Building a Blanket Ladder You'll Love to Display

So I was recently asked to make a blanket ladder. My initial reaction was um... but quickly changed to ya - I can do that!


Once I said yes to my customer, I proceeded to research options. After reading probably way too many blogs on the topic, I decided to just go with my gut, with a little inspiration and guidance. I knew exactly what I'd like it to look like displayed in my house, so I set out to make that. To be honest, it couldn't have turned out better, so now I'm going to share my version, so you can also make a simple, elegant blanket ladder for your home.


Tools and Materials:

  • 2x4x8 (3) OR 2x4x6 (2) + 2x4x8

  • Saw (mitre saw or handsaw with mitre box)

  • Screwdriver or drill

  • Level

  • Pocket hole jig

  • 8 2" pocket hole screws

  • 8 pocket hole plugs

  • Wood glue

  • 1 24-26" clamps

  • Stain (any colour you choose)

  • Old rags

  • Sponge brush

  • Spray on polyurethane

If you're not entirely sure what all of those things are, give me a minute, i'll explain.


Ladder Dimensions


The first step is deciding how tall you'll want your ladder to sit on your wall. Too tall it'll make your room look smaller, then again if it's too short it'll look like a miniature ladder and seem out of place. So consider the size of the room it'll be going in. For a standard ceiling height (8 ft or so), i'd go with a roughly 6 ft ladder, increase for higher ceilings, decrease for lower. This size of ladder will allow 4 rungs, which will comfortably hang 3 blankets.


Next, you need to decide how wide it'll be. For this, consider both the size of the blankets you'll be hanging and the size of the space it'll fill. Ideal size it usually between 18-20 in wide, for larger spaces you could increase up to 24", but any wider and it starts to look more like a trellis than a ladder.


Shop, Measure and Cut


With the ideal height and width established you can purchase wood to get started. If you're going with a 6 ft height, buy 2 2x4x6 and 1 2x4x8, to save a little money, otherwise buy 3 2x4x8.


When buying lumber there are a few things to look out for:

  • Heat Treated Kiln-Dried (wood will be stamped with HT-KD) - not pressure treated

  • Look down the length of the board on all 4 sides to make sure it looks straight - no warps or twists in the wood

  • Ensure there aren't any marks that will show in your finished product - big gouges, staple marks, missing or raised knots, etc.

One you have your lumber home, use a saw to cut the rung pieces to your desired length.


Pro tip: remember when cutting to consider the saw blade width in your measurements, so you should measure and mark each section after the previous cut, don't measure and mark all cuts at once, or you'll have all different lengths.


Reminder: always wear appropriate PPE (gloves, mask and eye protection) when working with power equipment.


For the side rails, you'll want to cut both the top and base on an angle to help it sit level on the floor and against the wall. Typically a 10° cut is ideal, which is what I did here. To do this, you'll use your mitre saw or mitre box and simply cut on the 10° angle.


Sanding and Staining


This step is simple, but time consuming. You want to sand each piece until all 4 sides are smooth and any blemishes and stamps are removed. (remember my pick good boards suggestions? If you picked good boards, this job is easier). For a more finished look, I like to sand all the edges to a soft corner, if not all the way rounded. It gives it a more rustic aged look.


Reminder: always wear appropriate PPE (gloves, mask and eye protection) when working with power equipment or sanding and staining.


One your wood is sanded, use a clean cloth to wipe them down to remove any excess sawdust, and you're ready to stain. I like to use gel stains, they're easier to apply an even coat, dry faster, and only requires a single coat. Gel stains come in a wide variety of colours, so you should be able to find one that appeals to you. To apply, use a soft bristle brush for a liquid stain, or a foam brush for gel. Cover a portion of your wood evenly, then come back with another clean dry cloth and wipe the excess off until you have the desired effect. I was able to do each rung top and 4 edges before wiping off, then let it dry while i did the others, than came back and did the bottom. Repeat until all sides of the wood are completely covered. Then let them all dry for a few hours.


After the stain is dry, you can apply a couple coats of polyurethane. I like to use spray as opposed to brushing it on, again because I get a more even coat, it takes less time, and it dries faster.


Assembly


Now that all of the wood is cut, sanded, stained and sealed, you can start assembling your ladder. This is where precision becomes key, and where you'll need your level, pocket hole jig, wood glue, plugs and a bit more stain and sealer.


First, decide how to hang your rungs. I hung mine so the top aligned with the back of the side rails, and the bottom aligned with the front of the side rails - basically a 45° angle with the rungs facing away from the front so the blankets lay nicer. An alternative is to hang them at the same 10° angle as the feet, which creates a flat surface you can set other decor on if you'd like. This option is a little more intricate, so just be aware when you are decided how to hang them.


Using your pocket hole jig, drill a hole on the bottom thin edge of each rung (if you are hanging them as I did, or 2 on the wide edge if going the flat route). Remember to offset the holes enough so the screw doesn't come through the side rail, but still catch nicely.


Next, measure for placement of the rungs. I did 6 inches down from the top, then every 12 from there - which seemed to be the consensus from my research, and looked the best when i tried a few options. If you have clamps, you can try a few arrangements before you make a permanent decision.


Once you've established your placement, lay out your side rails and square them up, so the tops and bottoms are exactly even. I don't have a large enough bench, so had to use my saw horses in the yard (my shop is next years project). If you have a solid bench, it's going to make your life a lot easier.


With the side rails ready to go, squeeze some wood glue onto each end of the rung and put it in place, using your clamp to hold it. Double check the rung placement, and side rails for square again, adjust and quickly wipe away any exposed wood glue with another clean rag. Once you're happy with the placement use pocket hole screws (I used 2") to secure the rung in place, ensuring it doesn't shift as you attach it, then you can remove the clamp. Rinse and repeat for the other 3 rungs. I did the top and bottom first, then the two middle rungs, as it was easier to get the side rails secured this way.

Congratulations your ladder is now solid (well it will be when the glue dries anyway), and you can do the finishing touches. Put a dab of wood glue in the first pocket hole and place a plug in the hole so the round end is down inside and the angle side is flush with the edge of the rung, and wipe away any exposed glue. Give this a couple minutes to dry, then dab some stain on the plug and wipe if off until you're happy with the coverage.


Finally, give the whole ladder one last shot of polyurethane and your done! If you have uneven floors like in my house, it's also a good idea to install some leveling feet, so it can sit square on the floor.



Share your finished projects in the comments!


Until next time

Katie