Day 2 of making the ladder (by )

Yesterday, I cut out all the bits required to make myself a ladder.

This morning, I set out on foot to visit Machine Mart and Screwfix for some supplies; a set of magnetic welding clamps, some white metal paint for the completed ladder, and these anchor bolts to attach it to the wall. As you can see from the diagram on the box, they just can't wait to be buried in a wall:

Happy anchor bolts

Anyway, it's been a long time since I last did any welding (and I've never been great at it), so I started by just tacking a few bits together to check they line up correctly with the wall. I started with the trickiest bit, the angled spacer:

Tack weld

Then I proceeded to drill correctly-sized holes for my anchor bolts into the mounting flanges, using my column drill (a very useful tool). This made a lot of pretty swarf:

Drilling the mounting flanges

Then I started welding the flanges onto the spacers. The new magnetic welding clamps (the red thing in this picture) came in handy here; their function is to accurately hold things at ninety (or forty-five) degree angles:

Welding the flanges onto the spacers

With all six of the spacers flanged, I could start tack-welding them into place:

Welding the spacers onto the upright

My welds on the flat were OK, but my welds inside corners are still pretty ropy; I had to keep chipping the slag off and going over again to fill in gaps. Another problem was that the steel square tubing has rounded corners, meaning that when a spacer has to be welded onto the upright to make a T, two sides of the end of the spacer are to be welded to the curved corner of the upright, making a big gap I had to bridge across somehow. It turns out that surface tension causes the exposed edge of the metal to pull back when it melts, so I had to bodge little slivers of metal left over from the cutting into the gap to stop this happening, resulting in some ugly welds that I may have to grind flat before I paint it - or to make the surfaces I'm going to weld the rungs onto flat enough for them to go on straight! We'll see.

Anyway, having checked the fit against the wall, I could then finish off the welds on all four sides of each junction, completing one side of the ladder. It's intentional that the flanges point in different directions, by the way - they mainly point upwards so the weight of the ladder isn't pulling them away from the wall, except that the one on the angled spacer has to be underneath so I can get in to fit the bolt, and the top one is underneath so the anchor bolt hole isn't too near the top of the wall:

One side of the ladder

At that point I ran out of time. It won't take me too long to assemble the second side as I already have all the flanges welded onto the spacers (which was quite time-consuming), and I can clamp it all onto the existing side to get the alignment correct without all the cross-checking and measuring I had to do the first time.

After that, I'll need to weld the rungs in place, tidy up the welds, scrub it down with a wire brush and sandpaper to clean off all the welding grime, degrease it with white spirit, and paint it.

Then I need to figure out how I'm going to get it into the wall! I'll need to somehow hold it in place while I mark out the drill holes, which might be tricky without an assistant. Then I have to try to drill the holes where the marks actually are (the bane of my life is carefully marking out a wall, starting to drill, and the bit hitting a stone and suddenly meandering half a centimetre off centre - then having to try and jam a screw in nonetheless, as whatever I'm screwing to the wall has holes in places that can't move to match).

After that, holding it up to the wall and slipping in the anchor bolts should be easy - then tighten them up and I'm done! They have a tightening torque recommendation on the box, so I'll finally get to use my torque wrench, and not be left wondering if I've tightened them enough or risking cracking the wall by over-tightening (which has been a concern with previous anchor bolt expiditions).

Continue to day 3...


  • By Andy from Workshopshed, Mon 21st Jan 2013 @ 11:33 am

    Good start. For bolting it to the wall, if you drill one hole somewhere around the middle then you can loosely bolt that in place and use a spirit level to get it vertical. Tighten the bolt for the marking out for the other holes. Alternatively you could balance it on some kind of wooden jig?

  • By alaric, Mon 21st Jan 2013 @ 1:30 pm

    That's a good idea...

    thinks some more

    I could probably drill the top right hole and insert a scrap steel rod (I'd use a bolt as you suggest, but I'm worried it might stick in the hole and not come out again if I accidentally tighten it at all), then hang the ladder on that and hold it up with the spirit level to mark out the top left hole, take the ladder off again, drill that out, then hang the ladder on two steel rods, thereby freeing my hands enough to mark out the other holes.

    I think I have a steel rod with the same diameter as my bolts lying around somewhere! If not, 10mm drill bits might suffice 🙂

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