DIY Ladder shelves (with design files)

I have a partner who likes books. Really likes books. I’m talking did the 52 in 52 book challenge (read a full book a week for a year)… and did 104. I’m talking books stacked on top of books 5-6ft high at times. You get the gist of it. My house? What house? It’s a library I happen to live in.

My life has become a continuing game of ‘find the space for the book’. Which, might I add is very much a losing battle. As empty shelf space is clearly an incentive for yet more books.

It came to the point where I needed to find some space for shelves once again. Looking around, I really began to like the look of ladder shelves. The sad part was, I had a choice. Either go for a free standing unit (that couldn’t take the weight), buy a really expensive set, or buy a set that weren’t the right size for where I wanted to put it.

Faced with the possibility of spending somewhere in the region of £200 to £300, I handily remembered that I had a GNVQ, and could probably design exactly what I wanted. In the end, we got some dope shelves for around £60ish.

Getting down to business

Being lazy, I checked what Woodstock my local B&Q had in, and measured up the area I wanted the shelves to fit. After a few sketches, I loaded up Sketchup (You want the Make 2017 free version), and got to work.

Ladder shelves design file
The below .skp file contains everything you could need to make the same ladder shelves!

You can download the design files here, for free. You’ll need Sketchup to open it and see all the cutting angles. I’ve also included a cutsheet I used for the shelves (but not the supports, you can figure them out yourselves).

Once you’ve figured out the cuts, putting it together is fairly simple. Drill some pilot holes, add some woodglue, and screw them together.

build stage 1 of the ladder shelves
You might want to give things a trial fit

I found it a lot easier to put the two stands together, the top and bottom shelves, then fill in the rest! I added some additional supports under the shelves, but on review they’re totally unnecessary provided you use long enough screws to connect the shelves to the frame.

At this stage you should run some sand paper over the whole unit and soften any harsh edges with the files and sandpaper again. If you made any holes while driving in the screws, add some of your sawdust to wood glue to make some cheap woodfiller to cover them up.

Finish off with some paint, whatever finish you may choose. However if you’re using pine like I did, you might want to skip the stain. Pine can come out very blotchy unless you condition the wood first. You might also want to add some rubber of felt feet to the bottom to avoid any scratches if you’re using the shelves on a wood floor like I am.

Materials

Here are the materials I used, although I would recommend going to your good local timber yard if possible. Not only will you be supporting a local business, but B&Q’s wood was terrible, and I had to shift through a bunch of planks to find any planks that weren’t bent. Plus, their stock is pretty expensive for what it is, in my honest opinion.

If you’re in Manchester, you should give Touch Wood a look. They’re a community wood recycling project, and I’ll certainly be using them in the future. https://www.touchwood.org.uk/wood-store/

£58 in wood materials, around £5 or so for the rest
(if you don’t already have them in)

Picture of the finished ladder shelves
Unfinished, but it looks good as is!

Tools

  • Cordless Drill + bits
  • Mitre Saw
  • Protractor, tape measure, ruler etc
  • Hand files/chisel

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