As a guide, who guides, I love teaching people the essential skills of crack climbing technique.  One thing I have realized is that it’s hard for people to grasp the concept of finger locks, ring locks, hand jams, cups, and the like, especially if they don’t have access to good rock.

So, for this Summer’s Stonemaster Series which starts this weekend, I have decided to build a special tool.  The Crack Machine. It’s going to be a blast.  The idea is that people can watch and see how a jam works from the inside, then they can apply it directly to the rocks and find that sweet spot for themselves.

It’s a fact that everyone’s sizes are going to be different,  (even if their hand sizes are the same, they may have different finger sizes),  so as a climber (especially if you are leading), it’s good to know exactly what size you are, and how that size correlates to the gear you are using.  It will save time and energy on more challenging routes.  I am so stoked on this.  The model came out perfectly and so far the feedback has been amazing.   Below, is a documentation of how it works and how you can build your own.  Hope you like it and if you’ve signed up for this weekends course,  see you on Sat.  If you haven’t and are interested,  drop me an E-mail –  there are still spots available, one for this weekend, and more throughout the summer weekends.  Cheers.

What you need: Saw. Drill. Glue. Tape Measure. Sand Paper. Space.

What it looks like:  This model is exactly 8 feet (96in) in length and leans up against a wall quite nicely.

At it’s smallest it’s 1/2 an inch.

At it’s widest, it’s exactly 2.5 inches.   Wide Hands.

Perfect Hands in the middle.

Tight Hands.

Ring locks.

Rattly fingers.

1/2 inch is too tight for many.

Rolling up the sleeves for this one.

The crack machine is heavier than you might think.

Look ma,  no hands.

It’s all in the torque baby.   The more you twist, the tighter it gets.  The less painful it becomes.

Another example. Click to enlarge. Andrew Burr foto.

Nearly too tight for me.  Give me grey’s.

One of my all time favorites. .5 all the way.

Trucker .75 in action.

Textbook Red.

Bomber two’s (#2)

Perfect Blues (#3)

Feels blissful.

Looks painful.

The full range.



  • Tomek

    Strongly suggest to patent this apparatus 🙂
    never done any crack climbing but just from this few shots i have better understanding of how every thing works.
    Thanx Sonnie
    Tomek from Newmarket 🙂

  • Danny

    Thats rad! Your class sounds like it’ll be a hit.

  • Hi Sonnie.

    It would be interesting if it also complement it with a video would be easier to see some of the abutments, the invention seems very good, certainly proves it.

  • Will

    Now the real trick, turn it upside down so that all the jams flare open downward. As it is, everything bottlenecks down. No idea why you wouldn’t just make it like most people make crack machines…with some all-thread and nuts/washers so it is adjustable.

    No idea what you plan to do with 1/2″ slots that will be on the ground. Seems like a waste of time to make something that is really ONLY good for teaching, when you could make one useful for practice for those same people, that works just as well for teaching, by making an adjustable.

  • Sonnie

    Hey Ferran, Hi Tomek, I did not invent this, and it’s not really anything knew at all, but I appreciate your enthusiasm. It’s just something that was super easy and cheap to build to show all the different sizes of cracks for our students. It’s hard to find all the different cracks around Squamish without walking from one to the other, so having a board like this is really great for teaching the full range. I have no interest in making more, this will only be used for instructional purposes. When I’m finished with it, we’ll be mounting it in my friends garage for good fun winter crack training.

    Will, wow, you are so smart, you’re absolutely right, I only built the jams that bottleneck downward and it only sits on the ground. Doh! What a failure I am. But WAIT, what if, and don’t hold me to this, because I could be wrong (and I usually am), but, what if the person just stood on the other side of the board? Wouldn’t that reverse all the restrictions and make them feel flaring? Like I said, I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that it just might work.

    As for building it ‘ONLY’ for teaching, wow, you are right again, (you really are very intelligent you know) what a waste of time that was for me. I feel so silly now having wasted all that time. Thanks for your insightful comment. It’s very much appreciated. Next time, I’ll build an adjustable one, hopefully then, that will please you.

    Best Wishes.

  • Patrick

    How effective do you think this would be as a training device? Say, just keep running laps on it as you hold it off the ground.

  • Cool idea Sonnie. I like the idea. I think I’ll have to make one to help stay in shape during the winter. Might even find a way to attach more weight once the weight of the machine doesn’t cut it.

  • Will

    Sonny, not sure why you feel the need to be a smartass about it but, anyway:

    “what if the person just stood on the other side of the board? Wouldn’t that reverse all the restrictions and make them feel flaring???

    No, it wouldn’t. We’re talking about the bottleneck, not the front to back flare. As in, it tapers from wider at top to narrower at bottom…a bottlebeck in the usual understanding of the word…how you use that word as an uneducated patron of Timmy Hortons, I wouldn’t know…eh, buddy?

    The larger point being, when using your subpar crack machine there, if it is a bad size for someone, they can basically let the jam slip a little lower where it will get tighter. Further, even if you had it upside down with the tips slots at top, the feet would be so big and bomber to again be uselss as any kind of learning mechanism and certainly useless as a training tool.

    In any case, the entire premise of a crack machine that is fixed in size and tapers from tips at one extreme end to cups at the other makes it useless for anything other than taking 9 versions of the same picture with your cams stuck in it (don’t you think we got the point with a pic or two?).

    For you gents that want one to actually train on, instead of shoot pictures of cams in, use 1/2″ all-thread and nuts/washers on both sides about every foot along the length of the boards, and stagger the all thread holes back and forth from front to back on every other hole. So roughly 1/3 from the front on the first hole, 1/3 from the back edge on the second, and so on. You can then make it a consistent size, like 1.25” to actually practice those jams for both hands and feet and do some movement on it, or you can make it flare front to back, make it taper, change sizes from tips to OW….whatever you want.

    Sonny’s dismal attempt shown here was long on effort and short on planning. And now he’s all butthurt when someone tries to point out a better way. Of course these 127lb bird chested stick legged tough guy titans are always quick with the mouth on the intertoobz, not so much IRL.

  • marcin

    This is awesome, thank you for sharing. I recently started climbing outside and have been wanting to learn how to use my hands in the cracks. Can’t wait to build this and practice/learn. Thanks!

  • Ryan

    I’ve used one many times, we have one at work. it’s a really great tool!

  • Ryan

    Holy Shit. Nice way to deal with Will. If you can’t say anything nice…that wanker. Whoops. Thanks for showing this. Very cool tool.

  • Derek

    Looks like a great idea for teaching crack techniques! I ran into someone this winter who built an adjustable one so he could practise roof offwidth techniques. He hung it from a tree branch about 2 feet off the ground so he could get his feet and hands in from the ground, then start moving about 6 ft along a totally horizontal offwidth! super impressive and terribly awkward looking..

  • EvannG

    Sonnie, that appears to be a most excellent teaching tool. Not only can you practice hand jams and locks but you could also learn gear placements with it, reducing the learning curve for size selection. Great photos, I especially like the #1 and #2 good DoF

  • Matt Hunter

    Hi Sonnie,
    Good work.
    I made my own adjustable crack a while back although I am probably not as smart as Will. I Painted it with sandy paint which hurts more than real crack but encourages me not to be sloppy. It currently adjusts out to about fist size.

    I have found it invaluable for learning and training since Frog Buttress (Queensland, Australia) is an hour and a half away from me and so is a once a week affair.

    Good to see that you are teaching crack climbing. Any chance of an advanced crack techniques video for people climbing 5.11 and up? Most videos just show simple hand positions and nothing else.

    Here is my crack posted on our local forum for anyone interested.

  • Phil

    Did you use 2×6’s, or 2×8’s?

  • Sonnie

    Hey Phil,

    I used 2×8’s. Much deeper with greater holding power.

    Matt, wicked idea, I was thinking about putting a coating on it but haven’t gotten around to it yet, but that’s a great idea. I’ve also been thinking about an advanced video for a little while now, thanks for the much needed push.

    Patrick, it’s pretty pumpy, I think it would be great, you could run some laps while watching a movie or something, or, just hang some weights off of it and hold it for as long as you can. One reason people fall off classic Indian Creek splitters is because they pump out from jamming for 15-30 minutes, so I think it would help a lot to get prepared for a trip like that.

    Will, I was just goofing around mang, so sorry, I appreciate your feedback, and yes, there are many ways to build different crack machines, adjustable or otherwise. Thanks again for stopping by.

    Marcin, Ryan, Derek and EvannG, many thanks.

    Mmmmmmmm, Tim Hortons.

  • Michael Urban

    Nice Sonnie,
    thanks for sharing. Will makes some fine points – of course – it’s just the ‘delivery’ of his version that gets in the way. I think what you might have missed Will – and I am not trying to troll here of start any wars – God knows we have enuff of them already here these days – but like Sonnie said – it was something he whipped-up not-so-much for training, per se – but to illustrate points and techniques in his course. Sure one could make a flaring adjustable unit such as youdescribee – but perhaps some don’t wanna dick around with adjusting nuts and threaded rod per se, etc. either. Will – hill out bro! Sonnie was just sharing a project and trying to helpful! Is there a better way perhaps to do something or make something then sometimes we know or do? Sure! But hey – give the guy a break!
    Maybe you should market and patent your design Will? And – when was the last time Will you had your pic in a climbing magazine may I ask?

  • jimmy

    WOW sa cest dla crack

  • jimmy

    where do you find this crack that is a crap

  • John Tennant

    Hi Sonnie,

    Great Device! I’d love to see it extended to include fist, double fist, arm bars, and full body jams. The main question is, in performing a full body jam, would the entire device hover?


  • Britany Sweene

    Not a big fan of Rob Ford for a myriad of reasons I won’t go into…

  • Martino

    Hey , It’s perfect idea and good training 🙂 . What’s type of wood is the best to make that crack ? Have you got some experience with that or it isn’t so important ?

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  • Sounds like Will’s the one’s who’s butthurt. Or just unable to comprehend why a teacher might want a simple teaching tool instead of a full-on “be a hardman” device.

  • JR

    Hi. Great idea for teaching and a fairly doable project for someone with limited tools and resources. I have seen and trained on adjustable crack machines but they never seem to replicate a solid crack – either flex or feet too positive; the “worst”-meaning best to train on i’ve found is buildering; nothing like ringlocks on slippery concrete…anyways thanks for a great idea, headed up to pops to build one of these.

  • Eric

    Hey Sonnie it looks great. Can you show how you are going to attach it for training please. I’m stuck away from the rock for awhile and want to train for crack climbing. Thanks Eric

  • AarBee

    Photos not visible – any chance of making them accessible again?

    • AaronF

      agreed! Looking to build my own, guess ill just wing it 🙂