Decorative Ladder with Shelves for Rungs

Several years ago I thought about making a ladder to hang blankets on next to the fireplace. Then last month Brandi asked if I would make a ladder she could also hang our Christmas stockings on. I’ve had some black walnut on my lumber rack for a couple of years and this seemed like a perfect project to use some. I hadn’t done much woodworking this year, so it was also a great project to over-engineer the design and try some new things. Here are some pictures taking during the build.

The feet of the ladder are cut at a 10° angle, which provided the opportunity to experiment. In order for the rungs to have the option of also being shelves, they needed to be attached to the sides at this same angle as well as have the long edges cut at a bevel. For strength and ease of assembly I decided to cut dados in the sides of the ladder at that 10°. This was all new to me and the method I used produced amazing results.

First I used an angle gauge to mark lines on each side for the top of each rung. Then I clamped a straight board down, put the rung up against it, and clamped another board snugly against the rung. From there I was able to pull the rung out and use a router with a pattern bit to hog out the dado. All 10 ended up so perfect that I had to use a rubber mallet to disassemble it after my dry-fit.

After a ton of sanding and the glue up, the ladder was plenty strong enough, since it would never be used as an actual ladder. I knew I didn’t want to add screws to the joints and even though I didn’t need to, I decided to add dowels for the practice and the look of the contrasting oak. I made a little jig to line up and drill out holes in to the edge of each rung. Everything got finished with three coats of Minwax Wipe-on Poly and a coat of Linseed Oil & Beeswax Polish.

This turned out to be one of the nicest pieces I’ve ever made.

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