Classic Stepladder

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Project by vipond33 posted 08-05-2011 02:14 AM 3373 views 24 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In the back of my mind I’ve always wanted a nice small wood stepladder. Get up there and show the spider webs who’s boss – in style. Good ones are almost impossible to find nowadays (creak, creak) and-and-and- who am I kidding? D’uh, I’m a woodworker no? So, scrounging around in my old papers I dug up the hand drawn and annotated, typewritten plan for a classic that I had already made! in grade nine shop class some 45 years ago. Who knows where it went.

What I had on hand to build it with were two amazing 9’ pieces of Ipe, one ruler straight grained for the legs and the other nicely patterned for the rungs, stretchers and shelf. Ipe is a real chore to work with but it polishes up like ebony and is tough as nails. Also it’s cabinet grade wood (though its main use seems to be for expensive decks) and done up in a fine finish. I think any utility item just might last longer and be treated with more respect because of that.

It ended up really heavy, some 20 lbs, which is what I wanted as it won’t skitter around, but it is at least made visually lighter by the narrow braces and the tapered shelf. You could substitute Douglas Fir, Willow or Sitka Spruce, all traditional ladder woods, and end up with a much lighter unit. There were substantial modifications made to the original plan, seeing as my skills and design sense have also gotten quite a bit better since I was 14.

The finish is Tried and True oil with varnish, a product that I heartily recommend and Watco liquid satin wax, the easiest and most beautiful final coat you’ll ever find. BTW there’s no stain here, that’s the natural colour. The pivots are shoulder bolts and the restraining arms are lid stays.

After seeing some disappointing experiences that other guys in the shop had with gluing this stuff I reinforced the bottom rung with cleats and buried long brass screws in the joints (find and use a steel screw with the same pitch before you try this, the wood is deadly hard and a snapped screw – will present you with an insurmountable problem). The cross braces were also partially let in to the back legs.

It’ll probably last forever as I never plan to step on it at the moment. I think it may end up in the bedroom for a while as a clothes drape and coffee rest.
If you think you’d like to build one, a photocopy of my old original plan is available to anyone that sends a SSAE and promises to send me a picture when it’s done. Send a PM.

Go forth and multiply! Take back the heights from aluminum and fiberglass!

46”H 19”W 26”D
About 35hrs.
Build on LJ’s.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

12 comments so far

View john's profile


2389 posts in 5722 days

#1 posted 08-05-2011 03:03 AM

Beautiful work on the ladder Gene ! , It looks great !!

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View dakremer's profile


2771 posts in 4432 days

#2 posted 08-05-2011 03:19 AM

really nice work! I think that is the first wooden ladder I’ve seen built on LJs! Looks really really nice! Great job

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View CanalboatJim's profile


210 posts in 4845 days

#3 posted 08-05-2011 03:40 AM

I love your ladder and your story. (Spiders beware) I had a small two stepper that I recently had to throw away. I think I’m going to take some inspiration from your project and build my own furniture grade step ladder. Thanks for sharing your story and your project.

-- Jim Westbrooks

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4358 days

#4 posted 08-05-2011 04:32 AM

Looks too nice to do any work off of it so I guess it would be regulated to cleaning spider webs?? You would probably throw a hissy fit if anyone accidentally spills a drop of paint on it?? ;-)

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 4408 days

#5 posted 08-05-2011 03:01 PM

Great job, well done!!

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View lcwood's profile


220 posts in 4105 days

#6 posted 08-07-2011 02:05 AM

really nice job!

looks like the one I have in my house in 1960’s
tanks for posting it and help me to remember my early days

View Bertha's profile


13624 posts in 4034 days

#7 posted 08-07-2011 02:33 AM

Wow. this is really handsome. Nicest ladder I’ve seen.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 3838 days

#8 posted 08-07-2011 04:37 AM

I thank you all for the very nice comments. Get building eh?

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View woodzy's profile


418 posts in 4019 days

#9 posted 08-08-2011 04:50 PM

You may start a trend. This ladder is inspiring.
My father use to have this old wooden ladder that sticks out in my memories of working with him. His was not as nice as yours and had broom handles and hockey stickes cut down as make shift steps.

Thanks for posting.

-- Anthony

View Karson's profile


35295 posts in 5741 days

#10 posted 09-15-2011 09:46 PM

Gene the ladder looks great. A smaller one might make a great kitchen stool for my short wife.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View DocSavage45's profile


9071 posts in 4183 days

#11 posted 04-25-2012 03:11 PM

In my woodshop class we made plaques! While I was busy trying to hand plane edges and carve an indian head to put on it, you were designing angles, joints, and load stresses. ggreat foundation. I spent more time in machine shop! My first job outta high school was as a machinest. LOL Amazing where life and learning take us. :-)

Nice ladder. Just came back through your projects. Stopped here. Well written narrative too!


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Willy Cordero's profile

Willy Cordero

82 posts in 2409 days

#12 posted 01-09-2017 12:48 PM

what a beautiful job!!!!

-- Willy, Costa Rica/Brasil

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