How to Build Leaning Ladder Shelves

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With a little bit of wood cutting experience, you can easily build a stylish wooden ladder with shelves in as little as a day. This ladder will make a lovely addition to any wall. In fact, the shelves are like trays and will hold just about anything you can think of. After all the wood pieces are cut, putting it together is as easy; here's how.

Things You'll Need

  • Orbital sander
  • Sand paper
  • Circular saw
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear plugs
  • Dust mask
  • Sharp plywood blade
  • Miter saw
  • Brad nailer
  • Old clothes iron
  • Clamps
  • Saw horse
  • Jig for circular saw
  • Workbench
  • 1/2 sheet of 4-by-4 inch oak plywood
  • 3 8-foot oak 1 by 3’s
  • 4 8-foot oak 1 by 4’s
  • Package (25 feet) of 7/8-inch oak iron-on veneer
  • Veneer edge trimmer
  • Wood glue
  • 1 1/4 inch brad nails
  • Package of ¾-inch round, self-adhesive and non-skid foam pads
  • Cut shelf plywood to width, then cut individual shelves. Start with the shelf bases. You will need to cut one piece of 3/4 by 3-3/8 by 30-1/2 inches of oak plywood, one piece of 3/4 by 5-3/4 by 30-1/2 inches of oak plywood, one piece of 3/4 by 8-3/16 by 30-1/2 inches of oak plywood, one piece of 3/4 by10-5/8 by 30-1/2 inches of oak plywood and one piece of 3/4 by 13 by 30-1/2 inches of oak plywood for shelf bases to be complete. Cut these small to large.

  • For the shelf sides, cut two pieces of 3/4 by 2-1/2 by 4-3/8 inches of oak, two pieces of 3/4 by 2-1/2 by 6-3/4 inches of oak, two pieces of 3/4 by 2-1/2 by 9-3/16 inches of oak, two pieces of 3/4 by 2-1/2 by 11-5/8 inches of oak and two pieces of 3/4 by 2-1/2 by 14 inches of oak. To finish cutting the shelves you will need to cut the shelf backs. This requires five pieces of 3/4 by 2-1/2 by 30-1/2 inches of oak.

  • Iron the edge banding veneer to the front edges of all of your shelves. Once you have a solid bond, sand or trim edges if necessary.

  • Cut both shelf uprights with a miter saw. Cut two pieces of 3/4 by 3-1/2 by 84 inches of oak for uprights with a 10-degree angles cut. Clamp to saw horses, marking them at the top with 10-degree angles. This is the part that rests against the wall.Keep your miter box at 10 degrees. Continue to cut all your other angle pieces. You will have uprights, cleats and one end of shelf sides to make angle cuts to. For shelf cleats, you will need two pieces of 3/4 by 3-1/2 by 14-1/2 inches of oak with a 10-degree angle cut, eight pieces of 3/4 by 3-1/2 by 11-3/4 inches of oak with a 10-degree angle cut, and two pieces of 3/4 by 3-1/2 by 10 inches of oak with a 10-degree angle cut.

  • Apply glue and nails to the shelf cleats, attaching them to the uprights. You will need to use a 1 by 3 spacer. Hold the cleats tight with the spacer. Glue and nails the backs to the shelves. Next, attach the sides to the plywood shelves. Sides will overlap the shelf base. Clamp all shelves into one of the upright pieces. Put glue into each notch in the upright. Position it flush with the front of the shelves, nailing it. Turn the unit over and attach the other side the same way.

  • Test for accuracy. Set your ladder with shelves against the wall. Clamp on 3 bar clamps until the unit is completely dry. Measurements for the ladder are 33-1/2 by 82-3/4 inches with a 10-degree lean. This ladder includes 5 shelves that will hold items up to 13-1/4-inches tall.

Tips & Warnings

  • The front part of the side is cut at 10 degrees. Buy extra wood to allow for mistakes. Measure your 1 by 3’s and 1 by 4’s. Dimensions sometimes vary.
  • Before purchasing, check that the 1 by 4’s are blemish-free.
  • For extra security, screw the ladder to the wall. Adding foam pads on the bottom of the ladder will also help with movement and keep it from scratching floors.

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