Start by removing the stamps or branding on the timber. Use a belt sander or orbital sander with a coarse grade sandpaper such as 40 or 80 grit. You don't have to remove all of the stamp and you can be as rough as you like with the sander.
You can make the ladder whatever height you want. We cut our Tasmanian Oak to 1500mm x 2 (for the side rails) and our dowel (for the rungs) to 300mm x 5.
Because most vintage ladders have thin sides, we want to rip the timber to create that aged look. We ripped our timber so that it's 50mm wide. Measure and mark the timber to 50mm. Clamp the timber to the workbench and use the circular saw to rip the timber.
Measure and mark for the rung holes. We had five rungs which were placed 325mm, centre to centre apart, with 100mm at the top and bottom of the ladder. You can put your rungs where you like, they just need to be evenly spaced.
Once you've marked the holes, use a 35mm spade bit to drill the holes for the dowel rungs. Don't drill too deep, just enough to hold each rung. A handy tip is to wrap tape around the drill bit as a guide to the depth. We drilled ours to a depth of 10mm. The drill holes need to be the same on both sides to ensure the ladder stands straight when it's put together.
Now it's time to measure, mark and cut the dowel. Our rungs were 300mm long, but you can make yours any length you like. Use the drop saw to cut the five pieces of dowel to size.
Now comes the fun part – it's time to distress the timber. We wanted our vintage ladder to look like it had been handmade a very long time ago. Use whatever tools you have to attack the timber, the rougher the better. We started by tapering the ends of the dowel with a utility knife. Then we used a rasp to add to the distressed look. Make the centre part of the rung look worn down and well used with a belt sander. You can also hand sand using 120 grit sandpaper to add more flat spots on the rung. Continue the distressing process on the sides of the ladder. Use the belt sander with 40 and 80 grit sandpaper to smooth the edges. To add authenticity, drill a 12mm hole in the top of each side. You can also use a utility knife to scrape the top, so the timber looks like it's been split.
Now it's time to assemble the ladder. Assembling is a little tricky, so you might need an extra pair of hands for this. Put wood glue into the drilled holes, then put the rungs into the holes. Wipe away excess glue as you go, or leave it on to add to the vintage look. Use the 75mm bullet nails to secure the rungs. To make it easier, pre-drill some of the holes with a 3mm bit before nailing. For a more authentic look, hammer some nails in so that the rung is secure and then bend them over, so it looks like an old repair job.
Once you've finished making marks in the ladder, putty up the major indents. Don't fill the holes too full. Let the putty dry, before giving it a light sand. Old ladders are often smooth and worn, and this is the desired effect. Also wipe away any dust.
You can use whatever stain you have for your ladder. Wipe it on with a rag. It doesn't have to be an even coat or look perfect. Once you're happy with the look, let it dry.
Use a heat gun to create burn marks on the timber. Use it on any indents, where holes have been drilled or at the joins where the rungs join the sides.
Use a rag to apply wax to the ladder, and leave it to dry. This will bring out the colour and texture of the wood.
Apply Spakfilla into any indents in the wood. Let it dry and then give it a light sand. This creates the effect of looking like dried on paint from decades ago.
Use a rag to apply another coat of stain and leave to dry. This will help give the Spakfilla more of an authentic aged look.
Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.
When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.