Instructables
I found this amazing, dingy old ladder in the trash around the same time I discovered half-price bookstores.  I can't bring myself to buy those canned pressed-wood department-store bookshelves anymore and I need space for my Lemony Snicket collection.  Hence this project!

Materials
-ladder
-wood for shelves (I used 1/4" thick red oak planks, backed with 1/4 - 1/2" thick red oak for support)
-wood for cross bars (I used 1/2"x1.5" red oak)
-shelf brackets (< 1.5", to support cross bars, need 8)
-shelf braces (look for 'mending plates' - straight brackets to support cross bars, need 8)
-wood glue
-sandpaper
-wood finish (I used 50/50 tung oil/mineral spirits)
-1/2" - 5/8" wood screws

Equipment
-jig saw 
-sander 
-drill
-level
-T-square
-measuring tape

Not having a table saw or planer, I used craft wood that has already been (mostly) squared and nicely planed.  I chose oak.  This project could be built for much less $$ if you have the ability to cut and plane your own boards!
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Prepare the ladder

Picture of Prepare the ladder
Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 10.41.19 PM.png
I wanted to see what was underneath all of the grime and paint.  I sanded with 60, 100, and 150 grit and discovered some lovely oak pine.  This part took forever.  

Step 2: Add the braces

Picture of Add the braces
Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 10.41.49 PM.png
Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 10.41.58 PM.png
I decided to make the shelves to sit flush with the steps.  Metal braces are used to support cross bars that support the shelves.  

The straight braces are screwed to the underside of the ladder steps.  You might notice that when the ladder is oriented so that the back rails are perpendicular to the floor, the steps are slightly slanted.  In order for the wooden shelves to be level, the metal braces need to be bent until they are level.  

The square brackets are screwed to the inside of the back rails.  The cross braces will be screwed into both sets of brackets.  
SkunkRyder3 months ago

I have been looking for the perfect way to turn an old ladder of my father's into a nice bookshelf and this is exactly what I've been looking for! Perfect easy fourth of July weekend project :) Thank you so much for this!

rosewood51312 months ago
I just bought on of these beauties yesterday to make shelving but I like this one better. Mine has gobs of white paint, like you say it is going to be the hard part. Your way is also easier than the way I was going to make it. Thanks yours came out exceptional, great job..
SIRJAMES091 year ago
COOL PROJECT!!

I'm always dumpster diving, so I will keep my eyes open for a ladder. :)
Aye, as you said, this is a "moron proof" project...so I should do just fine. *crosses fingers*

TY for sharing.
DiY-WiLL1 year ago
This is amazing. I am going to do it.
juliang761 year ago
nice! never would've thought about it
Lovely instructable - I can't wait to find an old ladder now. Also, I spy Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and Red Dwarf = WIN.
action pig (author)  StoryAddict1 year ago
You have excellent taste :)
drwebster1 year ago
i just love this,going to make one,huge kudos!
Questor1 year ago
I'm going to put a 'drawer' on the floor level and the next shelf up
Oh... did I say this is really GREAT? I did. I'm now saying it again.
action pig (author)  doctressjulia1 year ago
Thanks :)
AmyCat591 year ago
Very nice finished shelves... They look a lot like some shelves from the Crate & Barrel catalog, but the catalog ones cost around $200! Recycling an old, rickety ladder is *much* better!
I have the same dingy looking ladder that came with the house 14 years ago. I could always use another bookshelf!
Same here... except ours is painted baby-blue. Guess I'll have to do a bit more sanding...

I've also got a pile of 1/4" craft board in the basement (also left by the previous owner), and what looks like at least 50 years' worth of other random scrap wood. New Shelves!!!
Missy741 year ago
I love this..simple, easy and very funky! Great work
mikecz1 year ago
Nice recycle project. The ladder, however, is almost certainly southern yellow pine. Notice its wood has none of the "rays" or "flecks" that your purchased oak shelf wood has.
Dale_D mikecz1 year ago
That is absolutely correct... the ladder is pine. No matter, though, as this is a great idea and Instructable! Very nicely done. Besides, pine isn't all that bad looking. We have a bedroom set (2 chests of drawers, 2 night stands, a blanket chest, and a book shelf that I made to match) that is yellow pine (stained "Fruitwood"). It still looks good after 14 years.
action pig (author)  Dale_D1 year ago
Thanks you guys! I've fixed it in the 'ible.
Very nice! This would be so good for a dorm room or tiny apartment. I think I have an old ladder in my garage... :)

Thanks for this great Instructable.
tinpusher1 year ago
They say that you shouldn't climb on book shelves; perhaps these shelves are the exception. Great job!

Just kidding, by the way. You shouldn't climb these shelves either. :)
sasadler1 year ago
Well done!!
deni2me1 year ago
Love it. If only I could find an old wooden ladder!
mdamaso1 year ago
This is a great idea! My bookcase is getting pretty full and I have an old wood ladder in the garage. It sounds like I'll have a project soon!
chipper351 year ago
I REALLY LIKE THIS!!!
fantastic I like it
This came out really nicely! Thank you so much for the share!