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Home office with desk, chair, plant, timber ladder, and pegboard shelf.

Overview

This vintage hanging ladder is perfect for hanging scarves, blankets, magazines, or anything you like. It also makes a great design feature that'll add a touch of old-world charm to your home. 

Steps

1Sand the timber

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.

Person using a power sander on bit of timber.

2Cut the timber

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.

Person using circular saw to cut piece of timber.

3Rip the timber

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.

Person using circular saw to cut piece of timber.

4Measure and mark for the holes

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.

Person using a metal ruler and pencil to mark up two bits of timber.

5Drill the holes for the rungs

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.

Person using drill with wide drill bit to create a hole in a piece of timber.

6Cut the dowel

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. 

Person cutting timber dowel with circular saw.

7Distress the timber

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.

Person using rasp on DIY timber ladder to distress it and give it a vintage finish.

8Assemble the ladder

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.

Person insert ladder rung in between two pieces of timber.

9Putty up the ladder

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.

Person using putty and spatula to cover up major indents on DIY wooden ladder.

10Stain the ladder

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.

Person wiping DIY timber vintage ladder with rag and varnish.

11Create burn marks

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.

Person using a heat gun on DIY timber ladder to add to the distressed look.

12Wax the ladder

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.

Person wiping DIY timber vintage ladder with rag and varnish.

13Apply Spakfilla

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.

Person wearing a glove and applying spakfilla to holes in timber.

14Apply more stain

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.

Person wiping DIY timber vintage ladder with rag and varnish.

15Put it in place

Now you can display your vintage hanging ladder to add a real touch of yesteryear. Hang whatever you like on it – blankets, scarves or anything else you like. 
Home office with desk, chair, plant, timber ladder, and pegboard shelf.

Suggested products

More D.I.Y. Advice

Health & Safety

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.