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QC Lab: How Ice Screws Are Made

Friday, December 2, 2016
If you’re an ice climber, you’ve probably wondered … “how are my ice screws made?” Well, now’s your chance to find out. KP and the QC Lab crew are ready to spill the beans and show you exactly how your winter climbing rack is manufactured.

Ice climbers love gear, and they love talking about gear. Every time I’m out on the ice, the conversation usually goes from “so … you been getting out?,” to tools, crampons, boots and of course ice screws. “How are ice screws made?,” “How strong are they?” and “Do you guys test ice screws?”

Words: Kolin Powick, Video: Wagon Productions, Images: Tommy Chandler

Ice Screw Manufacturing

The short version is that the main body of the screw is machined from a tube of steel. A super slick machine basically turns the diameter and threads, then cuts the teeth and makes the flats, all in one setup. From there, the teeth are cleaned up, the screws are heat-treated to make them strong and durable, and they are plated so they don’t rust.


The hangers are cut on our laser cutter from stainless steel, then formed and stamped. They too are heat treated, then assembled with the express knob, put onto the shaft of the screw and swaged into place.


Production Testing of Ice Screws

Once we’ve developed an ice screw and it’s gone through our rigorous Development and Field Testing programs, and has been certified, then we can begin production. Just like with all of our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), we implement stringent in-line dimensional and strength tests during the production process (WIP, or Work in Process tests), as well as finished goods batch testing to ensure all products meet our requirements.


The production level tests for ice screws include:

—WIP TESTS

  • o Dimensional checks

  • o Strength testing the hanger alone

  • o Crushing the tube of the screw to ensure the plating adhesion

  • o Crushing the tube of the screw to ensure proper heat treat

—BATCH TESTS

  • o Crushing the tube of the screw to ensure proper heat treat and plating

  • o Ultimate strength testing the hanger on the screw (note: this test is performed in a fixture to ensure repeatability at a production level)

With all the research and development testing that goes into the design of a Black Diamond ice screw, as well as the certification process and production level testing, you can be sure that our ice screws are up to the task. With that said, however, you must remember that though a screw is strong, it’s only as strong as the ice it’s placed in. When I’m out climbing, I place screws … but the best way to stay safe, is to remember—DON’T fall.


Be safe out there,

KP

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