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How I built my Krustyledge for under $100, you can too!

Submitted by krustyklimber on 2004-04-17

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Krusty's Homemade Portaledge


When I first posted my photos of my homemade ledge on I didn't think it would be as well accepted as it has been, thank you all very much.

After I recieved many PMs asking how it was done I decided I would write it all down in one place, this turns out to be it. Before I go on let's talk about the basics, and some safety issues and the fact that rockclimbing and especially Big Wall rockclimbing is dangerous. If you do not feel completely capable and comfortable doing all of the phases of the construction do not attempt to build it. The conseqeunces of a portaledge failure could be disasterous at worst, and uncomfortable and scary at best.

In offering the plans for the Krustyledge I am assuming you have some basic skills... Buying and cutting PVC pipe, ironing and sewing, measuring and cutting of fabrics and webbing, and sourcing materials (this is a fabricators most important skill). And that you can do this without hurting yourself, many of the tools listed below are or can be dangerous.

The tools you will need for the job include: A chop saw (for clean square cuts of the tubing, others will do), a medium duty sewing machine, a soldering iron (or a butter knife you can wreck, a hot knife can be made with a piece of steel about the size of a ruler and a torch though... more on that later).

All I ask is that if you use my plans and you like it, since you'll be saving hundreds of dollars, please donate $10 to it is my way of giving back to you and the site. Materials:

This is the hard part or the easy part depending on your skills at sourcing your parts and pieces. I will try to add the source of hard to find things, but you'll need to be creative.

You will need:

2 8 foot pieces of 1 3/4 schedule 40 PVC pipe

4 90 elbow connectors

2 45 elbow connectors

2 "tee" fitting connectors

1 bottle of PVC cement primer

1 bottle of PVC cement

10 feet of 1/4" shockcord

2 sq. yards of heavy nylon packcloth

2 sq. yards of ripstop Cordura

50 feet of 1" strap webbing

6 Ancra slider buckles, or metal ladder buckles

2 Fastex quick release buckles

6 aluminum bail rings (optional)

1 large spool of heavy polyester or nylon thread

1 box of heavy duty sewing pins

4 feet of Lycra piping

O.K. here we go! First lets start with the frame, since it is easiest, and it's needed for fitting the fabric to your needs. Get out your saw and a good measuring tape, measure twice, cut once! Make sure you have the ends cut perfectly square, it is important for the strength of the ledge. After they are cut make sure the ends are not sharp with a file or sandpaper.

Krustyledge plan

Once you have all the pieces cut, get your connectors, assemble it but don't string the frame with the shockcord yet as you will assemble and diassaemble it many more times before you are finished. After you have test fit all the pieces, glue all the pieces of the krossbar together. Make sure these are square, assembling the side rails and setting it on a flat suface, like the garage floor, with the brace up is a good way to do that. When it is assembled there should be a bit of outward bow to it's side rails.

Now you can start on the bedsheet materials. You will need a large flat area you can work on, a big dining room table will do but for cutting on nothing beats a ping pong table, barring that go to the garage floor again. After you have biased the packcloth fabric lay it out flat on the floor with the appearance side down, and lay the assembled frame on top of the fabric with the krossbrace up and square it up with the inside edge of the frame 6" from one end of the fabric and centered between the two edges. Now mark the inside edges of the frame's siderails, right near the corner elbows with a pencil, or white sewing pencil depending on the color of your decking. And the far end needs a mark at the same 6" from the inside of that end of the frame, after the end is marked cut off the excess.

These will be important reference marks , so do a good job! Next you will draw a line from one end of the siderail to the other on both sides of the frame, but don't use the rail (it's bowed). Now for the first tricky part (at least to explain), you will go to the halfway point on the lines (where the krossbrace is) now make a pencil mark one half inch inside of each line, and redraw your lines so that they make a slight hourglass shape, this hourglass shape is part of what will keep your ledge bedding tight.

Next you will cut out the corners and the slots for the krossbrace so that it looks like this:

bedsheet material

You will make the cuts for the corners, and especially the krossbrace, with the soldering iron (with it's tip sharpened like a knife edge) or the hot knife. I like to use my cookstove and an old butter knife, or a thin piece of steel stock with a duct tape handle. Heat up the knife (doesn't need to be red hot) over the stove and drag it across the fabric, this will cut and melt the edges so it will not fray. Only the cutouts need to be cut with the hot knife, and the suspension triangles. When doing this you need to do it on a suface that you are not worried about damaging... Do not do this on the kitchen table, do it on our trusty garage floor, or on a well water soaked piece of scrap plywood. While you have the hotknife out cut the webbing too. You will need six 6' long straps, six 6" bail ring loops, two 18" lashing straps and the clip in loops. These will be two 18" pieces and the one piece that is left over which will be longer.

Now it is time to make the Cordura pipe sleeves, and the suspension triangles. Cut them out with scissors, they are very simple rectangles but all six are not the same size. Four of them are 30" x 8" and are for the sides, and two of the will be 26" x 8" and are for the ends. You will need the iron and an ironing board now. Be careful, and don't turn it up too high, and don't burn yourself. Nylon melts very easily keep moving.

This is one of the places I am gonna assume you have basic skills, and I don't need to tell you how to fold and iron a seam. Iron a 3/4" doubled fold around the perimeter of the bedsheet, then iron a fold into the hourglass lines. Next you will sew down the folded edges of the bedsheet along the 3/4" folds, basically doubling the whole perimeter of the bedsheet. You should now have a slightly hourglassed rectangle. you will need to pipe the cut edge on the side notches just to stop any fraying, the corners should have laid right down over eachother. The photo of the bottom of my ledge shows this detail pretty well.

This is what the end triangles look like, be very careful which side of the material faces out on these, you will need two rights and two lefts in each fabric the packcloth and the Cordura for a total of 8 pieces. The Cordura faces out and the packcloth in. The best way to do this is to make a cardboard template of this piece and lable one side left and one side right. I wasted a few pieces getting the size and shape of these right, so this is one of the real benefits of this plan. On my ledge the Cordura is black and the packcloth is brown.

Triangle set

To assemble the triangles put them with the appearance side together sewing all but the bottom edges (in the drawing above) and then turning them "rightside out". Then folding the bottom edges in and ironing them before adding a stitch around the perimeter. EXCEPT for at the top, where you will have to sew in either the loop with the bail ring, or the webbing strap (if you've chosen not to have the expense of the rings, but that would make changing the straps in the field impossible) the clip-in triangle get sewn around it's whole perimeter. Either choice, bail ring or not, needs to be really well sewn in (if your machine zig zags I would suggest replicating a bar tack, two or three straight stiches across the webbing and two or three zig zag stitches over those). If you sew the straps on, to keep the straps from making a big tangled mess roll each one up and snap a rubber band around each of them seperately. If you are using the bail rings, you'll want to sew a loop in each end of the strap. One at the top needs to be big enough to get even a gloved hand into, to adust the ledge with, and the one at the bottom needs a half twist so it girth hitches well. This is the time to make the lashing straps, sew the end of the quick release buckles that need to be on one end of the straps, and thread the buckles on.

Now that you have the bedsheet, all the triangles, and the side tubes sewn you can start the final assembly. For this you are going to need a lot of ingenuity and intuition, and a little luck. Being adept at using a seamripper will help too, I had to put the side tubes on twice before I got them tightened just right (and one more time in prototyping a failed plan).

This is where it gets more difficult for me to get things fitted for you, but if you have made it this far you can do it!

The first thing I did was to sew one of the end tubes on, and then putting the bedsheet on the frame and assembling it. Then I pinned the the other end on so that it would have about one inch of "stretched fit" and sewed it in place. Then I put it's tube through and assembled the frame again, and centered the bedsheet between the rails. Next I wrapped the side tubes around the frame and marked each ones position, near each corner elbow (about 1" away), after I subtracted a little for "stretch fit" again, but not as much as I did for the ends because it is not as wide as it is long. Now disassemble the frame, again (don't say I didn't warn you), and get out your long straightedge again and draw a new line where your corner marks are, and do the hourglass thing again. This will gain you a little more "stretch fit" than you have at the ends, when you sew the tubes in place.

The Bottom

After the tubes are sewn in place, slide all the frame pieces in and assemble the frame again, this time it will be harder so I'm going to give you some tips. First you need to put the elbows on the end tubes not the siderails, then you the put the siderails into the elbows at each end. So now what you have is the two halves assembled, so it just needs the krossbrace. To install it bend the ledge to about 45 so the "tee" will go on one of the siderails (say the left one) then bend it back flat putting the other half of the left siderail in as it comes flat (are you with me? we may need a video). So now you have one whole siderail assembled you just have to put the other together, flip it up on it's side that is done with the krossbrace on your side, now bend it so you can get one siderail started (you may have to lean on the brace to get it started, this will "break in" as the bedsheet stretches). Now bend the other side and put in the last half of the rail, and bend it flat 'til it pops in. If your sleeve tubes are right the bedsheet should be tight as a drum and you should now be wondering "how am I ever going to get this apart?"... You aren't... go to bed, or at least walk away for awhile you need to let it stretch out a bit before you try to get it apart.

Krossbrace (end view)

After it has sat for awhile you can attempt to get it apart, this is one of the things that took some me figuring to get the system dialed. Now I am going to refer you to the other pic of the bottom... see the sling around the krossbrace? It is for taking the ledge apart. To do that, sit on the floor and put a foot through the loop and grab the frame's end rail near one elbow, push out on your foot and pull back on the frame 'til it comes apart... flagging your ledge looking like a good idea? I thought so too!

Now you can sew the triangles onto the bedsheet. Again the photo of the bottom shows this detail pretty well. All I did was pin them in place and sew a long rectangle shaped stitch, about 1" wide, at the bottom of each triangle.

That's it for the bedsheet! Now you can assemble the frame for the last time, so this is the time to run the shock cord through as well. I took about 5' of string and a small machine nut, tied the string to the nut and the other end to the shockcord, and dropped the nut through each tube and the "tees". Then I pulled the cord tight and tied a fishermans knot. Put the frame together and set it aside so it can stretch out a bit more, if it's as tight as mine was, it'll need it.

The last thing you have left to do is the clip-in point, mine is the prototype and I would make some changes to it, so let's go through both.The prototype looks like this:

Clip in point close up

For mine, because I didn't buy as much webbing as you did, I used 1" tublular climbing webbing (because I had it around and it was late), and I added two extra loops for gear to clip into that needs to hang like a stove or a light. By looking at it you can figure out how its made, just make sure you do a really good job sewing the buckles on.

But here is where I would make one of my changes. I would not add two extra gear loops but three. I would so like this, loop the webbing like in the drawing. Think of a Screamer, how it has it's wings, I would attach the buckles at the ends of the wings and have the pull-up bar on the lower loop of the middle one (the longest piece) and clip gear into the other ones. It may add durability to run all three loops through a piece of tubular climbing spec webbing before sewing them to the triangle,making a sleeve for them, and assuring you always clip all three.

Clip-in Loop Drawing

After you have all three loops, and all six buckles in place and sewn to the triangle you can thread the main straps through the buckles, and start playing on it.

Take the lashing straps with you when you go out to the wall and hang it up. After it is up take the lashing straps and run one through each outside corner ring and around the outer siderail. This gives you a way of keeping the tension on the outside end triangle even.

Now when you get on and it's all adjusted, you're all comfy and cool... Yell for you're roomate, or wife or signifcant other, and have them bring the camera... "cause here is what I want from you (besides the donation to the site) I want you to send me a picture of you and your _______ledge, I'm gonna stick 'em up on the wall like a baby doctor does his babies! Enjoy your new ledge!

So many people have inspired me to do this, the building of my ledge to the writing of this aticle, Munchie, Pete, Juliana, JmLangford, and the many of you who PM'd me wanting to know about it, and the most important of all the frame's true original designer who is unknown to me. I found some pics, I thought, from a link put in by a climber who Ammon passed on some desert tower in a thread about "how did Ammon solo Spaceshot??? in ??? hours?" and I searched repeatedly for it. I hope I have not been too presumptious in calling the brace the krossbrace, it was just wordplay.


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5 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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To those who have asked about the photos in this article;

The HTML for the photos is still embedded in the text, but for reasons I don't know, they are not working?


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i am building my ledge right now, i hope to have it done within a week. I am gonna build it fairly different from yours but this was very very helpful. i wonder if i will end up just using yours instead. Either way, the donation will be made. thanks. quick note for others, they have aluminum tubing at home depot, it is used as a drywall and/or painters extention of some sorts, it bumps up the cost a bit, im hoping its worth it in strength
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i am building my ledge right now, i hope to have it done within a week. I am gonna build it fairly different from yours but this was very very helpful. i wonder if i will end up just using yours instead. Either way, the donation will be made. thanks. quick note for others, they have aluminum tubing at home depot, it is used as a drywall and/or painters extention of some sorts, it bumps up the cost a bit, im hoping its worth it in strength
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Do you have some photos of the building process? Thanks, Allan
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Do you have some photos of the building process? Thanks, Allan

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