own one of those too. This, however, seems like a really nice piece of training gear and you can do some really nice hangboard workouts depending on your level of psyche. I’m still all 4 fingers, but doing monos on this board would be incredible (if you can do it). Plus, no risk since you aren’t using dangerous pockets that can snap your ligaments quite easily.
I don’t think this board could be too easy for any climber as with weight and finger changes you can easily
So again, if you’re thinking of a beast maker but don’t want to pay shipping from the UK, just buy a good old Canadian hangboard and it’s a great investment and a fun work out. It will get you strong (I am already feeling stronger on crimps) and is better than the wood grips or plastic alternatives. Basically a bunch of beautifully crafted campus board rungs waiting for you to hang on!
However, if you desperately need slopers and pinches in your life, maybe look elsewhere! But really, that stuff is easy to train once you can crimp!
That’s all i got!