Plywood and Stick Ladder


Introduction: Plywood and Stick Ladder

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

Need a ladder? Screw and glue two sticks to a piece of plywood and cut holes in it for your feet.

Warning: As the sign says, these wooden feet tend to slide on the floor, so make arrangements to prevent that. Actually, ladders are all dangerous. I cringe when I see them on "funniest home movies" because I know something horrible is going to happen.

I used a clear 2x4 ripped in half for the sticks and 3/4" plywood for the rest of it.
The treads are 12" apart vertically and the holes are 10" wide.
The ladder is 16" wide. I would make another with exactly these dimensions.
This plywood is cheap so there are voids, and some of the treads seem weak.
Those will get reinforcing sticks across the bottom of the treads.

Step 1: Cut the Holes

I sketched the outlines with a pencil and ruler. For the curved top corners I used a lid from a tub of grout.
Then I drilled a hole inside that and cut along the line with a jigsaw. Then I rounded off the corners with a router and a quarter-round bit.

If you've got a sawzall you can do a plunge cut and skip the drilling. If you're feeling organized and like routers a lot you can make a template and do the whole thing with a router.

I could have used a stencil to draw the holes but after I drew the horizontal and vertical lines there wasn't much left to draw.

Step 2: Add the Sticks

I used yellow wood glue and drywall screws to attach 2"x2" (nominal. actually 1.5"x1.5") sticks on the edges of the plywood. Then I used my router and quarter-round bit to round off all the remaining edges.

The finished ladder. It's gotten a lot of compliments and hasn't hurt anyone yet. Use strong plywood and sticks. If you leave it outside finish it accordingly or it'll turn to cheese.



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    I love this Ladder i;m going to make me a 10 footer out of 3/4 Plywood and 2x4's I might router the 2x4's with a 3/4 bit and gorrila glue them together with wood screws

    Thanks so much

    Try gluing some innertube slices to the bottom so that it (hopefully) won't slide.

    1 reply

    Note:I just scrolled down and saw the same idea by another member.

    You might get more strength if you rotated the grain of your wood 90 degrees. That would help prevent a split down the middle too. Good Job.

    3 replies

    you might get more rung strength with the (outer) grain running crossways since most plies are in the same direction as the outer layers, but that would give you only 4' lengths. Also, having the grain lengthways gives more stiffness that way (additionally helped by the 2x2 rails)

    (I wish these things had an edit feature for recent comments) For more rung strength and surface area, you could fasten strips of the cutouts to the step points. I'd glue and screw at least 2 layers to it (then again, I'm a BIG boy).

    The handy thing about plywood is that alternating layers are cross grain. The two outer layers are usually the nicest pieces of wood and aligned in the same direction. So, splitting down the "middle" would be the result of just having too much force on a given location.

    Ladders are tools that really need to be made and used safely. Falls are the most common home injury and this is just begging for trouble. Not recommended. Obey gravity, its the law!

    1 reply

    I have to agree.... I have a theatrical workshop full of saws, but the most dangerous tools are the ladders. Be careful with this one...

    An unique ladder design that looks like it would work well permanent setting i. e, bunk beds or a loft. After making sure the "rungs" are absolutely smooth for bare footsies. :) However the ladder looks to be too heavy to cart around an utility ladder.

    if you brace it for weight, it should be ok. you may want to post what weight you recommend this for. also, to prevent skidding on floors, just nail/screw a piece of old bike tire to the feet. (wrap it around the end and nail into the sides so you dont scratch the floors/boat deck/etc) innertubes might work as well, but you get get old bike tires from the same place as busted inner tubes.

    You know... if you cut the bottom of the 2x2s to a 72 degree angle then it wouldn't slide on floor. And if you put in 2x2 cross members on the backside, at the bottom of the openings you'd have a better foot resting place. It has to hurt standing on 3/4" plywood. Better yet use 2x4s throughout instead of 2x2s!!!

    Why's that? this is a very simple design... and simple designs tend to be the most robust, last a long time, and simple to use (therefore less chance for a set-up screw-up).... besides, this design is not new.. and is proven ;)

    Talk about McGyverish :) This should definately be nominated for something :D

    Very useful :P Perhaps beefy hinge in the middle to make it foldable and easily stored.