Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Building a Portable Pitching Mound (for under $100)

It's a curse being an engineer. Your logical side won't let you buy anything that you can make (ask my wife about our home-made refrigerator).  Its especially difficult not to start drawing up blueprints when you can make the item for less than the cost of shipping. That turned out to be the case when I priced portable pitching mounds. Starting at $500 (with the good ones nearly double that), the shipping was $125.

That's more than the price I built one for. If you're building it for indoor use (or porting it), you could use non-treated wood and knock the price down another 30%.  I intend to level up a spot and leave it in the rain so I went with heavy treated wood.  Here's what I constructed.

The height is 10 inches, the height of a major league mound (it was 15" before 1969).  The length is conspicuous, the length of a standard piece of plywood. It sports a 2 foot level section and a 6 foot downhill slope.  The slope is about the full stride of a 6 foot major league pitcher.  Where some commercial mounds leave a 2" step, I wanted mine to gracefully merge into the ground in case my son starts striding like Mark Buehrle.  The mound is 4 feet wide - the width of the plywood.

Bill of Materials
(1)     4'x8' 3/4" Treated Plywood$38
(1)   16' 2"x10" Treated Lumber       $20
(2)10' 2"x10" Treated Lumber$34
(1)box of 2" galvanized nails$  3
(1)box of 3.5" galvanized nails$  4

Total$99

So you start out with a piece of plywood and two boards but before you leave Home Depot, have them slice the 8 foot long plywood into a 2 and 6 foot section - easier to get home and a much straighter cut than you can do with your Black and Decker.  I also had them cut the 16' 2"x10" into a 10 foot and 6 foot section.  So you now have two pieces of plywood, three ten foot boards and a six footer.

Once home, take both of your ten foot planks, mark off the two foot level sections (on opposing ends) and make a line connecting them for cutting (see red line below).  I used the six foot side of my plywood as the straight edge for marking the cut line.
 
Once you rip the first board, you'll have the bookends of your frame.  The second plank will yield two more for the spine of the frame.  You could probably get away with three total but there's not much utility for the fourth piece other than another brace.  The repeated stride and landing down the ramp is bound to wear down the plywood if it's stretched over too wide a span.  In engineering speak, "more is better and too much is just enough". 

Lay your ramp spines out as a frame and you'll see that this thing is going to be a tank.  My treated boards were very wet and heavy compared to dried lumber.  One was so soggy that I had to cut it twice - once at half depth as my tired old Skil saw couldn't rip the full plank.

So here is my frame laid out and ready to hammer:


You can see that I've cut the remaining 6 foot piece into the four foot backing.  It's best to lay the plywood on it and mark it instead of measuring it to four feet as the plywood size can vary by a quarter to half inch.  I used the remaining two foot section and the ten foot board for a cross bracing.  I also tacked in a couple of 2x4s to cross brace the studs where they get thin.  I tried to predict where the weight would be applied in my son (a right hander) would land and beefed up in those areas.  Here's my fully framed skeleton.


Decking
I started to go with decking screws but opted at the last minute for ribbed nails.  You can go either way. One final tip; align and set your 6'x4' plywood section first.  When you mate the smaller section, it won't matter as much if you are three degrees off plum since it only runs two feet.  Do the inverse and you could have a half inch overhang at the end.

Pitching Rubber
I found the perfect pitching rubber on Amazon.  It has four corner nails instead of nails along the bottom of the rubber which made it easy to substitute bolts for the nails. 


Surfacing the Mound
My son only has metal spikes and they would chew up our handy-work pretty quickly.  We initially thought we'd go rubber spikes and the outdoor green carpet (astro-turf) from Home Depot.  It would have cost only $35 to cover it but frankly, the carpet looked pretty flimsy.  Thin and frail enough that even rubber spikes would quickly wear through it.  You never paint pressure treated lumber (though you can seal or stain it), so green paint is out.  Someone suggested a couple of large doormats as they're built tougher to handle the treading.  I'm still in the hunt and will let you know when I find the ideal surface.

Wheels
If you go the indoor route, it would be easy to bolt on two wheels to the frame.  For a couple of dollars, I'd also screw in a couple of screen door handles to make it easy to hoss around.  

I hope this is helpful.  I'll upload videos to http://www.powerchalk.com as we use it.

55 comments:

  1. Thanks, I'm about to make one of these myself.

    Did you ever find a good surface carpet for this?

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  2. I have seen your Blog... It’s too informative. There are many posts which are really too Good and very useful.
    Portable Buildings

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  3. Coach Chaz,

    This is a great instructable. How would you cut this in order to make it foldable with hinges so that it is portable?

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  4. In need of a lightweight portable mound for a 10u travel team. We practice at a few local parks that do not offer the pitchers mound. Ideal one would be if it can fold up and transported in a car. Any ideas? Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. This might blow the mind, but you really don't need the middle area. Use two sections. The mount 4ftX2ft and a landing area on the same slope about 4ftX3ft. Each pitcher has a slightly different step and it can be placed according to their liking. They would get used to the gap after a little practice. Two pieces would be lighter and more portable.

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    2. or when building just notch out the along the edge on the front of the mount and at the back of the landing area and simply lay piece of wood in there like leaf to a table so the players don't get all head gamed out from the gap. lol... pitchers.

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  5. Why can't he just use tennis shoes, or something of a similar construction.

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  6. Does the slope angle matter? Is it supposed to drop 1" every 1'? If you cut from 10" down 6' the slope changes? Does that matter?

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    Replies
    1. If this were the correct slope there would be 4 inches left at the end of the slope. This slope is too steep.

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  7. Thanks for the great idea! I adjusted the height for my Little League son, where the mound is only 6 inches heigh. Change the 2x10s to 2x6s, use the same dimensions and presto! A LL pitching mound. Oh and at 6 inches high you get the "1 inch every 1 foot" drop as well.

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  8. Where does the rubber go? I'm an engineer too, i need the specs.

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  9. Thanks for the plans. I think I built this about a week after your post 5 years ago. I just sold the pitching mound to a dad with a LL kid. It was great to get extra reps in with this backyard mound. It held up great. I just replaced the indoor/outdoor carpet a few times...my boys used their sneakers....no cleats.

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    Replies
    1. So youbused indoor outdoor carpet tonout over the plywood correct?

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  10. Thanks for the instructions! I will modify as needed to build some ramps for my elderly parents.

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  11. Any pictures after it was finished?

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  12. I plan on using this plan, I'm going to sheet with plywood but then put a horse stall mat on top. That way it will weather much better.

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  14. Great build. The only issue I see is the slope is too steep. Major league specs are 1" drop per foot not 10"/6ft. http://www.turface.com/resources/article/basic-mound-specifications. Helps me a lot though. Might just buy two extra 2x10's and slope to the ground after the 2ft. or if I want it exact buy 12ft 2x10's and cut them to 11ft and then have a 1ft platform and slope the remaining 10ft to the ground. I've also seen separating it 1/2 way and putting on hinges for storage. Thanks for the post!

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  15. Your plan got me thinking, so thanks. But to make slope official with a 10" rise, you need either a 4" drop at end of 6ft sloped plywood, or you need to extend to 10ft. Since its a practice box I'd go with the 4" drop at end. Assuming 10" is correct for 13yrs and up. 11-12yr needs 8" rise (2" drop) and 9-10yr needs 6" rise (no drop). Technically, if you are using a 6' piece of plywood, the length of bottom piece is actually just a tad shorter. Remember triangle Pythagorean Theorem.

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  16. Hello and thank you for sharing this, $ is tight and I am disabled but your idea made this project something that I could handle, thank you again my cousin that I'm building it for is very excited , sports is a great activity to keep kids busy and away from the internet. Thank you again

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    Replies
    1. Try going to new home construction sites and asking about the wood in or near the dumpster, they may have the plywood and 2by 10's you need and let you have them free. Again, just be sure to ask first

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  18. I built this last year and covered it with bed liner. You can get a spray kit from Duplicolor for about $50. Holds up to punishment and it really anti-skid. Was also able to paint a center line for reference.

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing the good post.I like the way of writing and presenting. we are also dealing in Portable Buildings in UK

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  21. Made one today . . . came out fantastic

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  23. You can always adjust the height by adding a 4x4 or 2xs the end.. from experience all mounds are not equal some are really high with too much slope.. others barely any rise at all.

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  24. Did you ever find a good surface for the mound?

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  31. Built a couple ($53 in material), a few suggestions.
    1. Weight/Hauling around. Built pitching rubber deck separately, 8’ narrower and added 2 gate latches (optional) to hold it to the landing platform. Much easier to haul around.
    2. Specifications. Check the rules/Reg’s for your league. They almost always have spec’ in rules. E.g 10U Pony is 4” tall w/ “gradual” slope.


    Thanks coach Chaz, good stuff

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  32. Can you tell me where to put mound. How far from back of the pitching mound and how close to where slop starts

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