The Story of the Blocz Volume

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Blocz volumes and macros in the gym
A lot of ingredients go into making Blocz’ popular volumes―voted setters’ favorite for the third year running―but it starts with expert woodworking and a commitment to improvement and sustainability. (All images courtesy of Blocz)

Over the last eight years, Blocz has become one of the largest volume producers in the world and has now won the Grip List award for “favorite climbing volume” for three consecutive years. So, who is Blocz, where did they come from, and how did their volumes come to be loved by so many setters?

The story of Blocz began in the small city of Chemnitz, Germany, with three climbers; two were gym owners and one was a carpenter and engineer. When they couldn’t find high-quality volumes for their gym, the Boulderlounge, they realized they’d have to make them themselves. Most importantly, they wanted volumes that would last―with a texture coating and construction durable enough to withstand the constant use and abuse by climbers and setters in a high-traffic commercial environment. With these goals in mind, the resources of professional German woodworkers, and a close supply of Baltic Birch plywood, they quickly made some quality volumes for their gyms. Then more gyms started calling…

Raising the Bar

Even before making their own versions, the Blocz founders loved buying volumes for their gym because volumes opened new creative worlds to their setters, giving them control over their climbing terrain. At the same time, gym members were excited by the look of the new pieces and the variations they created. But as they tried to build the library of volumes in their gym, the Blocz founders struggled with the common issues still seen today―splitting joinery, texture that wears down or delaminates, and attachment points that break under an impact driver―and they found themselves retiring more volumes than they could afford to bring in. They knew they could do better for their gyms, their climbers, and the environment by making a better product.

Building volumes at Blocz
Attention to detail is essential in volume making, a focus Blocz adopts across all aspects of production.

Using their expertise in carpentry and engineering, they analyzed and improved on core aspects of the volumes of their time. Wood choice was the first thing to address. To make the strongest volumes, the strongest plywood needed to be used, otherwise joints and attachment points would fail. Fortunately, Blocz could locally source the highest-grade plywood: Baltic Birch.

Blocz wood
Both the durability and texture of Blocz’ volumes―which are made from Baltic Birch―are frequently cited by setters in CBJ’s Grip List survey.

Texture was the next major concern. High-quality texture requires enough grip to make smearing attractive, but not so much that it destroys skin. Most importantly, texture needs to stay on the volume. Too often, the texture of popular volumes wears off with normal use. Retexturing is a nice idea, but shipping volumes back to the manufacturer every couple of years is another added cost and is not necessarily more environmentally friendly when it’s needed so frequently.

After trying and failing with many techniques, Blocz developed the unique, proprietary texture-coating methods they use to this day, which they call the “supergrip coating”. Their multi-step, multi-day process produces a texture that climbs incredibly well, and stays on for many years of constant commercial use. This texture has become well known among setters and climbers, and is a huge factor in Blocz’ three consecutive years at the top of CBJ’s Grip List.

Finished Blocz volumes
“Fantastic texture, solid manufacturing, durable as hell, and the t-nuts are better quality than other volume companies,” said one Head Routesetter in this year’s Grip List.

Getting the joints and edges of the volumes just right can be the hardest job. If you don’t make the joints perfect or use cheap wood and glue, the volumes will split. Guaranteed. It’s one of the first things you will notice with a cheaper volume. This can compromise the integrity of the volume and is what sets Blocz’ products apart. Ask any setter. In addition, Blocz makes sure all edges are perfectly rounded and ergonomic, so they’re nice on your hands and there are no sharp edges to hurt yourself on.

Constant Improvement

Since then, Blocz’ creations have become known worldwide as the gold standard for volumes. But it’s not in the team’s nature to be satisfied. New hardware, improved production methods, and new shapes were all on the horizon.

T-nuts

In 2019, Blocz improved their hardware in North America, recognizing the Escape Industrial T-nut as the best-made ⅜”-16 T-nut in the world. They put it into every volume in production for North America, and worked with their distributor, Bold Climbing, to replace every T-nut in stock.

Production

Alongside growing demand, they have grown their production into one of the largest volumes, macros and holds facilities in the world (still in Chemnitz, Germany). They now utilize the most advanced tools around―CNC machines, 3D printers, 3D scanners, etc.―and they work with their local university to test and improve all their products. Employing a team of over fifty workers, they ship tens of thousands of volumes and macros each year.

Climbing on more Blocz volumes
Volumes see heavy traffic in commercial gyms precisely because climbers love them, and thus require the highest integrity to last.

Shapes

A big focus of Blocz in recent years has been having even larger lines of volumes. They first added the original Boards line, then came the popular Hexamites and Hexatites, and just recently they added two huge lines called the Boomerangs and Chips. They now have over 150 shapes and 20 different lines, so there is something for all wall terrains.

Brands

Because of Blocz’ rigorous quality control and ramped-up production, more and more brands have now chosen to get their products produced by Blocz. They are now producing for six big name companies: Bluepill, Unit, Chapter, Rockcity, Menagerie, Formik…with more to come! (Stay tuned…)

Sustainability is Here

Last but certainly not least, Blocz has been actively innovating to make their company as environmentally friendly as possible. Here’s just a few of the steps they are taking:

100% Recycled ABS

Plastic waste is the elephant in the room in the climbing industry. Until now, macros have always been made of fiberglass―just another word for new plastic. Blocz is proud to be a leader in the fight against new plastic, bringing the first 100% recycled macro base to the market. And it’s not only an improvement for environmental reasons―the material is lighter and stronger than fiberglass, and has a touch of flex, so it can be tightened down flush against imperfect walls. On top of that, it doesn’t cause the skin irritation or glass splinters that can come with fiberglass, making routesetting and production safer and healthier. Blocz also uses this same material for Bluepill, Unit and Chapter macros, and currently produces over 100 different shapes with about +50 more on the way.

Blocz volumes at a comp
Blocz’ large lines of volumes have been used all throughout the climbing gym industry, from commercial sets to local, national and international competitions.

Lifespan & Upcycling

One of the most important factors that makes a product environmentally friendly is its lifespan. This is one of the reasons why Blocz focuses on making their products last as long as possible. When volumes and macros do reach the end of their life, Blocz can repair and recoat them, making the shapes like new and giving them double the life, with little effort and additional materials. (Look out for some exciting announcements about this service soon…)

Also, the high-quality Baltic Birch that Blocz uses to make its durable volumes is FSC-certified and sourced locally within the EU. This practice means their wood is harvested from sustainable forestation and has short transportation distances.

All Blocz volume route
Alongside their positive impact on climbing movement, Blocz’ volumes are also made to have a low impact on the environment.

Low Waste & Recycling

Blocz has fine-tuned its production processes to make sure there is very little waste at the end of the day, and that any waste is recycled. For example, the leftover scrap wood is turned into pellets that are then burned in a special low emissions furnace for heating the building, and the leftover scraps from macros are recycled to be turned into more macros.

21st-Century Production Facility

Most of the power used to run Blocz’ production comes from a huge array of solar panels on their factory roof. This array also powers their electric company cars. They are planning to add more solar panels to cover 100% of their power use.

The Future

There’s a lot that Blocz is doing right, but they aren’t stopping here. They are constantly improving and have an aggressive R&D team that is not only trying to make their products better but are also trying to make all of their work more environmentally friendly.

Setting with Blocz volumes
The story of the Blocz volume is still being written―especially in the climbing gyms, where setters are constantly dreaming up new route combinations.

Thank You

Blocz and Bold Climbing (distributor of Blocz in North America) wants to say thank you to all the gyms and setters for the support over the years: “We are very honored to be chosen for the 3rd consecutive year for the ‘Favorite Wood Volume’ award in the Grip List. We are also very proud of the amazing teams at Blocz and at Bold Climbing for all their hard work to make this happen.”

Find out more about Blocz
www.blocz.de
Instagram: @bloczclimbing
https://www.instagram.com/bloczclimbing

Distributor in North America – Bold Climbing
www.boldclimbing.com
Instagram: @bold.climbing
https://www.instagram.com/bold.climbing

 


This story was paid for by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.