Dimension Makes Perfect Volumes
Dimension president Kris Feeney talks about the formation of his company and the notable names of that helped make Dimension famous.
Amid angle changes and multiple textures, large shapes have come to define Indoor Climbing. While volumes can trace their heritage back to a construction worker that questioned the uniform surface of an early artificial climbing wall, the modern volume has come far from those original small triangles.
Kristopher Feeney is the owner and president of Canada’s largest volume manufacturer. Dimension Volumes has become a staple of the Canadian climbing gym and, in these last years, Feeney and his team have pushed further and further into the international market. While Feeney represents only one of North America’s many volume manufacturers, his company pioneered much of what the modern gym climber can expect to see in their local facility.
Although some places have only just begun to pick up on volumes, North America’s best gyms have long recognised Dimension as the industry standard. With the support of Quebec’s climbing facilities, and Tonde Katiyo, Feeney would expand out of his first volume painting project to having representatives as far away as Japan.
To understand how Feeney would find himself spearheading North America’s volume industry, we begin with his history. While many climbers find themselves wanting to move into the industry after beginning the sport, Feeney had worked in wooden materials even before he began climbing.
Feeney would finish high school before moving directly into a three-year carpentry program. Afterwards, he would spend six months on guitars, refining and finishing his craft before taking a trip to Thailand. In Thailand he would find an interest for climbing, but it would take returning to school after this trip to cement his love for the sport.
During a one-year program, Feeney would find the school’s climbing wall and begin his progression through the difficulties. After a short time, he would take on work in a climbing gym before moving further on to the nationally renowned Allez Up. Although he had once set for fun at the first facility, it would take an upcoming competition for Feeney to earn a position on the Allez Up setting team.
As he continued to build cabinets, Feeney would begin to set once a week. He began to establish relationships with some of the province’s industry leaders. Around this time, Bloc Shop’s Fred Charron began to plan Montreal’s first bouldering gym. Charron has seen a few of the volumes Feeney had made in his free time and approached the young cabinet maker with a plan. “I have some volumes. I need to put texture on them. Can you do it?”
Feeney reflected on his company’s inception. “That’s how it happened; I did the texture. They opened in July.” A few months later, Allez Up’s owner Jean-Marc de la Plante approached Feeney. He described the Tour de Bloc Competition that Allez Up intended on hosting. Plante wanted to do something nice. He wanted a series of unique volumes.
This would become the first order Feeney filled. Renting space from his boss’s workshop, Feeney would begin to produce Dimension’s first shape: Triangle Allez Up. After that competition, everyone wanted volumes.
Feeney had nailed his first model. He built volumes right. “Strait from the beginning, I put fibreglass behind my volumes.” He found a good texture and worked by himself to produce a perfect product that would exceed is client’s expectations.
Working alone, Feeney set a standard that each of his volumes would have to meet before leaving his floor. “I am a perfectionist. There is a way we have to sand the volumes. I set some really high standards doing everything by myself. It needs to do the angle changing, while being comfortable for the hand and appealing for the eyes.”
These functional goals melded with Dimension’s incredible durability to produce a desirable product.
In the next months, different gyms would host high-profile competitions and request certain shapes from developing manufacturer. Soon enough, Tonde would arrive at Allez Up with a theoretical order-request from an opening climbing gym in the United States. Tonde was charged with designing the facility and, in his fashion, looked ahead of the times. He decided this gym needed volumes, a lot of them.
He asked Feeney for a 300-volume quote. Shocked, the volume maker gave him a number, expecting the cost to outweigh Tonde’s need for his boxes. Shortly after, Allez Up began to open their Seven Bays location and ordered 70 volumes to go with the new facility. Feeney began to feel overwhelmed.
He entertained leaving the business to go climb. “It was the crossroads. Do it or don’t do it. What pushed me was Tonde. He came back and said ‘Well, you kind of have to decide what you want to do now. You know that contract with the US? You have it.’”
Feeney needed help. He didn’t have a shop, he had an ocean of orders piling up and time constraints that were not negotiable. His boss from the wood shop stepped in.
Feeney felt gratitude for his old boss. “I think he wanted to help me. He knew what I was embarking on.” The two wood workers agreed on a rate for the shop. Relieved, Feeney began the Halifax order and the US order just as he received his first World Cup order from Toronto. Dimension would premier on the international stage.
After a successful opening year, the now incorporated Dimension Volumes became affiliated with USA Climbing as the organization’s official volume supplier. Feeney would hire a team of five to help him in his new shop, and the now independently operating organization would begin work on new shapes.
Today, Dimension has an expansive range that includes dual textured features and this Summer’s Stacks. The Stacks came out of a mid-pandemic, work-wall setting session in which he found the Flat Hold volumes he had purchased were too sloped to hold at the angle. He recognized how a small tilt could alter the accessibility of the feature. To achieve this inflection, he created stack volumes, each measuring to 12.5 degrees. These would provide enough tilt to turn the most sloped holds into grips just positive enough for use in a steep overhang.
Although innovation has made its mark on the company, Feeney admits that this year has changed Dimension. While Feeney feels as though Dimension will always have a clientele, he recognizes the uncertainty of the pandemic. Still, after six years and almost 200 shapes in 28 different categories of volumes, Dimension has grown to fit the needs of the industries they work with.
Featured Image from Delire.