Introduction: Ladder Chair / Library Chair

About: I'm a mom of 4 and I love to craft! Anything and Everything interests me and i love to create in the process of learning.

Originally designed by Benjamin Franklin, this chair has been referred as library chair, ladder chair, convertible chair, folding step chair. What ever the name, the purpose of the chair was the same. To convert a chair quickly into a step ladder. It is a fantastically useful furniture to have in anyplace let alone a small place!

Although it looks complicated it's basically very simple, IF you are going for simple lines.

Popular Mechanics have an excellent tutorial for those who are brave enough to try out curves. I, however am not so experienced and I wasn't sure if I could get all those connections nice and tight.

But I wanted that chair and I was itching to try it out.

Fortunately for me, my mom-in-law asked if I could make a step ladder for her. I told her that I don't think I could make a strong step ladder as I did not know how. This chair which I saw on instructables kept flashing in my mind and as I had the balance plywood left from another of her projects ( which is still incomplete!) , I thought I'll use it, and if it comes right, I'll surprise her with it!

As you will notice from the link above. My chair is different in design. I adjusted the original, so that it would be more beginner friendly and less of a hassle.

I finished this in 3 days. That too, only a few hours a day. If you can get all the necessary material together you should be able to build this in one uninterrupted day!

Step 1: Materials


3/4" thick hard wood or Plywood ( this is thick enough. Although My plywood was very thick as that is what I had.Do not use soft wood for this project.)

wood screws


piano hinge


circular saw



Template of the chair taken from here

I used the template from the magazine and adjusted it to make it more beginner friendly. You can easily draw the pattern on graph paper as I did. All measurements are in inches. If you really want the cutouts in the side panels you can always draw the pattern and cut off the section with a jigsaw. As this was my fist time making this I didn't want to try it as I felt it will compromise the strength ( I am of course over cautious! )

For easy reference I have marked two sections as Section A and Section B . This would cause less confusion.

In addition to the sides I have included a diagram of the other parts to complete the library chair. Slight variations of measurements would occur due to thickness of wood.

I used hardwood for the seat and steps as the plywood I had was way too heavy and also I felt that screws would hold better in hardwood rather than plywood.

Step 2: Make Your Guide

This is my fist time using a circular saw. So I did not have the confidence to make straight cuts directly with the saw, hence I made a saw guide.

I had a 1/2" plywood strip which had a factory edge to it. I glued and stapled the strip to 1/8" MDF. I then clamped it.

As this is the first time of course I was nervous. So I read the manual carefully, prayed saying 'Oh God, please let me not cut any bodily parts or injure my self' then I kept praying and cut straight using the plywood as the guide. 'Whew! I know...for the experts out there I must seem very cowardly :-)

Anyway, now I knew exactly where the blade would cut when I used the guide.

Step 3: Transfer the Template.

I drew the pattern on a graph sheet to 1" scale and placed it on the plywood I had. I clamped and slightly more than the required length. I then placed the rectangle again on the plywood and cut an exact copy. Now clamp both rectangles together and draw the pattern on to the board. I drilled through sections which would not be cut and screwed nails in to clamp the wood.

Now I again asked God for help and started cutting( yes, I was very nervous!) As the blade was circular I did not go totally to the edge when two points were meeting as then it would cut into the shape. I used a jigsaw to finish cutting the meeting places.

Also keep the back rest long. Trim it only in the final step when you have completed your chair and need to balance it.

Using the guide was a fantastic idea as it made the cuts very easy to do. For easy clamping I simply used a stapler. For me the stapler was easy as I had some old stapler pins which went only half into the wood. So pulling it out was pretty easy!

Step 4: The Dado

At first I was going to just add 1/4" rip strips as a support for the steps rather than make dadoes as I have never done it. But as I wanted to really find out what my circular saw can do I thought to go for it.

I adjusted the depth of the blade to 1/4"., placed the guide on the line and cut. then I placed the plank on the line and marked the width. Now cut the line marking the width. Now do some passes within the two lines and clear up the wood making your Dado ( I was super excited making my first Dado).

Measure the height of the dado and flip over the board and mark on the other side. Now cut the Dado there too.

Drill in the dado where you would anyway dill to fix the steps and clamp by using screws. No cut the curve of the legs with the jigsaw. I used a fast deep cut blade.

Step 5: Split It Up

Now that you have cut your side panels it's time to spit it up. Place the guide at the 70 degree angle line and cut. As you have used screws to clamp you needn't worry about sections coming apart.

Measure both Dado's for step width. Now you can cut your inner steps.

This plywood had plenty of holes once it was cut, so I filled it up with filler while it was still clamped and sanded it. That way you do not have to worry about the shape not being symmetrical

Step 6: Drill, Cut and Make Life EASY

While the split parts were still clamped I marked where the back rest would be and drilled through. This way it would be uniform on either side.

Place the 4th step next to section A and mark the thickness off the wood. Cut it off.

Next place the 4th step under section 'A' . Push it flush with section B . Mark a right angle down and cut. I did this so that there would not be any gap between the step and section A . The other option would be to cut one long side of the step at a 20 degree angle. I found this easier.

Now unscrew and separate the sections.

Step 7: Adding Steps


Place the 70 degree side of section B on the floor and glue and clamp and screw your first step. Measure the inner width. This would be the length required for your stretcher and back rest.

Glue clamp and screw the step for Section A too. Make sure that the width is the same as the width of Section B.

Step 8: Cutting the Seat

Cutting one side of the seat at an angle is optional. You can forgo it. I thought it would be better, but after completing the chair I found out that it wouldn't have made much of a difference. Also I wanted check out cutting in miters with my circular saw :-)

Set your blade angle at 20 degrees and cut your board lengthwise. Now cut two 16" boards. Pace one on section A and mark where the back rest would be. Make sure you are placing the board so that it would match the 70 degree angle. Mark the back rest and cut. If all is right the inner width should be the same as the stretcher length. Once the slots are cut( add the gap that is necessary for the piano hinge) push the seat and nail it down. There should be a slight gap so that when the piano hinge is fixed it would be flush when it's opened and closed. Nail the seat down.

Mark the width for the seat of section B Make a straight cut. I was able to use the balance stock for the the stretcher.

Now nail down the seat. Remember to match the angle and also to keep room for the hinge.

Step 9: Back Rest and Stretcher

I temporarily clamped up my chair by tying some strings. Now glue and screw your back rest. Also glue and nail your stretcher under the seat of section B .

Step 10: Hinge It!

Flip section A over Section B so that it's in the ladder form. Clamp the seats .

Measure and cut the piano hinge. make sure the holes are proportionate. Place hinge flush to the seats and drill and screw in the hinge.

Place the legs of the chair on flat level surface. Check if all 6 points are level. As we took the back rest extra long we would have to trim it now. Place a ruler and mark the cut off points. Cut and sand . It should most probably be level now. If it's not all you have to do is sand the six points till it's level.

In order to carry the chair the chair has to be locked in place. I made a pair simple locks to placed on either sides.

If you like you can simply buy some hooks and fix it. but I felt this was much more sturdy and strong. I used some slats for this.

Drill 2 holes around 5" apart. Mark from the edges of one hole to the bottom of the slat. Cut the mark till the hole. Sand it. Now screw one hole in section A and place another screw in section B so that when the latch is pushed down it locks both section down.

As this plywood wasn't so great I had to cover up a lot of holes and damages that was in the wood with filler. Once dry, sand the chair and paint. That's it!

Step 11: Handy Isn't It?

Handy doesn't begin to describe how useful you'll find this 2 in 1 library ladder chair. You have a chair for your table and anytime you want to reach that high book shelf or fix a light in your dorm this is the chair to have! It looks good too instead of being an eye sore :-D

I was thinking of making it 3x1 by adding an ironing board, but had to give up on that idea as I felt the height wasn't enough.

However, If the height is fine for my mom-in- law I shall add it. If not you can add it and post a picture!

This chair I think is perfect for any dorm room. Also it's perfect to keep in your house for any quick fixes in high up places. So if you like this instructable and feel it deserves a win , I would love to have your vote!

Thank you so much!

I hope you find this instructable useful and if you have any improvements I would love to hear or see it :-D

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