Do you want to know how to build a folding ladder? You are in the right place. Folding ladders are favored over straight length ladders because they are easier to handle.
When we perform everyday activities around the house or in the workshop, we may not realize they are potentially hazardous. For example, if you need to lift something from a high shelf, you might simply use a chair or a stool.
But do you constantly double-check to make sure it’s totally stable? This same circumstance is the root of many home mishaps. A collapsible ladder is quite useful to have around the house in order to avoid these sorts of disasters.
A foldable ladder is handy in a variety of situations other than preventing accidents at home. It will not only help you to safely access objects kept high up, but it will also come in handy when you have some DIY projects to complete. Keep reading this article to know how to build a folding ladder.
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Tools and Supplies
- Ash or resilient wood.
- A pair of dividers.
- Marking Gauge.
Step-by-step on How to Build a Folding Ladder
Step 1: Measured Drawings
You are allowed to make cosmetic adjustments to the design, but we highly advise you to stick to the specifications shown in Figs 1–4. Increase the stile length by 207mm for each extra rung to make a longer ladder.
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Step 2: Stock Preparation
There are two stiles, five rungs, and two returns on this ladder. To maintain grain consistency, the returns are cut off the ends of the stiles. First, cut the raw wood into two long stiles following the grain and connect the matching edges with a hand or power plane (photo 1). When the stiles are closed, a tight fit between them indicates high craftsmanship.
We laid up the rungs parallel to the grain using a transparent plastic template (photo 2). The rungs will be milled to final thickness and breadth but over-length by about 12mm, they will be trimmed to exact length afterward. You may use commercially pre-cut 12.5mm dowels for the pegs or create your own out of contrasting wood. To make our pegs, we used a dowel cutter.
Whatever you use for pegs, make them slightly longer than the thickness of the stiles and chamfer one end to facilitate entrance.
Step 3: Rout the Grooves
We found that using a handheld router instead of a router table or table saw made it easier to handle and mill the grooves in the stiles, which are stopped at one end. Make two passes with a fence and a 12″ up spiral bit (photo 3). You may also use laminated pieces to create the stiles and grooves. A chisel is used to square up the stopped ends of the grooves.
Step 4: Align and Connect the Returns
Take a 330mm measurement from one end of each stile and cut a 15° miter as illustrated in Fig. 1 and picture 4. We used dominoes to temporarily align and connect the returns to the stiles (photo 5). For the temporary attachment, you can use splines or simply clamps (no adhesive).
Step 5: Layout of Position of the Rungs
Begin by scribing a pencil line the length of the groove. Using a square, transfer a line across both stiles at the tip of the return, with the square end of the return flush with the end of the stile.
Offset this line by half the width of a rung and repeat at the opposite end. The two end pivots are located at the junction of the markings and the baseline drawn with the combination square. Then, step a pair of dividers down the pivot-hole baseline to equally distance the remaining pivot points (‘X’ on fig.1).
Step 6: Drill the Pivot Points
Mark the middle of each rung’s width along the pivot-hole baseline once you’ve set out the rung positions. You will later drill 12.5mm holes at these locations. (Picture 7). Close the stiles and measure the distance from one center point to the matching one. This is the rungs’ center-to-center measurement (shown as ‘Y’ in the illustrations) (photo 8).
Add the width of the rung, which is 30mm, to this measurement and cut all the rungs to this length. Set the pivot-hole baseline Center points (for drilling 33/64” centered holes) in the middle of each rung’s position.
Mark the center points for the 33/64” pivot holes in the rungs with a marking gauge. They are 15mm from either end and centered on the breadth of the rung. Draw a bullnose profile on either end using a compass from the center point (picture 9), then shape the end. If you have no access to the best bit, consider using a 1/2″ bit and open up the hole with a dowel covered in sandpaper or a circular file so the pegs don’t bind.
Step 7: Fit the Rungs and Pegs
Place a rung in the groove, line the holes, then insert a peg through the hole. (To make driving the pegs simpler, we microwaved them two at a time for about 10 seconds, shrinking their diameter by a hair.) Then, using glue, swell and secure the peg (photo 10). After the glue has cured, flush trim all of the pegs on both sides and clean up any squeeze-out.
Step 8: Fill the Returns Flush with the Stiles
After installing all of the rungs, test the ladder’s movement and place the returns so that they do not interfere with the range of motion. Clamp and glue them in place (photo 11). After the glue has dried, completely open the ladder (so the rungs are perpendicular to the stiles) and draw a straight perpendicular line on each return end that aligns with the mitred end of the opposing style (photo 12). Using a miter saw, cut both returns ends on straight lines.
Step 9: Ease the edges and shape the stile profile
To lighten and soften the appearance of the ladder, we chamfered the stile faces using a low-angle bevel router bit (photo 13). Then we sanded the ladder with 120, 180, and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth off the edges.
Step 10: Fit Locking Mechanism
When not in use, the stiles are folded together. We’ve left the locking design up to you, whether it’s a basic hook and eye, a sophisticated latch, or smart use of magnets. Furthermore, if you want to use the ladder, add srubber pads as end caps to the stiles to help them grasp the floor.
Step 11: Finishing
Only use a transparent protective finish on the ladder so that it can be inspected for cracks or damage on a regular basis. We sprayed polyurethane all over the ladder. Before assembly, several elements, and the difficult-to-reach insides of grooves, were pre-finished. Another option is an oil finish, such as boiled linseed oil, but keep in mind that oils with additives might conduct electricity.
Tricks to Make a Folding Ladder
Please make sure they’re level from one side to the other. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a shaky ladder, which is a no-no procedure. Instead of using wood screws to build/assemble your rustic-looking ladder, you may carve out notches for the rungs and insert wood glue within the notches to secure the rungs firmly into place.
You must ensure that the rungs are fully inserted and that the notches are centered and even, as well as that the two 1x2x8 cedar planks are precisely parallel once all of the rungs have been inserted. This design is more difficult to construct, but it is stronger. With considerably more confidence, you may use the ladder for practical reasons whenever you desire.
After you’ve finished assembling your ladder (don’t worry if your rungs aren’t perfectly spaced out; it will contribute to the rustic flavor), it’s time to give it a final coat of paint. This is where the paint and stain come in. You can use any paint you choose, especially if you’re working with leftovers.
Using a dry brush to paint your ladder is a clever way to make it appear ancient as if it had been sitting in your barn for a hundred years, collecting dust and grime. Obviously, if you’re not like the old-looking/vintage aesthetic, you may paint your ladder the traditional way. Just be sure you paint it since paint keeps the wood from decaying.
Allow to dry after finishing the paint work, and then, if you like the look of old ladders, apply quality gray stain using brush approach. Apply the wood-colored stain once it has dried. The ultimate product will be a brand new cedar ladder that appears ancient and vintage.
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