ArtLine climbing volumes: a physical and fun product test
Volumes are now an indispensable feature (all puns intended) in indoor climbing, whether it’s for bouldering or lead setting. They are incredibly useful for creating difficult sections, and good for core work and compression. Since the summer, we at La Fabrique Verticale have been very happy to decorate our new bouldering wall with the latest wooden volume designs by ArtLine. And to test them over time! Here’s how it went.
1st impressions: the joys of unwrapping
When we read the delivery slip, we couldn’t wait to rip into the box like kids at Christmas. Our ArtLine volumes had made it safely across the Mediterranean and arrived in Corsica as fresh as daisies. They had survived the trip and were in perfection condition when we unwrapped them.
Inside there were 4 small volumes from ArtLine’s WoodLine range. ArtLine is a French hold brand, founded in 2011 by Brice Anziutti. The brand’s baseline, “Unique Shapes”, certainly holds true. Non-conformity is the name of the game. And you can totally feel they wanted to push creative inspiration to the max with these highly original wooden volumes.
ArtLine volumes: unusual shapes
It’s no exaggeration to say that ArtLine has gone all out on the shapes with the WoodLine series. Exit your pyramids, which are nice enough but pretty basic after all, and enter unusual shapes! The complete range is made up of no less than 40 items, as of last month. These include ‘wonky’ ‘sawn-off’ cubes, but also packs with two shapes that fit together, hence the name ‘Twins’. For example, there’s a kind of arrow that slots into a sort of chevron, to form a single volume. But you could space them out a little to create a crack.
The range also includes more or less asymmetrical elongated bars. Plus there are ‘Chinese hats’ and flattened hexagons that the hats can be attached to. So modularity is the order of the day. At La Fabrique Verticale, we decided to test several small volumes of different shapes. Two bars (Element S9 (50x10x9cm) and Element S10 (50x17x17cm)), a Chinese hat (Element S12 (30x30x7cm)) and a ‘wonky’ cube (Element M12 (40x35x18cm)).
It was a difficult choice when it came to placing our order. In the end, and thanks to Brice’s advice, we decided to take our pick among the smaller formats in the range (3 small and 1 medium). And they turned out to be the best suited to the size of the new training wall we built this summer, especially given its overhang (45° with an upper section at 20°). It would have been greedy to take anything bigger! It was pretty tempting though, because the bigger volumes look really cool too.
ArtLine volumes: a perfect finish
As we unwrapped the different items, we were immediately struck by their beautiful finish. The stencilled ArtLine logo stands out elegantly, white on black. The volumes are made of thick (18mm) birch plywood, and are perfectly assembled and glued. According to the ArtLine website, they are cut out using a 5-plane CNC machine, which ensures a remarkable quality of finish. The result is a perfect joint between the different planes.
The fact that we chose relatively small volumes made it easy to attach them to the wall. And to create some interesting sections, with or without micro-holds, to work on specific gestures. Element S9, one of the bars, forms a clean angle with the wall, and is well suited to the 45° incline where, depending which way up you place it, it’s almost all you need. Element S12, the ‘Chinese hat’ is better suited to less pronounced overhangs, or even vertical surfaces, unless of course you add micro-holds on it.
Last but not least Element M12, the ‘wonky’ cube, has inserts for screwing holds on (and not just micro-holds). This of course opens up further possibilities in terms of creativity. An interesting feature, which echoes our remarks on the quality of finish, is that the pre-bored holes, used to attach holds using VBA screws, have interior metal housing, which guarantees longer life for the volumes.
The surface coating is quite pleasant. It isn’t slippery, which can be a downside with the products used by some other brands. It is well suited to compression movements, using a flat open hand. The grain is fine enough not to remove layers of skin during your attempts, but with enough grip to use them as footholds for run or skate movements, or as a flat foothold for vertical movements.
Truth be told, these cute little volumes felt immediately at home on our new training wall. And thanks to their modular nature, we were able to try out many different gestures in the repertoire. Depending on the model, the volumes are designed for different profiles. And they turned out to be really useful when we started screwing micro-holds on. For the moment, we don’t want to take them down, even though we’ve finished the test!
Despite being made of 18 mm plywood, the volumes we chose at La Fabrique Verticale are relatively light. Which makes them easy to handle and position at height, whether you’re hanging off a ladder or not, with a power screwdriver in hand. Having said that, we selected among the smaller models, so it’s difficult to have an opinion on the larger models in the range…
In terms of storage, it’s not an issue we had to deal with, since the volumes are still up on our wall. We do have a couple of general remarks on the subject, though. Because the shapes are unusual, it’s easy to imagine that they would be harder to store than the usual pyramids of different sizes that you can pile on top of each other like Russian dolls, for example the 180° brand volumes we presented to you last year. But what you gain in terms of storage you lose in creative possibilities. So as the saying goes, ‘you pay your money, you take your choice’.
No question about it, we’re convinced! This is a quality product, which you can put in your letter to Santa without hesitation.