By Greg Chapman
Fingerboards have come along way since the first hefty great offerings from the likes of Entre-Prises and Bendcrete. Those original old boards were often hulking, tombstones of resin with skin searing edges at highly aggressive angles, and certainly not something that anyone, bar the keenest 'cellar dweller', would aspire to use on a regular basis. In subsequent years, the development of both resin and molding technologies, as well as an advancement in the understanding of what sort of holds to include, has led to the evolution of a whole host of products. Boards offering an almost innumerable array of weird and wonderful shapes and hold configurations have been produced, often labeled with attention grabbing mantras and strap lines, attributed to an equally impressive list of top climbers who lent their names to many of the designs.
With a host of products to choose from, you may have thought that this was an exhausted market, and there was little if anything that could be brought to the design table. But as is often the case, the keen optimistic eye of youth, untarnished (unvarnished?) with aged cynicism, did indeed bring something new to the table, in fact Messrs Varian, Bowering and Feehally took that table straight to a CNC machine and made some fingerboards out of it – now that's lateral thinking! In truth, wooden fingerboards have been around for some time, and in many ways the wooden board harks back to the origination of the hangboard, with the first boards almost certainly being sheets of ply laced with a symmetrical offering of wooden edges. However, the wooden aspect of the Beastmaker fingerboard, as it would become known, is only part of what makes it perhaps the finest training aid available...
Nuts & Bolts
So what sets a Beastmaker board apart from its contemporaries? As stated, these boards are wooden, tulipwood to be precise – sadly a non indigenous hardwood tree, but famed for its strength to weight ratio, and often used in cabinet making thanks its fine blemish-free finish. Unlike some other popular wooden hangboards, which are built from a number of separate interlocked pieces, the Beastmaker is CNCd (in the UK) from a single block of wood, meaning it is both stronger and more uniform in appearance. They are then hand-sanded to give them a quality rustic look. Nice. The tulipwood provides a perfect blend of tactility and strength making the boards durable and highly skin-friendly, however, it is worth noting that the smoother finish offered by the wood offers less friction than resin, so beginners may find the less positive holds harder to hang. Not only does the classy wood construction alleviate skin wear and tear, but as an added bonus it also looks much nicer in a domestic situation, and is therefore far less likely to provoke non-climbing partners/house mates... this alone has no doubt swung a few sales! The hold configuration is a masterstroke, with the compact (58x15cm) stepped design allowing for maximum use of space whilst maintaining a clearance zone when using the upper tier of smaller edges and pockets: there can be few similar sized boards with as many usable holds. The holds themselves are various in nature, with a good blend of edges, slopers and pockets, although the Beastmaker Boys' enthusiasm for pockets has certainly influenced the design brief. The thoughtful way in which the Beastmaker has been laid out and designed is testament to a retroactive approach, in that it is the culmination of numerous prototypes; altered, tweaked and evolved into the finished thoroughbred product, something which cannot be said for many of the seemingly thoughtless designs available.
Beastmaker currently offer two board designs: the 1000 and 2000. These two products offer a common sense fingerboarding option for climbers of most abilities, being essentially similar products tuned to the relevant user group. All grips are generally deeper on the 1000 and the famous 45 degree slopers, seen on the 2000, are replaced with a set of meaty jugs, whilst the monos have also been switched for duos. The 1000 is advertised as being aimed at the Font 5a to 7c (V1-V9) climber, and whilst this seems a fair appraisal, I would add that even climbers operating beyond 7c would find this board useful, particularly if it's likely to be used as part of training board session or if you have no other means of warming up. The 2000 is a serious piece of kit, and whilst if used correctly, it is undoubtedly the path to serious grip strength, may I offer a warning caveat: due to the nature of the small, shallow holds offered, it would be wise to have an alternate means of warming up, like a less serious fingerboard or some additional larger wooden or resin holds bolted/screwed to either side of your mounting board. At the very least I'd suggest having a pull-up bar to hand.
With an insightful design, models catering for most ability levels, a compact size and stylish appearance, it's easy to see why the Beastmaker has become the fingerboard of choice for many climbers across the UK and beyond.