13 July 2012 ~ 14 Comments

Building a Portable Pitching Mound (For Under $100)

PowerChalk CEO Chaz Henry takes you through a step by step guide to building your own pitching mound.

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

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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

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nails $ 4
- Total $99

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.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 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.

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14 Responses to “Building a Portable Pitching Mound (For Under $100)”

  1. JC Nguyen 15 November 2012 at 8:16 pm Permalink

    Fantastic instructions, thank you for sharing!

  2. James Blume Sr 26 November 2012 at 2:32 pm Permalink

    Hey Guys:
    I am building the pitching mound for my grandson for Christmas.
    I noticed your comment about the covering for the mound. I also looked at astro-turf, indoor outdoor carpet, and door mats. None looked really good. I went to Tractor Supply and looked at their 4′X6′ Stall mat(#2219003).(Also fits the 4×6 slope) It’s 3/4″ thick and heavy, but I don’t think it will wear out anytime soon. It also has some cushion just in case a knee or elbow goes down hard!! Price is about $40.00 but worth it if it holds up. They also have a 1/2″ 3′x4′ mat that I will use for the flat section.

    • Ryan 26 November 2012 at 6:33 pm Permalink

      Hi James, thanks for the info! Tractor Supply is a great suggestion and those materials should work well. Hope it turns out well!

  3. Jim 2 December 2012 at 5:09 pm Permalink

    Not bring an engineer myself :) I have a question: After you nailed together the frame (four foot backing and four spines), how were you able to secure the cross braces? It seems that there is no space between the spines to hammer in nails from the sides to hold the cross braces in place. Did you actually nail the cross braces from the sides to hold them in place? If so, how were you able to do this in such tight quarters (between the spines)? Or did you not use any nails/fasteners and instead “wedge in” slightly oversized cross braces into place and use the pressure of the spines to hold them in place? Thanks!

    • Ryan 4 December 2012 at 2:04 pm Permalink

      Good question Jim. You can directly nail the braces from the outside. I staggered the braces so they’d be out of each others way. To secure them, I sunk one nail in the top and bottom at about a thirty degree angle. I Then ‘toe-nailed another nail in at about 45 degrees for additional support.

  4. Scott 3 December 2012 at 2:22 am Permalink

    Great plans! Thanks for sharing.

    Three questions:

    1. What you wind up covering yours with?

    2. Where did you mount the rubber? I am assuming right at the edge of the level 2′ section before the slope begins?

    3. Why did you go with 3/4″ plywood? Would something 1/2″ or slightly more suffice for a younger player? I am trying to lighten up the one I plan to build.

    • Ryan 4 December 2012 at 2:06 pm Permalink

      Thanks for the questions Scott.

      1. I still haven’t covered or painted mine. We use it with tennis shoes on bare wood.
      2. Yes, just forward (slope side) of the halfway point of the level section.
      3. I thought the constant landing would soften the wood at the landing spot. No issues yet. I think you could get by with half inch.

  5. Bill 2 January 2013 at 10:48 pm Permalink

    I was wondering if you could slope the back side to give it that pitchers mound fell when the pitcher steps back in his initial wind up.

  6. Brian 3 January 2013 at 3:13 am Permalink

    Awesome job, just bought my wood to build my own, I’m actually buiding it in two pieces so that it will fit in the van easier and will be a little lighter. One point though, I read that the slope should be 1 inch for every foot. I see your point for wanting it to merge into the ground though, I would just be worried that it is too steep when compared to the real thing. But since every mound is different I guess it shouldn’t matter much. Thanks again for the detailed plan. Can’t believe the mark up on these things. WOW!!!

  7. Bill 8 January 2013 at 10:11 pm Permalink

    Found a guy in my area that install putting greens lawns and athletic facilities and found every thing I needed to surface my mound in his remnants pile.

  8. Tony Morris 12 January 2013 at 4:47 pm Permalink

    What are the dimensions for applying the pitching rubber?

  9. Tony Morris 12 January 2013 at 4:48 pm Permalink

    OOOPs. I saw the answer. Should have read through all of the questions and comments. Thanks.

  10. Robero 17 January 2013 at 12:08 am Permalink

    When marking the 2′ sections, the end that will be the flat side of the mound MUST account for the width (approx. 2″) of the back board that covers the open end of the mound.

  11. Coach K 1 February 2013 at 8:05 am Permalink

    Nicely done, good of you to share. I built my first Major League Pro Specs Mound over 12 years ago, Its still being used today. I looked at your details but did not stop to see if your using a base beneath the turf. so My advise for durability (when I say durability) I mean the difference in 12 months and 12 years. Good straight timbers, consider how often it will need to move and consider doubling the exact location where the wheels need to fasten. Promise its easier before you cover it.
    If your budget permits, protect the frame with a good water proofer. I used a high density industrial grade padding over the plywood and the highest grade indoor outdoor astro turf. dont forget your center line (white) then finally consider adding a good solid strong handle to the shortest edge infront the very front of the mound, its not in the way, its much lighter in weight. dont skim on the wheels and axles, remember you want to use when you can move it easily. Enjoy, focus, mechanics are good for you. but remember this, Nobody has ever been thrown out at the mound! catch em if you got em.

    Coach K